"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)

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

"The Ballad of Sandy Valdespino"

Obscure baseball players of past eras promote a certain kind of fascination. This is why "Moonlight Graham" got penciled into the script of "Field of Dreams." That movie itself has drifted into the past.
Maybe I misunderstood the movie, but it strikes me as overbearingly pretentious. It pays homage to the boomer generation as if we needed any more stroking or recognition. Boomers were still in their liberal phase in their political thinking, thus we see a character demonized who was at a public meeting to protest an allegedly inappropriate book at school. She was a tea party type. She was made to look shallow and stupid.
Boomers have largely done a 180 in their political thinking. Today that book protester would be portrayed in a sympathetic way, and her critics would be dismissed as "liberal." And so the world keeps turning.
I recently posted on the subject of an obscure Minnesota Twin of the 1960s. This post is on my "Morris of Course" site. It's about Sandy Valdespino. Sandy Valdespino! He made only some brief ripples in major league baseball. But it wasn't as if he was just "up (in the big leagues) for a cup of coffee." He was on our American League pennant roster in 1965. In the World Series he got three hits, one of them off Sandy Koufax, the other-worldly lefthander for the Los Angeles Dodgers. A hit off Koufax in the World Series assures you of having made a permanent mark in the game.
Valdespino had only one year of decent offensive productivity with Minnesota. That was '65 when he batted .261. He stuck around a while longer with hits coming infrequently.
Valdespino did carve out one more chapter in his Twins tenure: It was with an outfield catch that was perhaps the best-ever in Twins history. It happened in the 1967 regular season in a game vs. Cleveland. Valdespino, playing in left field, sprinted to the fence to chase a drive hit by Larry Brown. He leaped, still not facing the field, dug his spikes into the wall and snagged the ball over his shoulder in midair. If ESPN had been around, the catch would have gained much more notice. Manager Cal Ermer described the catch as just as good as Bob Allison's famous World Series catch.
We liked the ring to Valdespino's name in an age when non-Anglo names got our special attention and sometimes amusement. To be amused was non-P.C. of course. Bombo Rivera? Boomers have to feel guilty, because there was a time when "Bombo" brought a snicker or two. Not today. Names with a so-called ethnic quality are simply accepted. Even on a subconscious level we pay no special attention. A name is simply a name.
Valdespino had his stint with the Twins when the Calvin Griffith chapter was at its apex. He was part of the heartbreak when our club got edged out for the pennant in 1967. After '67 Valdespino became a journeyman, even playing for the Seattle Pilots who had just one year of existence.
Just as "Moonlight Graham" helped inspire a movie, so too does Sandy seem like fodder for an artistic work. An obscure player who had a couple significant moments in the sun, then he fades from the game. I have written "The Ballad of Sandy Valdespino." The lyrics of the song appear below. I might have it recorded. We'll see.
  
"The Ballad of Sandy Valdespino"
by Brian Williams
 
We remember Sandy Valdespino
Even though he was no superstar
With his Twins cap on, he could entertain those throngs
And with his name we could go far
  
As a boy he fell in love with baseball
It was king in Cuba, that's for sure
He could not stay there with the commies on a tear
So here he came like on a tour
  
He was in the bushes for a long time
Still he knew his dreams were good as gold
It was '65 and his legend came alive
The Twins brought him into their fold
  
He was penciled in the starting lineup
For that chance he'd waited for so long
It was May 19th and he's on a winning team
We won that game and then moved on
  
He had three hits in the World Series
One was off the greatest lefty known
It became a fact he could hit off that Koufax
So what else would he have to show?
  
We remember Sandy Valdespino
He was born with horsehide in his veins
He was five feet/eight, still he knew he could be great
In baseball - how we love that game
  
It was June 18th of '67
And the Twins were primed to play all nine
Could we land a punch, get the Indians on the run
With Sandy in his outfield prime?
  
There were two outs and the bases loaded
Larry Brown, the Indian at the plate
Well he just teed off and he sent that ball aloft
To left where Sandy held its fate
  
He could see that ball as it descended
A home run, the crowd could all assume
To that Cuban eye it was really not that high
And to that warning track he zoomed
  
All the fans watched with anticipation
Wondering if it was the winning hit
Could it reach the stands and be sought by all the fans?
Just one man 'tween the field and it
  
Those who saw it never have forgotten
How it seemed so other-worldly
Sandy used his spikes to climb up and reach the heights
Defying law of gravity
  
We remember Sandy Valdespino
From that island nation to our hearts
He was quite the Twin helping build up all those wins
His bat and glove gave off that spark
  
He would never be a Hall of Famer
Just a blip on baseball's radar screen
Such is life for most, toiling for our heav'nly host
We're famous only in a dream
  
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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