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).

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Tracy Stallard was much more than futile footnote

Tracy Stallard is represented in the movie "61*," the baseball epic about the amazing home run race in 1961. At the end we see a young man on the screen playing Stallard, wearing a Boston Red Sox cap. Maybe "actor" is too generous a term. The movie needed someone presentable as a baseball pitcher. He had no spoken lines, rather he just delivered a pitch while giving a most intense look.
A fastball in the strike zone? Batter Roger Maris must have been thankful he even got a hittable pitch. Maris, as most of us well remember, was one home run shy that day of breaking the sacred record of Babe Ruth. Supposedly the whole baseball establishment was against this.
Earlier in the movie we saw a Baltimore Orioles pitcher get threatened by his manager who insisted that Maris not get a fastball to hit. The manager said "I'll fine your ass" if a fastball was delivered. The pitcher in question was noted knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm. I thought that scene was overdone. Why would the manager project such hostility toward his own player? Was organized baseball that determined to protect the Babe?
Baseball worked so hard to diminish Maris' accomplishment, the attendance on the day of Maris' ultimate 61st homer was poor. Baseball hadn't built up Maris at all, rather the opposite was done. Therefore, I'm surprised Stallard wasn't just instructed to "pitch around" Maris. This would have been so easy to accomplish. Yet we see in the movie "61*," the Stallard character go all-out trying to deliver an effective fastball, just what that Baltimore manager said would be totally taboo. Maris connected for his historic 61st home run.
The movie "61*" was made as a labor of love by Billy Crystal. I have never thought that Maris was as much of a jerk as portrayed in Jim Bouton's book "Ball Four." Maris' problem if he had one, was that he was simply an unsophisticated high school graduate from Fargo ND. That home run race in 1961 played with his head no doubt. We might overlook that he was an important member of the St. Louis Cardinals' pennant-winning teams of 1967 and '68. The Cardinals took it all in '67.
In baseball lore and history, Maris wears the pinstripes of New York. His magical 1961 season, a real anomoly in fact, coincided with the Camelot presidency of JFK. He and Mickey Mantle took advantage of the watered-down pitching of an expansion year. It was the first year of our Minnesota Twins. Hey, we actually beat the Yankees on opening day at Yankee Stadium!
Strange things happened in 1961 such as Norm Cash's .361 batting average, perhaps the most anomalous stat in baseball history. So I think something more was going on, than the watered-down pitching factor. Perhaps "rabbit balls" and corked bats. Perhaps it should have been allowed to go on further - it was fun, a lot more fun than the 1968 "year of the pitcher."
ended up with a most interesting career. It all gets overshadowed by that October 1 pitch in 1961, that fastball that wasn't quite fast enough. Would you believe Stallard pitched an outstanding game that day? The homer was in fact the only run he allowed. He held the potent Yankee offense to five hits in seven innings and struck out five. He lost the game 1-0.
Very ironically, on October 1 of the previous year, in Stallard's previous showdown with Maris, he struck out the vaunted power hitter.
Stallard's baseball distinctions seem dubious. We can be misled in reviewing this. He lost 20 games in 1964 but let's consider he was paying dues with the original "Amazin' Mets." "Can't anyone here play this game?" manager Casey Stengel said.
It has been said "it takes a pretty good pitcher to lose 20 games." True, I'm sure. Such a pitcher has the confidence of his manager every four days. (It would be every five days now.) Stallard won ten games in '64 and two of those wins were shutouts, among eleven complete games. The "complete games" stat of course means nothing today, not in our new age of pitch counts. Pitchers had their careers die like flies in the '60s when I followed baseball as a boy. They threw out their arms, a process that started for them back in little league.
In 1964, Stallard was the losing pitcher in the longest major league game in baseball history: seven hours and 23 minutes! Stallard also took the loss in Jim Bunning's Fathers Day perfect game against the Mets.
moved on to the Cardinals after his Mets tenure. The Cards definitely had a sheen of competitiveness. Stallard had his best season in 1965 as he started 26 games, in the same rotation as Bob Gibson. He had an 11-8 record with a career low ERA of 3.38. Despite the quality, Stallard couldn't stay on the big league roster through the 1966 season. He spent time with the Tulsa Oilers. He got roughed up in his time with the big club, going 1-5 with a 5.68 ERA with the Cards who slid down to sixth place.
continued his involvement in baseball despite the 1966 futility. He toiled in the minors. At age 31 he retired from the sport and returned to his home state of Virginia. He would pull the uniform back on occasionally for old-timers events. He didn't back away from recognition as the guy who gave up the Maris home run. He appeared in the Roger Maris Golf Tournament in Fargo and won the charity event in 1990.
In 1998 Stallard backed away from the baseball glow as McGwire and Sosa went on their homer chase. He no longer wanted the unflattering attention. In 1997 a new baseball field at his high school alma mater, Coeburn High School, was named in his honor. He chose not to attend the first game played there, perhaps knowing he'd be dogged by that down note in his otherwise impressive career: that October 1 happening of '61 with JFK in the White House. That Roger Maris home run.
Lots of other pitchers gave up Maris homers in '61. Stallard was out on the mound for the climactic moment, captured so well in the Billy Crystal movie.
Messages from Hollywood
Here's an aside I'll offer: "61*" was not really a movie about the home run record, it was a movie about family and values. It's a Hollywood trait - intangible values at the forefront when we really think we're seeing a movie about something sensational. The movie "The Candidate" wasn't really about the Robert Redford character winning an election, it was about the character following in his father's footsteps as a politician. Want to know why Hollywood has left wing political values? It's because they know humanism really sells.
Let's remember Stallard as a persistent pitcher who doggedly worked through challenging periods in his career, with little apparent aversion to being in the minors. It was his career. He had many "up" moments. Congratulations Tracy Stallard, the six feet-five athlete of note from Coeburn, Virginia.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Piper Gibson's bat sizzles in 18-4 MACA triumph

MACA put superb finishing touches on an 18-4 win over Benson on the softball diamond. A ten-run sixth inning put an exclamation point on this success. There was only one inning in which we did not score.
Benson had a decent start, assuming a 4-2 lead after two innings. But after that our engines got humming. We plated two runs in the third, three in the fourth and one in the fifth before erupting with the big inning in the sixth. We were perfect in the field: no errors. Our bats resonated with 15 hits. Pitchers Brooke Gillespie and Ashley Solvie held Benson to seven hits. The Benson error total was three.
It was Ashley Solvie getting the pitching win. She allowed no hits or runs over four innings. She fanned three batters and walked one. Gillespie got roughed up a little: six hits allowed and four runs over two innings. She fanned three batters and walked no one. Emily Miller was a trooper as she pitched for Benson and wasn't able to contain the Tigers. She allowed the 15 hits in six innings. Better days will come for Emily.
Gillespie's bat produced a double and triple. Piper Gibson was a force at bat with three hits in five at-bats, all three of them doubles, and she drove in a whopping five runs. Karly Fehr had a double as part of a two-for-four performance. Bailey Marty had a two-for-three boxscore line. Liz Dietz and Karli Siegel both had a hit in their only at-bat.
Emma Bowman rapped two hits in five at-bats. The Solvie girls, Ashley and Nicole, each added a hit to the mix. Overall a boffo hitting performance.
For Benson, Nicole Berens and Lizzie Staton each had two hits. It warms my heart to see that the Berens and Staton names stay so closely associated with Benson! Courtney McNeill and Miller also hit safely for the Braves.
Tigers 6, Benson 4
It was a doubleheader day for the MACA and Benson softball squads. MACA chalked up another win in a 6-4 final as this time we took control early: a 3-0 lead after one inning. We went on to score two runs in the fourth and one in the fifth.
Our line score was six runs, ten hits and three errors. Karly Fehr "touched 'em all" with a home run, part of a two-for-three line. Emma Bowman's bat sizzled as this Tiger went two-for-four with her hits a double and triple. Bayley Marty and Brooke Gillespie each had two hits. Liz Dietz and Karli Siegel also hit safely.
Nicole Berens had two hits for Benson. These Braves also hit safely: Courtney McNeill, Grace Lee, Presley Gonnerman, Mackenzie Kurkosky and Knutson (first name N/A).
On to pitching: here the story had Liz Dietz getting the 'W' with five innings of work, six hits allowed, three runs (two earned) and no walks or strikeouts. Ashley Solvie logged an inning of work and she sat down one batter on strikes. Kurkosky took the pitching loss.
Baseball: Tigers 4, Benson 1
The MACA boys got the job done in the fifth inning. We rallied for all four of our runs in this 4-1 triumph over the Braves of Benson. Each team had five hits. Benson committed two errors while MACA had one.
Chandler Vogel pitched the whole way for the orange and black. He set down six batters and walked one in his seven innings. The one run he allowed was unearned. He allowed five hits.
Tyler Reimers picked up an RBI despite having no hits. Denner Dougherty had a double and a run scored. Ryan Bowman went one-for-three and crossed home plate once. Toby Sayles had a double and an RBI. Ryan Dietz had a one-for-two line and scored a run. Brenden Goulet went one-for-three.
Tigers 9, Montevideo 0
The MACA boys were dominant in this success vs. Montevideo. The shutout win showcased Ryan Bowman on the mound. Bowman allowed a mere three hits while striking out four batters and walking two. The losing pitcher was Derek Kilibarda.
Bowman got lots of support right at the start, as MACA plated four runs in the first inning. We scored four again in the fifth, and added our last run in the sixth. We had a hit total of eight and committed one error. Monte had its share of struggles in the field with five errors. The three Monte hits were by Kilibarda, Ian Jahn and Jackson Snell.
Mitchell Dufault had a potent bat for the Tigers as he doubled and drove in three runs. Alex Dougherty smacked a hit and drove in a run. Tim Travis smacked a double. Bowman doubled and picked up a ribbie. Other Tigers hitting safely were Chase Metzger, Toby Sales and Ryan Dietz. Add up the hits and you get seven, but the line score in the Willmar paper had eight.
ACGC 7, Tigers 1
The pitching arm of Kobe Holtz stymied the Tigers. Our only run was unearned in this 7-1 loss to the Falcons. The most telling stat about Kobe's effectiveness was strikeouts: 13. He walked no one in his six innings. Michael Dallman kept the sheen going through the seventh inning as he sat down the Tigers.
Jeremy Nelson went two-for-four and drove in three runs for the Falcons. Plus he stole a base. Adam Johnson had a two-for-four line including a double - he scored two runs, drove in one and stole a base.
Payton Kinzler went two-for-three, scored two runs and stole two bases. Jaren Kaddatz went one-for-three with two RBIs. Ethan Schultz stole a base. Michael Dallmann scored a run.
For the Tigers, Toby Sayles had two hits in three at-bats, and Chase Metzger and Jared Rohloff each connected for one hit. Sayles was the pitcher of record for MACA. Parker Dierks also employed his pitching arm for the Tigers.
We're looking forward to seeing increased signs of spring!
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, April 15, 2017

UMM and the marvelous Seattle World's Fair of 1962

This Seattle landmark needs no introduction.
UMM was showcased at the Plaza of States at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair. The 36 singers of our men's chorus opened the festivities for Minnesota Day. The young men sang four numbers. A group photo of that historic group is part of a display by the entry to the HFA Recital Hall.
Minnesota Day included royalty of the St. Paul Winter Carnival and Minneapolis Aquatennial. Four bands and another vocal group also represented Minnesota. Our men's chorus sang for ten minutes and was featured again later in the day. One of the tunes was "Born to be Free," a composition by my father, the late Ralph E. Williams, the chorus' conductor.
He was a prolific composer. He never encouraged me to learn that craft. He was more interested in directing me toward hunting and fishing.
The chorus traveled to the west by train. How quaint. Train would be their mode again two years later for the New York World's Fair. I remember being introduced to the "vista dome car" in the New York trip.
The 1962 Seattle World's Fair was also known as the Century 21 Exposition. It was held April to October. It made a profit unlike some other World's Fairs. Nearly 10 million attended. There were two clear symbols: the Space Needle and the monorail. It was the time of the "space race" (with the USSR). There was the scary specter of the Cuban missile crisis. JFK announced he could not attend the closing ceremony because of a "cold." The truth is that he was preoccupied with the Cuban missile crisis.
The world's fairs in Seattle and New York presented futurism. No one can really foresee what the future will bring. If we really knew, we'd move there immediately. The "Back to the Future" movie series imagined a future that was really just a jazzed-up version of the present. Cars were imagined that really just had more "sexy" design with the metal.
"Computers" in the '60s were big, bulky, mysterious and kept in back rooms. I guess it was hard imagining the "personal computer."
Culturally speaking, America in 1962 was still embedded in the 1950s. I have read that the torrents of change we experienced in the mid- to late '60s were simply bubbling under the surface in the 1950s.
Seattle gave us exotic futuristic visions like a "commuter gyrocopter." But no "drones." The Four Seasons gave us "Big girls Don't Cry" and "Sherry." The Ford Motor Company gave us the Fairlane. Adolph Eichmann was hanged, having been discovered in South America. The big screen gave us "West Side Story." John Glenn orbited the Earth in "Friendship 7." The first Wal-Mart store opened in Bentonville AK. Marilyn Monroe was found dead on August 5.
Oh, and the Beatles were turned down by Decca Records.
The Seattle World's Fair envisioned a future based on tech-based optimism. It did not anticipate the waves of social change that would set in, not far off. The Fair suggested that American power would grow and "social equity would take care of itself."
The Fair's monorail system became permanent. Today it carries something like two million passengers per year. It is a privately-run business. It carried over eight million guests during the six months of the Fair, easily paying for the cost of construction.
Elvis Presley sang "Good Luck Charm" in 1962. He would star in a movie that had the Fair as its inspiration and backdrop: "It Happened at the World's Fair." I seem to recall watching the movie at the Morris Theater. I remember vividly the opening scene of Elvis flying a cropdusting plane. The movie made $2.25 million. Elvis and his partner, played by Gary Lockwood, "are in financial duress due to the Lockwood character's gambling." The two need money or they'll lose their plane. They hitchhike. Remember hitchhiking? Outdated Americana indeed, like having a gas station attendant pump your gas, check your oil and wash your windshield.
Elvis and his partner are picked up by an apple farmer. They end up in Seattle for the World's Fair! Romances develop. We see the Space Needle and monorail.
Adding to the rich texture of the event was the UMM men's chorus and their trademark maroon blazers. My father had a special affinity with those world's fairs, probably reflecting a cosmopolitan outlook. He had "been around" in WWII. How nice to enjoy the placid atmosphere of a world's fair.
Will we ever hear a UMM group perform Ralph's "UMM Hymn" again? How about at graduation?
Listen to the golden sounds of the original UMM men's chorus by clicking on this link:
-Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, April 3, 2017

Morris had a presence at 1964 New York World's Fair

The UMM men's chorus at the Fair, directed by Ralph E. Williams
I remember the wonderful atmosphere at the 1964 New York World's Fair. It's a bittersweet memory. America was on the cusp of the contentious stuff that would come to largely define the 1960s. You could not have guessed that any of that was in the offing. Boomers thus look back on that fair as a touchstone event.
How sad that the tranquility of that fair could not prevail or set the tone. So I'll look at it in isolation. The UMM music department was there. Our men's chorus shared its wonderful sounds. UMM itself was very young. But we had already been to another World's Fair in Seattle. The Seattle trip was in 1962 when the U.S. was worried about nukes in Cuba. Our travels served to elevate the presence of our fledgling liberal arts institution. I made the trip in 1964.
If I could change one thing, I'd like to have been equipped with a high-quality camera. Could I have handled this at age nine? I'd love to have tried. My, how those photos could be mined and shared online today. Back then, we heard names like Canon and Nikon in connection with high-quality cameras. There was a perception that such cameras cost a fortune.
I have heard that even high-end cameras had flash units that were challenged for anything but close-ups. So maybe it would have been tough getting the indoor performance shots. But in other situations, what a bonanza I might have.
You can hear the sounds of the early UMM men's chorus by clicking on this YouTube link. Thanks to Gulsvig Productions of Starbuck for getting this material online.
The New York World's Fair hailed itself as a "universal and international exposition." The theme was "peace through understanding." It was dedicated to "man's achievement on a shrinking globe in an expanding universe." We saw a showcase of mid-20th Century American culture and technology. The "space age" was a high-profile theme.
Over 51 million people attended. They saw what amounted to a grand consumer show. Many got their first interaction with computer equipment. Such equipment was kept in back offices away from the public. This was decades before the Internet and home computers were at everyone's disposal.
How I remember Flushing Meadows Corona Park. It was in that wondrous borough of Queens. The still-new New York Mets, still in their early mediocrity, played so close, they seemed like part of the Fair.
A reflective online piece proclaims "the world came to Queens."
"It came in a kaleidoscope of brilliant colors, fountains of dancing water and mouth-watering Belgian waffles."
The grand World's Fair of 1964 sought to nudge us toward optimism. I remember the inspiring, joyous sounds of our University of Minnesota-Morris men's chorus, directed by my late father Ralph E. Williams. Ralph left us four years ago. His legacy lives on both with the music he composed and the permanence he helped ensure of our UMM. I could use some of those Belgian waffles.
Click on this link to read a post I wrote in connection with the 50th anniversary of the Fair. It too reflects on the Morris experience. Thanks for reading.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com