|Rookies Valdespino and Tovar, '65|
Valdespino was part of our significant "Cuban connection." Jim Kaat once joked that the "T/C" on Twins caps stood for "Twenty Cubans." We should be relieved these guys at least were able to get to the U.S. away from Fidel Castro.
Jim Merritt and Dave Boswell were two of our promising rookies in '65. They were the best you could find in terms of pitching prospects, but both unfortunately threw their arms out when they were young. This happened to Jim Merritt after he was traded to Cincinnati. I thought he looked like Kent McCord of the "Adam-12" TV series (about cops on the beat). When Mad Magazine satirized the TV series, it had the duo of McCord and Martin Milner driving right past serious crimes on their way to petty stuff like someone double-parked. Milner had been in the "Route 66" series.
Frank Quilici was a Twins rookie in 1965. He would go on to be a Twins manager in that time when we were struggling, pre-Dome. Andy Kosco was a rookie, a prime example, like Rick Renick, of a guy who looked promising in the minors but couldn't quite master the majors. Joe Nossek was a rookie in '65. I remember Joe best for getting the nod to play on a platoon basis with Jimmie Hall in the World Series, odd since Hall had been a quite productive everyday player - a fan favorite too. Who was Joe Nossek? Appreciating Joe Nossek probably required a Bill James outlook.
Valdespino was known to have the powerful shoulders of a boxer. In '64 he was the International League batting champion. He was 26 years old for 1965. His real first name was Hilario. Teammates voted Sandy the team's top rookie in '65. The Twins won the pennant in '65 and lost the World Series in seven games to the Dodgers.
If I go to heaven and God allows me to experience an alternate reality from my time on Earth, I would like to experience our Twins winning Game 7 over the Dodgers and Sandy Koufax.
I have written about Sandy Valdespino before. I previously shared some poetry/lyrics about him. Today I have revised poetry/lyrics to share. Why revised? The original version bothered me a little. Reflecting upon that, I realized I was being too much of a journalist and less an artist when writing the first version. I insisted on shoe-horning in too much minutiae from his life and career, to the detriment of the art I was trying to create.
"Detriment" is perhaps too harsh a word. My first version was acceptable as stand-alone poetry. As a song it seemed a little less than organic. My new version was written with the proper artistic criteria in mind. Will I have it recorded? I might. Here it is:
"Ballad of Sandy Valdespino"
by Brian Williams
We remember Sandy Valdespino
To first place - they could hardly miss
He was part of joyous pennant fever
In the state with lakes ubiquitous
Now he made those rounds getting known to all the throngs
So far from when he rode that bus
In October with the festive bunting
Sandy took his lumber to the plate
In the top showdown he would carve out some renown
A hit off Koufax made him great
It was two years later on a fine day
With the Twins and Indians on the field
He was there in left with an eye to make a theft
His glove was blessed or so it seemed
Larry Brown was trouble for the Indians
With a swing, he gave the Twins a fright
There's a ball hit high, getting lost up in the sky
But one man had it in his sights
Those who saw it never have forgotten
How it seemed he had wings on his feet
He went up the fence like a demon all hell-bent
And with that ball he smiled sweet
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
We remember Sandy Valdespino. . .
We remember Sandy Valdespino. . .(fade)