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

Focus of pride in Morris MN: our school! - morris mn

Focus of pride in Morris MN: our school! - morris mn
Our school in Morris is a hub of community activity and enrichment. (B.W. photo)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Our H.S. principal to depart, leaving questions

I've never met this man.
It's hard to grasp the whole story behind our high school principal leaving. Oh, few people are surprised he's leaving, I'm sure. He had an incident that seriously impaired his ability to be effective and to carry the kind of sterling reputation we want in our school leaders.
Criminal charges were dropped. Was law enforcement to be faulted in that process? One might suggest that kind of analysis. It's not a slam-dunk. Little is crystal clear from the kind of circumstances that presented themselves on that fateful night when that - ahem - thorny situation developed.
Allegations of acquaintance rape can be painfully confounding. Guilty or not, charged or not, such suggestions in connection with a professional school administrator are toxic for him/her. It's apparent we're seeing the fallout from that now. It appears the Morris Area school district is buying out the principal, ensuring that he'll mosey on down the road.
What are his prospects for the future? It's possible he won't extricate himself from the fallout of that fateful night which began with apparently agreeable contact between him and the female in question. Maybe he could be put in some sort of witness protection program, beginning his life anew. Remember the movie "A History of Violence?" The hero has a new life established but finds his past returning to haunt him. I liked the movie but the title is misleading because it suggests a documentary. It's a riveting story about "beginning anew."
There is the school of thought that our principal should have been dismissed at the time the criminal charges were announced. We're talking first degree criminal sexual conduct. Once headlines about that jump out at you, it becomes unpalatable to think the principal can simply stay. Call it common sense or seat of the pants judgment.
Perhaps the school board entertained such thoughts of a prompt dismissal. If they didn't, a pox on them. Regardless of the final disposition of the matter, a foul odor is in the air, so to speak.
One could argue for dismissal just based on what was known about the basic pattern of conduct of the two individuals. This would be a moral judgment. It doesn't take a Phyllis Schlafly type to offer such a judgment.
I'm a boomer and typical of my generation, I saw almost nonstop immoral behavior and poor judgment among my peers back in the early and mid 1970s. But we're older and wiser now. We're more inclined to believe in clean and healthy living, and we needn't be called "prudes" because of this.
We proved nothing with our earlier recklessness. We only proved our naivete and ignorance. We lived for the moment. Today we want school leaders who are more reflective of our parents' values. Don't seek your personal entertainment in bar establishments. Dismiss the "hookup culture." Not only is it unhealthy, it's dangerous for men in this new world in which law enforcement is encouraged to always believe the woman's story when we hear accusations of sexual assault.
Charges against our principal were dismissed for reasons that were never spelled out (in truly satisfactory terms) by the law enforcement establishment. In this "broken windows" world of law enforcement today, it might be best to never leave your house. "Broken windows" is the philosophy of law enforcement to accost the public over every minor infraction. Yes, you'll get pulled over for no seat belt. It happened to me.
Why wasn't the principal dismissed immediately? We can easily guess: some lawyer whispered into the ears of the stooge school board members. So the principal goes on leave. Eventually we buy him out. Doesn't sound like his tenure would survive any sort of cost/benefit analysis.
And who pays the price for this? The taxpayers of course. The taxpayers had no fault in any of this but we're asked to foot the bill, as is always the case. Government can clean up these messes by just extracting more funds from the citizenry. Private business cannot do that. I can understand the philosophy of extreme conservatives when it comes to these matters - they'll say you can never totally trust the people who run the public sector. The public sector doesn't operate by the same rules.
I am a Democrat and feel it's vital that our public institutions be operated with discipline and accountability, as much as possible, so we can have a reasonable amount of faith in them. When public institutions break down, it only hurts the ability of progressive thinkers to sell programs to help people. And, we really need those programs.
Our school district is reportedly in a serious deficit situation. How do we reconcile that with having put our principal on paid leave and now paying him to leave? It cannot be reconciled. Perhaps the lawyer or lawyers should be disregarded. Do what you feel is right and let the chips fall where they may.
You can read more about the principal and his dilemma on the "Lion News" (Nemmers) website which you ought to take a look at.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A busy Saturday for MACA girls in 3AA play

Memorial Day weekend isn't such a laid-back time for many youth in high school activities. The softball Tigers of MACA played not one but two games on Saturday, May 24. Action was at the Marshall MN facilities.
The day had some heartbreak for the orange and black crew. We took Jackson County Central into extra innings. A marathon affair developed: 12 innings. When JCC ended it, it was done decisively with a four-run top of the 12th. The Tigers weren't able to answer in the bottom half.
This Section 3AA playoff game went into the books as a 6-2 JCC win. JCC had a line score of six runs, eleven hits and three errors.
The Tigers played errorless ball but were limited to five hits against Kelsey Kannenberg. Kannenberg dueled with the Tigers' Kayla Pring. Kannenberg got the 'W' next to her name and set down nine Tiger batters on strikes. She walked one. Neither of the runs she gave up was earned.
The Tigers' Pring struck out six batters, walked one and gave up eleven hits. That 12th inning was a blemish for the normally very sharp MACA pitcher. Twelve innings can tax that sharpness. One of the six runs she allowed was unearned.
The big blast of the game was off the bat of JCC's Jadin Bezdicek. Bezdicek connected for a three-run homer in the 12th. It was her only hit in her one-for-six boxscore line. She sure made it count. Kathryn Nasby and Moira Carlson each had two hits.
For MACA, five different players each had one hit: Lauren Reimers, Tracy Meichsner, Abby Daly, Lindsey Dierks and Brooke Gillespie. The Tigers scored one run each in the fourth and fifth innings.
OK, what's next? The Tigers will vie with Pipestone at 5 p.m. today (Tuesday, May 26). If we win, we'll continue with another game at 6:30 today that would have JCC as the foe again. The section championship game will be played at 5 p.m. Thursday. New Ulm is already in for that.
 
Tigers 12, Fairmont 2
Saturday's second game turned out to be a breeze for the Tigers, who showed no fatigue signs from the earlier marathon. The opponent was Fairmont from down by the Iowa border.
The outcome was a 12-2 win by the orange and black. We had eight hits and committed just one error. Fairmont had seven hits and committed two fielding miscues.
Lauren Reimers pounded three hits in four at-bats. Tracy Meichsner was a perfect two-for-two. Abby Daly, Kayla Pring and Lexi Mahoney each had one hit. Hitting safely for Fairmont were Micaela Gochanour, Tieryn Arens and Payton Walser. The West Central Tribune reported each of these Fairmont players having one hit, even though the team hit total was reported as seven. Strange.
Pring had some mileage left in her pitching arm. She worked one and a third innings and shared pitching duties with Brooke Gillespie who got the win. Gillespie struck out two batters, walked none and allowed five hits. The two runs she allowed were earned. Jordan Ehlert was the losing pitcher.
MACA asserted itself right away with a four-run first inning. We had another big inning in the third: five runs. Then we scored one run in the fourth and two in the fifth.
Viva Morris Area Chokio Alberta softball in the spring of 2015!
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Football's whole culture makes it regressive

The book "Missoula" by Jon Krakauer touches on the disturbing aspects of college football culture in a big college football town.
 
Mike Barnicle is concerned that our "addiction to pro football" cannot be overcome. The discussion that morning was about the consequences of playing football. Mike sits on the "Morning Joe" panel on MSNBC.
Football isn't just a test of physical competition. It's a culture. The young men grow to feel entitled. Their traits of being big, fast and strong win them considerable adulation.
Let's look at ourselves at ask why. We see these teams as extensions of our communities. The NFL teams represent states as well as cities. Certainly the college teams represent these institutions in a most direct way. I have read that if football were to disappear, one of the many positive results would be to render Saturday a more passive, productive and safe day in college towns. Look what happened here in Morris on the day of the goalpost incident. It's an extreme example, not the norm, but it's relevant. No football, no goalpost incident.
Some college towns are taken over by football mania on weekends. Why do we get so absorbed in this? What does it prove? I'm sure there are college faculty from abroad who never learned this interest, who are mystified. Indeed, "stranger in a strange land."
The NFL puts on exhibitions in Europe that are mere novelties. People elsewhere in the world are not captivated like we are. What's the need to put on all this protective gear, some of which doesn't seem to protect very well, in order to engage in faux "combat" against opponents who merely represent a different town or college?
Some college towns become mesmerized during autumn for football. And, what exactly is proven when one team defeats another? It only shows that the winning team had more resources or commitment, marginally able to persuade a greater number of faster and stronger young men to come to their school. It does nothing for their education. Certain ideals like "teamwork," often used to justify the sport, can be developed in many other activities.
Football players in college football hotbeds can become dangerous. They can develop misogynistic attitudes. They feel they can get away with things.
I don't think there is a problem at the University of Minnesota-Morris. I think the players here fit into the normal, reasonable fabric of college life better than in most places. I think this enlightened approach has been cultivated over the past couple of decades. I think prior to that, UMM had many of the Neanderthal traits associated with college football. There was an annual event called "Cougar follies" that reflected that - not promoted to the public. I remember Jack Imholte saying "the less people know about that the better." Today with the Internet, it's hard to keep anything a secret.
I doubt any such event exists today, or if it does, it has been cleaned up. Yes, UMM seems far more civilized and realistic with its football program, than many of our brethren. And, what is our record? Maybe the regressive stuff just can't be divorced from football?
So, maybe my remedy has been the right one all along: just eliminate the sport, and as it fades at the college level, it will have to start fading all around. That addiction or allure of the NFL won't be so strong. Our intoxication can be overcome.
Tom Brady's arrogance is a reflection of the negative traits. It's a reflection of the in-your-face comportment that winning players develop. They learn that "winning" is their ticket. It's not a game, it's a test of Darwinian theory. The best players - players who contribute to winning - get the greatest rewards. If you lose, you can just mosey on down the road.
Just as major league athletes will lie about PEDs, showing no conflictedness whatsoever, so will Tom Brady say whatever it takes not to be blamed for any cheating as in "deflategate." It's like Rafael Palmeiro all over again: Brady and his partners making up that story with the "Deflator" nickname. It was about losing weight, get it? "Deflator." Well, if no one can conclusively prove otherwise, the New England Patriots will have succeeded clouding the issue, just like any good defense attorney would encourage them to.
Except, why not just be honest and contrite as a matter of principle? Why not? Because there's so much (expletive) money involved, that's why. Brady isn't playing football for his health. Pro players know all too well they're sacrificing their bodies. They know the backstory of the health consequences, so they're just trying to rake in all the money they can. Success is defined by winning.
So, Brady and his partners will say whatever it takes, just like Palmeiro from baseball. There are no apologies. Lance Armstrong didn't act like he was compromised at all. People at that elite level have their "eyes on the prize." Big-time college football isn't much different, except the players aren't rewarded as well - the institutions are.
I will continue watching as the bad aspects of football get slowly and steadily revealed, including the pattern of alleged "acquaintance rape" that big shot football players in major college towns seem to get caught up in. Will the worm turn? Will we wise up? Can we somehow tamp down our enthusiasm about this empty pastime? Stay tuned.
I recommend you read the current non-fiction book "Missoula" by Jon Krakauer. Reading it, I see much that I remember about UMM football in the 1970s and early '80s - the cocksure feeling of arrogance and entitlement. I'm a big fan of Krakauer's writing, e.g. "Into Thin Air." Re. alleged acquaintance rape among college students, I'm not quite as inclined to demonize the men as he is, as I feel there's often a gray area that should preclude judgment. But what he reports and suggests about big-time football is spot-on.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

MACA excels in softball, baseball & track/field

Can anyone stop the softball Tigers? My goodness, our orange and black has come on like gangbusters in the post-season. It all got started yesterday (Tuesday) with two games in which the MACA girls were dominant. It was a bright and upbeat day for MACA athletics.
First the softball Tigers went to work defeating Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop by a score of 18-0. Obviously only five innings were played. The second order of business was to take on the Brave Owls of Benson-Hancock. Again success was achieved by shutout, this time 10-0. We now have a win streak of 20 games! What a memorable spring for coach Mary Holmberg and her athletes. Again, can anyone stop the Tigers?
Our next challenge will be to play Jackson County Central. This time of year, those teams from southern Minnesota, usually with a very good softball reputation, show up as the Tigers' opponents. The task might get tougher. We'll see.
 
Tigers 18, Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop 0
Brooke Gillespie was the MACA pitcher in this post-season debut game. She came through with a no-hitter in five innings, fanning three batters and walking one. Tori Sweely was the losing pitcher.
The Tigers scored their 18 runs on eleven hits. There was a nifty "zero" in the errors column. That stat is especially pleasing for coaches. Coach Holmberg and I go so far back together, I remember when her nickname was "Crash." I covered the Tiger softball team when it vied in state in St. Cloud in the early 1980s.
Holmberg's career win total will win her legendary status, no doubt. She was a pioneer with women's athletics. Such people had to learn to be assertive, and I admit this even grated on me sometimes! Remember Chris Voelz at the University of Minnesota?
Kayla Pring socked a grand slam in the first inning against GFW. She also doubled and had a two-for-three line along with a hefty six RBIs. Lauren Reimers wasn't going to be shut down on this day, and she connected for a three-run homer in the second. Sam Henrichs' bat was smoking and she had four hits in as many at-bats.
Abby Daly went two-for-three with three RBIs. Tracy Meichsner and Gillepsie both went one-for-three. We outhit GFW 11-0. GFW struggled with six errors.
  
Tigers 10, Benson-Hancock 0
Kayla Pring pitched the shutout as MACA won in the second round. Pring set down five B-H batters on strikes while walking none and giving up four hits. Again the action was limited to five innings. We outhit the Brave Owls 9-4 and outfielded them too: B-H had five errors compared to one by MACA.
Lauren Reimers homered again. She drove in three runs in the victory. Tracy Meichsner had two hits and two runs-batted-in. Lindsey Dierks drove in two runs with her one-for-three line. Becca Holland, Brooke Gillespie and Sam Henrichs also went one-for-three. Piper Gibson went two-for-four including a double.
Samantha Payne went two-for-two for B-H. Kayla Crowell and Lizzie Staton also hit safely for the Brave Owls. Addie Forbord was the losing pitcher. The West Central Tribune reported that "over the last two meetings, the Tigers have outscored Benson-Hancock 29-0." Impressive, I guess, but is it really necessary to report that? Give B-H a break.
 
Baseball: Tigers 10, YME 0
What a busy day for the MACA diamond teams on Tuesday! The baseball Tigers had two games on their plate just like the softball team. We triumphed vs. YME 10-0.
It's nice in a doubleheader when you can win in five innings. We accomplished that vs. the Sting of YME, thanks partly to how our pitchers slammed the door. Toby Sayles and Trent Marty get the credit here. This duo of Tigers produced a one-hit shutout. Sayles got the win with his three innings of work. He struck out five batters and walked two. Marty fanned four batters, walked one and allowed no hits in his two innings.
Chase Richter was the losing pitcher, and Nick Peterson also pitched.
Turning to the offense, Brady Jergenson gave fuel with two hits in three at-bats and two RBIs. Nate Anderson went two-for-three with two runs scored. Noah Grove was a perfect two-for-two with an RBI and two runs scored. Riley Biesterfeld had a hit and scored two runs.
Philip Anderson had a hit in his only at-bat and drove in a run. Sayles had a hit and an RBI, and Allen Tanner went one-for-one with a run scored. Austin Thorstad had YME's only hit.
 
Tigers 1, Lac qui Parle 0
Riley Biesterfeld crossed home plate on a sacrifice fly off Brady Jergenson's bat in the first inning. That run would hold up to make the difference in this second game of the day for coach Mark Torgerson's crew. The success was versus the Eagles of Lac qui Parle.
It was a shutout win but not without suspense, as the Eagles regularly got runners on base. My, the Eagles left 13 baserunners stranded. So, credit is due the three Tiger pitchers who worked out of jams, excelling in the clutch. An Eagle was thrown out at home in the third inning.
The three MACA pitchers were Noah Grove, Trent Marty and Sean Amundson, and Amundson got the 'W' next to his name in the boxscore. He struck out two batters and allowed one hit in three innings.
Brandon Hill was the hard-luck losing pitcher. Offensively this Eagle - Bart's son? - made noise with a three-for-three boxscore line. Garrett Olson also pitched for the Eagles. Austin Haas and Phil Kleven each had one hit for LQPV.
We outhit the Eagles 6-5. Nathan Anderson had a double as part of going two-for-three. Riley Biesterfeld had a hit and run scored. Noah Grove and Sean Amundson each went one-for-three. Trent Marty went one-for-two. Brady Jergenson contributed that SAC fly. We had two errors while Lac qui Parle had one.
 
Track and field accomplishments
A seventh-grader reaching great heights in prep track and field? I have always been fascinated learning about eighth graders making inroads in varsity sports, usually with the smaller schools of course. I have observed those eighth-graders not only make immediate contributions, but benefit greatly from getting the varsity experience at such a young age. But seventh-graders? That's exceedingly rare.
Morris Area Chokio Alberta has such a prodigy athlete in track and field. She's Maddie Carrington. My journalistic efforts have touched on the Carringtons over many years. A new generation is coming into the firmament.
Maddie made a statement with her talents in the State Class A True Team track and field championships at Stillwater High School. The action was on Saturday, May 16. Carrington won the 800m and 1600m runs. Midori Soderberg was tops in the 300m hurdles. Third place achievers were McKenna Lubenow in the 200m dash and Kindra Cannon in the pole vault. In fifth were Katie Folkman in the 100m dash and Brandi Domnick in the high jump.
We had the champion 4x400m relay team with a time of 4:11.14. I'm not able to find the names of these relay team members, sorry.
Our girls team was fourth in the team standings.
With Memorial Day nearing, interest in Tiger sports is sky-high!
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tigers come on strong, sweep Montevideo

The softball Tigers are blazing forward with a winning habit. The orange and black blazed through the conference schedule with no losses. MACA is the kingpin in the West Central Conference. They came out of Thursday, May 14, with a 17-game winning streak.
Indeed, coach Mary Holmberg's athletes are a feared unit on the diamond. The Thursday story was a doubleheader sweep of the Montevideo Thunder Hawks. Each game was limited to five innings. Morris Area Chokio Alberta pounded out 13 hits in each game. Scores were 15-4 and 19-1.
Our final WCC record for the spring of '15 is 12-0. We display an 18-1 overall record with the post-season beckoning. The curtain comes up for Section 3AA play today (Tuesday).
 
Game 1: Tigers 15, Montevideo 4
The Tigers outhit the Thunder Hawks 13-6. We fielded cleanly with but one error, while Monte had two. The big innings for MACA were the third and the fifth. Five runs came home in the third, six in the fifth.
Piper Gibson wielded a potent bat with a three-for-three boxscore line. Two of Piper's hits were triples, and she drove in two runs. Becca Holland hit a double and drove in two runs. Tracy Meichsner had a two-for-three showing and picked up two ribbies.
Abby Daly had two hits in as many at-bats, one a double. Kayla Pring had a double and two ribbies. Lindsey Dierks went two-for-three with an RBI. Brooke Gillespie and Lauren Reimers also hit safely.
Olivia Bartz was a bright spot for Monte, going three-for-three. Breanna Welling was perfect too at two-for-two with one of her hits a triple, and this T-Hawk drove in two runs. Grace Sulflow added a hit to the mix.
Pring was showcased on the pitching rubber for MACA. She fanned seven T-Hawks and gave up six hits in her five innings. Two of the runs she allowed were unearned. She struggled some with control, issuing seven walks. Breanna Welling took the loss for Monte.
 
Game 2: Tigers 19, Montevideo 1
The Tigers asserted themselves out of the starting gate with a ten-run first inning. That momentum carried over, as the orange and black added five runs in the second and two each in the third and fourth. We outhit the T-Hawks 13-5 and played errorless ball.
Brooke Gillespie was handed the ball for pitching duties. She worked the full five innings, fanning six batters and walking none. She gave up five hits and the one Monte run. The losing pitcher was Alex Tongen, and Breanna Welling also pitched. Neither could keep the MACA bats quiet.
Lauren Reimers supplied a big highlight with a grand slam. She also had a triple. Lauren had a two-for-two line and drove in five runs. Tracy Meichsner went two-for-three with an RBI. Abby Daly went two-for-three.
Sam Henrichs had two hits in as many at-bats. Lindsey Dierks had a hit and two runs-batted-in. Courtney Storck had a hit in her only at-bat, as did Becca Holland. Lexi Mahoney went one-for-two with two RBIs. Gillespie had a one-for-three line.
Monte's hitting was led by Abby Olson who went two-for-three with a double. Abi Hacker, Welling and Brooklyn Benson each had a hit.
Today's (Tuesday) assignment for the high-flying and top-seeded Tigers is to face eighth seed Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop here in Morris, beginning at 3 p.m. The atmosphere among the fans will be full of zest. The sun is shining as I type this.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, May 15, 2015

Softball: Tigers overpower Minnewaska Area

The MACA offense exploded with productivity in a doubleheader sweep. The scores were 15-0 and 12-7 vs. Minnewaska Area. The games were played on Tuesday, May 12, in Glenwood.
Click on the link below to read an update on MACA baseball: doubleheaders vs. Montevideo and Minnewaska. A 12-1 win over Monte highlighted that action. This post is on my companion website, "Morris of Course." Thanks for reading. - B.W.
http://morrisofcourse.blogspot.com/2015/05/12-1-win-vs-monte-highlights-recent.html
 
Tigers 15, Minnewaska 0
This softball triumph was highlighted by homer bats. Piper Gibson and Lauren Reimers were the Tigers connecting for those round-trippers. Coach Mary Holmberg's Tigers were perfect in the field - zero errors - while the Lakers struggled, committing six errors.
The Tigers outhit 'Waska 9-4. Gibson's homer was complemented by a double. She scored three runs. Reimers' bat had pop as it always does, and this Tiger was two-for-two with both her hits for extra bases. Lauren crossed home plate four times.
Tracy Meichsner had a hit, an RBI and two runs scored. Abby Daly joined the potent mix with a hit, two RBIs and a run scored. Kayla Pring went two-for-three, scored two runs and drove in one. Brooke Gillespie had a hit, an RBI and two runs scored.
Four 'Waska Lakers each had one hit: Morgan Hess, Mason Schlief, Bayley Pooler and Ashley Bakko.
Pring pitched the five-inning shutout minus any strikeouts. She walked one batter and allowed four hits. Hess was the losing pitcher.
 
Tigers 12, 'Waska 7
Lindsey Dierks went two-for-three with an RBI and run scored. The Tigers had nine hits and were actually outhit by the Lakers who had eleven.
Becca Holland had a hit and an RBI. Piper Gibson came through at two-for-four with an RBI and three runs scored. Lauren Reimers had a hit in her only at-bat, and she drove in a run and scored two. Tracy Meichsner doubled and drove in two runs. Kayla Pring went one-for-two with an RBI. Brooke Gillespie scored a run while going one-for-four.
Hess' bat was productive for the Lakers: she went three-for-four with a double, winning cheers at the Glenwood diamond. She drove in a run and scored two. Mason Schlief went two-for-three with a double, and she drove in a run. Bayley Pooler had a hit, three RBIs and a run scored.
Morgan Majerus' bat resounded with two hits, one a double, and she drove in two runs. Taylor Amundson had a hit and run scored. Abby VerSteeg had two hits and two runs scored.
 
More "shaming" from West Central Tribune
The Wednesday, May 13, edition of the West Central Tribune included another of those "shaming" boxes where teams are listed that did not submit game reports to the paper. I sort of thought the paper might be pressured, by now, to just knock that off.
Coaches have no formal obligation to call in to that paper after their busy day of teaching and coaching. Maybe they have incomplete stats. Maybe they have questionable stats. I'm sure many of them delegate to students for this info compilation, and this is fallible. So what? the games were played properly, and when it's all done, why can't the coaches and athletes just go home if they want? They are not journalists.
If a coach wishes to call in to the paper, fine. But there should be no attempt to publicly embarrass the ones that don't. Coaches do not have this function in their contracts. It is not their problem that the West Central Tribune wants to sell lots of advertisements. Their job is in education. Leave them alone. Hey, it's just sports.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Zoilo Versalles was "in the arena" as shortstop

I first saw this Zoilo Versalles baseball card when my classmate Rick Van Horn showed it to me. The cards could be like rare gems. How exciting compared to our routine schoolwork! We attended East Elementary in Morris MN.
 
Zoilo Versalles was the leadoff batter in the first-ever Minnesota Twins home opener. Most of us can't imagine a time when there were no Minnesota Twins. Or Vikings. I was six years old when the transformation happened. It was on Friday, April 21, 1961, when the significant new chapter opened. Versalles was the shortstop. Don Mincher was at first, Billy Gardner played second and Reno Bertoia was at third.
"There is something about an Opening Day that puts a stamp of legitimacy on a big town," Joe Soucheray wrote in a reflective piece years later.
It was as if we got "plugged into the national circuitry," Soucheray continued, "as though we had just achieved telephone service or a first television set."
Versalles was the first Twin to have his name announced as batter, on that day of gala bunting and festivity at "the Met." The Twins had vacated Washington D.C. at the end of the previous season. Soucheray reported that the weather was clear at game-time, sunny and 63 degrees.
We must add that no mania had taken hold. Perhaps many Minnesotans didn't quite know what to make of this attraction. They were used to getting excited over the U of M Gophers, especially the football team. The fan turnout was 24,606. The Twins lost 5-3 to the "new" Washington Senators. Wind built up from the west, which Soucheray said aided the home runs off the bats of Mincher and Lenny Green. The obscure Pete Whisenant, pinch-hitter, struck out on three pitches from Dave Sisler with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. Fans were treated to those anxious moments of possibility at the end. It was a prelude to much more excitement.
Versalles would be at the fore of that excitement. Typical of supremely talented people, Versalles' story would end up a mixture of triumph and tragedy. Also typical of such people, he "entered the arena" and accepted the highs and lows, the exhilaration and heartbreak, that comes with competition at the highest level, where countless eyes are trained on you.
As sports heroes go, Versalles was not a big man: five feet ten and 160 pounds. He used that frame to amaze in 1965. He led the American League in total bases, doubles and runs scored. He won the Gold Glove as shortstop, showing considerable range with his cat-like reflexes. He was No. 3 in the A.L. in stolen bases.
My APBA (simulation game) baseball cards reported that his nickname was "Zorro." Cute, however I don't recall broadcasters ever using this nickname. It was new to me when I first saw a reference to it.
"Zorro" won that MVP honor amidst debate about whether Tony Oliva should have gotten it instead. Oliva won the batting title. How those Cuban players thrilled us.
Versalles was born in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana. He didn't adapt well to the U.S. The language barrier was a problem, we learn, and he experienced homesickness. He had psychological quirks that I might suggest are associated with those supremely talented people. He had an unusual fear of failure. And yet as he came up through the minors, he got a reputation as someone so supremely confident, he had trouble taking instruction.
Coaches did recognize the talent. Zoilo's fielding could be both brilliant and erratic. His errors sometimes happened with disturbing frequency. We might assume he made errors on balls that other infielders couldn't get to. It was hitting that kept him in the big leagues while he developed further.
The young Twins infielders like Versalles were the reason the team obtained Vic Power for the 1962 season. Power was a tremendous and flashy first baseman who could handle errant throws. We might forget that Power upstaged many of his fellow Twins in '62 - he was more than just stabilizing. We finished in second place in '62 as we challenged the Yankees who had baseball god Mickey Mantle. Indeed, the Minneapolis Millers days were long gone. Pinocchio had become a real boy.
Versalles played 160 games in 1962 and hit 17 home runs. He led the league in assists with 501. He even got a smattering of MVP votes.
In 1963 we saw Versalles up his batting average to .261, and he led the league in triples with 13. He was voted to his first all-star team. He started in the July 9 All-Star Game - he singled and was hit by pitch in two plate appearances.
Zoilo continued having some problems with errors in '63. Of course, his position of shortstop subjected him to lots of work handling balls. He made five errors in a July 5, 1963, doubleheader against Baltimore! However, his competence was affirmed totally by winning the A.L. Gold Glove. Again, he was "in the arena." Such a player isn't going to agonize over having a "bad day" like in that doubleheader. These guys come back renewed the next day.
Versalles went on and on until physical difficulties caught up to him. In July of 1966 the talented man was treated for a hematoma in his back. This led to a lifelong condition.
In 1964, Versalles was still on the way up and he thrilled us Minnesotans with 20 home runs, 64 RBIs and 14 stolen bases. He topped the league in triples with ten.
 
Talent at its apex in 1965
In '65 the stars all got aligned for this fascinating Cuban fellow. Billy Martin had sort of taken Versalles under his wing. Under intense tutelage, we saw "Zorro" at his best, never mind I never heard that nickname.
Versalles' MVP season of '65 was that glorious time when the Twins knocked the full-of-themselves Yankees off their perch and won the pennant. It was just the Twins' fifth season. Most of us were mesmerized. There is always an element of the population that stays sober about sports. My sixth grade teacher at East Elementary in Morris was one. I won't type her name here. She's deceased. Any time a member of the class wanted to bring up sports as news, she totally sniffed as if she had been insulted personally.
"It's just money-making," she'd say. I remember the look on Dean Anderson's face one day when she said this. There are always sticks in the mud amongst us. However, I think that by the time the 1994 baseball strike was over, I wasn't so averse to her thinking anymore.
Back in '65 we didn't want to think that money had anything to do with it. We would have resented any talk of money. It was all about the sheer exhilaration of seeing our still-new Twins overcome those heralded Yankees from Gotham. Roger Angell wrote about us in a rather condescending way, suggesting that maybe a lot of us were rubes. I recall him describing the atmosphere around our Met Stadium as being "like a big family wedding." Well OK then. He also seemed to assume we were going to lose Game 7 against the Dodgers. I guess Sandy Koufax was just that good.
I'll remind you that Koufax became a great pitcher partly if not largely because umpires starting calling the high fastball a strike. David Halberstam reported about this in a book. The game began to favor pitching in a way that climaxed in 1968. After that, adjustments were made.
Versalles and his Twins mates couldn't repeat the magic in 1966. All the big names were still here. But it was like air going out of a balloon. Maybe it was because owner Calvin Griffith couldn't open up his wallet well enough after the pennant-winning season. He did have that reputation.
Versalles did get a raise to $40,000 annually. That's right, I'm saying a raise to $40,000, not a raise of $40,000. Unbelievable! That was a decent professional salary at that time, but not the kind of windfall all major leaguers get today, where they can be independently wealthy.
Versalles declined to a .249 average in '66. We still saw signs of those magical early Twins years like on June 9, when, against Kansas City (the Athletics, not the Royals), Versalles was one of five Twins to hit home runs in the seventh inning. Harmon Killebrew joined "Zorro" in that parade. So did Mincher, Oliva and Rich Rollins. We did finish in second place in '66 but we were nine games behind the Orioles.
 
His Twins days conclude
Versalles was traded to the Dodgers with "Mudcat" Grant in November of 1967. In exchange we got relief pitchers Bob Miller and Ron Perranoski and catcher John Roseboro.
Versalles struggled in Los Angeles. He got exposed to the 1968 expansion draft. He was chosen by San Diego but never played for them. Instead he got signed by Cleveland. In July of '69 he was purchased by the Senators. He managed to hit .267 in limited action and got invited back for spring training in 1970. But he got released on April 6. He played for a time in the Mexican League. He then got another shot in the majors, with Atlanta, but the glory days were clearly over. He played 66 games in 1972.
Zoilo finished his playing career with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in Japan.
We can remember that during his five-year peak in Minnesota, Zoilo led all American League shortstops with 73 home runs. We remember that Zoilo did fine in our '65 World Series, batting .286 with a home run. We can remember that somewhat inauspicious day back in 1961, before only 24,606 fans at the Met, when Versalles brought his lumber to the plate as the first-ever Twins batter at home. (We had won the season opener 6-0 at New York.)
After that April 21 of 1961, Minnesotans were guaranteed-not-to-tarnish major leaguers, getting attention throughout the U.S. in the daily newspapers. We'd be listed in the standings everywhere. We were "plugged into the national circuitry," as "Sooch" wrote. (Does anyone besides me remember when Joe went through his "hippie phase," at least in terms of appearance?)
Versalles had a sad retirement. He had never mastered speaking English. His back injury remained a hindrance. He relied on disability and Social Security payments at the end. He was found dead in his home in Bloomington on July 11, 1995, of unknown causes. I'm pleased to learn he was survived by six daughters and several grandchildren. That's the best kind of legacy, right?
Zoilo was elected to the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame in 2006.
Zoilo Versalles, RIP. I hope you're "going into the hole" to cut off would-be hits, in heaven.
 
I have the name "Zoilo" in a song I wrote that is on YouTube. The song is "The Ballad of Harmon Killebrew." I cover the whole infield. I invite you to listen by clicking on the link below. Thanks so much for visiting my site.
 
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, May 8, 2015

Kayla Pring dazzles with no-hitter at Benson

Momentum just kept building for the Morris Area Chokio Alberta softball Tigers on Thursday, May 7. Not only was the offense dominant, the pitching was an absolute gem.
Kayla Pring was the MACA pitcher in this 19-0 win at Benson. Kayla tossed a five-inning no-hitter with no walks. She got all the offensive support she'd need in the first inning, and then some. How about 13 runs?
Technically I suppose this wasn't a perfect game for Pring, because a B-H batter reached on an error in the first inning. Krista Motzko was the Brave-Owl getting on base. No other B-H batters would reach base. The win was the tenth straight for coach Mary Holmberg's surging orange and black crew.
MACA hit with authority and also took advantage of B-H fielding lapses. The MACA line score was 19 runs, 14 hits and one error. Becca Holland rapped three hits in four at-bats including a double, and she drove in two runs. Piper Gibson was two-for-five with an RBI. Lauren Reimers joined the parade with a two-for-four line and four runs-batted-in.
Tracy Meichsner had a hit and an RBI. Pring came through with a double as part of a two-for-four showing, and she drove in two runs. Brooke Gillespie went two-for-four with an RBI. Lindsey Dierks had a hit and an RBI. Sam Henrichs had a hit in her only at-bat.
Pring achieved her no-hitter with two strikeouts and no walks issued Addie Forbord was the losing pitcher.
 
Baseball: Tigers 3, Benson 0
Benson didn't fare any better against the Tigers in baseball than in softball. It was a zero runs day for them. Coach Mark Torgerson's Tigers prevailed 3-0 at the Morris diamond.
We scored two runs in the first inning and one in the fifth. Our line score was three runs, five hits and one error. Pitcher Noah Grove held the Braves to two hits in his route-going performance. Grove set down six batters on strikes and walked one.
The losing pitcher was Brady Young. The two Benson hits were by Young and Aaron Ahrndt. Young's hit was a double.
MACA committed just one error compared to four by Benson.
Toby Sayles wielded a sizzling bat for Morris Area Chokio Alberta. Toby had three hits in as many at-bats and drove in two runs. Sean Amundson went two-for-three with a run scored. Noah Grove reached on a hit-by-pitch and scored a run. Philip Anderson crossed home plate once.
The win was the eighth for the orange and black crew, against four losses.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota- bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, May 7, 2015

MACA girls overpower Marshall & Sauk Centre

The Tigers of softball have been overpowering foes lately. Indeed, the team is steaming into the heart of May with runs coming frequently. Will all this quality be parlayed into the post-season? It will be fun to see.
The team played three games between Monday and Tuesday, May 4-5. The Monday story was a home triumph over Marshall. Then on Tuesday, cheers resumed at the home diamond with a doubleheader sweep over Sauk Centre.
 
Tigers 10, Marshall 8
The Tigers were down 1-0 after three innings. That all changed starting in the fourth. The Tigers turned on the jets with four runs scored in the fourth and three each in the fifth and sixth.
Marshall stayed alive with a six-run outburst in the sixth. But in the end, the orange and black had ten runs and Marshall eight. Marshall like MACA has the "Tigers" nickname.
MACA could feel relieved winning, considering they committed six errors. Marshall had two fielding miscues. Both teams had nine hits.
Tracy Meichsner connected for a double in the fifth with the bases loaded. She had two doubles as part of her three-for-four boxscore line. Her RBI total was a robust four.
Lauren Reimers showed her typically potent bat with two hits in three at-bats and two RBIs. Abby Daly went one-for-two with two ribbies. Becca Holland went two-for-four and Piper Gibson contributed a hit.
Two Marshall Tigers each had two hits: Morgan Radell and Ashley Stattelman.
Kayla Pring pitched the whole way for Morris Area Chokio Alberta. Three of the eight runs she allowed were unearned. She struck out four batters, walked none and allowed nine hits. Miranda Fischer was the losing pitcher.
 
Tigers 8, Sauk Centre 1
Tracy Meichsner's bat was active again. She connected for two singles in game 1 of the doubleheader vs. Sauk Centre. She went two-for-three with three RBIs in MACA's 8-1 win.
Lauren Reimers' bat made considerable noise, and she had a perfect three-for-three line including a double and triple. Becca Holland had three hits in four at-bats. Abby Daly and Brooke Gillespie each added a hit to the mix.
Two Sauk Centre batters each had two hits: Amanda Lahr and Cassidy Zenzen.
Gillespie was handed the ball for pitching duties. She struck out two batters, walked none and allowed five hits in her six innings. Kayla Pring pitched for one inning, allowing one hit. Lahr was the losing pitcher.
The MACA line score was eight runs, ten hits and two errors. Sauk's line was 1-6-2.
 
Tigers 24, Sauk Centre 10
Wow! The Tigers produced a football-like run total in finishing up their work. In fact, all their runs were scored in the first through third innings, with eleven coming home in the first. The Tigers pounded out 20 hits and committed just one error.
Kayla Pring and Lacee Maanum did the MACA pitching. Pring struck out five batters and walked none in her three and two-thirds innings. Maanum pitched one and a third innings. Amanda Lahr was the losing pitcher, and Kallie Kampsen also pitched for Sauk.
OK, on to hitting: get set for a wild ride here. Becca Holland went three-for-five. Piper Gibson was three-for-five with three RBIs. Lauren Reimers connected for a two-run home run and triple. In all she was four-for-four and drove in six runs. She was unstoppable.
Tracy Meichsner had a double as part of going three-for-five, and this Tiger drove in three runs. Abby Daly was a perfect three-for-three. Pring had a hit among three at-bats. Samantha Henrichs had a two-for-five line, and Lindsey Dierks went one-for-two.
For Sauk Centre, Lahr, Madison Moritz and Cassidy Zenzen each had two hits. Emily Mensen hit a two-run home run.
The Tigers play in Benson today (Thursday) against Benson-Hancock beginning at 5 p.m.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

How quick are attitudes changing with football?

Joe Scarborough says he watched less football than usual last year, and he'll watch still less in the future. Still, football gets the kind of attention that suggests many of us are still riveted. The Star Tribune has a sports section that screams sports news at us daily. We see those huge photos.
Sports is simply a form of entertainment. Why does it warrant such attention? Impressionable young people notice this. They realize that if they can go out on that beautiful green football field, cheers can shower down on them. It happens here in Morris. Big Cat Stadium has a beautiful green playing surface. We sure appreciate the aesthetic qualities when the Irondale marching band comes here in summer. That's the best thing that happens at that facility all year.
In the fall, we see our local young men and UMM athletes bang against each other. Young men get violently thrown to the turf. They have collisions on punts, kickoffs and other plays. Yes, there is risk of injury in other sports. But football is a problem because violence is the whole idea.
It has gotten worse. Kids engage in year-round conditioning, implored by their coaches. The coaches know they have to win. If the communities would just stop paying attention, how much better off we'd all be. It's our fault: the community members.
Wake Forest University researchers have found that high school football players can undergo significant brain changes after only a single season, even if they don't get a concussion.
The study's author noted the amount of attention this issue has received at the NFL level. He noted that 70 per cent of people playing football are adolescents. It's an "understudied population," Christopher Whitlow said.
The student-athletes were divided into two groups: heavy hitters and light hitters. Whitlow reported that the heaviest hitters "exhibited the most brain changes." Brain changes? And you really want to allow your sons to play this sport?
A trend of skepticism has begun developing about football. Thus we have the statement from Joe Scarborough (of MSNBC) that I quoted at the start of this post. How fast will this skepticism grow? That is a very fascinating thing to speculate upon. I gather that the conventional wisdom up 'til now is not real encouraging. There is a general feeling, it seems, that boys will continue playing football because, well, we just can't imagine life in America without football.
The sport burgeoned because of advances in television technology and quality. The big jump occurred, or got going, in the mid-1960s. Football went from a fairly popular sport to an obsession. That obsession stands as the big obstacle in 2015 to the health and safety of our young male population.
Players at the college level are significantly bigger and faster compared to the 1960s. High school coaches make speeches at banquets strongly encouraging their players to lift weights in the off-season. It's important to dish out all that punishment. Problem is, kids are being real hurt by this advanced football culture.
I can't believe parents are so stupid as to think their own personal enjoyment of football on weekends outweighs the concern they ought to feel about their own children. But I've been wrong before. Maybe as time goes on, though, I won't be wrong.
Can public sentiment change quickly on a significant issue? It has happened with gay rights. Commentators regularly speak with shock and surprise about how quickly the sentiment on gay rights has evolved. It can happen also with this football obsession. I'm sure there are lots of Joe Scarboroughs out there. Maybe we'll see that steady evolution, that realization that football is, at its heart, an anachronistic sport, conjuring up a time when we groomed young men to be warriors in those big wars we regularly got involved in. The days of sending masses of young men with guns toward an enemy have faded. Conflicts today are of more of a pinprick nature, with Special Forces etc. It's still tragic.
Can you imagine the horrors of war that could have been revealed by the Internet if the Internet had existed at the time of the Battle of the Bulge? The Internet restricts the power of the government to apply blinders to us.
Football as some sort of macho proposition for boys has quickly reached obsolescence. Big Cat Stadium in Morris could be transformed into something more healthy and uplifting than a place where young men smash into each other. Whenever I see a young man sprawled out on the field or sideline, being attended to by a trainer or medical people, I ask "why?" Why couldn't these young men have just stayed home that night, maybe reading a book or spending time on the computer?
Gladiators, no - please no.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Tigers defeat ACGC in softball and baseball

The Tigers prevailed over the Falcons in both softball and baseball on the last day of April. The softball story was a 12-1 win over Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City. On the baseball diamond, success came via shutout: a 9-0 score over ACGC.
 
Softball:
Homer bats were a feature of this Morris Area Chokio Alberta success. Those homers resonated in each of the first three innings. In the first it was Brooke Gillespie connecting for the round-tripper. It was a two-run blast.
MACA really turned on the jets in the second inning, when Kayla Pring hit a grand slam to highlight the seven-run rally. The entire rally was achieved after two outs. Piper Gibson hit the third inning homer and it was a solo job.
This win was No. 10 on the season for the high-flying Tigers. The MACA line score was 12 runs, ten hits and two errors.
ACGC managed little offense vs. MACA pitcher Pring. Pring was stellar on the pitching rubber. She struck out eleven batters and walked none in her five innings. The game was limited to five innings. Pring allowed three hits, and the one run she allowed was unearned.
Taryn Reinke was the losing pitcher.
Gibson had three hits in as many at-bats. Her RBI total was three. Tracy Meichsner had a double as part of a two-for-three showing. Becca Holland connected for a double. Gillespie's home run came in her only at-bat. Lacee Maanum went one-for-one.
Pring drove in four runs on her one-for-three stats. Lindsey Dierks added a hit to the mix.
 
Baseball:
Noah Grove led the MACA effort in the 9-0 win over ACGC Thursday. The Tigers improved to 6-2 in overall won-lost. MACA had a line score of nine runs, eight hits and one error.
Grove pitched the whole way, fanning five batters and walking four in his seven innings. The Falcons managed just two hits off him. Grove wore his hitting shoes too; this Tiger went three-for-three including a double, and he had the hefty RBI harvest of five.
Brady Jergenson had a double and home run and he drove in two runs. Allen Tanner had a hit in his only at-bat and drove in two runs. Nate Anderson went one-for-three and Phil Messner also hit safely.
Brett Busskohl and Derek Dengerud had the ACGC hits. Dengerud was the losing pitcher, and Colton Minnick also pitched.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com