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).

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

America's Youth in Concert 1972: a blast

B-10 bus members (l-r) Hyland, Chris and Tom
Don McLean gave us the song "American Pie" in 1972. The last U.S. ground troops left Viet Nam in that year. John Lennon was at the peak of his musical powers, going it alone. Atari released its "Pong" game. We watched "All in the Family" which underscored the generation gap.
The summer of '72 afforded me a wonderful opportunity. I traveled with a group called "America's Youth in Concert." It was truly a once in a lifetime experience.
There are better ways I could have spent that summer, really. I could have gotten involved in activities, like a real job, that would have led me to greater maturity. I remember I was chosen for Farm Bureau Camp, but had to decline due to the music trip. Doesn't Farm Bureau Camp instill conservative/Republican political values? I didn't need that. So, my trumpet was my partner for much of that summer of '72.
It was a time when many my age watched "Monty Python's Flying Circus." We loved Benny Hill's comedy. Why the reliance on so much British talent? Lennon was in that category too. After years of young men being in such fear of the military draft, and of actually getting drafted and being forced to face so much peril in Viet Nam, young talent in entertainment had not been given a chance to flower and develop. 
Here I am in Salzburg
The '70s gave us weird movies like "A Clockwork Orange." Bobby Fischer was at the peak of his chess powers. A current movie focuses on the dramatic rivalry of Fischer vs. Boris Spassky (of that menacing Soviet Union). The Cold War was a scourge. The Viet Nam war was a more direct scourge. Young people of today must read the history and appreciate what it was all about. Understanding the past helps keep us from repeating mistakes. Or, at least it ought to in theory.
The Cold War put pressure on U.S. schools to really push kids in science and math - bad news for me, because my aptitude was not in those areas. I had to stay in school because it was compulsory. It was a matter of survival for me, not enrichment. But in the summer of 1972, I spent a month immersed in music and with musical friends. It was an oasis type of experience for me. 
A photo of our group appeared on the front page of the style section of the Washington Post. The Washington Post! Remember what was happening, or starting, in the summer of 1972? Watergate! I'm not sure today's young people should read about Watergate - it was too stupid. But again, we must learn about past mistakes, even those that grow out of nothing more than paranoia and mendacity. The same Post edition that had our picture had an early Bob Woodward article. He co-wrote this article with someone other than Carl Bernstein. I didn't tote this paper around with me for the rest of the trip, but when I got home I special-ordered one, so I still have it.
You could get a Ford Pinto automobile for $2,078 in 1972. A gallon of gas cost 55 cents. ABBA was giving us the kind of music that would inspire the musical and movie "Mamma Mia!" The Oakland A's won the World Series. 
When I was chosen for America's Youth in Concert, I was supposed to drop off a news release at the local paper. The release had a bit of a political edge, asserting that such youth in the program set an example in contrast with what we might call the hippie or counterculture of the time. My family disapproved of such a political statement and we modified the release. 
The counterculture was part of the generation gap which was really quite a significant conflict of the time - more severe than the youth of today can imagine. I'm puzzled and disturbed as I reflect on it. The World War II generation was raising kids who by comparison to them were drenched in prosperity. Those kids got many luxuries before they even knew they wanted them. The WWII generation had also endured the Depression. They grew up without television. Television! It was ubiquitous by the time I was an adolescent. Alexandria MN got its own station in 1958.
America's Youth in Concert is a division within the Universal Academy. A check on the web indicates they must still be in existence. It began in 1970. I gathered it was a bunch of Mormons from Utah. In 1971 the first group of musicians were assembled and traveled, even witnessing the signing of the 26th Amendment to the Constitution: the 18-year-old vote. Three of the young people were actually chosen to sign the document! 
I was proud to wear that maroon blazer, black tie and white shirt in that unforgettable summer of 1972. We began in Italy and finished up in England. We crossed the English Channel and saw the white cliffs of Dover as we neared England. We performed in many interesting and important places. 
I'm sure the price of my trip was a fraction of what it would be today. We didn't talk about "terrorists." We were composed of both a band and choir. I was pleased to be sitting next to Joan Force, an attractive blond from Iowa, in the trumpet section. In the U.S. we played at the Kennedy Center, when it was quite new, and Carnegie Hall. We dined on the rooftop of the Kennedy Center. "I wonder what the poor people are doing." Just kidding. 
You should seize the opportunity to see Europe - don't put it off.
My little trademark among my peers was my tendency to want to do a little jogging. This was just before the pastime of jogging (or distance-running) began taking off. In '72 if you engaged in such a thing, you might be considered a little oddball. I remember a fellow trumpet player, Mike McVicker, who I think was from Washington state, took special interest in my pastime. So did an African-American gentleman named Hyland Brooks from the Carolinas. Hyland is still active in music as you can appreciate by clicking on this YouTube link. He had more hair in 1972! Here's the Hyland Brooks Quintet with "Come on Back."
I was in Salzburg, Austria, when I saw the cover of Time Magazine that had George McGovern with Thomas Eagleton. Eagleton was the senator from Missouri who had only a short stint as the runningmate. We learned he had had multiple medical treatments for psychiatric depression. He had kept that secret. Once revealed, the background forced him out. 
The McGovern campaign was completely futile partly due to Richard Nixon's dirty tricks. Nixon eventually left office in humiliation. I have watched the movie "Frost/Nixon" and found it wanting. I agree with the Star Tribune's movie critic, who had a problem with the movie because it made Nixon look too sympathetic. Movies are supposed to show us the multiple dimensions of people, of course: the bad and the good. Nixon was a bad and dangerous person toward the end. Bob Scheiffer later revealed in a book that Nixon wasn't even the commander in chief at the end: any military intentions he voiced had to be relayed to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. That's rather concerning, considering that our system is based on civilian control of the military. The reason coups work is that, who can stand up to the military? Fortunately the coup we're considering here was a benevolent one, necessitated by the instability of our nation's leader. Thanks Republicans. How did the Farm Bureau rationalize all that?
You know, I think McGovern would have been a good president. Remember his "peace buck" proposal?
The first push toward the running/jogging "boom" or fad was Frank Shorter winning the Olympic marathon, within a few months after our trip. We were mesmerized watching Shorter on TV. My generation in particular became thrilled with the pastime, thus we saw the blooming of all those 10Ks and 5Ks. And marathons. I ran the Twin Cities Marathon three times, in 1984, '87 and '88. I ran it once really well, in '84 with a time just a minute over three hours - a great time for someone my size.
In 1977, James Fixx came out with a book that pushed the running pastime considerably. Its title: "The Complete Book of Running." I have to chuckle a little, because it's hardly necessary to read a book in order to learn how to run. Fixx died of a heart attack while jogging at age 52. Irony? Really not, as he had a genetic predisposition for heart problems, and other previous lifestyle factors. He had atherosclerosis. Kenneth Cooper took over as an exercise/running guru.
The boomers in their vitality of youth, and showing their tendency to get obsessed with various things, really took to running. Today we have moderated. We endorse a variety of activities in an exercise regimen. 
As kids we endorsed both the counterculture and the political "new left." The counterculture survived, the new left did not. Jim Morrison at the Sun Tribune (of Morris MN) joked: "The new left is now the old left."
Yes, I could have spent my time better back in that summer of '72. I lived for the present, not a bad idea considering all the economic inflation that was on its way. We got "stagflation." The '70s were by and large a cynical and rather discouraging time. Jimmy Carter tried rescuing the hostages in Iran and the helicopters broke down. The Roe vs. Wade decision on abortion wouldn't come until 1973, the year I graduated from high school.
No one can ever take those trip memories away from me. I stood at the front of the stage at Carnegie Hall, as we dispersed for free time in NYC, and played my trumpet, improvising. That's a precious memory if ever there was one. The sound of my trumpet filling Carnegie Hall! So, 1972 had its charms, even including the game of "Pong," which I first played at an arcade at the Willmar shopping mall.
The full names of the three gents in the photo at top-right of this post are: Hyland Brooks, Chris Kuhs (not Kush) and Tom Crossler. Tom was a real character from Idaho. He gave us his "Tom the Tourist" character.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, September 25, 2015

Re-thinking age-old pastime of hunting

I have always admired the bluebill, a.k.a. lesser scaup.
Going to Africa sounds exciting to me. Our librarian, Melissa Yauk, went to South Africa for a thimble collectors convention. Yes, people collect thimbles. What a healthy and interesting pastime. Thinking of South Africa reminds me of one of my favorite all-time movies: "The Gods Must Be Crazy."
Africa was in the news recently because of a hunting incident. This is not such a wonderful pastime. Unfortunately it was a hunter from our state, Minnesota, in the focus. Unfortunately it was a dentist at the focus. Not only was the incident on its face regrettable, look at the amount of money that guy spent. Imagine spending what seems to me to be an astronomical sum, $55,000, for the opportunity to kill an animal.
I have written a song about this incident and its protagonist, Dr. Walter Palmer. The song is on YouTube. I had it recorded at the Nashville TN studio of Bob Angello. Bob is a great guy who sees to it that their product is rendered with high competence and feeling. His studio is in the Nashville suburb of Hermitage. I invite you to listen to "Hey Walter Palmer" by clicking on the permalink. Thanks for listening.
My father came to Jesus in regard to hunting late in his life. I overheard him discuss this with a friend one day. He said he was inclined to a "live and let live" attitude. He took me hunting often when I was growing up. I suppose any activity that brings a father and son together can't be all bad.
We hunted ducks at Frog Lake (a.k.a. Gorder Lake) near Alberta MN. Frog Lake in the 1960s was a hunter's bonanza. A whole kaleidoscope of ducks passed overhead. I have great memories of observing these ducks. I don't care to think about the hunting aspect: firing a shotgun into the air, hoping to knock down one of these winged creatures. They'd land in the water, often not immediately dead. I don't care to describe it any further.
I'm proud of having been close to nature, not proud of having fired the gun. My first gun was a single-shot 16-gauge, which I gathered was a somewhat oddball gauge number. A 16-gauge was one notch down from the powerful 12-gauge. Many of my friends used the weaker .410. I remember the variety of interesting ducks along with the blue and snow geese which were too high in the sky to shoot at. Do the "blues and snows" still pass over this area? Believe it or not, Canadian geese were rare in the 1960s. We were awestruck when seeing them. It was very rare for the Canadians to get close enough for us to shoot at. If we could actually "bag" one, we probably felt as proud as did Dr. Walter Palmer in bagging his lion.
I remember redheads, canvasbacks and spoonbills around Frog Lake. I'm pulling these terms from my distant boyhood memories. Mallards were common and beautiful. Oh, and the "teals." Each year we anticipated the "northern flight." My father advised me that the flight could be very fleeting - over almost as soon as it started, and it might come through during the dark of night. The flight could be exciting because of the exotic breeds. The bluebills were fascinating. A flock of bluebills passing overhead produced a sound like a jet plane! It's a shame to fire a shotgun into that. It's fun to just observe. The "bufflehead" was another exotic duck.
In the late '70s my father and I did some hunting at Flax Lake next to Frog Lake. That's how I got to know Carl Benson. Dad and I also did some hunting at Mud Lake.
As I look back, I realize how dangerous this activity was. It's bad enough for a hunting party to have members each toting around a loaded gun, for crying out loud. But in addition, being out on the (very cold) water wearing heavy clothing spells danger, if for some reason you end up in the water. I never thought about that at the time.
My father was very well-intentioned planning these activities for us. In hindsight I could have gotten involved in far more constructive activities.
Dr. Walter Palmer will spend the rest of his life trying to explain his trip to Africa that cost him $55,000. He should have been far more contrite in the aftermath. Even if he was insincere, he should have been contrite. If I were him, I would have immediately volunteered to serve with some of those traveling clinics that serve the underprivileged. He really could save face doing this. He could have publicly stated that he was searching his soul over the "hobby" of big game hunting.
Our societal attitudes are shifting. After over 157,000 people signed a petition asking Delta Airlines to stop transporting hunting trophies, the airline announced it had officially banned the practice. Shortly after, American Airlines, United Airlines and Air Canada announced they had joined Delta in banning trophies. Get the drift, Walter?
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, September 21, 2015

Five touchdowns by MACA at Yellow Medicine East

Tigers 34, Sting 0
The MACA boys rolled over Yellow Medicine East in Friday football action. It was win No. 4 for the surging Tigers. Remember when Granite Falls by itself was a football power? Today, folded in as part of YME, a lot of the firepower seems to have been lost. I remember in the late 1980s, the Tigers used a trick play to beat Granite Falls in a highly memorable game at Granite Falls. That era is fading into the past.
Today, MACA is certainly connecting on all cylinders. The Tigers improved their season record to 4-1 with this 34-0 triumph. We scored in every quarter. We accumulated 279 rushing yards. The passing game, while not used often, was efficient and effective. Quarterback Trent Marty completed three passes in six attempts for 93 yards. Eric Staebler had two of the catches for 59 yards. Andrew Ulrich had the other catch for an ample 34 yards.
The Tigers capitalized on YME turnovers. We intercepted three passes and recovered three fumbles.
Jacob Zosel bulled forward, getting 101 rushing yards on 14 carries of the football. The balanced rushing attack also featured Chase Metzger getting 73 yards on four carries. Connor Koebernick added 52 yards to the mix on seven carries. Signal-caller Marty was effective with 41 rushing yards on eight carries. Kyle Staebler rushed for nine yards and Taylor Staples added five. Eric Staebler did the Tigers' punting.
The first quarter ended with MACA up 6-0. It was Metzger scoring that touchdown on a 19-yard run. Zosel was off to the races on a 42-yard scoring run in the second quarter, and he carried again successfully on the conversion play, so halftime arrived with the score 14-0.
MACA momentum grew into the second half. Metzger had two rushing touchdowns in the third quarter, the first covering 17 yards, the second covering eight. Ryan Dietz ran for the two-point conversion after the eight-yard scamper. MACA made its final scoring statement of the night when Taylor Staples ran the ball into the end zone from the three.
MACA had just two successful scoring plays among the five touchdowns. We accumulated 12 first downs en route to the win. We lost one fumble and were penalized nine times for 70 yards.
YME was not able to establish any sort of passing game. That's an understatement, really, as the Sting had no completions and three interceptions. Ballcarriers who gained yards for the host Sting were Jordan Odegard, Austin Friese, Bryce Schmidt, Garrett Nordang and Miles Kattevold. Garrett Schmitz was the YME quarterback. Bright spots for YME were Jordan Odegard with an interception and Miles Kattevold with a fumble recovery.
Volleyball: Tigers 3, Minnewaska Area 0
The Morris Area Chokio Alberta volleyball express rolled forward on Thursday, Sept. 17, with a sweep on the road. The success was versus Minnewaska Area. The 3-0 win came by scores of 25-14, 25-9 and 25-22.
Karly Fehr was the set assist machine with 20. Lindsey Dierks executed two ace blocks. One ace block each came from Brooke Gillespie, Ashley Solvie and Moira McNally. Gillespie had ten digs followed by Dierks with eight and Decker with seven. At the serving line, Riley Decker pounded two serve aces. One ace each came from Gillespie, Fehr, Dierks and Carly Maanum.
On to the hitting department. Here it was Gillespie and Dierks setting the pace, each with six kills. Solvie and Haley Erdahl each pounded four kills. Jenna Howden delivered three kills. One kill each came from Fehr, Maanum and McNally.
Abby VerSteg had seven kills for the host Lakers. Emma Middendorf had six ace blocks. Bailey Stewart topped the Lakers in digs with 22. Taylor Amundson was the chief 'Waska setter with 14 assists. And in serving, VerSteg led the 'Waska effort with two aces followed by Kaylee Glover and Marie Styve each with one.
The Tigers enter the new week with a 6-0 overall record, 5-0 in conference.
Cross country: meet at NL-Spicer
Cross country action had the Tigers testing their stamina in the New London-Spicer Invitational on Thursday. Maddie Carrington and Savannah Aanerud were headlining performers for the Tigers. Carrington placed third with her time of 20:51.1. Aanerud was the No. 4 performer with her time of 20:55.8.
Malory Anderson was No. 11 to the finish line, clocked at 21:41.0. Kylie Raths turned in a 21:52.7 time, good for 13th; and Midori Soderberg was 32nd with her 21:19.2 clocking. Anna Donnay of Eden Valley-Watkins was the first place girls runner, timed at 18:50.9. The runner-up was Carissa Vanderwal of Ortonville with her time of 20:32.6.
The boys race was won by Keiser Freetly of LQPV/DB, timed at 17:25.5. His Eagle teammate, John Wagner, was runner-up with a 17:32.0 clocking. Tate Nelson of the Tigers led our orange and black efforts, placing ninth at 18:32.8. Ryan Gray placed 17th (19:06.1) and Noah Stewart was #18 (19:10.3). Also representing the orange and black were Cam Arndt (20:34.5) and Tyler Reimers (20:47.0).
Lac qui Parle/Dawson-Boyd topped both the boys and girls standings. The MACA girls were No. 2, while our boys were fifth.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, September 14, 2015

MACA volleyball stays on roll, sweeps Benson & ACGC

Tigers 3, Benson 0
MACA volleyball has been hitting on all cylinders thus far in the still-young 2015 season. MACA not only won twice last week, they did so by sweep both times. The roster is blessed with inspired talent.
The Tuesday (9/8) story was a 3-0 win over the Braves of Benson, at Benson. Scores were 25-14, 25-19 and 25-14. Karly Fehr was in her usual role as setting master, and on this night she produced 23 set assists. Moira McNally had one set assist. Brooke Gillespie came through with three serving aces, and Lindsey Dierks had two. Jenna Howden executed two ace blocks followed by Gilliespie and Carly Maanum each with one.
Riley Decker was the whiz when it came to digs - she had 16. Lindsey Dierks had eight digs, Gillespie had seven and Maanum six.
Let's conclude this stat report with hitting. Here the Tigers unleashed a balanced attack -a key ingredient in their dominance. Here's the rundown in kills: Dierks 7, Ashley Solvie 6, Gillespie 5, Howden 3, Fehr 2, Maanum 1 and McNally 1.
Sophie Ascheman led Benson in kills with six. Megan Amundson and Ascheman each had two serving aces for the Braves. Addie Forbord produced 12 set assists. Victoria Pagel had two ace blocks for the host team. Megan Amundson had nine digs.
Tigers 3, ACGC 0
The Thursday story had the MACA girls getting past the ACGC Falcons with another sweep. This success on the road came by scores of 25-20, 25-9 and 25-17.
Karly Fehr was the set assist machine with 29. Brooke Gillespie came at the Falcons with three serving aces. Carly Maanum and Riley Decker each had two serving aces, and Koral Paulson had one. Gillespie went up to execute two blocking aces. These Tigers each had one ace block: Fehr, Ashley Solvie, Haley Erdahl and Moira McNally. In digs it was Decker setting the pace with 13 followed by Gillespie with 12, Fehr with eight and Lindsey Dierks with seven.
Gillespie was at the fore in hitting with eight kills. Jenna Howden batted seven kills. Dierks and Solvie each had five while Fehr and Maanum each had four. Erdahl and McNally each had two kills, and Nicole Solvie produced one.
The top kill producers for the host Falcons were Kendra Miller and Taryn Reinke each with four. Miller topped the Falcons in blocks with four. Maree Lee was busy as setter for the host, picking up 18 set assists.
The Tigers entered the new week with a 4-0 record and building hopes for a sterling season.
Football: Minnewaska Area 29, Tigers 20
The MACA gridders were dealt their first loss of the season Friday (9/11).
We struck with a very exciting play on defense: Toby Sayles intercepted a pass and was off to the races with a 71-yard return for six. Our 6-0 lead was not an indication of how the game would turn out. Host Minnewaska Area was the 29-20 victor in this Mid-State contest. Both teams came out of this game at 3-1.
The first quarter ended with the score 6-0. But 'Waska answered with nine points in the second quarter. Chris Clausen kicked a 31-yard field goal. Michael Gruber threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Justin Amundson. MACA blocked the PAT kick try. The Lakers kept flexing their muscles as Gruber connected with Austin VerSteeg for a 45-yard scoring aerial. Clausen kicked the PAT.
The Tigers fought back with a two-yard scoring run that had Ryan Dietz clutching the football. Trent Marty ran for two on the conversion. The Lakers struck with a one-yard TD run that had Greg Helander carrying the football. Clausen kicked the point-after.
The back-and-forth game continued with a 12-yard scoring run by Jacob Zosel of the Tigers. The evening's final score was by Minnewaska Area: Ryan Christianson found the end zone on a run from the nine. 'Waska could savor its winning margin of nine points.
Zosel received 15 handoffs and charged forward for 86 rushing yards. Ryan Dietz carried the football eleven times for 49 yards. Conner Koebernick had five rushing yards and Chase Metzger one. I was chatting with a friend at McDonald's recently and mentioned that I remembered covering Conner's older brother. The friend clarified, saying that I was remembering covering Conner's father. Time marches on.
Trent Marty completed eight of 16 pass attempts against the Lakers. His aerials picked up 76 yards and he had no interceptions. The receivers were Eric Staebler (two catches, 38 yards), Sean Amundson (2-19), Metzger (3-14) and Zosel (1-5). Remember Roger Metzger, shortstop for the Houston Astros in the '70s?
Staebler handled the punting. Sayles had two interceptions and Metzger had one. The tackle chart showed Metzger with six solo tackles and two assists. The list continues with Brady Jergenson (5-4), Cole Watzke (3-4), Taylor Staples (3-4) and Ryan Dietz (1-7). Watzke sacked the quarterback three times. Staples had one quarterback sack.
Minnewaska had two major ballcarriers: Ryan Christianson (12 carries, 109 yards) and Greg Helander (19-86). Gruber has a major factor with his passing arm: nine completions in 16 attempts for 256 yards, but he did have three interceptions. VerSteeg was a favorite target of Gruber's, as he gathered in five passes for 135 yards. Amundson had three catches for 85 yards, and Matt McIver rounded out the list with one catch.
Viva Morris Area Chokio Alberta fall athletics!
What's going on with newspaper?
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.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Sandy Valdespino had his moments with 1960s Twins

Sandy Valdespino hit a pinch-hit single off Sandy Koufax in the 1965 World Series. That's something you can tell your grandkids about. All baseball fans were awed by Koufax (of the Dodgers) in the 1960s. He loomed as the barrier in the Minnesota Twins' quest for the world championship in '65. His manager, Walt Alston, had to adjust the rotation for the Series due to Koufax's need to observe a Jewish holiday. Koufax was at the peak of his skills at that time. Valdespino could feel pride connecting for that base hit in the Fall Classic.
Twins fans of the '60s still remember Valdespino, I'm sure. We might remember him better if the Twins had won the pennant in '67. He was part of that '67 ride under manager Cal Ermer that ended in heartbreak of the first order. We faded at the end just as the Boston Red Sox with Carl Yastrzemski had a surge. Boston was a media darling. Well, they're part of that East Coast power/media corridor. I'm not sure that corridor wields its presence that much anymore, due to the democratizing effect of new media. In '67 the Midwest could feel rather on the defensive. If the oddball Fenway Park had existed here - well, such an oddball stadium wouldn't even be tolerated here. But out East? It was a charming oddity (with its Green Monster).
The media even helped fans fall in love with the early New York Mets. Had such an expansion team existed here in Minnesota? That's an interesting question because I'm not sure Minnesota could have even supported such a mediocre unit. Could Minnesota have supported a typical expansion team of that era? How much patience would big league baseball show for our team on the Upper Midwest windswept prairie? We got the Twins, of course.
A friend of mine once chatted with Jim Kaat who said: Our '67 team was even better than in '65. We had Dean Chance. Kaat himself pitched like Koufax in September, until finally, in desperation due to the closeness of the pennant race, the manager overworked Kaat's arm with consequences that possibly stretched over a long time. Had we won, the script of Twins history would be different. Chance and Kaat would have a position like Koufax and Drysdale.
And Sandy Valdespino? The little Cuban would be remembered much better. Fame in baseball can be painfully transitory. Valdespino signed with the old Washington Senators way back in 1957. Kaat once said that the "TC" on the Twins caps stood for "twenty Cubans." Of course it stands for "Twin Cities." The visionaries who brought the Twins here were walking on eggshells with sensitivity re. Minneapolis vs. St. Paul, in a way that I think seems quaint now. Today, any big league team gets so much of its profit from TV, the old parochial obligations are no big deal. The Twins had a logo that showed two generic Twins players shaking hands "across the river."
I suppose Sandy Valdespino cannot be considered an original Twin because he toiled in the minors. He plugged away, finally making an impression in 1964 with a spectacular showing with the Atlanta "Crackers." Sandy batted .337 for Atlanta, a city which like Minneapolis/St. Paul was able to lure the majors in the '60s. The Braves left Milwaukee for Atlanta. How could Milwaukee have let the Braves slip away? With Hank Aaron?
Valdespino hit 51 extra-base hits for Atlanta's minor league "Crackers" in '64. On came '65 and its scenario of destiny for our Minnesota Twins. We won the pennant for owner Calvin Griffith. We should have won at least one more pennant in the Griffith era. It was frustrating seeing the franchise come up short despite fine players.
Valdespino got established with our Twins for three seasons: 1965 through '67. Only in '65 did he produce adequate offensive stats. He batted a passable .261. In the next two seasons he struggled with averages of .176 and .165. But he wasn't totally insignificant in those last two seasons. He is remembered for making an absolutely spectacular outfield catch in '67. Kaat was pitching for that June 18 game. The big lefty took a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the eighth. The Cleveland Indians produced two run-scoring singles, and "Kitty" got the hook. The bases were loaded with two outs. Manager Ermer decided on a double-switch. Like the bunt, the double-switch has been oft criticized for being more trouble than it's worth. Anyway, the ploy had Ron Kline coming in to pitch and Valdespino getting sent out to left field.
(Thinking about the double switch gives me a headache. Managers in "old times" didn't want to think about it.)
Larry Brown came to bat for Cleveland. He crushed a drive to left. Sandy tore for the fence, his back to the field. It was like that famous Willie Mays catch. Sandy leaped, actually digging his spikes into the wall, and caught the ball over his shoulder in midair. Kline closed out the game with a perfect ninth inning.
As a footnote, let's remember that Kline, considered a premier relief specialist in '67, was a goat at season's end. Oh, I'm sure he was trying hard. Griffith spoke publicly of his frustration with the rather portly man. Oh, 1967: Not only was it a nightmare with how our superb team got edged at the end (in the days before divisional playoffs), it was the apex of the Viet Nam war. Those two "tragedies" of course cannot even be compared. I wonder how LBJ is reflecting in his afterlife.
Sandy Valdespino was a native of San Jose de las Lajas, Cuba. "Diminutive" surely describes. He stood a mere five feet/eight inches. A minor league manager nicknamed him "Sandy." His real name, as baseball card collectors of that time will remember, was Hilario. Sandy reminded the minor league league manager of Sandy Amoros, also diminutive.
Immediate impact in the majors
When finally Sandy arrived in the majors in '65, he reached base in his first four plate appearances. He was a pinch-hitting specialist initially. He got a start on May 19, 1965, and responded with a three-for-six showing including a double. He scored one of two Twins runs in the 12th in a 3-1 win over the Angels.
Valdespino appeared in 108 games for the '65 Twins. He drove in 22 runs. He appeared in five of the seven World Series games, going three-for-eleven including that hit off Koufax. Three-for-eleven was nothing to sneeze at against the likes of the Dodgers' pitching. (Amoros had played for the Dodgers.)
Valdespino became a journeyman after his three years with the Twins. He had 38 at-bats with the Seattle Pilots who had just one year of existence. The Pilots were of course grist for Jim Bouton's groundbreaking book, "Ball Four." I read the book more than once but, sorry, I don't remember Valdespino being mentioned. Former Twin Rich Rollins was on that team but I don't remember him being mentioned much either. Former Twin Garry Roggenburk was on that team too. I do remember him in some stories.
The '71 season would be Valdespino's last. With the Royals he hit .317 in 18 games for a nice little closing chapter. His last home run was on September 13, 1971, and it tied the score vs. the Athletics 1-1 in the fourth, and spoiled a shutout bid by Catfish Hunter. Hunter pitched ten innings that day to get his 20th win with a 2-1 score. Quaint: Hunter pitching ten innings. In the '60s, a complete game was a badge of honor for pitchers. "Hey, leave me in!" Today it can be foolish, as pitchers' arms are considered precious investments as well they should be.
I believe Mr. Valdespino is still alive and a resident of Las Vegas NV. Enjoy the glitter there, Sandy. We'll never forget that spectacular catch you made vs. the Indians, or your presence for that '65 pennant run. I was ten years old. The memories are golden.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com