History-making music group for UMM - morris mn

History-making music group for UMM - morris mn
The UMM men's chorus opened the Minnesota Day program at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair (Century 21 Exposition).

Monday, December 28, 2015

Hopes in Jacob Wetterling case crash and burn

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

Monday, December 21, 2015

Saturday hoops: MACA boys defeat West Central

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

Saturday, December 19, 2015

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

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

Monday, December 14, 2015

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

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

Friday, December 11, 2015

Tigers' balance too much for BOLD, Steffel

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

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Albie Pearson endears with signature on glove

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

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