"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Of Memorial Days gone by, flag etiquette

I remember Memorial Day weekend as a time of great calm from my newspaper days. The Morris newspaper published twice a week. We had a "bulldog week" leading up to the weekend. What that meant, was that we went to press with the Tuesday issue on Friday rather than Monday. Yes, it made for a very hectic week.
Sometimes the Morris Area graduation would be held on Friday night. Because I was the van driver for the newspaper (in my last few years there), I would arrive at the graduation quite worn out. I still enjoyed being there - how could you not enjoy being there? - but I was tired, and I'm sure I looked it. Once I fell into bed on Friday night, I had no problem facing more responsibilities the rest of the weekend.
I enjoyed going over to Alberta for the Chokio-Alberta graduation which was held like clockwork at 2 p.m. on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. I enjoyed hearing Lyle Hettver say "thank God for our small schools." I agreed.
Today the Morris paper doesn't even cover the C-A graduation. It only publishes once a week.
On Monday morning of Memorial Day weekend, in most years anyway, I'd arise to cover the Memorial Day observance. One year we had tremendous, stinking internal political strife at the paper and I wasn't asked to show up for Memorial Day, and no one else showed up from the paper either. I stopped by the newspaper office to pick up my Star Tribune newspaper and then just went home. Inexplicable.
When it comes to backbiting, politics and turf protection in the workplace, "I've seen it all." I'd rather serve time in prison than re-live some of that. Toward the end of my years there, there was a major employee theft scandal (before the current ownership). I'm certainly not going to pat the current ownership on the back - it seeks to facilitate shopping in Alexandria. Nothing against Alex - really - but we don't need so much "help" being steered there.
The public seemed increasingly hard to please toward the end of my years with the paper. I can cite an incident from the last Memorial Day I ever covered. I was present for the outdoor portion of the observance, by the veterans monument. I spotted what I thought was a really cute scene. An absolutely charming young girl was standing with her grandparents with whom I was well acquainted. She held out an American flag. In addition, she wore a little hat made from material that had an image of the American flag. It was a neat-appearing hat.
I snapped a photo and was then approached by Steve Dudding who said "you'll get in trouble if you publish that." Oh, "I'll get in trouble," eh? You know the argument: the hat represented an improper presentation of the flag symbol, and was thus disrespectful.
This type of obsessive devotion to the flag is akin to having a chip on your shoulder. There are people, many of whom are active in veterans organizations, who will get carried away on such matters. I had to tell the grandparents that I wouldn't be able to publish the photo. I left the event in a discouraged frame of mind.
I don't have to worry about being dragged through episodes like this anymore, because I'm unemployed. My life is in limbo. I haven't had health insurance coverage in nine years. I'm told I can go to the MnSure website and "find a policy that's right for you." If this website is anything like the website you go to for paying traffic tickets, I'm sure it's hopeless. No matter what amount I sign up for, for premium, I'm sure it will go up. I have decided it's more prudent to just keep my assets and see if someday I can live on them for a while. And after that? I have no clue.
I would consider it wonderful if I could get up in the morning and show up somewhere to perform an easily-understood task within a reasonable amount of time. I am absolutely shell-shocked having spent a good portion of my work career filling out those infernal "timesheets." They are not practical for so many reasons.
Shortly after the Forum acquired the Morris newspaper, I was told my status would change and I would be paid "straight salary," which made me wonder if the previous arrangement was actually illegal. Well, I don't know. Finally I could just get up in the morning and just do what I had to do. But maybe it was too late.
My job had morphed into a combination of news/editorial and van-driving and sorting/delivery of the physical print product. I was eager to take on the latter duties because I felt they would give me insurance toward keeping my job. There was rumbling about how the newspaper industry was careening toward disaster due to the Internet. Apparently the doomsayers were not completely correct, but keep in mind the Morris newspaper product has been cut in half, from two issues to one each week. Thus we have to wait nine days to see coverage of the section track meet in the print product - rather unreasonable, I'd say.
And if you can get it on the paper's website, fine, but the paper gets no revenue from that.
I'd like to see high school sports programs all establish their own home pages, regularly updated with game results, just like the UMM sports website. In fact, coaches might opt to wait until the day after a game to post data, instead of having to call in results to the Willmar paper immediately following a game. Coaches can do PR on their own terms.
The Willmar paper these days has adopted a practice of twisting arms by publishing boxes in which we read "reports not received from. . ." Maybe the Willmar paper deserves a middle finger for this.
Let's wrap up our little story about Steve Dudding. This very reverential patriot had said this young girl wearing the flag hat was inappropriate, that the hat represented disrespect for the flag. Well, in July of that year I was watching coverage of the Independence Day festivities from the nation's capital, probably on PBS. For a few seconds we saw a young girl perched on her father's shoulders, waving a flag and wearing a flag hat that was exactly what I had tried to photograph. PBS presented all this in the context of brimming patriotism.
A week or two later I was dropping off my parents at First Lutheran Church when I saw the Dudding family come along. I shouted to him what I had observed on TV. He gave me sort of a blank stare and didn't say anything. I wasn't yet attending church with my parents. This community has long disapproved of me even living with my parents. God blessed them, though, because eventually, due to the limitations of advancing years, they had a 24/7 caregiver who could keep them in their precious home on Northridge Drive.
We have survived two visits from Human Services. Our lives have been as comfortable as we can possibly make it. In a small town you're in a fishbowl. You have to be careful about taking a press photo of a young girl wearing a perfectly tasteful American flag hat.
At least it wasn't the Confederate flag.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Let's examine the kind of patriotism we express

There is a fine line between patriotism and jingoism. Young men weren't eager to be drafted into military service during Viet Nam. Yet we were told we were fighting to stop "communist aggression." My generation didn't buy into the grandness of that pronouncement.
Objective journalists can now report, without meeting any objection, that the Viet Nam war was a mistake or that "we lost." Wolf Blitzer has said "we lost." Brian Williams, back in his NBC heyday, said Viet Nam was "a colossal mistake" by the U.S.
I remember being at our University of Minnesota-Morris P.E. Center for the welcome-back for the National Guardsmen who had gone to Iraq. I remember sitting there and wondering why no such event was held to honor Viet Nam troops coming back. The event came off as a glorious pep rally. I thought it was somewhat perverse that way. Military confrontation is nothing but grim. It is hell. Even when the cause is justified, it is hell.
And now we have Jeb Bush himself saying the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. It took him several days to concede that but he finally did.
Why does our nation have so much trouble mustering the self-discipline to resist an impulse toward military action? To be more blunt: why are we so naive in following jingoistic voices?
What if this nation hadn't been forced to build up its military for World War II? We associate good things with WWII: our triumph over evil, as the rhetoric goes. It's hard to comprehend the scale of conflict that engulfed much of the civilized world in the 1940s. There was a fundamental problem with humanity. General MacArthur understood this as he mapped out plans for Japan's reconstruction. What was his blueprint? It was primarily liberal politics: more power for women and a trade union movement.
The conflicts ever since WWII have seemed to present a devolution. None of the wars since could be called "the good war" as WWII came to be known. WWII is credited with establishing the great U.S. middle class - no small accomplishment. Look what the G.I. Bill did. We could have had something like that without the war, couldn't we? Maybe wars could be fought with rubber bullets.
WWII is credited with pulling the U.S. out of the Depression. It's scary if you buy that because any way you cut it, war is nothing but bad. We hear these inspiring speeches on occasions like Memorial Day and Veterans Day. I would describe such speeches as innocuous. I suppose there's no harm in hearing that "freedom isn't free" etc. If a soldier who was killed in WWII could return to us and give his perspective, he might not be so reverent about the war commitment.
The people who give these speeches were able to survive and they have reasonably good health today. They find they win respect just being known as veterans.
The flag at the focus of controversy in South Carolina was by definition a "battle flag." Let me tell you one thing about the Civil War: If you were to walk through a tent full of dying Civil War soldiers, many dying from "blood poisoning" (infection), you would never again even want to think about the Civil War. We achieve emotional distance as the years pass following a conflict. We begin to see movies about the conflict. Hollywood finally decided these movies had to includes greater historical accuracy (i.e. no sanitizing). You can't argue with that. I doubt that our appetite for WWII-based movies has increased.
I find many Republican politicians to be inconsistent in how they talk about the Confederate flag. At least early-on during this controversy, some prominent Republicans proclaimed "it's a state issue" and "let the South Carolina people decide." Of course, these guys are jockeying for votes in the South Carolina primary. However, back when George W. Bush commanded National Guard units of the various states to go over and join that hellish conflict in the Middle East, I didn't hear these same Republican politicians say "hey, let the states decide if they want to send their Guardsmen."
I remember being assigned to try to get a good photo on the morning our Guardsmen left Morris for their tragic venture in the Middle East. I almost whiffed on that. Purely by luck, I got a photo pointing toward main street, of some pathetic soul in the foreground holding up a little American flag as a motor coach containing Guardsmen passed by. It was a quite decent photo. Howard Moser was in the car with me. We would have breakfast together.
I suppose you could characterize my attitudes about all this as "liberal." OK, that's what it is. Chris Hayes of MSNBC has been kindred with me. Hayes stepped over the edge 3-4 years ago with his comments on how the word "heroes" is thrown around too much in connection with fallen U.S. soldiers. Before spitting on me, keep in mind we had a close family friend, from Brainerd MN, who was a victim of friendly fire in Viet Nam. For years I only went on the rumor that he had been shot by someone he trusted. Finally, due to online research, I had it confirmed that it was "friendly fire."
And if you still insist on condemning me, I'll respond with a blog post about the phenomenon of "fragging" in the Viet Nam war. Just recently I saw a panelist on a C-Span channel saying the U.S. "had to get out of Viet Nam because we were killing our own colonels." I'll assert again: war is hell. When it's necessary, let's do it, but let's not go out of our way talking about the "heroism" of it all. Heroes exist as individuals and in specific cases, but the mass thrust of war is not to be confused with anything glorious. Those deceased troops from WWII wouldn't be impressed. They would like to have had grandchildren.
What Chris Hayes said: "I feel uncomfortable with the word 'hero' because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war."
We never seem to learn about war. Ever since WWII, our ventures get us bogged down and depressed. Every now and then I'm asked to join in the Pledge of Allegiance. I do so half-heartedly.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, June 22, 2015

Joe Basel: he's still at it with politics, in TX

Joe Basel (image from Twitter)
Joe Basel proceeds undeterred. Should I be surprised?
Basil is the political activist (on steroids) with a background in Morris and the campus community here. His name surfaced in connection with the NorthStar publication. He helped arrange for that controversial publication to be inserted with the Morris community newspaper. I was shocked when I saw it appear the second time with our Morris paper. I thought once was scandalous. But I'm 60 years old and I may have difficulty understanding the ways of the world today.
Conservatives had no real place on college campuses in the 1970s. Today they are aggressive and attention-getting. I just don't understand the NorthStar. I understand conservatism and libertarianism. I have no problem consuming ideas from these people. A tastefully edited libertarian publication at the University of Minnesota-Morris would fit in nicely. The NorthStar appears to have a disruptive purpose.
And, when you read about Basel's current activities, it seems consistent.
We learn from the Houston Chronicle that Basel, of the American Phoenix Foundation, "has employed up to 16 people to track Texas Republicans with hidden cameras in order to record potentially embarrassing or provocative footage. The group aims to use the reported 800 hours of tape to unseat the lawmakers in favor of more rightward leaning candidates in the next election cycle."
Republicans?
Continuing: "(Recent) encounters at the capitol were described by lawmakers as attempts to provoke responses on hot-button policy issues, along with questions about Republican House Speaker Joe Straus, a consistent target of criticism in tea party circles.
"Lawmakers said cameras were disguised as lapel pins or hidden in a briefcase, and some characterized the incidents as harassment because the men repeatedly pursued legislators through the hallways of the Capitol and off Capitol grounds. One lawmaker was approached while eating dinner with his wife at a Tex-Mex restaurant in downtown Austin. 'It's like they were almost stalking us,' said Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring, who navigated a detour through the Capitol with another female lawmaker last Friday to avoid the group. 'It's a sleazy campaign tactic,' state Rep. Charlie Green, a Fort Worth Republican who was approached three times last week, said of the secret videotaping. 'There's some real scumbags in this business.' "
 
Background: Basel was arrested along with right-wing provocateur James O'Keefe for allegedly bugging then-Senator Mary Landrieu's (D-LA) phone in 2010. The two pleaded guilty and were sentenced to probation. At least one of the videographers currently employed by Basel has been arrested for trespassing, in that case while working for the late Andrew Breitbart.
The recent incidents have Texas legislators on edge, as there have already been confrontations this session with aggressive advocates, leading to the proposed installation of panic buttons in lawmakers' offices.
I would suggest there is a stench to both this activity and the NorthStar here in Morris. I have a hard time explaining it.
So, will NorthStar be back on the UMM campus next year? Does it have Koch Brothers connections? I have been disturbed by how this publication has not seemed to be your typical alternative journalism project by a rag-tag bunch of students. Such publications can enhance the college atmosphere. The problem with Northstar is that it seems to have a power behind it, what I would describe as a sinister kind of power, at times seemingly bigger than the U's own administration. It sets out to hurt people, in my view.
It's summer now and things are quiet, thank goodness.
 
New high school principal official today?
Word is, the Morris Area school board will approve Bill Kehoe as our new high school principal today (Monday).
In the meantime, I wonder how the job-hunting is going for his predecessor. Our board has a vested interest in seeing the previous principal get gainfully employed again. If he doesn't, we'll be paying insurance expenses for him for a year. I'm not sure why. I'm not sure why we owe anything to him or should be doing him any special favors. He didn't earn them.
I'm not sure the school board has been fiscally responsible in handling all this. They might say they had to listen to advice from their lawyer or lawyers. At a certain point, this sounds like a cop-out. I would suggest the lawyer is doing a little CYA. A lawyer might feel he has nothing to lose in recommending a course of action that gives slack and security to the principal. If he were to recommend otherwise, and it blew up, legally, he'd have egg on his face, but the odds might be only slim of this happening. No school district should be made to accept a state of affairs where the high school principal is on leave because of having been charged with first degree criminal sexual conduct. It doesn't pass the smell test, as it were.
Am I saying the emperor has no clothes? Maybe that's not the most fitting citation.
A source tells me that the individual in question actually came close to securing a new education job in Minnesota, not far from here actually: a middle school principal position. In the end the board there turned thumbs down, not surprisingly. If he stays close to Morris, would Peterson continue a bond with the teachers here? I have seen school controversies come and go through the years. I guess this is just another one.
Don't look for Bill Kehoe to get into any sort of trouble. I used to work with his mother. His father gave golf cart rides to my mom and I, to and from the UMM campus mall on the day of graduation. We had almost given up attending. Thanks to Andy Lopez too. I'm not sure the circle drive should have been barricaded off. Maybe a lawyer recommended that too. I wonder if the new "Jurassic World" movie has a dinosaur eating a lawyer like in the first one. That scene showed that "dinosaurs aren't all bad," according Weird Al Yankovic.
 
The big prison break
Oh no, don't tell me it was a "saw in a cake." Well, it certainly wasn't that simple, but somehow those two very unsavory characters out east were able to cut their way out of their maximum security surroundings. That was miraculous in and of itself.
Then another miracle happened: they got loose and haven't been heard from since. Considering all the resources employed to try to find them, and how perilous "living in the wild" can be, there is no logic to realizing they're simply on the loose. So, here is my theory: I think it's organized crime. The people involved in this probably don't give a rip about the two individuals. What they want is to embarrass the New York state government, its penal system and Governor Cuomo personally. It wouldn't take much for organized crime to simply arrange for a room for these two guys somewhere.
Remember the sign in Appleton MN that said "do no pick up hitchhikers?" I wonder if it's still there. No, I think a lot more than "hitching" is involved in the two scoundrels out east making their escape. It has given much fodder for the cable news networks.
Meanwhile here in Motown, we're just thankful we didn't get those 90 MPH winds that Worthington reportedly got last night. Such drastic weather just supports what Pope Francis is saying, don't you think? Republicans have to gnash their teeth while listening to the Pope. Will many of them have to consider finding a new church?
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Road work, construction make Morris hectic

The middle of June is normally when the tranquility of summer is setting in here. Because we aren't a resort or lake community, we don't get the influx for those reasons. Back in my youth, the sound of the summer marching band rehearsing, might be the biggest source of excitement. Outside of that, everything was pretty laid-back.
In 2015 it's like we're all on a caffeine high all day as we absorb what's going on with all the construction. It's mind-boggling. You would think, based on all this, that Morris is becoming a true boom town. Roads and streets are torn up all over the place. New construction is burgeoning. I'm wondering if the whole Morris business district is shifting to north of the highway. Is that possible?
Rumors of all kinds are floating around. Is Applebee's coming here? Let's call it the summer of rumors in Morris, because now I'm hearing that MAHS has a new principal, even though it hasn't been announced in the media. A source tells me we've hired Bill Kehoe. I think of Mr. Kehoe as a young boy. I followed his athletic career at Chokio-Alberta. I watched him play football way up in Stephen MN. Oh, and at the Metrodome too! "That Kehoe boy" played under Neal Hofland.
If Bill is in fact the new principal, he's filling the shoes of someone who leaves with some baggage. I said to one of my library staff friends the other day: "The high school principal should have at least as clean a lifestyle as me." Is that a sound statement?
The previous principal engendered lots of loyalty among school staff. I hope that's not an impediment now: "politics." School personnel are the most political animals I've ever been around.
Getting back to the construction work around our community, its extent is such, we're made to feel a little nervous as we make our daily rounds. A couple days ago I was attempting to cross the highway along Iowa Avenue. There was a sign person there who vigorously motioned for me to cross, but it was a rather rough crossing. IMHO there should have been a "road closed" sign there. Obviously it would be inconvenient, but you have to do what you have to do.
Yesterday I used the western fringe including Pacific Avenue. But then as I arrived on main street, I found myself behind a big cement truck that, as it turned out, stopped by Eul's where a crew was waiting. The truck driver behaved like he owned the place. I had to endure a couple tense moments getting around him.
Here's an advisory I'll share for all: Keep in mind that everyone involved in this work, like the souls holding the signs and flags, have as their highest priority the advancement of the construction work. Their priority is not to help us humble townspeople make our daily rounds.
I suppose we should be thankful that Morris is experiencing such phenomenal growth. We'll be like Willmar within a couple years, I guess. The newspaper can go back to publishing twice a week. For now, the paper can sell endless "congrats" ads having to do with all the new development. Back-patting all over the place.
We hear that UMM has a record number of applicants for fall. What happened to the "higher education bubble" and the impediment of student loan debt? I guess it's all a myth.
Maybe UMM will get as big as St. Cloud State. Maybe we'll be St. Cloud State without the partying. The SCSU president would gnash his teeth reading that - one of his top missions has been to crush that reputation, thus there's no Homecoming at SCSU anymore. When that "poet laureate" spoke at the UMM graduation, she referred to St. Cloud State and then in the next breath alluded to the partying, in a vein of levity of course. SCSU's President Potter would want to cuss.
 
How are you all faring?
Do any of you have any horror stories to share about trying to get around, in and around Morris, during this plethora of construction work? Send me an email. I find it ironic we're seeing all this new construction for new businesses, because of the meme out there that "bricks and mortar" for business is less necessary due to commerce moving to the world wide web. Can anyone reconcile that for me? Send me an email.
I have a theory that Grandstay will have a very short honeymoon with the public, once we all find out that the needs of Superior are going to come first there, with rooms available to the public only on a secondary basis. I have already heard one discouraging story about this, about a person who wanted to reserve a block of rooms and was told "no."
Heartland Motors? What really is the future of "car dealerships," that quintessential fixture of the U.S. business landscape? Tesla has come along and established a business model wherein the company deals directly with the public and has pushed aside the whole dealer model. Thinking about the dealer model doesn't really bring warm thoughts for you, does it? Also, aren't cars built so well nowadays, you might purchase just one car for the rest of your life? It's not like the old days of our Detroit monopoly and its planned obsolescence (of about four years).
If people can drive such long-lasting cars, do we really need to see that extensive list in agate-sized type of cars available at Heartland every week? What's the matter? Don't people know how to take care of their cars so they'll last longer?
Thrifty White Drug? If Thrifty White moves out to that new frontier north of the highway, how much oxygen will this take out of our old "main street?" Remember the days when main street was so essential, the city could get money from parking meters? Remember the pool hall? BTW I thought Nancy Olson was going to work at Thrifty White.
County Road 5 is now getting lots of wear and tear because of being used as a detour. That had been such a placid and peaceful place to travel or to ride bike.
Our whole world in and around Morris MN is being turned upside down in this summer of 2015. Are we really becoming a new Willmar? Will more stoplights be needed? Is UMM bursting its buttons with growth?
How much of all this "progress" is real, and how much might be illusory? Is all the construction simply due to interest rates being so low for so long? "Free money." Many economists say it's an abnormal and unhealthy situation. I remember the days of going to First Federal Savings and Loan and getting a CD with 13 per cent interest. That was unhealthy and unsustainable too.
Where are we headed? Heaven only knows, but I'll suggest here, today, we're headed for a Wall Street bubble collapse very soon.
I see where "Jurassic World" is already playing at our Morris Theater, that dinosaur of a theater facility. No way would I want to watch that movie there. I'd prefer waiting until the DVD is available at our library. That's what I did with "Jersey Boys." The movie-watching experience is far superior at home. Maybe a new movie theater and new bowling alley could be built out along that new strip of development, eh?
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Al Worthington: a Twins pillar as relief pitcher

Al Worthington appeared in relief in the first Twins game I ever attended. Though he was commonly called "Al," I recall Twins P.A. announcer Bob Casey being more formal with "Allan." Casey's pronunciation projected a triumphal air. We could all feel assured we had a most capable reliever taking charge. And that's exactly what Worthington did in the majority of his appearances. He was the very definition of a relief pitcher.
We got introduced to him in June of 1964. It was the year before we won the pennant. Even though the '64 and '65 Minnesota Twins teams seemed nearly identical - their personnel and stats seemed similar - they fared far differently from each other. The '64 team barely made a whimper, tying for sixth in the American League, but in '65 we ruled the roost. Sam Mele employed some "small ball" principles to get more out of his team.
Worthington made his Twins debut when a fireman was really needed. It was on June 28, 1964, when Worthington tore off his warm-up jacket, got on the pitching rubber and bore down to face the Chicago White Sox. He relieved starter Dick Stigman. The score was tied. The bases were loaded with one out in the sixth. Worthington indeed put out the fire. He stayed in the game and tossed three more scoreless innings. He got the win as he was backed by some of that trademark Twins power of that era: home runs by Zoilo Versalles, Harmon Killebrew and Bob Allison, all off Chicago reliever Eddie Fisher (a knuckleballer).
 
Like greeting the cavalry
Maybe there was something in the Minnesota air that invigorated Worthington. (The man was from Alabama.) He pitched 72 innings in 1964 and fashioned a 1.37 ERA. He led the team with 14 saves.
"Allan" Worthington was as inspiring as seeing the cavalry arrive. Thus he carved out a significant place with our 1965 pennant-winning team.
He had a 10-7 won-lost mark in '65 with 21 saves and a 2.13 ERA in 80.1 innings. We stretched the World Series to seven games but came up shy vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers with other-worldly pitcher Sandy Koufax.
Worthington pitched four scoreless innings in the World Series, in two appearances. I was ten years old in 1965. The cast of Twins from that era will never be replaced in my memories.
Worthington was in his prime from 1964 through '68 - a quite extended run for a reliever in those days. Many pitchers then would make their mark and then "flame out" before their time. That puzzled me. Those were the days before pitch counts and setup men - those concepts at least hadn't reached the fans' parlance. We did hear the term "middle reliever." Worthington became a middle reliever for his final year with the Twins in '69. He stepped aside from the dramatic ninth inning role, where Ron Perranoski had been acquired from the Dodgers to work. At age 40, Worthington was no longer "the cavalry" but he was on board for our West Division-winning campaign of 1969. It was the first season of East/West divisions.
Worthington ended his career after 1969. He had a career ERA of 2.62 plus 37 wins and 88 saves in 473.1 innings with the Twins. For five years he thrilled us as that reliable closer. He seemed a very stable and mature individual with none of the quirks that sometimes characterize these stars. If Sam Mele and Bud Grant were like father figures to us boomer boys of the Upper Midwest, Worthington was like a favorite uncle, an inspiring uncle.
Al's 18 saves in 1968 topped the A.L. in that "year of the pitcher." He was in the A.L.'s top ten in both saves and games finished from '64 through '68. Perranoski picked up that mantle of relief ace. Oh but there were other fine relievers for us, both then and in the chapters since. It's a nice strong suit to have. I remember Stan Williams and Bob Miller excelling at the same time as Perranoski. Mike Marshall came on the scene. We welcomed Jeff Reardon, Rick Aguilera, Eddie Guardado and Joe Nathan.
Worthington was born on February 5, 1929, making him 35 years old when he began making his mark in Minnesota. Age 35 was quite advanced in those days. (I can imagine "Pop" Fisher of the movie screen saying "at your age you should retire.") Obviously Al had a well-developed baseball story before even coming here. He picked up the nickname "Red" but I don't recall that being used much if at all.
 
A background including Minnesota
Way back in 1950 he played semi-pro baseball in Fulda MN. It was there he met his wife. His skills gained notice. He came on board with the New York Giants who had their AAA farm club in Minneapolis, the Millers. He shuttled between the Giants and Millers in the mid-1950s. He pitched for the Millers in 1960, their last season of existence before the Twins were created (coming from Washington D.C. with their crusty owner, Calvin Griffith).
Worthington had a stint with the Chicago White Sox where he discovered they were crossing the line on ethics by stealing signs. He asserted himself, saying he'd rather pitch in the minors than be associated with that untoward behavior. His honesty may have nicked his professional development a little, but such a man was Worthington.
He had a stint with Cincinnati in 1963-64. I discovered a baseball card with him as a Red and that "Red" nickname on the front. But I recall no "Red" references once he pulled on that Twins uniform.
It's amazing that after that long time being a journeyman, Worthington could blossom in such a spectacular way over the mid-1960s. I wonder what he discovered to put him over the top - some new nuance with his pitches?
The Twins' starting pitchers showed signs of stress midway through the pennant year of '65. Worthington came on like that cavalry, and I'm sure Bob Casey intoned that "Allan" name with special elan. The Twins relievers were brought in by a convertible (red?) from the bullpen, remember? We'd watch "Allan" take off his warm-up jacket, gamely. Us young fans were sure Worthington would stymie the opposing batters.
Worthington followed his script in the first game I ever attended. It was a truly blessed occasion as Harmon Killebrew hit two home runs (I believe against Baltimore).
 
Closing the door (on foes) in 1965
In July of '65, Worthington pitched six times in seven days, earning three wins and three saves and allowing no earned runs. Our top Twins starter that season was Jim "Mudcat" Grant who I'm sure appreciated being backed by such a capable closer.
"Allan. . .Worthington!"
The crowd roars.
I didn't know it at the time, but Worthington threw with more of a sidearm delivery early in the season. He felt he didn't have his best stuff then. As the season progressed he developed more of an overhand style. I'm puzzled by that, but it worked.
At age 37, for the 1966 season, an anticlimactic one for our Twins, he started throwing some knuckleballs. He had experimented with the mysterious knuckleball for years. It was like Jim Bouton picking up the knuckleball in one's twilight years. The pitch doesn't depend on a real strong arm. The press once asked Phil Niekro's manager if Phil could start pitching on two days rest. The manager responded by saying "we're not worried about Niekro, we're worried about Uecker." (Uecker was the knuckleball-catching specialist who would develop a comic reputation, thus the manager's remark is seen humorously.)
Wilbur Wood was a knuckleball specialist of that time. I remember seeing Wilbur at the Met when he was washed up. As he walked off the mound, being relieved, the crowd was silent with one exception: one female fan who shouted "we love you Wilbur!" It wasn't taunting, it seemed affectionate. Of such trivial incidents are baseball memories made.
Baseball had been Worthington's life. Upon retiring, he took the head coaching position at Liberty University in Lynchburg VA. He had a stadium named for him. In 2011 he was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.
Worthington is worthy of any and all accolades. He taught us all what a relief pitcher really was. Our adrenalin would pump when we'd hear Bob Casey announce "Allan. . .Worthington!" The cavalry was here.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, June 12, 2015

Overworked arm took down our Dave Boswell

The 1969 and 1970 playoffs take quite a back seat in our memories, to the 1965 World Series. They fade even more in comparison to the fairy tale-like success of our Minnesota Twins in 1987 and '91. We'd occasionally hear a retrospective about '69 and '70. But admit it, it was really like an asterisk.
I was around in the late '60s and noticed that the Twins weren't generating any sort of hysteria. Our family had a neighbor who said he was "going to the game" one weekend. He meant that he was going to the Gophers football game. He didn't feel the need to specify.
The Twins were in the baseball playoffs versus Baltimore in 1969 and 1970. The years can blur together in one's mind. We lost in a pretty depressing manner both years. I remember that Minnesotans didn't embrace a lot of optimism in either year. Mainly I remember there was no mania of any kind.
The media in those days were much less inclined, compared to today, to be like cheerleaders, getting everyone fired up. The media were superficial compared to today. Fox Sports North of today acts like a last place team should be taken seriously. I would argue that those athletes deserve that. But in my youth, we tended to mock last place teams and low-tier athletes.
We also did not realize the risks being taken by professional players. We didn't realize the delicate nature of their bodies and careers. When they got sidelined we often just moved ahead and studied who their backups might be. We reserved our real respect for only the superstars. We heard nothing about "pitch counts" or "setup men" in big league baseball.
Baseball players were paid a decent professional wage - some of them might dispute any suggestion of generosity - but weren't paid the windfall sums we hear of today. Maybe because of that lack of investment, the team owners and managers were perhaps careless with these souls.
 
Why couldn't Twins score a run?
Dave Boswell could have been a Twins pitching star for many years. What happened? Well in 1969, as this budding pitcher was getting established, he was called upon to pitch in a playoff game. Those '69 and '70 playoff series were so frustrating, I don't even want to think about them. But for the record, the Twins lost to the Orioles 1-0 in an 11-inning game with the gallant Boswell on the mound.
The baseball gods definitely were not with us at that time, in total contrast to '87 and '91. Jack Morris would pitch a ten-inning game for the Twins in 1991. But Morris was toward the end of his career, so had he thrown out his arm, it might not seem so tragic. "Tragic" is what happened to Dave Boswell. We didn't hear much of it at the time, if anything, but Boswell suffered a career-ending arm injury while striking out Frank Robinson (on a slider) in the bottom of the tenth.
"It felt like my shoulder went right into my jawbone," Boswell was quoted saying. All for one stinking ballgame which we lost anyway.
Boswell was released by the Twins following the 1970 season. He played briefly for the Detroit Tigers and Baltimore Orioles in 1971. He then had to find his own way, victimized by a sport that can be cruel and unfeeling.
I would suggest that pitchers are better taken care of today, and sports medicine is much more advanced. Remember "Doc" Lentz who would just "freeze" a part of the body that got dinged? I remember "Doc" Lentz freezing a spot to try to convince an umpire that a player had been hit by pitch.
 
A pitching star for Billy
Boswell was 24 years old when the Twins won the American League West Division in the first year of the divisional format. Billy Martin was our heroic manager. The fans loved him. When he got the ax at the end of '69, it left residue that many fans never forgot. Billy would eventually become a pathetic figure, his body seeming to literally wither away. In '69 his eccentric traits hadn't come out yet.
The '69 season was Boswell's peak. He was a 20-game winner and seemed most definitely to be on the way up. Boswell signed with Minnesota for $15,000. No, I didn't leave out a zero there. He reached the big leagues for our '65 World Series appearance. In '66 his .706 winning percentage (12-5) led the A.L.
 
Yes, there was that off-field incident
Boswell is just as famous for an off-field incident as for anything he accomplished on the pitching mound. He got into a classic barroom brawl, technically outside of the bar. It's remindful of that incident in Mankato involving that Minnesota Gophers quarterback (Nelson). Why go to bars at night? You can ask that of our former high school principal in Morris MN.
Anyway, Martin eventually had to call a press conference to explain what happened to Boswell. Boswell had disappeared from the Twins' traveling party. Martin reported that Boswell had attacked him outside of the Lindell A.C. Bar in Detroit.
In Martin's story, he had learned that Boswell hit Bob Allison in the parking lot. Martin went out to break up the fight. Ah, those were the days before "conflict resolution." Martin said that Boswell came at him, arms flailing. Martin was known as a capable fighter.
This was the kind of fight that Hollywood might give us. Martin KO'd Boswell. Boswell would need 20 stitches. Martin needed seven stitches on his knuckle and had a bruised rib. Big Bob Allison had a black eye and needed some dental work.
The cause of the fight? Reportedly it was due to Boswell's refusal to run laps with the rest of the team. It wasn't easy to gloss all this over, but owner Calvin Griffith reported that "apologies had been exchanged," and that Boswell was fined an undisclosed amount.
The fight didn't appear to hurt Boswell once he resumed play - he went 8-3 over the remainder of the season with a 2.79 ERA in eleven starts. What killed him was that playoff game in which his arm was overworked. Career done. It isn't worth it. He might have ended up in the Hall of Fame. An unwillingness to run laps? Johnny Sain would tell his pitchers, notably Jim Perry, that running wasn't an important part of conditioning for pitchers.
Martin went on to a managing career that could only be described as "volatile." Alcohol was a menace for him. Those were different, less-civilized times. Today everyone gets managed tighter. Could you imagine hearing about Ron Gardenhire in a barroom brawl? In these days of ESPN, it would be too stupid and embarrassing.
Dave Boswell died of a heart attack at his Joppatowne MD home on June 11, 2002. Dave Boswell, RIP. You deserved better.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, June 8, 2015

Jim "Mudcat" Grant propelled our 1965 Twins

I remember being at Met Stadium on an unremarkable night when the Oakland A's were in town. Toward game's end - I don't remember who won - the A's called on a relief pitcher. A dark-skinned man strode out to the mound, wearing that gaudy A's uniform. There was a time when that man wore a Twins uniform. As an Oakland player he was in a new incarnation in his career, as it were. He was a relief ace, pitching as well as ever.
You could tell just watching him warm up that he was in command. There was a time when he was a stalwart starting pitcher. As a Twin he was a mainstay in that regard.
Pitchers have their ups and downs due to the rather odd physical demands on their body. Whitey Herzog once wrote that a pitcher "injures his arm every time he makes a pitch."
The Oakland pitcher had faded in his career for a time, then got re-fueled for an "encore" as a reliever. It's a trick that not many pitchers have turned. But this was one very special pitcher. And human being. He's still with us. We never would have had our 1965 pennant run without him. Not only did he help lead us to the World Series, he hit a home run in Game 6 at the Met.
Five years later as an Oakland A, he appeared at the Met under quite ordinary circumstances, and none of us there could have cared less that he was the "opposition" now. It appeared that Bob Casey didn't care either. Casey was the long-time P.A. announcer who always got your attention as game-time approached.
Late on this night when the Twins hosted the Oakland A's, Casey intoned the name of this man who had meant so much to us in 1965. "Now pitching for the A's," Casey said, "Jim. . .Mudcat. . .Grant!" He said it like it was old times. There was more than a smattering of applause among the fan turnout. We remembered that time when it seemed like a fairy tale: our big league ballclub reaching the apex of the World Series only five years after we had gotten big league ball.
 
Putting on a Twins cap
The Twins obtained Grant in June of 1964 and he showed signs of things to come. He had an 11-9 record as a Twin in '64. The '64 season was a curious one for the Twins: even though many of our well-known players put up good numbers, we finished in a lowly tie for sixth in the American League. Perhaps this showed how we can overrate power hitting. Any phase of the game can be overrated - Herzog would get addicted to the stolen base - and for the Twins, all the home runs just weren't translating to high competitiveness.
In those pre-Bill James days, we weren't enlightened and we tended to focus on certain stat categories that didn't tell the whole story. Sam Mele was smart enough to assess what was going on. Manager Mele was going to employ some "small ball" principles to augment the strengths we already had. He got assertive with the pitchers and brought in a coach to instruct them on "spin ballistics."
In '65 it seemed we had essentially the same team as the summer previous. But we garnered all kinds of success. Yes, it was like a fairy tale. We won the pennant up here on the tundra. We stole New York City's thunder, leaving the East Coast media - people like Roger Angell - somewhat chagrined, though they'd never admit it. Angell wrote a chapter about the '65 season which he called "West of the Bronx." He had to keep using the Big Apple as his frame of reference. He famously referred to our Metropolitan Stadium as an "airy cyclotron." A what? Well, he's Roger Angell so we'd better accept his terms - he writes for The New Yorker, after all.
Jim Grant, who had pitched in the majors since 1958, had his best season in 1965. He fashioned a 21-7 record. He was sixth in the MVP voting. He pitched 14 complete games among his 39 starts. His home run in World Series Game 6 was only the second by an American League pitcher in the Fall Classic.
 
Daylight: the way God intended for baseball?
Those were the days when weekday World Series games were played in daytime, not in the gloomy atmosphere of night, because it was a matter of principle to the people who ran the game. I'd find out that day's outcome when I got home from school.
The Twins took the Dodgers to seven games in the '65 Series. The three games played in Los Angeles were quite forgettable for us Twins fans. Not only was Sandy Koufax formidable, his fellow lefty Claude Osteen could turn the screws too. L.A. manager Walt Alston had to adjust his pitching rotation due to Koufax marking a Jewish holiday.
Koufax could seem other-worldly with his pitching talents in the 1960s. David Halberstam wrote that when Koufax blossomed as an overpowering pitcher, it wasn't primarily due to any technical adjustments the southpaw made. Halberstam explained that umpires began "calling the high fastball a strike." Perhaps this contributed to pitchers really taking over the game as the '60s progressed. The trend peaked in 1968, "the year of the pitcher," and after that some changes were made such as a lowered pitching mound. Hitting came back in 1969.
Jim "Mudcat" Grant had his ups and downs over his 14-year career but he ended up with 145 wins. He started 293 games. He twirled 89 complete games. His shutout total: 18. He racked up 53 saves as a reliever. He fanned 1,267 batters. His career ERA: 3.63.
Grant had a history with Cleveland before he arrived in Minnesota. He debuted with the Indians in 1958, at a time when I think we can safely say the welcome mat wasn't fully established for African-Americans, especially in the A.L. Our Calvin Griffith, Twins owner, did not come across as a real enlightened person - remember that famous speech he gave in Waseca. But he had no problem seeking top players of color, several from Cuba. Maybe it was pragmatism for him. But he employed players of color like Grant and gave them opportunity to become stars, a quality they could parlay after their retirement.
Did the players of the '60s have any idea how they could later make a fortune just going to memorabilia shows? Had they known that, they wouldn't have cared so much about owner Griffith being so penny-pinching. They would have just gone out and tried to win. Simply getting famous would be your ticket for the rest of your life. Harmon Killebrew didn't have to concern himself with working for E.F. Hutton. I believe that stint didn't end well for him. But Hammerin' Harmon could eventually make the rounds at events tailored for well-heeled sports fans. He offered his services as a speaker. It would have been wonderful having him come to Morris MN. He left us too soon, felled by cancer.
Grant had a 15-9 record with 3.86 ERA with Cleveland in 1961. He most likely pitched at our Met Stadium in that seminal year for Twins baseball. Our team was transplanted from Washington D.C.
The curmudgeonly Griffith was a hero. We didn't care what side of the generation gap he was on. Eventually he broke down and allowed modern pop music to be played over the stadium sound system. Writer Patrick Reusse teased him on that, suggesting that Calvin's idea of a snappy tune was "On the Banks of the Wabash."
 
Boomers adopted the "Kicks"
My generation didn't really buy the Twins as becoming hip, even when they started wearing those tight-fitting polyester uniforms. (Ouch!) My generation instead turned to the Minnesota Kicks soccer team. The Kicks were "cool."
You could argue us young fans turned out more for the extracurricular stuff, the fooling around in the parking lot, more than the soccer. Writer Joe Soucheray, in recalling the profile of the average Kicks fan, came to the category of "sex," purportedly meaning gender of the average Kicks fan, but instead of suggesting "male" or "female," he wrote "definitely!" These fans had hormones.
Unfortunately the Twins came to be seen as passe - yes they did, don't deny it. By the end of the '70s, we had unfortunately come to take the Twins for granted, and mostly just yawned about them or belittled them. We saw baseball as boring and irrelevant.
I would suggest we had been through too much disappointment. We were edged out for the pennant at the end of 1967. We won the division in 1969, the first year of East/West divisions, but got dominated by Baltimore in the playoffs. It was ditto in 1970 vs. Baltimore again.
Rod Carew created some excitement in the 1970s. But under Gene Mauch we never seemed destined to really rise to the top. Mauch drove me nuts with his platooning. Twins attendance dropped dramatically toward the end of the 1970s. A new stadium would be a must to resuscitate the franchise. Strange. How can a stadium mean that much?
We got the Dome. Years later we were told we needed outdoor baseball again. You have to follow the bouncing ball and sing along. Or, listen to the cash register.
"Mudcat" Grant grew up in the Florida lumber town of Lacoochie, population 1000, west of Orlando. There was no high school there. Jim rode the school bus seven miles, but because of his sports involvement, the bus wasn't an option at the end of the day. His father had died when Jim was two years old. He had no auto transportation available. He literally "hitched" rides or would walk.
Jim developed into a multi-sport athlete. He made his pro baseball debut in Fargo ND in 1954. Reportedly it was there that he picked up the "Mudcat" nickname (from a teammate, LeRoy Irby).
 
How can you hit a "Kickapoo pitch?"
Grant eventually got some tutelage from none other than Satchell Paige, an American original if there ever was one. The African-American Paige was born too soon. We'll never know how good a big league pitcher he could have been. He had unusual and amusing names for his pitches. I first learned about this in Jim Bouton's book "Ball Four." Bouton reported that one of Paige's pitches was called "bat dodger."
Grant, after conferring with the legendary character Paige, came up with some of his own pitch names: "kickapoo pitch," the "hop and jumper" and "cloud ball." Grant explained that his cloud ball would "get a little wet from the air." Translation: it was a spitball. Grant never denied he threw a spitball.
Jim's mother Viola cultivated an artful and entertaining flair in Jim who would develop a nightclub act. I remember the name from when I was young: "Mudcat and the Kittens." It was not a gimmick that played on his athletic celebrity. The man could really entertain.
Grant like early Twin Vic Power was not the passive kind of wallflower that the major leagues preferred in its black athletes in those days. Grant and Power carried a special style and articulateness, not that I'm disparaging players who seemed more pedestrian.
Grant claims his mom taught him his philosophy of life: "Live simple, live prayerful and never ask more from a person than you would expect from yourself."
Grant has always expressed special pride in having been an African-American major league pitcher. He released a book in 2006 called "The Black Aces, Baseball's Only Black 20-game Winners." There are 15 in this circle including Grant.
I once watched Vida Blue at the Met at the peak of his abilities. I'll never forget it.
Grant also speculated on Negro League pitchers who he felt would have won 20 games. In 2007 President Bush honored Grant and three other former black pitchers in a ceremony at the White House.
In 2008 Grant threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Progressive Field in Cleveland. This coincided with his 50th anniversary of his big league debut. Mudcat even got the "key to the city!"
Jim "Mudcat" Grant gave us Minnesotans the best of his pitching talent. We'll never forget it. And I'll never forget that night at Met Stadium when he pitched with a flair again as a reliever for Oakland (probably in 1970).
Thanks for the memories, Jim. You're an inspiration for everyone who ever had to walk home from school!
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, June 5, 2015

Vic Power was very special early MN Twin

I had this Vic Power card!
We all feared the Russkies in 1962. I was seven years old. We were still getting used to having major league baseball here in the Upper Midwest.
The Twins weren't real competitive in 1961. In 1962 the story was quite different. The Minnesota Twins made a bid for the pennant. The backdrop nationally was Camelot. The romantic overtones of that were offset by all the nuclear tensions. We got through all that. JFK would be with us until November of 1963.
In 1962 the Twins were blessed by the presence of Vic Power. We can be proud that Power is part of our big league baseball history. We might need some reminding of his importance. How good was he? We were fortunate to have the flashy-fielding first baseman in his prime: he was voted MVP of our 1962 team. We finished just five games behind the Yankees. It was the year after Roger Maris hit 61 home runs.
Finishing second in the ten-team league was a real plum for us, given that two years earlier, we had neither the Twins nor Vikings.
Power was acquired so his glove could stabilize the young Twins infield. He was later quoted saying that the young infield could "make some interesting throws." He won seven consecutive Gold Glove Awards from when the award was first introduced in 1958, to 1964. He was rather a journeyman.
He made the American League All-Star team with the Kansas City Athletics in 1955 and '56, and with the Cleveland Indians in 1959 and 1960. In 1957 he hit a leadoff and walk-off home run in the same game!
 
By any other name. . .
Vic Power probably should have been known as "Victor Pellot." His father's surname was Pellot. To understand the change, we have to go back to Vic's first two professional seasons which found him in Drummondville, Quebec. As "Victor Pellot" he found fans to be snickering at the announcement of his name.
Was the apparent disrespect due to Vic being a man of color? He was of African descent but grew up in Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico he didn't contend with the kind of racial barriers so prevalent in North America in the mid-20th Century.
Was the crowd laughing because Vic was black? It turns out that in the Quebec French vernacular, "plotte" (which sounds like "Pellot") is slang for vagina. I'm reminded of Jimmy Carter's Polish translator, remember? Maybe you don't. When Carter said he had always liked the Polish people, the translator, according to legend, used a word for sexual liking or sexual attraction. Those Jimmy Carter vignettes are charming, like the killer rabbit in the swamp.
Vic Power made the adjustment with his last name, even though in America there would be no issue. And, didn't Roger Maris change the spelling of his last name from "Maras" so the second syllable wouldn't be, well, you know. Either he did it, or a forebear.
I remember when "The Maras Sisters and Jacob" came to entertain in Stevens County from time to time. And, I remember a local family with the last name "Hoffart" who, as I recall, had at least one child opting for the adjusted spelling to "Hoffert." Because, well, you know. Would I find that advisable? No. Maris played at a time when opposing players and fans could be raw in their heckling.
Do you think Ben Chapman would be tolerated today? Would a Pete Rose type be allowed to shout "f--k you Shakespeare" at a player with literary talent? All this surfaces in baseball lore. And Vic Power had to be concerned about his original surname, at least among the French-speaking crowd.
Welcome to America! Power was signed by the New York Yankees in 1951. What a blessing if we could have seen this flashy, unique player surface with America's most storied team. His flashy and unique qualities worked against him. You see, it was the 1950s and people of color had to be careful with their behavior lest they be seen as "uppity."
Power batted .331 with the Kansas City Blues of the Class AAA American Association in 1952. He led the league in doubles and triples. He took a step up the next season with a .349 average. Amazingly, he wasn't invited to the big club's spring training in either '52 or '53.
The Yankees' ownership wanted their groundbreaking black player to be reserved and compliant. Elston Howard became their first black. Howard was decried by some as bending over backward to accede to the white culture's wishes. Others said he just did what he had to.
New York wasn't going to be right for Vic Power. His time would come, albeit belatedly. He was traded to the Athletics, a team then in Philadelphia. Even boomer-age fans (like me) have trouble remembering the "Philadelphia Athletics."
Those were the darkest days of racial discrimination. It perplexed Power whose native island of Puerto Rico was largely color-blind. How ashamed we should feel of our nation. Power couldn't stay at the same hotels as his white teammates, or eat at the same restaurants. I have read that Power often chose to get his food at grocery stores and bypass restaurants. He'd get salami and bananas.
The Athletics moved to Kansas City in 1955: the year I was born. He finished second in the batting race. Power joined the Cleveland Indians in 1958. He played for our Minnesota Twins from 1962 to 1964. Regarding his departure, the story is that Minnesota wanted a little more power from the first baseman. We opted to send him to the Los Angeles Angels. He later played for the Philadelphia Phillies and California Angels. His last season was 1965.
I wish we had kept this colorful fellow just for his glove, on the '65 team which won the pennant. He was a righthanded batter, therefore he might have had a chance against Sandy Koufax and Claude Osteen.
Vic retired with 1,716 career hits and 126 home runs, but the most interesting number may be strikeouts: just 247 in 6,046 at-bats!
In 2000 the Cleveland Indians declared Power among their 100 all-time greatest players.
When I refer to Power as "flashy," I'm considering mainly his tendency to field the ball with one hand. The manner was described as "flamboyant." It turns out he was ahead of his time. Eventually the one-handed habit was adopted by many at the position. It increases their reach and affords greater flexibility.
Power is remembered for his sharp wit and dark, deadpan humor, much of it directed at racism and segregation. I think a movie about Power's life would be just as appropriate and just as transfixing as "42" about Jackie Robinson. Ben Chapman be damned.
 
There for the throw, don't worry!
Vic was known to not necessarily position himself close to first base. He instructed Joe DeMaestri, shortstop for the A's, to just throw the ball to the apparently vacated first base, and Vic guaranteed he'd get there to field it! I wonder if he gave like instructions to Rich Rollins, Zoilo Versalles and Bernie Allen, early Twins infielders.
In perhaps the most charming photo ever taken for Twins baseball, appearing in the yearbook, a kneeling Vic is shown displaying the ball like a magician, while Rollins, Allen and Versalles all look befuddled around him. The photo said it all, as far as Power's importance with the '62 and '63 Twins teams. Those early and heady days were priceless, never to be repeated.
I had occasion to work Vic's name into my writing for the Morris MN newspaper once. The next time I saw Jim McRoberts at Willie's Super Valu, he had a gleam in his eyes. He told me about those "old days" when he appreciated Power's talents at Met Stadium in Bloomington.
Vic stole home twice in one game against the Tigers in 1958. He stole home to tie the game in the eighth, and then to win it in the tenth.
He eventually had a ballpark named for him in Puerto Rico.
He left us for that baseball diamond in the sky on November 29, 2005, in San Juan. He was 78 years old.
Victor Pellot Power RIP. We'll never have another first baseman like him.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, June 1, 2015

Several MACA girls climb to state track/field

I was rather astonished to see that the Saturday, May 30, issue of the Morris newspaper did not include coverage of the section track and field meet. Instead there was a rather large spread on the top half of page 1B about the sub-section meet that was held a week previous.
This is not acceptable. The section meet is a big deal, producing qualifiers for the prestigious state meet. In am pleased in this post to supply information about the Section 6A meet which was held on Thursday, May 28, two days before the current edition of the Morris paper came out. The section competition was at Minnesota State University-Moorhead (what my generation used to call "Moorhead State University").
My last post on Tiger softball and baseball is on my companion website, "Morris of Course." Tiger softball had its impressive climb stopped by Pipestone, score of 3-0. The southern teams can be a real obstacle. I invite you to click on the permalink below to read my final post on Tiger softball and baseball for 2015. Incidentally, I was delighted to be invited to a graduation reception, "just like old times."
http://morrisofcourse.blogspot.com/2015/05/the-southern-minnesota-curse-maca-girls.html
 
What a section meet it was, for the MACA girls track and field Tigers! A gaggle of girls team members are climbing to the Class A meet which is set for June 5-6. The state meet is quite the spectacle. I attended several in my print journalism days. It's too bad the Morris Sun Tribune couldn't have at least published a box listing the state qualifiers - ten according to my count, although the West Central Tribune said eleven. Track meet info can be involved, and you have to wade through it. Feel free to clarify anything you see here, via an email. Thanks.
The Morris Area Chokio Alberta girls finished second as a team at the section level. Our long jumpers wowed the fans, as Anna Grove took first with her distance of 16 feet/two inches, and Katie Cannon was No. 2 as she flew 15 feet/nine and three-quarters inches.
In the triple jump the orange and black made an impression too, as Kindra Cannon took No. 1 with her distance of 35 feet/two and a half inches.
 
A real up-and-comer
Keep an eye on Maddie Carrington as a distance runner. Maddie has already had impact as a cross country runner. At Moorhead this budding runner of note took third in the 800-meter run, and normally third place means you're edged out of state. But in Maddie's case, she bettered the state qualifying time and is thus in for state. The seventh-grader will ply her talents at the elite state level. She ran a 2:19.98 time at MSUM. The champion in this event was Olivia Lane of Pequot Lakes, time of 2:18.45.
When I think back to when I was in the seventh grade, I was just getting used to handling my own locker combination! (Teacher John Anderson gave us some help.) Seventh grade was when the kids from St. Mary's joined us. Our principal was Carl Johnson. "Mr. Coombe" taught us history. He's the man for whom Coombe field was named. He liked to refer to himself in the third person.
The Tigers' Carla Wittern placed second in the 1600 meters with her time of 5:35.84. The first and second place achievers in section make state. Congrats to Carla, who was beaten only by Perham's Brynnan Covington whose time was 5:29.81. Another Perham Covington - Caitlin - was the 3200m champion with her time of 12:00.37.
Let's turn to the sprints. Here was have Katie Folkman with a fifth place showing in the 100 meters, timed at 14 seconds even. Chloe Bermel of Pequot Lakes topped this event, timed at 13.61. McKenna Lubenow was the No. 3 achiever in the 200-meter dash with her time of 27.89. Mariah Beckius of Minnewaska Area topped the 200 meters with her 27.57 performance.
In the 300m hurdles we had Midori Soderberg placing third, a notch shy of state, with her 51.03 performance. The 300m champ was Perham's Olivia Nelson (49.56). Millie Klefsaas topped the 100m event, time of 16.32.
On to relays: the MACA foursome of Lubenow, Folkman, Grove and Islande Sperr placed second in the 4x100m with their time of 50.98. Pequot Lakes had the top team in this event (49.99). Our 4x800m team handled the baton with precision and turned on the jets too, as they took second behind the Pequot Lakes team. Our time was 9:53.79, and the team members were Savannah Aanerud, Wittern, Carrington and Correy Hickman.
The MACA tandem of Grove, Carrington, Soderberg and Aanerud placed fifth in the 4x400m, time of 4:12.60.
So, to try to make things perfectly clear, here's the list of state qualifiers from the hard-charging Tigers: Carrington, Wittern, Lubenow, Folkman, Grove, Sperr, Aanerud, Hickman, Katie Cannon and Kindra Cannon. Whew! You know what? It's difficult to assemble information from a sub-section or section meet. The info just sort of snows you. A detached journalist can get nervous.
The MACA boys team tied for 13th place. The boys team champion was Perham. Our boys team had Bo Olson placing fifth in the 800-meter run, timed at 2:07.85. The 4x200m relay team of Connor Koebernick, Ian Howden, Levin Strand and Max Jerke placed fifth, time of 1:36.92. Nate Vipond placed fourth in the shot put with his distance of 45 feet, 11 inches. Trent Ostby was the No. 3 pole vaulter, getting over the bar at 12 feet, six inches.
 
Constructive idea?
Maybe I'm getting too old for this, but it's a challenge for me trying to compile info from a big track and field meet, and today I don't have a hundred other things to do that day. I'll re-state a proposal I made several years ago: For the section meet, the coaches, upon arrival at home or first thing the next morning, could type some paragraphs with the news about their team, and just email it to the paper which could then copy, paste and publish with no hassle or potential for confusion.
The section meet news should be in the Saturday issue following the section meet. I know of a former Morris school administrator who would have smoke coming out of his ears over this shortcoming. One thing is for sure: the paper will be 100 per cent certain you get your Elden's ad circular on Saturday. I wonder why that's such a high priority. Oh yes, the almighty dollar.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com