Thursday, May 28, 2009

Who was Harvey Haddix?

Today I realized that I had dropped the ball regarding my obligation as a father to pass along enough baseball lore to my sons. I mentioned to William that this week marked the 50th anniversary of Harvey Haddix's near-perfect game, and was shocked to hear that Will had no idea who Harvey Haddix was. Well, gather 'round kids, and I'll tell you the story.

It was 50 years ago this week, May 26, 1959, when Harvey Haddix took the mound for the PIttsburgh Pirates against the Milwaukee Braves. (You did know the Braves once played in Milwaukee, right? And it wasn't in a stadium with a retractable roof.)

Haddix was a small left-hander, just 5-foot-9 and 140 pounds, but he had a solid major league career, winning 136 games against 113 losses and over 1,500 career strikeouts. His best season was 1953, when he posted a 20-9 mark pitching for the Cardinals.

But no one was prepared for what he did that night in Milwaukee. Haddix retired the first 27 men he faced, which normally would be a victory and a perfect game. Except that Lew Burdette pitched well for Milwaukee, and Haddix's Pittsburgh teammates didn't score either. The game went into extra innings at 0-0.

In the 10th inning, Haddix retired three more in a row. And three more in the 11th, and three more in the 12th. That's right, 36 men up, 36 men down, a pitching string unprecedented in baseball history.

Haddix trudged out for the bottom of the 13th, and got the leadoff hitter to hit a ground ball to 3rd baseman Don Hoak. Hoak fielded the ball, but his throwing error allowed Felix Mantilla to reach first and ended the perfect game. The Braves then sacrificed the runner over to second, and Haddix intentionally walked Hank Aaron. Joe Adcock then hit a game-ending homer, the only hit allowed by Haddix all evening.

(In the excitement, Aaron stopped running from 1st base and was passed by Adcock, so only the 1st run counted. The game shows in the books as a 1-0 win by the Braves.)

Haddix's line for the night: 12 2/3 innings pitched, one run (unearned), one hit (by the 40th batter he faced) one walk (the intentional pass to Aaron) and eight strikeouts. Perhaps the greatest pitching performance ever.

The near-perfection made him an instant celebrity, and he received calls and telegrams - both congratulatory and sympathetic - from around the country. My favorite part of the story, however, involves one telegram he received from a fratnerity at a midwest college. It simply read: "Dear Harvey: Tough shit."

"It made me mad," Haddix said, "Until I realized they were right. That's exactly what it was."

A little over a year later, Haddix had another great moment in the spotlight. Pitching in relief during Game 7 of the World Series, Haddix earned the win when Bill Mazeroski's famous homerun won the Series for the Pirates.

Haddix died in 1994, at the age of 68, and his widow said "There wasn't a day that went by without someone mentioning that game to him." It even got a mention on his tombstone. (Click on the picture for a sharper image.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Are certain races inherently superior?

My answer to that provocative question would, of course, be "no." But the question is begged by the statements of appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor, nominated today by President Obama for the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 2001, Judge Sotomayor said "'I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male..."

Now, the judge is certainly entitled to her, ahem, opinions, and I suspect that in her upcoming confirmation hearings she will announce something along the lines of "that comment was just something stupid I said when I was young."

But let's imagine for a moment that during the confirmation hearings for Chief Justice John Roberts it had been discovered that about eight years ago he had said, "I would hope that a white male, with the richness of his education, experience and heritage, would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a (fill in the blank: Latina woman, black male, crippled immigrant, Asian woman, Harvard faculty member.)"

Roberts, of course, would have been denounced as an insensitive, misogynist, racist slimeball who was unfit for any kind of public office. Let's see if the media and liberal interest groups give Judge Sotomayor a free pass on her own brand of racism.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Happy Memorial Day!

Let me introduce you to a little bit of small-town Americana that I really love. Last year some locals here in Red Wing got the idea of using Bay Point Park, along the shores of the Mississippi River, as a "Field of Honor" over Memorial Day weekend.

The idea was that anyone who wanted to honor a veteran - living or deceased - could donate $25 and have a flag put up in the park for the weekend, with a tag attached identifying the veteran.

More than 200 people chipped in last year, and it was a wonderful experience to walk through the field. Local volunteers stood guard over the field around the clock, and last year I made two trips: One during the day, and another at night, when the flags are illuminated. I came across the names of a number of people I knew, and it is always humbling to think about the sacrifices so many have made for the cause of freedom.

I think the folks who organized it last year thought this would be a one-time thing, but the people of Red Wing responded so well that they decided to bring it back this year, and the response was even better. More than 300 people donated flags, and it was a thrill to walk through the park again today, listening to the flapping of more than 300 flags, each one representing someone who wore a uniform to help keep this country free and strong.

I know it's nice to have a three-day weekend, and it's great to be on the golf course, or in your boat and it's nice to consider this the start of summer. But believe me, you will find this weekend way more meaningful if you take a moment to thank someone you know who served. My list includes:

Vernon Peterson, uncle, U.S. Army (deceased), who fought in North Africa and Italy;

Tom Kleinman, U.S. Navy (deceased), who, had he lived longer, would have been my father-in-law;

Rudy Boschwitz, my former senator and boss, U.S. Army, 1954-55;

Captain Todd Angstman, U.S. Army, returned from Iraq;

Captain Keith Angstman, U.S. Army, currently serving in Iraq;

Sgt. Sam Azzone, U.S. Marine Corps, currently training for deployment to Afghanistan;

And of course, dear old dad: Ray Droogsma, U.S. Army, 1952-54

And for all those who paid the ultimate price, the poet Laurence Binyon wrote “For the Fallen.”

They went with songs to the battle, they were young, Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow. They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted: They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning. We will remember them.

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust, Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain; As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness, To the end, to the end, they remain.

Enjoy the day.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Chuckle of the day

A little reworking of the Sammy Davis, Jr. classic. Enjoy.

Why newspapers are dying

It's a basic tenet of business that, in order to be successful, you need to understand your customers and their needs. Perhaps no business has so lost touch with its customers as the newspaper industry.

As an example of how out-of-touch most newspaper editorial boards are with their customers, let's look at yesterday's voting in California. The voters of the Golden State were asked to vote on a series of ballot propositions, the net effect of which was supposedly to close a $21 billion deficit in the state budget. Essentially the voters were being asked to vote in favor of various tax increases and accounting gimmicks that would let the state continue its out-of-control spending.

It hardly seemed like a fair fight: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was strongly in favor of all the proposals, and the teachers' unions and other liberal special interest groups spent more than $30 million in favor of the propositions, compared to less than $3 million spent by their opponents.

Here is how the large newspapers in California lined up editorially on the five propositions. (A "yes" vote is in favor of the tax increase or budget shift. And sorry about the fuzzy reproduction.)

Every one of the propositions lost. The most successful one of the five got beat 62-38, the rest lost by even bigger margins. How's that for knowing your customers?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wise words from.....Phil?!?

Though I'm a big golf fan, I've never been much of a Phil Mickelson fan. He seems to come off a little too smug and condescending for my taste, and I always enjoy it when he finishes behind Tigeri in a tournament.

But in this month's Golf Digest, Phil pulls out a quote from Ben Hogan that I really liked. He says that when he is tempted to take a day off, not practicing, he remembers that Hogan said:

"Every day you don't practice is another day longer that it will take you to get good."

That will get me out from behind the desk and off to the range.

Monday, May 18, 2009

One amazing play

As an umpire, I've seen a lot of amazing plays over the years, but one of the very best I've ever seen came yesterday at Yankee Stadium.

The Twins were in a tie game, bottom of the ninth, and the Yankees had the winning run on 2nd. A ground ball up the middle was knocked down by Twins pitcher Jose Mijares and deflected back towards home plate.

Mauer scooped it up and bluffed a throw to 1st base, thinking that perhaps the runner going from 2nd to 3rd would make a big turn at 3rd and Mauer might have a chance to pick him off. Instead, the runner kept coming towards home, and Mauer had to scramble to tag him out. For Mauer, it was a great display of baseball instincts and athleticism. Watch the video HERE.

Follow-up note: My son Travis, who lives in NYC, was at the game yesterday and pronouced the new Yankee Stadium "sweet."

Friday, May 15, 2009

What they do with your money.

Some of my friends on the left (and yes, I do have them) like to laugh at my hostility to many of the things government does. They tend to think that government spends money on important, necessary things, while I tend to think that except for defending the shores, building roads and running the public schools, there isn't much that government does right, or should even try to be doing. (Obviously I'm oversimpifying our respective views, but you get the general perspective.)

So it's fun every once in a while to look at a few examples of just how wisely and efficiently the government takes your hard-earned money and spends it.

For example, there are the ...

Millions of dollars in Social Security "stimulus" checks sent to DEAD PEOPLE, some of whom never even received Social Security, here.

And the $7 billion "loan" to Chrysler made just a couple months ago that Chrysler now will not have to pay back here.

And the Minnesota state government hiring "freeze" that resulted in 5,100 new hires here.

And the State of California paying for office space that was vacant for four years here.

And the $15.1 billion in loans to GM - ostensibly to help save American jobs - that will help GM import cars from China here.

And one of my personal favorites: The City of San Francisco spending money to protect illegal immigant crack dealers from the INS. Great story here.

Are you SURE you want these people running your health care?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A long, but important, speech to read

Of all the different political writers and thinkers I read, one of the ones I admire most is a fellow named Mark Steyn. He writes for National Review, has a syndicated column and is a regular contributor in a wide variety of publications including Maclean's (a big Canadian publication...Mark's a Canuck), the Jerusalem Post and The Australian. He recently published a book titled America Alone: The End of The World as We Know It, and he occasionally hosts the Rush Limbaugh show when Rush is on vacation.

Among Mark's specialties is the study of demographics, and he's been pointing out for some time the dangers that come to societies with low birthrates. In particular, Mark points out, many European cultures have put themselves on the road to extinction by having birthrates of 1.3 children per couple. (A rate of 2.1 is considered the minimum needed to maintain a population. The United States has dropped to 2.1 now.)

Mark recently spoke at Hillsdale College, a terrific small college in Michigan that I will write about another day. His speech was titled "Live Free or Die" (he's now a resident of New Hampshire) and it sums up very nicely the problems that arise when we ask government to do everything for us, and how that affects the basic concepts of liberty and personal freedom.

It's a bit long, but I'm confident that once you've read it, you'll agree it was worth your time. It will open by clicking HERE.

For me, the money quote is from the European official who said "I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it."


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

An anti-climactic game in Washington

I was very excited for tonight's Game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs between Washington and Pittsburgh. It was 0-0 midway through the first period, I went into the kitchen to make a sandwich, and when I came back it was 2-0 Pittsburgh. Before long it was 5-0 Pittsburgh and they cruised to a 6-2 win in as dull a game 7 as you'll ever see.

I really like the Capitals' Alex Ovechkin, and was rooting for them to make it to the finals, so now I'm not sure where my rooting interest goes. Probably to Chicago, who will face the winner of tomorrow night's Game 7 between the Red Wings and the Ducks.

Disappointing, but at least we're rid of Vancouver!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Springtime comes to Vancouver

Every hockey season has a number of special days, but one of the very best moments from any season is the day the Vancouver Canucks play their final hockey game.

Most years it comes at the end of the regular season, when the playoffs are just an unrealized dream for Satan's team. This year, we had to wait a couple extra weeks, until last night, when the Chicago Blackhawks eliminated the Casucks with a 7-5 win.

It was especially sweet to watch the handshake line, knowing that it's probably the last time we ever have to watch the Sedin Sisters perform for this team. Both free agents, we can hope they will take their toe picks and triple axels to some Eastern Conference team - maybe Toronto - and we'll never have to see them again.

So, beware, golf courses of British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest: Starting tomorrow, your tee time sheets will be filling up with foursomes of toothless, brainless, soulless knuckle-draggers who have no idea how to function in decent society. And their fans. With any luck, the RCMP will incarcerate most of them before training camp opens in September.

Enjoy the summer, schmucks.

Fun weekend

Every once in a while I have to break away from trying to solve all of the world's problems and just enjoy a bit of life. So it was off to Chicago this weekend to watch my youngest daughter, Erin, and her fiancee, Todd, graduate from North Park University.

Erin, I'm happy to report, is a far more diligent student than her father, and she graduated with a double major, earning a degree in Bible & Theological Studies and another in Youth Ministry.

She and Todd will be married here in Red Wing on May 30, then head out to Colorado Springs (Todd's home) for a reception on June 6.

Granddaughter Anne - known to my blog readers as The Smartest Little Girl in The World - also made the trip, and got to spend some time riding around on my shoulders.

In addition to her skils as a student, Erin is also quite a photographer, and managed to snap this shot of Anne checking out some of the flowers on campus.

All in all, just a fun weekend and a chance to be a particularly proud papa.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

What immigrants used to be like

The Evangelical Covenant Church is divided into different "conferences" and churches here in the Upper Midwest are part of what is known as the Northwest Conference. This year the Northwest Conference is celebrating its 125th anniversary, and recently held its annual meeting in Red Wing.

I attended one of their evening services, in which they sang old Swedish hymns and shared some readings from former members of Covenant churches in the Northwest Conference. I was particularly struck by a writing from a fellow named Hans Mattson, who wrote this in 1869:

"It is true that we have left our beloved land, we have strewn the last flowers upon the grave of our forefathers, and have come here to stay, come here to live, and come here to die. We are not a clannish people, nor do we desire to build up a Scandinavian nationality in your midst…you will bear me witness how readily and fraternally we have mingled with you, learned your language and adopted your ways, and how naturally our children grow up as Americans, side by side with yours. We have been cordially received in the great west by your own pioneers, and have become prosperous and happy. Yes, we love this great country of freedom, and we wish to be and remain Americans.”

And I was struck by the stark contrast between the attitude of this 19th-century immigrant and the attitudes of many who come to America today and make no effort to assimilate. Instead they insist on bilingual education, immediate access to welfare programs and special accommodation for any cultural or religious tradition they bring with them.

I've never been part of the "close-the-borders," anti-immigration crowd. My great-grandparents came here from the Netherlands and found a better life for their children. During my years working for Sen. Boschwitz, I always enjoyed hearing him talk of his immigration experience (his father led the family out of Nazi Germany in the 1930s.) Rudy would talk about how his father would personally vouch for certain immigrants, assuring officials that he would help them assimilate, find work and stay off the public dole.

The people of Hans Mattson's day would never have insisted on being "hyphenated." They weren't Swedish-Americans, African-Americans, German-Americans or anything else with a hyphen. They were thrilled to just be Americans.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Worst Person in the World

I'm going to borrow the title of Keith (I'm an idiot) Olbermann's nightly award to discuss a softball coach named Jean Musgjerd of Rochester Community College.

Musgjerd's team was facing Central Lakes College of Brainerd last weekend in the Minnesota Junior College state tournament. CLC and RCC were having a great game that was scoreless going into the seventh inning. In fact, CLC's pitcher was throwing a no-hitter. She retired the Rochester team in the top of the seventh, and CLC came to bat in the bottom of the inning.
CLC's Ashly Erickson homered to give CLC an apparent 1-0 win. She rounded the bases, and several of her teammates lined up along the 3rd-base line to exchange high fives as she trotted home.

Then things got weird. Musgjerd complained to the umpires about Erickson's teammates congratulating her before she had touched home plate, which is a violation of NCAA rules. The umpires conferred, and declared Erickson out. The game went into extra innings, and RCC ended up winning 4-0 in nine innings.

Now, I have no problem with a coach using the rulebook to gain every possible advantage. It's a wise coach - or player - that knows the rules well and understands the finer points of the game. But what happened here is a travesty, and the blame can be shared by:

#1 Musgjerd, whose behavior is reprehensible.

#2 The umpires for not knowing the rule and then making a ridiculous decision

But Coach Musgjerd takes about 95% of the responsibility.

(As many of you know, I've been an NCAA and Minnesota State High School League baseball umpire for almost 30 years. That doesn't make me the ultimate authority, but I do have the perspective that one gets from working about 1,200 games over the years.)

It's true that the NCAA has a rule against touching a runner before the runner reaches home plate. But the rule also says "For a first offense, the umpire shall issue a warning to the offending team."

Musgjerd gave a very smug quote to a reporter, saying "I always have a rule book in my bag. You don't want to win in that way, but you have to play by the rules. You get schooled on the rulebook, and you find out really fast that you need to know it."

Except she either didn't really know the rule, or she quoted only part of it to gain an unfair advantage. She left out the part about issuing a warning, in an effort to try to take away the fairly-earned victory of her opponent. That's contemptible.

And while I hate to second-guess fellow umpires, their reaction seems totally indefensible. First, they didn't know the rule, and they allowed a coach to bully them into making the wrong call. The first part of that doesn't bother me so much, since it's impossible to know every obscure NCAA rule. That's why umpires are supposed to carry rulebooks, so that when one of these once-in-a-decade situations arise, you can refer to it. It doesn't appear these guys had a rulebook, or they would have been able to read the part about issuing a warning, and they would have told Musgjerd the game was over.

If they DIDN'T have a rulebook, they should have let common sense prevail, and allowed the home run to stand. A large part of becoming a successful umpire is learning when to use common sense in applying the rules. The classic example is the way umpires at every level allow 2nd basemen or shortstops to sometimes be slightly off the 2nd-base bag when turning a double play. We let it go (within reason) because we know it prevents injuries.

There are thousands of little violations that take place over the course of a season, and umpires let them go because they don't impact the outcome of the game. For example, did you know that a 3rd-base coach is supposed stay in his designated coach's box? But when a big right-handed power hitter is at the plate, coaches often move 10 or 15 feet towards the outfield, and we let them do that, because it reduces the chance of them getting killed by a foul line drive.

In the same way, these umpires - if they didn't know the rule or have a rulebook - should have said "A high-five on the 3rd-base line doesn't impact the outcome of the game. You lose, go home."

But regardless of the umpires' malfeasance, it's Musgjerd who is the real villain here. Coaches aren't just there to win games. (Especially in junior college softball. This isn't the NFL.) They are in their jobs to teach the skills of their sport, teach teamwork, cooperation and a sense of sportsmanship. Musgjerd failed as a coach, as a person and as a representative of her sport.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A noble organization

Like most folks, my mailbox is filled with solicitations from various charities. Almost all are worthy, but of course, we all have to make decisions about which we can support. In my opinion, one of the very best is called "No Greater Sacrifice."

NGS works to provide scholarships for the children of members of the armed forces who are killed in action. I think it's an incredibly noble cause, and what I also like about the organization is that it is entirely staffed by volunteers; There are no paid staff or professional fundraisers, meaning that every dollar donated goes directly to scholarships.

You can read more about NGS here. NGS recently announced a campaign to try to find 8 million Americans (out of a population of more than 304 million) who would each donate $10 to their cause. That $80 million would be enough to fund the college education of the all the children who lost a parent in the service of their country in the War on Terror.

Here's how much I believe so much in the work of NGS: This morning I donated $30 to the cause. That's $10 for everyone who has signed up as a "follower" on my blog. For the next two weeks (until midnight, May 18) I'll donate another $10 for everyone who becomes a follower of Tim Droogsma's blog.

All you have to do is go to the bottom of the page, left-hand side, and click on "follow" using your Yahoo, Google, AIM or Open ID account. Sign up to receive my blog updates, and I'll donate $10 to No Greater Sacrifice. Of course, you're also welcome to donate yourself at their web site.

Come on, make me write a big check!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

We lose another giant

Word comes tonight that Jack Kemp has passed away at the age 0f 73, following a battle with cancer.

We met only a couple of times, but I was a great admirer, in part because he had great success in two fields - sports and politics - that I've been fortunate enough to be involved in. He was an outstanding quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, winning two AFL Championships and an MVP award, and after his football career he went on to become a congressman from the Buffalo area. A strong believer in free-market principles, he co-authored the Kemp-Roth tax cuts that were at the heart of the Reagan economic recovery.

He believed there was almost no problem that couldn't be solved by greater free enterprise. He worked tirelessly to promote "enterprise zones" as a way to revitalize inner cities, recognizing the failure of the "Great Society" programs of the 1960s. Later he became secretary of HUD under the first President Bush, and was Bob Dole's running mate in 1996. He loved to call himself a "bleeding heart Republican."

What I'll remember most is the handshake. Early in his football career, he had a severly broken hand, and he insisted that the doctors set the middle finger of his right hand in a curve, so that he could continue to properly grip a football. It was odd to shake his hand and see the finger bowed out. (You can get a sense of it in this photo.)

It was memorable in the same was it was always a little odd to do the left-handed hand shake with Bob Dole.

A warrior on the field, and in the political arena, he loved his country and brought tireless energy towards making it better.

Rest in peace.