History-making music group for UMM - morris mn

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

Tuesday, 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

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