One of the highlights of the Hancock July 4 is the Little League "all-star" game.
Girls have softball to play in the summer. When I was a kid they didn't even have that.
Girls sports grew like The Little Engine That Could. It's amazing that in an earlier era, not that long ago in the scheme of things, girls weren't supposed to pursue sports. Girls sports was restricted to that one page in the school yearbook that had a picture of "G.A.A." (Girls Athletic Association). It was patronizing.
Then along came a generation that included pioneering souls like Mary Holmberg. We had Chris Voelz at the University of Minnesota. Their assertiveness could bring friction.
If you were in the media you scratched your head and wondered if girls sports really deserved "equal treatment." The adjustment was awkward which is typical of any major cultural shift. The progress was by fits and starts at times.
I remember a basketball referee who said "you have to call traveling all the time with the girls, no matter how often it happens, because otherwise they'll never learn."
When you stop and think about it, dribbling seems a rather odd requirement, doesn't it? There's no such requirement in team handball.
I took a college course in team handball. The old teacher had us "choose up sides." That can be just as humiliating as playing dodgeball. The fact I wore a Tommy Kramer (No. 9) jersey didn't up my stock any.
Remember when Kramer came to Morris to be grand marshal of the Prairie Pioneer Days parade? I believe that was in 1987. I remember him riding in a golf cart driven by Brett Weber.
I hope Tommy is doing OK today. So many former NFL players develop serious health issues (related to their football playing) as they get older. I remember Kramer being slammed to the turf by a Los Angeles Rams lineman, so bad he seemed stunned and unconscious, and the worst part was that his fingers were twitching. I feared for an instant he might be dead.
Kramer hung around to finish his career. The Vikings had a hard time surrounding him with enough good talent. He was dragged down by the kind of party lifestyle that seemed popular among pro players then.
But today, my sole thought about Kramer, who is my age, is that I hope his basic health survived the rigors of the game.
The point I am making in this post, belatedly maybe, is that women not only climbed to equality, they have it better now. "I knew I could," the little train engine is saying.
Girls get to play softball in summer. How vastly preferable to baseball. The reason we subject young boys to the game of baseball, in "little league," is that we find it fun replicating pro baseball. We can fantasize about these little tykes growing up to be big leaguers. Totally delusional of course.
Boys age 9-12 typically look ungainly trying to play baseball. Pitchers have trouble throwing strikes. The best pitchers, usually age 12, can become too dominant. The younger kids flail away trying to hit that small ball. When you hit the ball into fair territory, there's a good chance you'll reach base because the fielders can screw up. It's an awfully small ball.
The logic is simple for appreciating how softball is a preferable game for these young kids: the ball is bigger. The pitchers don't have to throw overhand. Pitching overhand is actually an unnatural physical activity.
Whitey Herzog once wrote that a pitcher injures his arm every time he makes a pitch. Why do you think baseball starting pitchers need to rest 3-4 days between appearances? The need for such a long rest makes one question the activity itself, just like we're questioning the whole sport of football.
We are nearing a stage where we'll be forced to reconsider the whole sports landscape. There is an irony here. Girls sports grew with the idea or premise that girls' bodies were more delicate and their sports approach had to reflect that. It sounds like an insulting approach on the face of it.
But we need to look at it differently now. We need to be more delicate with all the young people who play sports. Being delicate and careful is a virtue. Being "macho" by promoting football (and chewing tobacco?) is being made to look foolish now.
Girls are spared football. They are spared wrestling in which the temptation to lose weight can be unhealthy. They have the privilege of playing softball in which the large ball makes it more batter-friendly (and even safer) than baseball. There are no physical issues with the underhand pitching motion in softball.
An underhand pitcher can literally pitch every day. Remember when Eddie Feigner came to Morris? It was billed as "The king and his court." He was a fast-pitch softball pitcher who barnstormed. You might remember Halsey Hall on Twins broadcasts promoting Feigner's schedule. The guy could pitch every day.
Somewhere in Morris history it should be recorded - no exaggeration - that Feigner's appearance in Morris, for a Jaycees fundraiser in about 1981, was a disaster. A group of area guys was put together to play Feigner and his mates in this exhibition. Problem is, these groups of opponents weren't supposed to take it real seriously. It was supposed to be a "wink wink" thing. Like the "Washington Nationals" playing the Harlem Globetrotters.
Someone didn't get the memo. The local guys gave 100 percent and ended up showing up the visitors, who didn't take kindly to it. The exhibition was cut short and the visitors groused considerably about what had just happened, to anyone who would listen.
Feigner's son was on his team. I remember the son yelling "Playing you guys is like being on Valium, man!"
Former major league catcher John Bateman was in the crew. The elder Feigner came out to home plate and explained the game was being cut short because of sun in the west.
I was the innocent media observer of course. I trotted over to Feigner after game's end and he was nice to me. I was going to do a brief interview but he handed me a piece of literature and said all I would need was in there.
I guess I would chalk up the whole incident to lousy communication. Dave Kratz of the Jaycees said "I think it was kind of a ripoff." Frankly I think a lot of the local players may have been a little too testosterone-fueled. There was a lot of that back then.
I found it curious. I was a mere observer, which means that at age 57 my brain cells are all intact.
I cross my fingers for Tommy too. We remember you, number 9.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - firstname.lastname@example.org