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, December 28, 2015

Hopes in Jacob Wetterling case crash and burn

(image from KSTP)
"Joy the Blogger" supposedly opened a new chapter in the Jacob Wetterling investigation. The more time goes by, though, the more we have to ask: "Did she really?"
Wouldn't it be nice if this whole episode could be wrapped up in a "Forensic Files" TV show on HLN someday. We need a happy ending first. The Wetterling case just drifts and drifts. The recent flurry of attention on the case appears all smoke, no fire, doesn't it? We have this rather disgusting person named a "person of interest" (POI). Blogger Joy gained fame by pointing out that maybe law enforcement hadn't been "connecting the dots" well enough. I suppose they hadn't. But we're still left with a total circumstantial case regarding this new POI.
A previous flurry of attention on the case happened after a John Walsh TV special on CNN. I wrote a post shortly after that, suggesting that the case had essentially been solved, that Blogger Joy helped everyone turn the corner. I had expected that show to be a rehash of everything we already knew about the case. My eyes were opened as the show used Blogger Joy as the focus for lots of stuff that seemed revelatory. Seemed revelatory!
Time and again we are led on by information that begs to be treated as revelatory. And then we get frustrated by the main law enforcement spokesman, who keeps reminding us that the "bar is set high" for them. We're frustrated because the entertainment industry and Blogger Joy seem to be screaming at us that the corner has been turned. Who could have looked at the recent sensational headlines and not thought: What a relief!
This case continues to toy with our thoughts. In the wake of the supposedly revelatory Walsh special, we began to think: wait a minute, it's not over.  And then it was ditto with the explosion of newspaper headlines having to do with this creepy POI person. We realized a void once again. Maybe we should come up with a term for this kind of disappointment.
The recent media coverage included statements that a "break" had been achieved in the Wetterling case. We surmise that the corner has in fact been turned, that we "more or less" know who did it now. But hey, we don't. Do I actually think this new POI did it? I am less than convinced. What would have brought him out to that remote place to commit his act? How could he have known those boys would come along at a certain time?
Regardless of how the Wetterling case turns out - and it may never progress from where it is now, folks - it is a fact that the lives of some innocent people will have been disrupted, perhaps catastrophically so. There is one individual, a trumpet-playing whiz who teaches, whose life has been disturbed. I remember him from when I played in the St. Cloud State University band in the mid-1970s. I didn't really know him, although we would have nodded "hello" to each other if encountering each other on the campus mall. I was familiar enough with him to see he was, shall we say, mildly eccentric. Emphasis on mildly. Maybe that's how he got into a hole in the Wetterling investigation.
Shortly after my blog post about the Walsh special, I was contacted by one of the people writing a book about the whole thing: Rob Ebben. He wondered why I was so enthusiastic about the purported conclusion of that TV show and Joy and Blogger. Walsh wouldn't have done the show if he couldn't have at least suggested there was some dramatic new development or nugget of info. Did I react in a naïve way? Me, naïve? I suppose I did.
Ebben wondered why I would be so quick to suggest that the Walsh special had come along, in effect, with his cape on and essentially solved the case. Oh, Joy the Blogger had a cape on too. She was the fodder for Walsh. Ebben, a nice guy, hit me over the head and made me realize we were basically back to where we were before.
I responded to Ebben. I encouraged him to consider in his writing all the "collateral damage" done in the Wetterling case, the disrupted lives of people who have been the focus for some suspicion, the people who have been called more than once to answer questions. My trumpet-playing friend would be at the top of that list. (I'm assuming he's innocent, but hey, we still don't know who did it.)
I approached Mr. Ebben this way: I asked him to consider the following: In every neighborhood in America, there are people who have a checkered background or live an atypical lifestyle. No matter where the Wetterling abduction happened, there would be certain people in close proximity who would come to your attention because of their lifestyle, past problems or current status in life. Call it a "dirty little secret" of America. "The majority of men lead lives of quiet desperation," as it were.
So, my trumpet-playing friend has had some minor issues that make him seem a little, well, against the grain. None of this would suggest to me that he ought to be considered a real suspect. Hell, I told Ebben that I might have trouble remembering what I had for supper last night, seriously.
How many of us could handle being in the Klieg lights of an investigation like this? I thank the Lord that nothing like the Wetterling abduction happened in my neighborhood. Think about it.
Law enforcement must be careful not to tarnish the lives of people who in all likelihood are innocent. Suspicion in a case like this can be deadly because just think of the kind of crime we're talking about. It is the most heinous crime imaginable. Just think of what the perpetrator has wrought. Worst of all it's the death of a child, but beyond that it's the untold thousands of hours of investigative work, the cost and the distraction. These resources are limited.
I so admire the investigative people who show up on that "Forensic Files" TV show on HLN. They come across as so dedicated and heroic. One other takeaway from that show: it makes you wonder if life insurance should be outlawed. The motive in so many murders is someone's desire to collect on a life insurance policy. What an ugly underside of American life. I'm glad there is no life insurance policy on me, so there's no target on my forehead. Apparently an appreciable number of people have no problem with their conscience planning a murder with the idea of collecting life insurance.
I would love seeing an episode of Forensic Files someday, reviewing the resolution of the Jacob Wetterling case. Right now I'm not betting on ever seeing such a show. A Star Tribune article said that "minus a confession," we'll never know. Silly rabbit, a confession wouldn't prove anything either, and that's because "false confessions" from troubled souls are common. Ask anyone in law enforcement.
If the perpetrator can be induced to say where the body was put, and investigators can then confirm it's Jacob, that's the only way we'll ever know. If the new POI is in fact guilty, there will have to be ways to induce him to talk, I suppose by promising a gentler prison environment than would otherwise be the case. But what if he is innocent of this crime? What if he's just another sexual deviant creep? Answers, answers, answers. We just need answers.
And after all the sound and fury developed from Joy's blog, where, really has this taken us? We could all go to our grave not knowing the answer.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, December 21, 2015

Saturday hoops: MACA boys defeat West Central

Tigers 69, West Central Area 58
The Tigers traveled to face a high-quality West Central Area hoops team on Saturday (12/19). The MACA boys worked to a 35-28 halftime lead against a WCA team that had yet to lose. The Tigers outscored the Knights by four in the second half. The final score was 69-58. We came out of the weekend with a 6-2 record.
Lukus Manska made two 3-point shots. Sean Amundson and Eric Staebler each made one long-ranger. It was Staebler topping the scoring list with 21 points. Amundson put in 18 points and Manska 16. The list continues with Jacob Zosel (6), Robert Rohloff (4) and Philip Anderson (4). Staebler had the top totals in rebounds (13), assists (6) and steals (5).
WCA's top scorers were Ben Anderson and Isaiah Westby, each with 16 points. Jake Combs contributed 12 points for the Knights. Brady Sabolik had nine points, Rylee Peterson three and Nathan Wrolson two.
Sauk Centre 70, Tigers 68
Overtime suspense marked the December 17 boys hoops game involving the MACA Tigers and Sauk Centre Streeters. The site was Sauk Centre. Those Streeters looked to be in pretty good shape for most of this contest. Leading nearly the whole way, they succumbed temporarily to an MACA surge, a surge good for getting the score tied in regulation time. The scoreboard showed 61-61 numbers.
In overtime, the host Streeters outscored MACA 9-7 to win in the 70-68 final.
Shariff Silas was a force coming at the Tigers, as this Streeter finished with 18 points. Cade Neubert scored 14 points and Tanner Schmiesing 13. Tanner Rieland made two 3-pointers for the host. Silas led in rebounds with ten and in steals with two. Jay Friedrichs was the top Streeter in assists with five.
For the Tigers, Eric Staebler was in his usual place atop the scoring list with 31 points. Jacob Zosel was No. 2 with his total of 14. Then we have Sean Amundson (11), Robert Rohloff (9), Philip Anderson (2) and Lukus Manska (1). Four Tigers each made one 3-pointer: Amundson, Rohloff, Zosel and Staebler.
Staebler's 13 rebounds put him atop that list. Zosel was tops in assists with four, and this Tiger co-led in steals with three, with Rohloff.
Girls: Sauk Centre 65, Tigers 42
Sauk Centre kept its unbeaten status at the expense of Morris Area Chokio Alberta in Saturday GBB action. The MACA girls had a ten-point deficit at halftime, 31-21, and bowed in the 65-42 final at the hands of the Streeters.
The Tigers came out of the weekend with a 2-5 record. Maesyn Thiesen gave lots of fuel for the undefeated (6-0) Streeters, as she put in 17 points. Jill Klaphake scored 12 points and Rebecca Weir eleven. Five different Streeters each made a 3-pointer: Madi Greenwaldt, Kelsey Peschel, Jill Klaphake, Thiesen and Morgan Kranz.
Weir snared 17 rebounds for the Streeters, and Thiesen topped the team in assists and steals with six and seven, respectively.
Here's the MACA scoring list: Ashley Solvie (15), Correy Hickman (10), Becca Holland (7), Nicole Solvie (6) and Riley Decker (4). Holland sank a three-pointer.
Basketball games are coming a little too fast and furiously for me.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Movie "Lincoln" (2012) gives us essence of the man

The best historical movies don't necessarily cover a wide tapestry of time. The best might just offer a sliver of a person's life. Or in the case of the movie "Gettysburg," just three or four days of a lengthy war. The idea is for that nugget to represent a broad expanse, because the nugget really tells us all we need to know.
The 2012 movie "Lincoln" tells us all we need to know about Abe Lincoln and his family. The nugget, in this case, is the work of this iconic man to get the 13th Amendment passed. The House of Representatives was going to have to be manipulated and cajoled. We learn that the rebel states were closer to getting what they wanted, or much of it, than we think today.
Yes, there was a fair amount of war weariness in the North. How could there not be? General Lee was actually rather astute in thinking that the Gettysburg campaign - the invasion of the North as it were - would push the North into some degree of capitulation. Even when the war ended, the South could flirt with getting pretty generous terms: this happened with General Sherman's negotiations with Southern interests at the end.
We all know that ultimately the South became the epitome of "loser." When a legal mind seeks to portray a certain conflict as having a clear, unequivocal loser, that person makes an analogy with the Civil War and the Confederates.
The movie showed Lincoln not so much as some divinely-inspired figure worthy of a monument, as a very sharp political mind. His political talent is unmistakable. I have suggested since seeing Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" that it is the best presentation available - movie or book - for understanding what the political process is. The essence of politics is the defining feature of "Lincoln." As such I bestow the highest compliments.
On the other side of the coin, the movie has little intrinsic entertainment value. I told a friend: "Young people would be monumentally bored by this movie." So much of it simply shows people sitting around and talking. It even began boring me at a point. Shame on me? Well, this is a movie where we know the outcome: no suspense there. We just view the unfolding talks leading up to the kind of victory the Union sought. We see the sausage-making in the political process. The movie can make you cynical if you aren't already.
We'd all like to think the Civil War's outcome was simply a result of a superior moral cause. That's what we'd like to teach kids in their civics lessons. In reality, the South came close to having some of their objectives realized. Lincoln rejected notions of compromise. Even with untold thousands of young men getting mowed down at places like Gettysburg, the Union had to bite the bullet, so to speak.
The issue of slavery was like abortion today: one side will be totally intransigent. Civilized conversations become impossible. Buried in the subconsciousness of Southern citizens was the idea that slavery was not going to be serviceable much longer. They knew it. Lincoln saw the 13th Amendment as the wedge that was necessary to apply. It was his signature accomplishment. It was far from routine achieving it.
The movie has Lincoln's sheer political genius on display. As such it's a biopic, I would argue, because it gives us the sheer essence of the man. We don't see any flashbacks of the young Abe. We see Abe at perhaps the most pivotal point of this continent's history.
The screenplay is largely inspired by a Doris Kearns Goodwin book. You remember, the author disgraced by plagiarism sins. Doris remains highly regarded in the circles that count. That's more than you can say for a former member of the St. Francis MN school board. Odd: the twists and turns of life.
I can't imagine kids liking the movie "Lincoln." Adults sitting around talking. Some battle scenes might have engaged better. The military is simply an extension of the political process. Unless there's some sort of coup, it's those adults sitting around tables and deliberating, that determines the outcome. General Grant of course would eventually become president. In the end we learn that the battlefield was Grant's true home. He was saved financially by his memoirs, guided by Mark Twain.
I must compliment "Lincoln" on authenticity in terms of dim lighting. This was a brave step by the filmmaker. Dull lighting might just be seen as dull lighting. But it was the mid-19th Century before electricity. The authentic dull lighting seems to give a depressing patina to the movie. This is overcome by the grand political cause being orchestrated.
Lincoln fears that his dramatic Emancipation Proclamation could be put aside once the guns go silent. The returning slave states could knock down the proposed 13th Amendment. Time is of the essence in getting the amendment passed. War's end is clearly nearing. The border states suggest some ambivalence. Lincoln wants the slavery issue to be completed before war's end.
To what extent should the Confederate government be engaged in negotiations, if at all? A key player is Francis Preston Blair. Blair's influence is a wild card. Expedience forces Lincoln to give Blair room to negotiate. The "Radical Republican" faction won't stand for a negotiated peace that doesn't extinguish slavery. Lincoln needs Blair's support. To repeat: We see sausage-making. Lincoln and his secretary of state work to get some Democratic Party support. Lincoln likes the opportunity to work on the substantial number of lame duck Democrats. Perhaps patronage jobs can be dangled!
An impending vote on the 13th Amendment hovers over the House floor, as rumors circulate that Confederate envoys are possibly already in town, ready to negotiate. But are they? This may present the chief suspense in the movie. I laughed as a Lincoln critic said the great man employed a "lawyer's dodge." Lincoln was employing deliberate ambiguity. He had bought time, and the vote proceeds. The 13th Amendment passes by a mere two votes.
We see the president visiting the Petersburg VA battlefield. He speaks with General Grant. Grant famously approached the Civil War as simply "a job to be done" - no sense of pageantry or drama. Grant receives the surrender from Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Courthouse. I'm still a little confused as to who tipped his hat first, as Lee got ready to depart on his horse. Was it Grant or Lee? I've seen it both ways.
The movie continues up through Lincoln's assassination at Ford's Theater. That derringer was really a pretty weak weapon BTW. Kudos to actor Tommy Lee Jones on his portrayal of fervent abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens. Let's acknowledge Daniel Day-Lewis is Lincoln.
Also, music man John Williams gives us a banjo accompaniment when we see three manipulative lobbyists do their thing: they are "political fixers" who strive to stay "just inside" what's legal. The trio are buoyant and unfazed about what they're doing. They are hired by Secretary of State William Seward.
"Lincoln" is a celebration of how the political process ultimately pushes morality to the forefront. Would that we could accomplish this more on morality's purest terms. We are so human an animal.
Thanks to our Morris MN Public Library for having this DVD to check out.
A final note: Spielberg's Lincoln does not speak in the kind of deep, resonating voice we might expect of a major historical figure. No sound recording equipment then, of course. I was reminded of the book "Timeline" by Michael Crichton. Crichton indicated in the book, that Abe Lincoln actually spoke in a rather high and raspy voice. Also, General George Washington did not stand toward the front of the boat when crossing the Delaware, not like in the famous painting. Washington was huddled under some wraps to stay warm, rather inconspicuous on the boat seat. We learned this through time travel. Spielberg's Lincoln has the kind of voice, probably noted through historical recollection, consistent with what Crichton reported. Congratulations.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, December 14, 2015

Movie "Fury" (2014) showers us with misery of war

I checked out the movie "Fury" from our Morris Public Library, not knowing what kind of WWII movie it would be. Are we ghouls for watching WWII movies? We must remind ourselves that the potential for immense conflict remains in our nature. I suppose we should thank God for the U.S. emerging as the major world power preventing the worst of conflicts.
It has been said "the first casualty of war is the truth." Our government tried making Jessica Lynch into a hero in connection with Iraq. It isn't so easily done anymore. The proliferation of media tends to dull propaganda. Movies like "Fury" don't have the effect they used to, either. These aren't cowboy and Indian movies. They aren't one-dimensional.
Hollywood decided with "Saving Private Ryan" that more of the sheer misery of war had to come through. "Fury" is set in the final stages of WWII: the push toward Berlin. No uglier chapter in human history could possibly be written.
I hate to simply disparage the movie, but at its end I had to ask: what was the point? Even as a kid, when watching more sanitized WWII movies, it was easy to realize the gruesome nature of war. We always knew there was more blood than what we saw on the screen (which may have been none). That's fine. The movies of my youth actually served a purpose: They instructed us about actual events in the war. We learned there was a place called "Remagen" where a key bridge attracted fierce combat. Some liberty was taken with the facts to achieve maximum dramatic effect. No matter: Remagen was significant. We can read more in the books (or today on Wikipedia).
"Fury" does not appear to be based on any known event in WWII. Any good WWII movie ought to be based on - or as Hollywood says today, "inspired by" - known events and facts. That ought to at least be the springboard.
Where is the noble message of "Fury?" It was constructed like a remake of "300." We root for the good guy underdogs, led by Brad Pitt as Sgt. Dan Collier. I began to feel the movie lacked plausibility. Hollywood does this so often: making the bad guys look inept. The German soldiers might just as well have been Imperial stormtroopers from "Star Wars." Or, the swarming Persian forces of "300."
I don't think the Germans were stupid at all. Eventually forces from around the globe swarmed upon them. Oliver Stone suggests it was mainly the Red Army from the east that overcame Germany. When the Cold War set in so soon after the hot war of WWII, it was not acceptable to bestow so much credit on those "Russkies."
The Germans were evil but not stupid. We sure wanted their scientists after the end of the war.
Was it necessary for the Pitt character to say this in the movie: "We're not here for right and wrong. We're here to kill."
As if we needed another movie to simply tell us "war is hell," here is "Fury," this 2014 American-British war film written and directed by David Ayer. We learn that Ayer sought a greater degree of realism than in other WWII dramas. So we see eye-bludgeoning. We learn it's OK to kill kids.
Our heroic crew befriends two women in a small German town. The women are goners of course. First there is implied sex between the soldier named Norman and the younger (and more attractive) of the two women (who are cousins). It's the more attractive of the two, of course, who is visible on top of the rubble after a German bombardment. Right away I thought: how could this lass end up at the very top of the rubble, so conspicuous and an object for tears as we ponder the barbarity of war? The less attractive woman, more forgettable I guess, is buried under the rubble. But war goes on.
Our crew boards their tank called "Fury." There is more killing business to be done. "Fury" is one of four tanks assigned to hold a crossroads in order to protect a clear path to supply trains. They are intercepted by a German tank that has all the bells and whistles. One of the U.S. tanks quickly bites the dust. The three others stay determined. Only Fury is standing and operable at the end of the engagement. Finally Fury maneuvers behind the German Tiger tank. The armor is weakest at the rear. Fury finishes off the German machine. On it proceeds to the crossroads. A land mine explodes. The tank is rendered no-go. The radio is cut off.
The odds don't look good for our heroes, but remember what a small group could do in the movie "300." This is the scenario that quickly sets in. Norman heads to a nearby hill and sees a whole bunch of Germans coming. It's a reinforced company of 300 Waffen-SS "panzergrenadiers." They're coming our way! Oh my. Some in the crew wish to flee. The Pitt character, true to John Wayne, decides to stay put. Just imagine Wayne's bravado coming forth.
Deploy an ambush? You've got to be kidding. Hollywood is in charge of events, though. History is written by the winners. Those "Imperial stormtroopers" are just an inconvenience.
The Fury tank is disguised so it looks too damaged to be of any good. John Wayne - OK it's Pitt - suggests the crew share some whiskey. Here come the Germans and they become cannon fodder. The Persians - excuse me, the Germans - die like flies. We see a Fury crew member sacrifice himself by using his body vs. a grenade. Norman, who appears misplaced because his training was as a typist, survives of course. A dying Sgt. Collier (Pitt) tells Norman to escape through the bottom emergency door.
The Germans' superior numbers do eventually prevail, but at great cost to them. The Americans have essentially won this engagement. Norman slides through the hatch and into a crater made by the landmine explosion. SS soldiers drop grenades in the tank, finishing off Collier.
I become puzzled as I see a young Waffen SS trooper point a flashlight and discover Norman. Or did he? As I watched the movie, I wasn't sure. Reading later, I learn this German lad was exercising mercy. But why? The tank crew had mercilessly dispatched so many of the German soldier's brethren. I'm sure they all felt camaraderie just like the Americans, albeit in a dubious cause. Norman's life is spared.
Norman crawls back into the tank the next morning. He hears people approaching. Who? Of course, this is a happy ending with Americans arriving on the scene. I'm puzzled once again as Norman is informed that he's a hero. Why such a quick conclusion? How on earth could this young man have survived such an all-out conflict?
I would have to wonder: Maybe this young man had fled for cover, returning when the place was deserted. No such suspicion emerges. "Hero" Norman is transported to safety. He sees the carnage of hundreds of dead German SS troops.
And, the surviving German troops would have simply departed, overlooking the one remaining U.S. boy? According to the movie's script, yes, apparently because of the German with the flashlight feeling mercy. It seems implausible to me.
Movie watchers have been dragged through two and a half hours of depressing gore, complemented by a total environment of mud. Mud, mud, mud. Get the message?
"The Bridge at Remagen" starring George Segal at least taught us about the Remagen bridge engagement. I'm not sure how "Fury" has really enlightened us. It's another vehicle for Pitt's acting talent, to be sure. I prefer him in "Moneyball," saying "because I'm amazing." The cause there was to obtain a top-notch relief pitcher. It's a much more palatable scenario.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, December 11, 2015

Tigers' balance too much for BOLD, Steffel

Tigers 60, BOLD 46
The MACA girls performed smoothly on the Olivia court, downing the BOLD Warriors. This December 8 girls hoops contest ended with a score of 60-46. The winning Tigers seemed to have things wrapped up by halftime: a score of 42-19. The win was our second of the season, against two losses. BOLD was left still in search of its first win.
BOLD's Makenna Steffel was actually game-high in scoring with her 25 points. Her teammates had modest point totals. Steffel scored her 25 points with just one three-point make. Peyton Weis also had a '3' for the host Warriors.
Meanwhile the Tigers did quite fine in the long-range department. Riley Decker and Correy Hickman each made two 3's. Becca Holland and Karly Fehr each made one from beyond the three-point arc.
The Tigers came at BOLD with balanced scoring. The charge was led by Nicole Solvie and her 16 points. Hickman produced 14 points, Decker 12 and Holland 11. Fehr added three points to the mix while Jenna Howden and Ashley Solvie each added two. Steffel had eleven rebounds for BOLD and she also stole the ball four times.
Minnewaska 55, Tigers 43
The Tigers slipped below .500 with a Thursday (12/10) loss on the road to Minnewaska Area. The Lakers won by a 55-43 score in this conference contest in Laker country.
Carley Stewart was an obstacle for coach Dale Henrich's Tigers. Stewart poured in 19 points, snared eight rebounds and had three steals. She was joined in the 'Waska scoring list by Taylor Amundson (9), Shelby Pfannenstein (8), Ashlyn Guggisberg (6), Bailey Stewart (5), Abby VerSteeg (4), Anna Vold (2) and Emma Middendorf (2). Carley Stewart fueled the 'Waska "mo" with four 3-pointers. Guggisberg made three long-rangers, Pfannenstein two and Amundson one.
Middendorf collected nine rebounds to top that list. Guggisberg had five assists and VerSteeg four.
On to the MACA data: Correy Hickman topped our scoring list with 12 points, then came Ashley Solvie with eleven. Becca Holland contributed nine points to the effort. Riley Decker supplied five points, Nicole Solvie four and Moira McNally two. Decker and Holland each made a 3-pointer.
The Lakers built a 24-20 halftime lead. Morris Area Chokio Alberta came out of the night with a 2-3 overall record, 1-1 in conference. The Lakers climbed to 3-1 and to 1-0 in league.
New London-Spicer 61, Tigers 38
The Tigers were humbled on the home court in Saturday (12/5) action. It's always challenging to be competitive against the vaunted New London-Spicer Wildcats. The hoops tradition there appears not to be missing a beat. The December 5 game ended with the Wildcats savoring a 61-38 win. The halftime score was 39-15.
The Willmar newspaper used the term "blowout." In my corporate media career, I found that "blowout" was a little blunt and coarse for the high school level: it seemed to demean the losing team.
Here's how the individual scoring broke down for coach Dale Henrich's Tigers: Ashley Solvie (9), Moira McNally (8), Becca Holland (7), Liz Dietz (5), Correy Hickman (4), Nicole Solvie (3) and Riley Decker (2). Holland made a three-pointer.
Hickman was team-best in rebounds with seven followed by McNally and Holland each with five. Decker had four assists and Hickman three. Hickman had two steals.
New London-Spicer had an attack with three individuals reaching double figures: Shea Oman (15), Megan Thorson (12) and Erin Tebben (10). The list continues with Alyssa Fredrick (9), Mariah Adams (5), Brooke Beuning (5), Lindsay Vagle (3) and Morgan Swenson (2). Oman and Fredrick each zeroed in from three-point range to make three shots. Adams, Beuning and Vagle each made a long-ranger. Tebben worked the boards to collect 12 rebounds. Thorson paced the Wildcats in assists with six.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Albie Pearson endears with signature on glove

I had two baseball gloves in my childhood. One was a first baseman's glove that was already worn when I acquired it. A first baseman's glove has a distinctive design. My other glove had the signature of a big league ballplayer on it. We got this glove at the old Cruze Electric and Sporting Goods store in Morris.
Albie Pearson's name graced the glove. He wasn't an all-out superstar. He is best known for helping launch the new Los Angeles Angels franchise in 1961.The Angels were born the same year as our Minnesota Twins. Our team wasn't really new as it was transplanted from Washington D.C.
The Angels were created to give an American League counterpart to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers had left Brooklyn for the very inviting West Coast. In the old days, "a trip west" meant St. Louis or Chicago! The old Pacific Coast League was technically minor league, but it had a reputation for talent comparable to the bigs. Major league baseball eventually stretched its legs to cover the whole U.S. Goodbye to train travel.

Let's not judge by size
Pearson had one other chief trademark, besides being a key player with the fledgling Angels: he was very short of stature. He stood five feet/six inches and weighed 140 pounds. He batted and threw lefthanded. He glided across the outfield grass in center.
Pearson played with Calvin Griffith's Washington Senators for two years in the late 1950s. He then had a stint with the Baltimore Orioles before his Angels chapter began. He scored the first run for the new team. Gene Autry of the glittering Hollywood universe owned the Angels. The team did not entertain that great its first year. Little was expected from the expansion teams of that era. Like clockwork they would struggle, as if they were having to pay dues.
The Angels placed eighth in the American League in 1961 with a record of 70-91. They were nearly 40 games behind the world champion Yankees. It was the year Roger Maris hit 61 home runs. Pearson had the team's best batting average. He also set the pace in stolen bases (11), runs scored (92) and walks (96). Leon Wagner hit 28 home runs in that inaugural year for the club. Remember how Wagner was tagged with the affectionate nickname "Daddy Wags?"
A better team than they appeared
I remember the Angels as a not very exciting team in the 1960s. They had assets that weren't as easy to appreciate as for our Minnesota Twins. Let's look at the 1964 rosters for the two clubs. Minnesota had a lineup that looked World Series-worthy, and would you believe our pitching didn't seem that bad either? We had Jim Kaat and "Mudcat" Grant. How did we do? We finished in a tie for sixth with Cleveland. Finishing ahead of us were the Los Angeles Angels. It must have been the pitching that did it. The L.A. lineup seemed most pedestrian.
The Angels had Dean Chance as a marquee pitcher. He would later become a Twin. Bo Belinsky made his mark as an Angels pitcher, but it was due in large part to lifestyle. He rubbed shoulders with the stars.
Albie Pearson was named Rookie of the Year with the Washington Senators in '58. His performance lagged for a time, setting the stage for his trade to Baltimore. He was traded for Lenny Green, later to become a Twin. Pearson's career stagnated through 1960, and he was taken as the 30th (and last) pick in the expansion draft. He donned that Angels uniform.
Whatever had been hindering him got wiped away, and he found his native California much to his liking.
Finding his stride as an Angel
Pearson scored that first Angels run in a 7-0 win over the Orioles. The diminutive guy batted a fine .288 in '61. He scored 92 runs. But his best season was '63 when he played 160 games, rapped 173 hits and stole 17 bases. He made the All-Star team. He was a .300 hitter and placed fourth in the batting average race.
The little guy clearly made his mark before back problems caught up to him. That physical malady nudged him into retirement after the 1966 season. He left the game as a .270 career hitter. He played 988 games.
I don't think I still have that old baseball glove. I don't think it's in the basement. It got worn pretty good. I played two years of little league here in Morris. It was a big deal to have "uniforms" in the form of T-shirts. Today we see the major league facsimile uniforms which the kids take for granted.
I was a typical first-year little league player, struggling often, but in year 2, I got the hang of it. I never played Babe Ruth or at any other level thereafter. Rick Lucken once said the biggest transition in sports is the difference in length from the pitching rubber to home plate, between little league and Babe Ruth.
I'll never forget that Albie Pearson name on my baseball glove. I think the glove cost something like $15, then considered exorbitant for such an item. Prices were often high in those mom-and-pop main street stores of that age. Before Wal-Mart.
Main street of Morris was a real focal point of the area, a hub of social life. We had the classic "pool hall." Such was the popularity of "downtown," people had to pay to park (through parking meters). Stores would be open one night a week. That night was a catalyst for social contact among Morris residents. We'd make the rounds and see our neighbors and friends. Cruze Electric and Sporting Goods might be on our list. We might dine at the Del Monico Café.
Today downtown Morris continues to have its complexion changed, as now the drugstores are deserting us, both of them. The drug stores are heading to the outskirts, reflecting the widespread trend. You can't fight progress.
I just found out that the Bon Jos store is closing.
Leaving baseball for a grander cause
Albie Pearson has been an exemplary human being. You might say his life just got going after 1966, as he seemed to discover his primary calling - not baseball. He became ordained as a minister. He set up churches and orphanages in Ecuador and Zambia. He launched Father's Heart International. He has touched many people who had to be reminded he had a "past life" in baseball. People needed some reminding that Pearson, under the Klieg lights of big league baseball, hit a grand slam for Baltimore in 1960, and that - can you believe it? - won the start in centerfield over a slow-starting Mickey Mantle in the 1963 All-Star game.
A boy in need, who's hungry, hurt or seemingly without hope, needn't care much about baseball. But Pearson has been there for such youth as an angel-like asset.
Pearson has been a model in his personal life, maintaining a lifelong marriage to Helen, with whom he started a foundation to help troubled youth when Albie was still a player. In 1997, Albie and Helen sold their home, bought an eleven-acre parcel in Desert Hot Springs CA, and built a house they christened Father's Heart Ranch.
Albie and Helen raised a family of five children. Many grandchildren and great-grandchildren have come along. Father's Heart International has fed countless Zambian children who have lost their parents to AIDs. Father's Heart Ranch has been an asset to many boys who have been placed by Social Services in Riverside, San Bernardino and Imperial Counties (CA).
Pearson said the boys "need to see they have a purpose. That takes time and trust." He reflected on a seven-year-old boy who came to the ranch, scarred by having been beaten by his mother's boyfriend with a rowboat oar and getting locked in a closet. He hadn't gone to school. Pearson said "we started working with him every day, talking to him, building trust."
It makes baseball seem rather remote and not that significant. Still, that Albie Pearson signature on my baseball glove meant a lot to me. Pearson has lived the classic American life. I'll join him in saying "praise God!"
Click on the link below to see a YouTube video of Pearson getting the Antioch 'X' Award, a Lifetime Achievement Award, at Antioch Church of Riverside CA.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, November 23, 2015

500 hits w/ four different teams: the great Rusty Staub

Rusty Staub, "Le Grand Orange"
Baseball fans of the boomer generation could look for the Rusty Staub name as we perused the daily boxscores. He was a constant. His career spanned 23 seasons. Maybe he should be in the Hall of Fame. What cap would he wear? Players who played with multiple teams are usually primarily associated with one. Staub's situation is more complicated. You might say he was highly adaptable. He established himself firmly with a high level of play. None of his teams was an afterthought.
Perhaps his biggest distinction is this: he's the only player to collect 500 hits with four different teams! He is No. 13 on the all-time list for games played. Another major distinction: Rusty was the fair-haired boy of not one but two expansion teams.
I have an image of him from his 1964 Topps baseball card, a card with "Colt .45s" at the top. Cold .45s! The name might not pass the political correctness test today. This was the team that got launched in Houston. It morphed into the Astros. Staub was signed by those fledgling Colt .45s when he was 17. He was one of those celebrated "bonus babies." The dollar figures seemed high then. How quaint. If you want an idea of what your typical ballplayers was dealing with then, in terms of contract, get ahold of Jim Bouton's "Ball Four."
Staub lived up to expectations. He didn't need extended grooming in the minors. He became only the second major league rookie since 1900 to play 150 games as a teenager! Down the road he joined Ty Cobb and Gary Sheffield as the only players to hit a home run as a teenager and an over-40 player.
Houston was hardly known as a hitters' haven. The '60s were a time when hitters were penned in - the climax came in 1968's "year of the pitcher." I have always wondered why the powers-that-be allowed things to get that bad, to where "goose eggs" on the scoreboard really prevailed. Of course, America had much bigger problems: the Viet Nam war was at its tragic climax. Us kids couldn't stop the war, though we tried. We found escapism in baseball.
Those boxscores showed a young Rusty performing superbly in 1967. He had "arrived," as they say, and his bat sizzled with a .333 average. However it was only good for fifth in league, the list topped by the legendary Roberto Clemente (.357). Staub was tops in league in doubles, his bat pounding 44. He made the All-Star team for the first of five straight seasons.
"Le Grand Orange" in Montreal
Baseball expanded in both leagues in 1969. It moved into Canada with the creation of the now-defunct Montreal Expos. Staub was clearly the marquee player getting the Expos launched. Some trade complications had to be worked out. The commissioner had to get involved. Montreal insisted that Staub was key to their interests.
Bowie Kuhn was commissioner. He became a highly maligned man. Baseball was heading into a time of considerable conflict. I'm not sure anyone could have navigated the seas as well as Kuhn, who came off as a very classy gentleman in his autobiography. Kuhn prodded the interested parties to get things smoothed out, so Staub could pull on an Expos cap and enter French-speaking country. That he did. He even made a special effort to gain some fluency in French.
The bond between Rusty and his new city was total. He delivered, batting .302 with 29 home runs, plus he drew 110 walks. He was the lone Expo on the all-star team for three seasons. You might remember that he got the nickname "Le Grand Orange." His red hair inspired the name. "Rusty" was inspired the same way.
I'm surprised "Rusty" isn't a more common name. Wasn't that the name of one of the kids on the old Danny Thomas TV show?
Moving on to New York City, the Mets
The Expos began thinking they needed more quantity than quality. Expansion teams often see holes to fill to get more competitive, so in the Expos' case, they traded their signature star to get three players to hopefully bolster their lineup. The trade came at the end of 1972 spring training. Staub was traded for Ken Singleton, Mike Jorgenson and Tim Foli.
Staub's destination: the Big Apple. Now he's a New York Met. Again he would make a big impression with a new team. His four years with the Mets gave Rusty a springboard for post-season play. In 1973 (my first summer after high school) he hit .423 in the World Series, a Series in which New York was edged in seven games by the Oakland A's. He was a fixture at the No. 3 spot in the Mets' batting order. He pounded 36 doubles in the regular season. He slugged three home runs in five games in the National League championship series.
Staub had gas left in the tank when he left New York for Detroit after 1975. Now he's an American Leaguer. Whole new audiences could now appreciate him. He had two 100-plus RBI seasons in his Detroit tenure which spanned nearly four years. He drove in 96 runs in another of those seasons. He carved out a niche in 1978 when he had the unusual distinction of playing all 162 games in a season without playing in the field!
He was an all-star in 1976 for the sixth and final time. He was No. 5 in MVP voting in 1978 (the year I graduated from college).
But wait, there's more to the story. Staub's baseball journey isn't done yet. Partway through 1979, he made a triumphant return to the expansion team that treated him so well, the one in French-speaking country. It's like a scene from a movie: Staub's debut game back in Montreal saw the crowd of 59,000 give him a standing ovation of over three minutes! He wasn't handling fielding duties well. The National League doesn't have the DH of course.
Staub became a Texas Ranger for 1980. Indeed: more gas left in the tank, as Staub batted .300. Perhaps his gas gauge was only halfway expired, as he played five more seasons with the Mets after his Texas stint. Fascinating: he had a triumphant comeback return as both an Expo and Met. He batted .317 in 1981 wearing that soft blue color of the Mets. He was able to play first base.
Subsequently he carved out a reputation as pinch-hitting specialist. He slowly retired his glove. But as pinch-hitter he stayed most definitely in the groove. He played 104 games in 1983, of which five were at first base, five in the outfield and a record 94 as pinch-hitter! I remember that stance that made you think a base hit was on the way. Staub had a premier reputation as a sheer contact hitter. He held the bat vertically as he awaited the pitch.
Vigorous life after retirement
Finally that gas gauge expired and he made the transition to broadcaster. He was a broadcast voice of the Mets from 1986 to 1995. He became a restaurateur: he operated "Rusty 10" at the Montreal ballpark.
Today he mans the Rusty Staub Foundation, focusing on emergency food pantries.
Fans have analyzed whether Staub belongs in the Hall of Fame. Personally I'd just say "yes." He was such a companion for us boomer fans from those newspaper boxscores through all those years. Far-reaching as his impact was, he didn't reach the obvious Hall of Fame "markers." Maybe on-base percentage should be weighed more. Playing with weak teams much of the time, Staub got "pitched around" rather often. Had he gotten fewer walks, maybe he'd be at the 3000-hit plateau.
He was age 41 when retiring. What an incredible road from when he was that "bonus baby!"
Click on the link below to see video of Rusty Staub's Game 4 home run in the 1973 World Series. That was my first summer after high school!
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Whither ELCA Lutherans of Morris?

Faith Lutheran Church, Morris, w/ its large roof
(This is another of my "compendium" posts. Thanks for reading. - B.W.)
First Lutheran gets new pastor (published 11/16 on "I Love Morris")
You'll find me in one of the pictures of confirmation classes along the top level hallway at First Lutheran Church. I combed my hair forward on the front of my head then (1970). Don't know what I was thinking.
My confirmation class was at the height of the baby boom, so we were arranged in multiple rows. Today the church generally has just a handful of graduates or whatever they're called. The situation gets cloudy when the kids of First Lutheran and Faith Lutheran are combined.
The combining of First and Faith resources has become, at least in my mind, a sticky wicket. Maybe there should just be one church. If one of the two buildings had to be picked, it would be Faith because it's handicapped or elderly-friendly. First Lutheran is woefully deficient in that category. First has so many structural issues, I wouldn't want to specify them - too embarrassing. A sheet of ice develops in spring leading up to the elevator entrance door. It's a disaster waiting to happen.
There's a long walk from the elevator to the sanctuary. At Assumption Church you step out of the elevator basically right into the sanctuary.
It would be fun for our family to visit Assumption again for the Thanksgiving dinner, but that event hasn't been held for several years. It's a black mark for this community: the cancellation of that event, so helpful for people for whom it isn't practical to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving meal - elderly people, singles, shut-ins etc. If there were problems, they should have just been solved. If people weren't contributing enough money, then a set charge could have been established at the door. If the delivery system got unmanageable, cancel it. The solution wasn't to cancel the whole thing.
Prairie Inn used to have a buffet meal for Thanksgiving. That was discontinued. Is all of this evidence of Morris' general decline as a community? I was told there was one place we could dine out for Thanksgiving: the hospital. That shouldn't be the only choice.
First Lutheran has a row of photos of pastors who have served that church. The pastor's position has been such a revolving door, it might be impractical to continue all those photos. I recently heard a long-time member of First say: "There's no life in this church."
We have a new pastor now who in his first two weeks gave sermons that were depressing beyond any purposes for that content. I don't want to hear a story about a family dog, a beagle, wandering off one night to be dispatched by the neighboring farmer who had complained about the dog. I don't appreciate hearing a story about a kid who gets accidentally shot during some play around guns. I can stay home and be in a happier and more constructive frame of mind.
First and Faith should maybe combine and have a new church built, according to all the contemporary specifications, out along that development strip on the north end of town. How about a nice Wal-Mart style parking lot? No longer would Faith Lutheran be "the church on the other side of the tracks."
First and Faith are both located in the old residential core of Morris that is showing its age. Compare those homes to the new homes built on the east edge of town, out toward the river.
The Wednesday night "burgers and blessings" event at the Old No. 1 got canceled this week. Why? Yes, Faith had its big annual fall supper that night, but First had its supper the previous Wednesday, and "burgers" wasn't cancelled. Does all this tell us that Faith is a more significant church than First? Is First Lutheran just limping along?
I wish we could have kept Chris Richards as pastor. It isn't fair for the synod to disallow this. The synod has its own problems as with embezzling.
A prescient Morris Boy Scout (published 4/24/10 on "I Love Morris")
Legend has it that a Morris Boy Scout of my vintage once envisioned a bike path east of Morris much like what eventually became reality. I'm told he mapped it out as a Scout project. He was from a very civic conscious family as his father served as mayor. His mother was gregarious and eager to share on matters of local import.
We had to wait many years before the bike trail became reality. Now of course we take it for granted, and on any given warm weather day - even on cool ones - you'll find walkers, bike riders and dog walkers enjoying the serene surroundings close to the lazy flowing Pomme de Terre River.
I remember going out there as a media person to give some attention when this feature first became reality, and thinking "wow." I remember coming upon Nancy Erdahl who was out walking the dog, a large setter as I recall.
When I was a kid the bypass hadn't even been constructed. The wonderful natural environment close to the river, with its butterflies and dazzling wildflowers, was pretty remote to us.
We were aware of a curious dirt road that circled around and joined up with Green River Road, but it wasn't all that close to the river. I say "curious" because the road has no obvious purpose. I once heard it was built with funds "left over" from some other project. I heard the same thing about how our high school tennis courts were built (i.e. with "left over" money). I got scolded by a former high school principal who said I shouldn't use the term "left over money" in connection with the tennis courts.
"They were built because of prudent management of school district resources," this now-deceased individual told me. "If you say 'left over funds' you'll be in trouble with the superintendent. . .again!"
That dirt road east of town was used by the Morris High School cross country team for early-morning workouts. If it weren't for that, I might not have been aware of its existence. Perhaps a new housing development was envisioned as a possibility out there. What we have today is the Rileys' townhome development on one end, right off the bypass. The rest of that dirt road is as barren as it ever was, making you wonder "What was the purpose of this?"
Further to the east you'll find that wondrous bike path/walking trail. There are gazebos and benches enhancing the route. Also there's a spur that goes right down to the river's edge, on the west wide of the river. You might "spook" some Canada geese there certain times of the year!
If you find the people at work seem like the Cyclops character in The Odyssey, just go to this peaceful place for a while. Its serenity is an antidote.
Those big Skyview apartment buildings could never have been envisioned years ago, before the bypass came into being. The housing development east of the bypass with its "McMansion" type houses couldn't have been envisioned either. Only my Boy Scout acquaintance with his forward-looking images of recreation might have been able to see all this in his imagination.
This individual went on to play football for the University of Minnesota-Morris Cougars and get a tryout in the NFL. I haven't written his name yet but I've given enough clues. It was Cary Birch.
Remember Cary, the big, bruising ballcarrier?
We've had an unseasonably warm April in which many people have gotten out to the bike path for healthy exercise and communing with nature. If you do the full "lap" you should know it's four and a half miles, according to Myron Syverson who made it a project to find out. Myron enjoys bicycling.
We should all remember the Birch family as we make our rounds out there.
Adventures in TV watching (published 11/14 on "I Love Morris")
Last night (Friday) I turned to the History Channel for extensive watching. Once the news broke about the terror attacks in Paris, I knew the cable news channels would be saturated with that coverage, beyond the need for giving meaningful updates. We've seen the same thing with the occasional tragic school shootings. We sort of get the gist of what happened in short order, and then the topic eats up the news cycle.
So I turned to the History Channel. My takeaway: I think we need some special attention or scrutiny toward these sensational investigative shows. These shows actually have the potential to be very fascinating. They simply must be "on the level." It's very questionable whether they are.
Did those bigfoot hunters really capture a live bigfoot in a cage? Of course this monster got away, very convenient if the whole thing was contrived and concocted. Oh, someone left the door to the cage open. Was the monster real? If it was, if should be national news.
This little cadre of explorers should have surrounded the cage nonstop. Government should have dispatched specialists post haste, because the state has a strong interest in confirming that bigfoot is real. Is it a gigantopithecus, having survived from prehistoric times? It's not a reach to think it might be. It hasn't been unusual to discover various species thought to be extinct, like that fish the name of which I can't spell.
If the bigfoot catch on TV is a hoax, then we need regulations to rein in these shows, just like the TV quiz shows of the 1950s had to be reined in. Of course, maybe a hoax was pulled on the cadre of bigfoot hunters, in which case the latter could deny any complicity. How convenient.
Don't you think greed comes into play with these shows? They have a budget. They need to generate ratings to stay on the air. By the end of the bigfoot show, I began to feel like a fool, having been taken in by this.
Now I'm wondering about other, similar shows on the History Channel. We see this cadre of well-credentialed researchers looking for evidence of Hitler escaping Germany and going to South America. It is a highly plausible theory. Newly declassified documents actually support the theory. But can we believe what we see on TV? Are the documents a hoax?
When the group finds Nazi artifacts at a remote South America place, can I really believe they're legitimate? Could they have been planted? If bigfoot can be faked, anything can be faked. It's too bad because these shows, if done on the level, can be a tremendous asset. We must remember what their job is, who their master is. It's not science, rather it's ratings. Without ratings there'd be no show. Keep that in mind.
Update: After just checking Google, I'm now concluding that the bigfoot show was a "mockumentary." Based on that, I can no longer trust the searching-for-Hitler shows or anything else of this type on TV, which is a shame.
"Parade of Lights" held (published 11/13 on "I Love Morris")
Back when I was with the Morris newspaper, I felt obligated to collect photo caption information all the time. I just assumed everyone would want to know the photo details. I also assumed that newspaper management would want the job done. Were I to show up at the office and say I hadn't gotten caption information, I would risk having people absolutely scream at me, calling me 100 kinds of stupid. The newspaper once had an editor who would be more courteous to Jacob Wetterling's abductor than to me. It's a line of work that can make people temperamental.
Maybe the news department people are just trying to justify their importance. Because truth is, it's the advertising department that prevails in terms of real importance, while the news department is just a trivial little matter off to the side. I'm not saying news isn't important, I'm just saying it's the ad department that pays the bills.
Times change. The Morris Sun Tribune newspaper, ever since I left, has tended to run collages of photos of major events with no caption information at all! How easier my life would have been, if I had been spared that responsibility. It's a 180-degree difference. I would use a pencil for the Parade of Lights, because the cold temperature would knock out a pen. One year I thought I had photographed all major or interesting floats, only to find out later that one of the award winners was one I didn't deem worthy.
There is a photo of the late Willie Martin in the Parade of Lights, on display at that sit-down area of Willie's Super Valu. I took that photo! Please pay special attention sometime. Willie radiated with the spirit of that event, and of Christmas itself.
How good was the 2015 Parade of Lights? We didn't take it in. Even on a relatively good night in November, the cold can be a barrier. I hope it was fine.
Levity re. Super Bowl parties (published 2/5/10 on "I Love Morris")
"Stay souped for the Super Bowl," a media announcer once said in a blooper. And then he added another blooper: "I mean, stay stunned for the Stupor Bowl."
If you aren't stunned (or souped) by the suspense of the game, maybe a little alcohol in the refreshments will do it. I would guess the extent of alcohol in Super Bowl party drinks is much less than in the days when the Minnesota Vikings played in four Super Bowls. Back then, social drinking was fashionable and DWIs didn't have the disastrous consequences of today.
I remember watching the Minnesota Vikings play the Pittsburgh Steelers in a dormitory lounge at St. Cloud State University (Shoemaker Hall). The campus was within easy walking distance of so many bars, I'd have a hard time listing them all. We're wiser and safer today. Or you might say "what were we thinking?"
The Bill Brown fumble (on a kickoff) stands out from that Super Bowl vs. the Steelers. Of the four Super Bowls the Vikes played, this one afforded the best chance to win. But it wasn't meant to be, just as it wasn't meant to be for this year's Vikes to make the big circus at all.
So we'll be watching the Saints play the Colts in this year's Super Bowl. Many of us will be at parties where bowls of crunchy snacks, bratwurst and cold, alcohol-free refreshments will be left and right. By day's end we'll feel drugged and most certainly will sleep soundly, perhaps with visions of next year's Vikings playing in the Super Bowl. (If Sly Stallone can keep making "Rambo" movies, Brett Favre can keep playing quarterback.)
I read a couple years ago how the kind of snacks people consume at Super Bowl parties have an unintended and unpleasant consequence: flatulence. This article stood out for me among the sea of predictable, frivolous and vapid feature coverage of Super Bowl weekend in the media.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, November 16, 2015

Dick Allen's career echoed Jackie Robinson

I still think of him as "Richie."
The 1964 season showcased rookies in a memorable way. My Minnesota Twins had Tony Oliva. In the National League, the accolades streamed for Richie Allen. The "Richie" name would be phased out. It was never his first choice. He went by "Dick" in his youth. Apparently it was media deciding he should be "Richie" upon his arrival in Philadelphia. Baseball historians cannot trace the exact source of this. One theory is that Richie Ashburn had been a long-time star in Philadelphia.
Allen himself sniffed at the "Richie" name, saying it smacked of a little boy's name. Thus we open the door to possible racism as the source. Allen was a notable African-American star in an organization that had hardly been progressive. Philadelphia's reputation was one reason Curt Flood didn't want to go there. Flood turned the screws on baseball with his earthshaking legal case. Technically Flood lost but he helped build a rising tidal wave.
It was no secret the Phillies had a poor history with race relations. Allen stepped into the vortex of that and had his monstrous rookie campaign of 1964. It paralleled what we saw with the great Cuban Tony Oliva in Minnesota.
I can speak with firsthand knowledge about the benign racial situation in Minnesota. Boomer boys like me had zero problem with players of color being our favorite players. Maybe if our team had been nearly 100 percent black, we might have been a little chagrined. That's only because we would have wanted our team to reflect our population.
A generous proportion of non-white stars didn't bother us at all.
Navigating through Deep South
Philadelphia was not Minnesota. But Dick Allen had seen worse. In 1963 the Phillies relocated their AAA farm club from Buffalo NY to Little Rock AR. Little Rock! We're talking Deep South with the kind of racial uneasiness we saw in the movie about Jackie Robinson's life, "42."
Allen might have been thrown off his game by going to Little Rock. His youth had not been in the South, rather he grew up in Wampum PA, a place with no racial tension. Sorry, Dick, America had its share of warts in the early '60s, even with Robinson's era having passed. Little Rock!
The governor was Orval Faubus. Faubus had refused to integrate Little Rock's Central High School in 1957. Allen was the first black to play in Little Rock. The racial pressures were heavy on him. Governor Faubus was present for the season opener. The opening night crowd was a template for the ugly and festering racial hatred still alive in that part of the country. Placards were displayed: "Let's not negro-ize our baseball." Taunts floated over the field. Allen would say in 1964: "I didn't want to be a crusader."
Little Rock was a test for the supremely talented young man. His talent rescued him from that stew of conflict and put him in the big leagues, where presumably he would at least be protected more (than in a jerkwater place). But Philadelphia was hardly a model. Philadelphia had led the way making life miserable for Jackie Robinson in 1947. Philadelphia gave us the "Whiz Kids" team in 1950: the last National League champion without a player of color.
Philadelphia remained in the past while everyone else moved forward. Not until 1957 were there signs of integration in the "City of Brotherly Love." Many of the early non-white players with Philly were not African-American, rather they were Cuban, Mexican or Panamanian. Our Tony Oliva was Cuban, not that us fans could care less about such a detail. Honestly we didn't, not at all, and we would've wrinkled our foreheads if told about the distinction. Rod Carew was Panamanian. Who cares? Camilo Pascual was Cuban but he didn't look black.
Not until Wes Covington came along in 1961 did Philadelphia have an African-American impact player. Welcome to civilization, Philadelphia.
Little Rock might have chased Allen out of the game. He became discouraged and fearful. But when his brother reminded him what the option would be, to baseball - it was "work" - Dick stuck it out with the national pastime. We're glad he did.
Stellar rookies burst onto scene
Allen and Oliva attracted masses of fans to the game in 1964. Allen led the National League in runs scored, triples, extra-base hits and total bases. His batting average was a sizzling .318. He surpassed 200 hits.
Allen was a major reason the Phillies flirted with the pennant in 1964. The Phillies had a lead of six and a half games with 12 games left. What unfolded after that is recorded most prominently in baseball history. It was the fabled "choke" under manager Gene Mauch. Mauch would later come to Minnesota and irritate me tremendously with his tendency to "platoon." In '64 Mauch just couldn't find a solution over that last stretch of games. The team lost ten straight. In an age when young fans had an emotional attachment to their team - we sure did in Minnesota - the skid caused hair-pulling and tears. The first game of that loss streak saw Chico Ruiz of Cincinnati famously steal home.
Allen for his part did not collapse in that closing stretch. He hit .438 over the last 12 games with three home runs and eleven RBIs. Allen played third base in 1964, not ideal for him. He booted the ball around some. His offensive talent kept making waves through the mid-1960s. That period was during a time that has been called "baseball's second dead-ball era." When arguments are made for Allen to be in the Hall of Fame, this is an observation often made. Ditto with Oliva, whose .289 average in 1968 was actually good for third in league! Allen and Oliva should both be in the Hall.
Allen was an All-Star in 1965 through '67. He topped the league in extra-base hits in 1966. He left the Phillies and asked thereafter to be called "Dick," not "Richie."
Boys can find a name change disrupting. We had gotten familiar with "Richie." The "Dick" name was so abrupt and pedestrian. But there's a third dimension here. He was willing to answer to "Rich." Being reminded of this, my memory banks turned up an old supplementary type of baseball card, a small black and white photo card - one in a pack - that had the player's signature on it. Allen signed his name "Rich." Amazing how I can remember that after so many years. Says something for the value that baseball had in my youth.
In Allen's dual career as a rhythm and blues singer, the label on his records with "Groovy Grooves" had him identified as "Rich" Allen.
Dick, Rich or Richie? Reminds me of when Chuck Barris, host of the Gong Show on TV, sang "Why does everybody call me Chuckie, when they know my name is Chuck."
Some abuse from fans caused Allen to begin wearing his batting helmet when in the field.
Departing from Phillies
Allen became a St. Louis Cardinal in 1970. This is the trade that involved Curt Flood and Flood's refusal to play there. Cardinals broadcasters firmly established the "Dick" name. Things seemed to go well in St. Louis, but Allen moved on to the Los Angeles Dodgers for 1971. Again Allen did well, batting .295, and there was no extracurricular volatility. But his scenery changed again for 1972. Now he was with the Chicago White Sox. Manager Chuck Tanner did Allen the favor of playing just one position: first base. Allen was superb with his bat - a key factor in the White Sox's second place finish. He was MVP in a spectacular campaign, but Oakland surpassed the Sox. No wild cards then. The White Sox had been rumored as expansion team candidate for St. Petersburg or Seattle. Allen's magnetic performance helped ensure the Sox would remain an institution on Chicago's south side.
All through his career, he opened eyes wide with tape measure shots. He reached the distant center field bleachers (445 feet) at Chicago's Comiskey Park. He hit two inside the park home runs against the Twins on July 31, 1972, in an 8-1 victory. Both of those were off Bert Blyleven, today a household name in Minnesota as a Twins broadcaster. "Circle me, Bert."
Maybe Allen's especially heavy bat was a factor in the very long home runs. Tim McCarver in his book about baseball suggested that Allen might have done better had he not used quite such a heavy bat. But Allen hit prodigious home runs.
Allen was willing to wind down his career in Philadelphia despite the bumps in the road there. At the very end he played one season with Oakland. All kinds of journeymen seemed to pull on a uniform with Oakland at that time. Don Mincher et. al.
Allen's music was in a high, delicate tenor. In the '60s he sang doo-wop as a member of the Ebonics.
Allen and Oliva seem like kindred spirits. They appeared on the Hall of Fame's 2014 Golden Era Committee ballot of ten selected candidates. Both were one vote shy of the required 12 votes. None of the candidates got in.
Orlando Cepeda said "Dick Allen played with fire in his eyes."
Click on the link below to watch Dick Allen's home run in the 1967 all-star game, a grand blast off Dean Chance. This is a YouTube link. I hadn't seen a video of Chance's distinctive pitching motion in eons. As a lifelong Twins fan, I got a little misty. Chance could have had one or two more great seasons for Minny, but he held out against Calvin Griffith in 1969, reported late, rushed his body into shape and got hurt. He was never the same. I invite you to watch Chance vs. Allen:
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Will fall hang on? Is winter's onslaught nigh?

A view to the east from the U of M-Morris campus
Sometimes I'll type an "addendum" item with a sports coverage post, an add-on that is not related to my topic of the day. Below you'll find several of these which you probably missed if you don't follow the sports stuff. I put up a post like this three or four times a year. I appreciate all you readers. You breathe extra life into me.
Whither the weather? (posted on Nov. 6)
The volleyball post-season coincides with that time of year when winter may come, or it may hold off a little. Winter definitely looms. I'm writing this on a bleak Friday morning, a very overcast morning. The temperature isn't winter-like yet.
I always wait to put the riding lawn mower into the storage shed until the first snowfall comes down. That would make a good Norman Rockwell painting: yours truly pushing the riding lawn mower into the shed as the first snowfall comes down. I have been fortunate to get that mower through many summers without having to get it professionally serviced. The mowers go into hibernation for winter. Then I do a Hail Mary in spring for getting them started. A little gas in the spark plug chamber might help.
Leaves? We get a lot on our property. It's really impossible to get ahead of that situation. I just have to make sure the rain gutters are reasonably cleared. I can see where senior citizens get hurt getting up on ladders. Max McGee, the great Green Bay Packers wide receiver, died as the result of a fall from his roof. Young adults design homes with impediments that they don't realize until they become senior citizens. Like steps leading up to the entry doors.
This is the time of year we have church suppers. My church, First Lutheran, had its big event Wednesday. Mom and I didn't go, partly because I think we're seeing a little too much price inflation with these events. The price was $16 Wednesday. And don't even consider attending a Minnesota Twins game. Faith Lutheran has its big meal upcoming. We're not going this year, because last year we sort of got hurried out. A meal worker said to us: "We'll need these seats soon." To hell with that, and to hell with that person. Pastor Sanderson, please get word out to your people to behave hospitably. Relax.
A dubious ten-year anniversary (posted on Oct. 30)
It was in 2005 that the UMM goalpost incident happened. It was on Homecoming weekend. I needed that journalistic obligation like I needed a hole in the head. I was probably at the P.E. Center when it happened. I had just arrived for the UMM volleyball match, and I was surprised to notice the football game hadn't ended yet. When leaving the volleyball match, I still had no word of that tragedy at the field: a student was killed as part of the rite of "taking down the goalposts."
Those students needed to do that like they needed a hole in the head. Only in sports could something like this happen. I'll take the UMM Homecoming concert at the HFA over any Neanderthal football game. People do not attend the music concert full of alcohol.
Was anyone at UMM ever fired as a result of the goalpost incident? If not, why not? Oh, I know why: the act of firing someone would be an admission of culpability. UMM's first priority when something like this happens is to protect its interests in terms of not getting sued. I would like to see a list of UMM campus security personnel who were present at the field when this happened.
Chancellor Sam Schuman would later say that if he had to do it over again, he would personally go out to the field and tell the students to knock it off. "Maybe they would have listened," he said. Why should it be up to him?
I must have answered a hundred phone calls over the rest of the weekend, from media near and far. Why couldn't Schuman have done a press conference on Sunday just to try to get all the questions answered? It's bad enough that football is a sport that greatly endangers the health of its participants. Football should be cancelled at UMM and we can enjoy soccer.
My coverage of the goalpost incident drew a response from Mike Busian, who I thought was probing the outermost reaches of his imagination. It was an asinine piece in which he even cited "the First Amendment." I wouldn't want a doctor whose mind worked that way.
A regret (posted on Oct. 7)
I wish I had brought my camera to the MAHS Homecoming parade. The problem is that Thrifty White Drug in Morris no longer processes camera film on a timely basis. That film gets sent out, and the photos (and CD) aren't available until about 9-10 days later. I did this once, was told that the wait would be eight days, but it was longer.
Should I buy a digital camera? Well, in order to get a camera that would be capable for low-light sports, with zoom lens, a high cost would be presented. I could get a lot of rolls of film developed for that cost. It's too bad I can't still get film developed locally. I could have taken an outstanding close-up photo of that Class of '65 reunion float, on which was seated an exchange student from that year: Roger (last name I can't spell).
I see where the town newspaper had an item on Roger returning, but that photo was terrible. You can't make out anything. I could have posted a top-notch photo at the top of either of my websites. Roger lived in my neighborhood back in the day, a guest of the Holts. I was so pleasantly surprised to see him back here.
Whither sport of football? (posted on Sept. 16)
We're reading about efforts on the part of the football powers-that-be, to reduce health dangers of the sport. George Will questions whether football can continue as it has, with proper health precautions taken. Football is by definition violent. Violence seems the whole point.
Maybe back in an age when we groomed young men to be warriors, it seemed reasonable. Today that thought gives pause. I remember as a child hearing speeches expressing the hope "there will be no more war." It was balderdash, as we got dragged into the biggest hell pit of all time: Viet Nam. About half of the deaths in Viet Nam happened after our leaders in Washington D.C. realized it was a failure. Yes, our nation really did experience that.
Today, football as a model for militarism seems obsolete. In this age of new media that penetrates everywhere, a debacle like Viet Nam would not repeat itself, I feel. Iraq was bad enough. We backed away from intervention in Syria.
Football? Here's a question I have been offering over the recent past: If all the players in the NFL outside of the quarterbacks and wide receivers were low-round draft picks, would anyone notice or care? Actually, it might be nice to see offensive linemen who actually look like athletes, with well-defined bodies, rather than these huge masses of flesh that are just designed to obstruct.
Coaches are adjusting now, prepared to test their whole depth chart in games, due to players being pulled because of injuries or concussions. The NFL is afraid of lawsuits. Who isn't afraid of lawsuits? It's a relative thing, with all coaches knowing the other coaches will be doing the same thing. The quality of backup players will become more important. In the meantime, the Vikings look lousy. I really don't care.
You know, that "true purple" color may have fed nostalgia for a while, but I'd actually like to see the team go back to its standard old uniforms, like of the '90s. A uniform only seems "cool" if the team is winning anyway, right?
"Are you ready for some football?" I'm really not.
Keep up with this trend, please (posted on Oct. 3)
t appears there are fewer businesses willing to part with their money, to have their name in a tiny box on the edge of an MACA sports schedule page in the Morris newspaper. The paper should simply publish the schedules (three times a year) as part of its news reporting obligation. I thought that's what newspapers were for.
The paper should also publish obituaries as news and not try to wring money out of grieving families. But if the paper can get away with it. . .
The fall sports schedule page appeared to have fewer names of businesses than before. An ad like this is called a "sig ad," as a business basically just places its signature on it - the business does not inform about its products and services, which is the purpose of advertising. So, by supporting the sports schedule page, you're really just subsidizing the Fargo-owned Morris newspaper. Please try to employ more brain cells in the future.
Oh, and "sig ads" are referred to in another way by some in the newspaper industry: "sucker ads."
Here's another media observation I've made recently: I noticed that in the Chokio Review, the football game review article had a byline with the name of an assistant coach. Whenever I see this sort of thing, I think "bush league." Isn't there anyone associated with that business who could generate some paragraphs? These activities are fun and important. Let's make them exciting and interesting with the media.
Stevens County appears to have one less print media product now: There's no sign of the controversial "Northstar" on the UMM campus. I strolled through the campus a few days ago and saw no "Northstar" newsstands. It's astonishing that this "shock" publication was allowed to last as long as it did. As I ponder whether to make my annual $ contribution to UMM, I'm weighing how much to consider my anger over the needless distraction that Northstar represented.
Maybe we'll see no "affirmative action bake sales" either.
Northstar was not even a legitimate journalistic product. It was a very oddball attack vehicle mounted by an oddball faction of students. Amazingly, it got inserted with the Morris Sun Tribune paper not once but twice.
The longer the Northstar existed on campus, the greater likelihood that UMM staff members would quietly acquiesce to it. One staffer confronted me over my criticism of it. I imagine this person had adjusted to Northstar as part of UMM's information ecosystem, contradicting logic, i.e. simply because it was permitted. If it was permitted, the staff would begin to shrug and offer no objection, because after all, these staffers had wonderful jobs with wonderful pay and benefits, thanks to the existence of the University of Minnesota-Morris. This is "learned behavior" according to psychology lingo. Well, I'm not the type to be influenced by such a factor - I analyze things objectively.
The First Amendment was never an issue regarding Northstar. UMM has the right to manage the information ecosystem on its campus, as we have finally realized after two years.
What's going on with newspaper? (posted on Sept. 14)
I took a glance at the Morris newspaper when at church a couple weeks ago. Something jumped out at me. To those of you who still look at the paper: did you notice it too? The obituaries were boxed and the type size looked smaller. The type size looked smaller! This at a time when everyone knows the audience for newspapers is aging. More of us are having to turn to reading glasses every day.
Don't we all assume the paper is getting paid the same for running these obits, as when the type was larger and more user-friendly? When I was at the Morris paper, we didn't even charge for running obituaries.
I think it is ethically questionable for papers to charge for publishing obits. The papers would say, well, everyone knows newspapers are having tough sledding now because of the Internet. How is that the problem of the families of deceased community members? No one is obligated to "subsidize" the newspapers. The way the system works now, as I understand it, is that the funeral home takes complete responsibility for writing the obits, and then collects payment from the families which then gets transferred to the paper. I suppose they all feel it would be "tacky" for the families to be forced to go to the newspaper office to pay. The system removes some of the unseemliness.
I have been arguing that the funeral home should actually charge the newspaper for the service of writing the obit. The funeral home does all the work. The paper is relieved of even paying an obituary writer.
The new system has developed with funeral costs getting sky-high. I imagine that funeral homes are under pressure to keep prices down. I have suggested before that funeral homes should affix a copyright notice to the obits they post on their websites, and then they could tell the paper not to publish them unless paying a fee. That would be a fascinating experiment.
A steadily growing percentage of people are just going online to read the obits anyway. Also, the obit gets published on the funeral program. Also, we're living in an age when more and more people simply value privacy. Is a death in the family really "community news" at all? Might it be seen as a private family tragedy? Friends and relatives can be informed promptly. Beyond that, I'm not sure it's the public's business. What do you think?
For the time being, I think we can all look down on the newspaper's practice of reducing the type size for obits, as a simple ploy to just try to keep raking in the same amount of money for a reduced service.
It's the same principle as what we're seeing Thrifty White Drug doing in the community: phasing out their two vibrant downtown stores in order to move to the outskirts in a drastically scaled-down facility. Money. It's all about money.
And finally, some levity
This is one of those jokes that used to flow through people in work channels, perhaps photocopied multiple times. Today it's all electronic but the fun is the same.
Here it is:
There was a young man once with a passion for baked beans, although they had a rather unpleasant side effect with him. He met a young lady and fell in love, whereupon he realized that she would stand for none of this and that once he got married, he'd have to sacrifice the beans. Then one day he was driving home and his car broke down. He parked it and decided to walk, whereupon he passed a diner where the aroma of freshly baked beans overwhelmed him. He figured he could have some and then walk off any ill effects, so he ordered three big servings. He putt-putted his way home, where he was greeted by his wife, who informed him that she had a wonderful surprise awaiting him, but she'd have to blindfold him. She led him into the dining room and sat him down at the table, his blindfold securely on. Then the phone rang and she said she'd be back in a couple minutes. In the privacy of the room, the young man had some unfinished business so he lifted up a leg and "let fire," followed by some other blasts until there was a real "prize winner." He grabbed his napkin and fanned the air to disperse the ill effects. Then his wife returned and said "I have the most wonderful surprise for you tonight." She removed the blindfold, whereupon the man was treated to the sight of several of the couple's closest friends, all seated around the dinner table next to him - guests for dinner that night.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Johnny Callison wowed us in his Phillies uniform

Our family was a stone's throw from NYC's Shea Stadium in the summer of 1964. Shea Stadium was so close to the World's Fair grounds, it was highlighted on fair maps. The world came to NYC, to Queens, in 1964 and '65. The men's chorus of our University of Minnesota-Morris performed at the World's Fair. That's why I was there, not as a singer but as the nine-year-old son of the director, Ralph E. Williams.
We almost decided to attend a Mets game but didn't. I regret.
The baseball all-star game was a very big deal in that era. This spectacle was at Shea Stadium in midsummer of 1964. The date was July 7. John Callison was at the peak of his baseball talents. His was a truly American story. We're a country in which barriers can be overcome. We stand for nothing if not for this.
Mr. Callison came into the world in 1939, when the throes of the Great Depression were still being felt. He was born in Qualls, Oklahoma, a desolate place. John's parents were migrant workers who reportedly used Native American tools. The savvy instincts of Native Americans could stave off the misery of the Depression, I would suggest. We learn that Qualls was "undoubtedly one of the poorest places in the state of Oklahoma." The world was on the cusp of World War II.
In 1964 America was brimming with the prosperity engendered by the great U.S. middle class, considered largely a by-product of WWII (the G.I. Bill).
Shea Stadium had an atmosphere of glitter for the 1964 all-star game. The all-star game was special when I was a kid because only rarely could we see non-Minnesota Twins play live on TV. The National League might as well have been a foreign country. We read about guys like Roberto Clemente in the newspaper. NBC with Curt Gowdy did give us the "game of the week" on TV. But that was still slim pickings: one game a week. We were a long way from our new world of countless TV stations and ample opportunity to watch players from around the big leagues.
"Walk off" homer as an all-star
John (or "Johnny") Callison, that Philadelphia Phillie who had overcome his challenged background so impressively, was "in the zone" on July 7 of 1964. With the glittering World's Fair as the backdrop, Callison went into a homer trot as the game's hero. The lefty slugger ended the midsummer classic by clubbing a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth to give the National League a 7-4 win at Shea. Yes, it was a "walk off" home run although I don't remember hearing that term back then. We also didn't hear about "setup men" in pitching, or the many new terms that Bill James would give us. Kids interested in the sport talked about batting average, home runs and RBIs. We pored over stats on baseball cards. I bought most of mine at Stark's Grocery in Morris MN. I built my knowledge of the Phillies' Callison through cards, I'm sure.
I remember developing a special interest in the Phillies. They had this intriguing young African-American slugger named Richie Allen, a complement to Callison. The Phillies were a high quality team in 1964. Problem was, they choked at the end. This should be underscored: The Phillies, managed by Gene Mauch, went into the most notorious swoon in baseball history, maybe all of sports history. The Phillies were edged out at the end by St. Louis.
Callison would have likely won MVP had the Phillies pulled it out. He finished second in the MVP voting to the Cardinals' Ken Boyer.
The Phillies' collapse cannot be laid at Callison's doorstep. Callison in the last 12 games had two three-hit games, a two-hit game and a single hit in four other games. On September 27 he showed Roy Hobbs-like form (the movie character played by Robert Redford), winning vocal acclamation just as he had for the all-star game. Against Milwaukee, Callison hit three home runs! However, the snakebit Phillies lost to the Braves.
Undaunted in face of illness
The legend of Johnny Callison grew two days later, when it seemed the star was going to have to sit down due to the flu. Johnny had a high fever and bone-piercing chills. The team really needed his bat late in the game. He gamely stepped up to the plate as pinch-hitter. It was like Hobbs stepping up to bat at he end of the movie, wracked by health maladies.
Johnny singled and then he insisted on running the bases himself. He needed a warm-up jacket, contrary to the rules. The umps made an exception under these circumstances. My research for this post indicated that Callison got help putting on his jacket from Bill White, "a teammate." I was immediately suspicious because I was certain that White was a Cardinal at that time. The miracle of the Internet helped me call up the Phillies' 1964 schedule, so I could learn that the Phillies' September 29 opponent was the Cardinals. Ergo, White, the first baseman, made the magnanimous gesture of helping Callison as an opponent.
He was an iron man
Callison played continuously through the home stretch of the Phillies' doomed 1964 campaign. He actually didn't miss a game the whole season! Philadelphia fans like Samuel Alito, who would become a Supreme Court justice, developed affection for Callison, for his toughness, style and personality. He was personable. His defensive prowess in the outfield was notable. He made rocket-like throws to keep baserunners honest. Right field at the old Connie Mack Stadium was challenging: there was a 34-foot wall producing caroms.
It was 1962 when John made his first splash: he made the all-star team.
His '64 campaign saw him reach 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. The '64 swoon by the team was not an impediment in Johnny's career. In '65 he was in top form again. But the Dodgers won the National League pennant and would face our Minnesota Twins in the World Series. Who could overcome Sandy Koufax?
Players in that era did not have the kind of longevity we see today. After age 30, there was always a chance the stats would tumble. Was it because of less than year-round conditioning? I don't know, but in Callison's case, he sadly dipped in his performance, breaking out only in 1970 as a Chicago Cub to show some of his old form. The Cubs mysteriously revived some players in 1970 and '71. Other examples: Joe Pepitone (the former Yankee) and Jim Hickman (the former Met).
Callison had begun having trouble with his legs and back in 1966. In 1970 he did fine for Leo Durocher of the Cubs, hitting 19 home runs and coaxing 60 walks. Callison and Durocher didn't see eye to eye. Durocher was inclined to want to platoon ol' Johnny.
After 1971 Callison became a New York Yankee, traded for reliever Jack Aker. It was clear in 1973 (my first summer out of high school) that Callison was finished. Manager Ralph Houk called Callison to his hotel room. Houk informed the 16-year veteran that he was being let go, and Callison was stranded while his wife was vacationing on the Jersey shore. Callison stayed at the hotel for two days - a discouraging denouement to this All-American baseball story.
This gallant hero to 1960s boys had a series of health issues in retirement and died in 2006. Justice Alito said he "adopted Johnny Callison out there in right field" as a boy.
Callison was one of my favorite players outside of the Minnesota Twins. Richie Allen (later to become "Dick") drew my interest greatly as well. I'm left wondering about the "what might have beens" re. that '64 season when Philadelphia floundered. Let's close our eyes and imagine Callison, Allen and their Philly mates, adorned in their glorious red-trimmed uniforms, taking on the Yankees in the World Series. That was the end of the Yankee dynasty of that era.
Callison's story was so much imbued with that American spirit. Those dusty winds around Qualls OK seemed far away when on July 7 of 1964, Callison became the center of attention in Queens, New York City, with his homer bat. What a baseball life. What an American life. Johnny Callison, RIP.
Click on the link below to see the video from YouTube of Johnny Callison's walk-off home run to end the 1964 all-star game.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com