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, June 8, 2015

Big Bob Allison could lift Don Drysdale off the ground

The Minnesota Twins uniforms were on display for the first time in spring training of 1961. Minnesota had made a huge step into the big league firmament. Lenny Green was up to bat in a spring training game. On the mound was Don Drysdale of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Zoilo Versalles had just homered off Drysdale. Drysdale, taking umbrage at that, allegedly threw at Green - a fastball. Such things happen in big league baseball. It's a turn-off aspect of the game, in my view.
Anyway, the sense of conflict continued in this game, and Green later had the opportunity to retaliate as a baserunner. Drysdale had to cover home plate. Green came in like a locomotive toward home, undeterred. Green arrived with spikes high. Drysdale assumed an ominous and threatening stance.
Bob Allison was not going to stand for that. Allison was the on-deck batter. He was a formidable person with his physical proportions. Lest there be any doubt, he had played football at Kansas University. Allison protected his teammate Green, wrapping his arms around Drysdale "bear hug" style, and literally lifted Drysdale, a hefty fellow himself, off the ground.
Incident presaged future competition
Drysdale may have been a fiery competitor but in this moment, he became mollified. Destiny would have these fellows matched years later in the World Series. Our Twins with Allison took the American League crown in 1965. The Dodgers came out of the west to represent the National League.
The Twins and Dodgers represented the westward shift of major league baseball in the mid-20th Century. The Dodgers had been iconic in Brooklyn, of course, and pioneered with ushering players of color into the big time. I find it peculiar that New York City allowed the National League to completely exit. The Dodgers and Giants vaulted all the way out to California. "California Dreamin'," indeed.
The Washington Senators abandoned the nation's capital in a move that might also be seen as surprising. The East Coast hub of population and media couldn't sustain these big league teams, and for a while New York City had the Yankees alone. It was during that period that the "M & M Boys," Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle, did their thing. Maris hit 61 home runs in 1961, a year before the Mets were created. I'm curious why the Mets had to be created as such a weak team. The economics of sports were completely different then with such a limited television universe.
Our Twins with Allison, Green and all those other fondly remembered early players did not have expansion status, fortunately. I'm not sure Minnesotans would have had the patience to support (i.e. tolerate) an expansion team of that era. Indeed we got the very well-established Senators from the nation's capital, a place that only supported big league ball haltingly, to the chagrin of many influential people there.
The Twins played their big league season opener against the Yankees in New York and won 6-0. That game was re-created in the Billy Crystal movie about the 1961 season: "61*". We see Camilo Pascual as a dark-skinned man even though in real life, he didn't look like a person of color.
The Dodgers may have broken down the racial barrier, but it's not as if all of big league ball became immediately enlightened. Naturally there was a slow evolution toward color-blindness. Today, ironically, big league ball would love to get African-Americans back into the sport. African-Americans have largely drifted away. These folk were among the biggest stars of the game when I was growing up - hitting and pitching - and racism was only something I read about and never felt.
Bob Allison was a totally Caucasian fellow with the look of an all-American boy, 6 feet 4 and 230 pounds. He was a fully established big leaguer when the Twins were born. He had been rookie of the year with the Senators in1959. At one time he courted thoughts of playing pro football. He filled out an inquiry form for the San Francisco 49ers. Bob's father thought the young man was more inclined toward baseball. The father had been a semi-pro catcher.
Bob had a brother two years younger, Jim, who was similarly athletically gifted. But Jim Allison shied away from the lure of the pros, largely because he saw how Bob struggled making a living as a minor leaguer. Bob paid his dues in the minors for four years. I'm sure that in those days, it was a hardscrabble living. Even being a non-star in the majors was no picnic financially.
Bob Allison stayed with the same major league franchise for his whole career: 1958 to 1970.
"He's a real pro"
One of the first things that struck me about Allison was that he had a textbook batting stance. My father noticed this too. When Bob came to bat on our TV screen, my dad would say "he's a real pro."
Batting stances can be misleading. Even players with unorthodox stances - I vividly remember Dick McAuliffe and Carl Yastrzemski - didn't really swing directly from that stance. As the pitch came in, they'd assume a standard batting position within a millisecond. You might say those stances were cosmetic or maybe reflected some strange kind of superstition. Big league players are notorious for being superstitious. Reggie Smith held his bat way up over his head. You could never take a normal swing that way. It was an illusion. Smith was a quite accomplished hitter for Boston (with Yastrzemski). Vic Power had a stance that suggested to the pitcher he wanted the ball down low. He of course didn't want it there at all. It was deception. Vic taught that to Tony Oliva.
Bob Allison was a power-oriented hitter. He could hit the ball a mile and yes, he could strike out more than his share of times. I remember him as being a streaky hitter, which could be frustrating. I sometimes thought he was overrated. Harmon Killebrew was the true slugger. Allison's homers were less frequent although they could be majestic.
On the plus side, Allison had a knack for drawing walks. His career .255 batting average shows why I sometimes got frustrated with him. However, the big man had a career on-base percentage of .358. Not particularly fleet of foot, he nevertheless had a talent for stretching his hits into doubles and triples. Chalk it up to sheer will or determination, but Allison led the A.L. in triples in 1959 (with nine), plus he was in the top ten twice in doubles (1960 and '64) and four times in triples (1959, 1962, 1967 and 1968).
Just one more triple in '67 might have given us the pennant. It was the most heartbreaking season in Twins history as we came up a hair's breadth short of the pennant (to Boston and Yastrzemski). I was crushed by that '67 outcome. It may have instilled a sense of futility in my young and impressionable mind. I was in junior high. It was bad enough that the Viet Nam War was giving us so much heartbreak.
The Twins were a source of escapism that actually helped us young boys get by.
Defensive attributes
As an outfielder, Allison covered lots of ground. He made a memorable catch in the '65 World Series. We could have used one more triple off his bat in that Series too. We lost in seven games to the Dodgers. Allison was the last batter in that Series, going down on strikes vs. Sandy Koufax. I remember Allison flailing his bat in the dirt after that third strike.
He was known for having a strong arm as an outfielder. Later in his career he put on the first baseman's glove. He was no Vic Power but he did fine. I have always wished the Twins had kept Vic Power through the 1965 season.
Because he was known for his outfield range, Allison unfortunately committed a fair number of errors.
Allison left Kansas University at age 20. He got inked by Calvin Griffith's Senators and headed to those obscure "bushes," first with the Hagerstown "Packets." That town name rings familiar to me because I collected baseball cards. We saw names of those minor league cities (like Winston-Salem) on the backs of those cards. We tossed the chewing gum. Was Winston-Salem the "Filters?" LOL.
Allison moved on to play with the Charlotte Hornets. Charlotte called its expansion NBA basketball team the "Hornets" too. A broadcaster once slipped and called them the "Charlotte Harlots."
Allison continued his climb with Chattanooga, the "Lookouts" (named for that big mountain there, significant in the Civil War). Allison batted .307 at Chattanooga, so he had found his ticket to the big leagues. He hit a single while batting leadoff in his first big league game. In '59 he got fully established in the bigs and was an all-star, hitting 30 home runs. He dropped off a little in 1960, but then he came on strong for us Minnesota fans in our inaugural year having a big league team, in 1961.
Allison and Harmon Killebrew became heroes in short order here. Allison actually had a lackluster 1965 when we won the pennant. He batted a mere .233. He did hit a bases-loaded double against Koufax in the Series. Allison's struggles continued in 1966 but he wasn't done, as in '67 he did quite fine with 24 home runs and 75 RBIs. Allison was in the top ten in the league in home runs eight times.
The long ball helped define early Twins
The Twins were a huge part of the growing-up years for Minnesota's boomer population (baby boom). A huge thrill came when Allison and Killebrew hit grand slams in the same inning in 1962. Allison hit homers in three straight at-bats in 1963. He was part of a skein of Twins hitting home runs on May 2 of 1964: he and Killebrew, Tony Oliva and Jimmie Hall hit four straight home runs. "Roy Hobbs" couldn't thrill any better. If only that kind of joy had typified the 1960s instead of the tragedy felt with the Viet Nam war. We did the best we could.
Allison eventually showed signs of a brain disorder that led to his death. Given all the headlines about head injuries in sports today, we have to ask the obvious question: had Allison injured himself, perhaps playing fullback in college football, or later in baseball? Lou Gehrig played college football before his big league career.
Allison experienced a kind of cerebellar atrophy. He battled the condition for eight years, passing away in April of 1995 at the age of 60 at his Arizona home.
He could really smack the ball
The Raytown MO native may have been a notch below Hall of Fame ability, but at his best he really wowed us. The ball could seemingly soar into the stratosphere. Writer Roger Angell of The New Yorker described White Sox outfielders in 1967 watching an Allison home run "like amateur astronomers."
We're grateful for all those memories. We can overlook the fight in which he and Dave Boswell traded punches, western saloon style. Oh, Billy Martin got into it too. Those were the days before "conflict resolution" techniques. Barroom brawls could seem like an expression of manhood. And, who was the "world's greatest athlete" one year? It was Bruce Jenner.
RIP Bob Allison, "a real pro."
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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