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, 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