"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)

Friday, July 7, 2017

When the All-Star Game was truly transfixing

I remember getting myself excused from a marching band practice. It was the night of the baseball All-Star Game and I felt I had to watch. We took a trip to Glenwood to visit my aunt and uncle which was certainly a most pleasant thing. But I was able to watch the All-Star Game.
Those were the days when 90 percent of all TV viewers at a given time were watching one of the "Big 3" TV networks. It seemed there was only one alternative: public TV (boring by definition). Baseball's All-Star Game had a greater appeal then. Quite unlike today, we could not "surf" through channels to find various non-Twins baseball games. We watched Twins games almost exclusively, the main exception being the "Game of the Week" on NBC with Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek at the mike. Big special games like the All-Star Game were another exception.
Fans who followed the star players thus had quite limited opportunities to see them perform on television. That's why the All-Star Game made them feel like a kid in a candy store. That's why I suggested the family trip to Glenwood as a way of missing marching band practice.
Marching band was still at its height as a summer activity for kids here. This was the John Woell era as director of the band. Morris historians always put Bob Schaefer on a pedestal for making the marching band special. Woell took it over and kept standards high, perhaps just as high, for a long time. Eventually certain forces emerged to make marching band a tougher sell. Athletics burgeoned with girls finally getting equal opportunity with boys - a good thing, certainly - but sports perhaps started commanding too much of the focus of our kids. The kids felt they had to start going to sports camps in summer.
Woell ran the marching band with a disciplinarian's air. It worked for as long as the kids were really willing to prioritize marching band in their summer lives. I don't think it meant anything for advancement toward graduation. So it had to be fun, and kids considered it fun even with Woell hovering with his sometimes stern temperament. He could kick a kid out of practice and that kid would come back.
All-Star Games come and go today and I'm barely aware they happened. In those bygone analog days, there was a sense of scarcity about the media. That's hard to believe based on the media world in which we bathe today. The Minneapolis newspaper published baseball stats for both leagues only on Sunday. It was under the heading "Major averages." The hitters were listed in order based on batting average. We put so much stock in batting average then. Bill James would come along and enlighten us considerably.
Us Minnesota fans still felt a little defensive about our place in the baseball world. We were thrilled to hear about any Twins making the American League All-Star roster. We were on edge of seats hoping for these Twins to do well in the game. It would prove we were to be taken seriously in the pseudo-sacred world of big league ball. The parochialism continued for a time. I remember being at Wells Park covering the local Little League championship game on the same night as the All-Star Game, years later. Kirby Puckett was coming on strong in his career. I believe the P.A. announcer was Jim Tanner, who interrupted his main duties to say Puckett had just singled! Yea for Minnesota! Would this happen today if a Twin got a hit in the All-Star Game?
Baseball used to market itself to the broad public. That was in the days before the niche media that we take for granted today. Network TV similarly tried to appeal to the broad public. It was probably rather daunting. Today the entertainment world finds its desired audiences and sustains itself quite fine though those more specialized lenses. We are all better off.
The year I went to Glenwood, we were solidly in the three-network environment where we consumed the likes of Johnny Carson, even though such shows were incredibly superficial. My college advisor once said to me: "You could watch that show for years and not learn anything." No need to knock the likes of Carson as he was just delivering the kind of product that worked then. Norman Lear found a gold mine with urban-oriented comedy that appeared at least to be more cerebral.
But the big change would come with technology. No longer would we "change channels" by turning a knob. We suddenly sensed that TV was becoming more respectable. We were no longer as inclined to call it the "boob tube." If you used that term today, you'd be met with puzzlement. It used to be that afternoon TV in particular was vapid, so much so, you might be a candidate for mental illness if you watched a lot of it.
I had a friend who dissed a local important person by making gestures that indicated pushing buttons on a TV remote: In other words, that person watched a lot of TV and was thus vacant. Again, puzzlement if done today.
Today we have the History Channel which is currently trying to sell us an Amelia Earhart revelation. I was immediately skeptical when hearing about that story. Let me count the ways I'm skeptical. The bombshell photo seems very rough and inconclusive. Why was the photo even taken? Remember, in 1937 our photographic resources were limited, not at all like today when people take pictures on a whim. It's a non-descript photo. The revelatory portion is a small portion of the total photo.
I would consider the Earhart mystery to be like "Fortean phenomena," something we are intended to never find the answer to. If the Japanese had her as a prisoner, why didn't they parade her or negotiate something? Too many questions.
The All-Star Game came to Minnesota in 1965. The Twins also played in the World Series that year. We must remember the fascination we all felt. Up until 1960 there were no big league sports in Minnesota. Met Stadium stood there from 1956 to 1960 with no big league team here yet. We had the Triple-A Minneapolis Millers. The Millers were so quickly forgotten starting in 1961.
The weather was ideal for our All-Star Game played on July 13 of 1965. The sky was high and blue and the temperature was 78 degrees. The attendance was 46, 706. My, we could see Willie Mays and Hank Aaron in person, stars of the National League. Our Harmon Killebrew hit a two-run home run for the American League! But it was the Nationals winning 6-5. Killebrew batted third. I smile to learn that the great cult power hitter, Rocky Colavito, batted fourth. I have written a song about Colavito.
Our catcher Earl Battey batted eighth. Milt Pappas was our starting pitcher.
We must remember those early exciting times for big league sports in Minnesota, a universe we have come to take for granted. Our World War II veterans were middle-age men in the mid-'60s. Surely they were transfixed as were the rest of us. What heady and special times.
Oh, and the Beatles played a concert at Metropolitan Stadium in 1965!
Click on the link below to read the review/essay I wrote about the movie "Amelia" in 2013:
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com



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