Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

I'm posting after midnight, so technically it's not a Memorial Day post, but it will have to do. Normally I like to take in Red Wing's Memorial Day ceremonies, but I had the chance to golf with some family members this morning in the Twin Cities, so I got up early and made the trek to NE Minneapolis. It was a memorable round that included almost every weather element Minnesota has to offer: Thunder, lightning, rain, hail and high winds, lacking only a little snow and sleet. And that was all by the third hole, where we quickly invented a "local rule" calling for automatic two-putts on greens that were covered with hailstones.

Afterwards, I took some time to make my semi-regular stop at Ft. Snelling, (you can read about last year's visit here) to visit the grave of my Uncle and Aunt, Vernon and Dena Peterson. Vernon, as I've written before, saw plenty of heavy combat in World War II, in the N. Africa and Italy theaters, and was awarded the Purple Heart. We lost him in 2000, and Dena was reunited with him just a few weeks ago. They were wonderful people - funny, smart, devoted to their faith and family - who lived on the shores of Cross Lake in Pine City, MN. For several summers they would take my brother and me into their home for a week so we could take our swimming lessons at a nearby beach, and their home was the site for numerous family gatherings over the years.

I snapped pics of both sides of their headstone, and found it very comforting to think of them spending eternity side by side. God bless them both.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A touching moment

As noted below, Harmon Killebrew meant a lot to me, and the same can be said of Rod Carew. If Killebrew was the hero of my youth, Carew was the one who kept me in a fanatical relationship with baseball through my high school and college years. In particular, his MVP season of 1977 - .388 batting average, 100 RBI, 128 runs scored, and I don't even have to look up those numbers - was incredibly memorable. I probably attended 45 or 50 Twins home games that season, plus a few on the road, and Carew made it all worthwhile, so much so that my oldest son is named Travis Carew Droogsma.

Rod and Harmon had a special relationship, not just as former teammates, but as long-time friends as well. Here is Carew's stirring eulogy from Thursday's memorial service at Target Field.

I was also pleased to learn during the service that Harmon loved 'What a Wonderful World," which has always been one of my favorites as well, another song that I'd like played at my funeral. Here is former Twins pitcher Mudcat Grant - who had a nice off-season singing career while playing for the Twins - performing the song at the service.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The people of Hiroshima beg to differ

Over his 49 years in public office (yes, that's right, 49 years) Joe Biden has said enough stupid things to fill a book, but yesterday he may have outdone himself. Talking about Obama's decision to approve the raid on Osama Bin Laden, Biden called it:

“The boldest decision … any president has undertaken on a single event in modern history.”

Hmmm. Just off the top of my head - and Jonah Goldberg at National Review has a similar list - I would say....

Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation
Kennedy committing us to go to the moon
Reagan challenging Gorbachev to "tear down this wall"
Nixon opening relations with China
Jefferson's purchase of the Louisiana Territory
Roosevelt's decision to enter World War II
and, oh yeah, Truman deciding to use the atomic bomb

...all were slightly more "bold" than approving a commando raid on the world's most wanted terrorist.

I know there are a few history buffs among my readers. Feel free to add to the list, and feel free to add this comment to the lengthy list of stupidity coming from Biden.

For a great list of Biden gaffes, go here. My personal favorite is when he talks about President Roosevelt going on television to discuss the 1929 stock market crash. (Roosevelt wasn't president in 1929, and television had not yet been invented. Otherwise, great example Joe.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Governor Goofy, Part II

In the 1980s, Minnesota Governor Rudy Perpich earned the nickname "Governor Goofy" because he was prone to large, grandiose ideas that often had no basis in reality. Personally, I liked the guy - in part because he was one of the most personable "retail politicians" I've ever known - and in part because a few of his big ideas came true, often to the state's betterment. The National Sports Center in Blaine, the Mall of America in Bloomington and the Gorbachev visit to Minnesota are just some of Perpich's ideas that took hold. He might be my favorite Democrat of all time.

There was, however, the Goofy side. He had a mercurial temper, and was prone to conspiracy theories, particularly about the media. There was a bit of a "take my ball and go home" attitude when he didn't get his way, and a number of former staffers tell stories about the way he would flip-flop on positions and issues for no discernible reason.

His goofiness is nothing, however, compared to that of the current occupant of the Governor's office, Mark Dayton. Minnesota voters knew last November that they were taking a risk, given the history of Dayton's, well, let's be polite and call it his "emotional and mental health." But I don't think anyone realized he was capable of holding the state hostage with a child-like temper tantrum.

It all begins with the state budget. Like most states, Minnesota began the year facing a bit of a budget crisis, although it's more accurate to call it a "spending crisis." State government has been growing at rates far, far greater than the rate of inflation for a couple decades, and the budget for the 2009-2011 biennium (Minnesota does its budgets in two-year cycles, beginning every other July 1) was the largest in state history at somewhere around $34 billion. Remember that $34 billion number.

Dayton - who never saw a spending program he didn't like - offered up a budget that called for nearly $2 billion in tax increases. In March, the Legislature took a vote on the Dayton tax proposal. The Senate voted it down 63-1, and the House vote was 131-0. At that point, it would have occurred to a rational person that there was a bipartisan distaste for tax increases, which would have had a horribly detrimental effect on the mild economic recovery now taking place.

Meanwhile, the Republican majorities in the Legislature went about the business of putting together a responsible budget that recognized the reality of the economic times, and the basic spending obligations of state government. Overall, their budget came out to about $34 billion, or about a 9% increase over the previous biennium. They increased the K-12 Education budget. They increased spending for courts and the justice system. They introduced some meaningful reforms to government operations, and trimmed budgets of some other state departments. And at the end of the day, they produced a balanced budget - the largest budget in state history, despite the state of the economy - without raising taxes.

This set off alarms in Dayton's head. It wasn't enough that spending increased faster than inflation (again). It wasn't enough that K-12 funding grew, or that the budget was balanced. He wants tax increases, and, well, what's the point in being the Governor if you can't hold your breath until you turn blue in order to take more money out of the people's pockets?

So he vetoed all of the budget bills (except for the tiny Agriculture bill), and now that the Legislature has reached the Constitutionally-mandated adjournment date, the only way a budget can be put in place by July 1 is through a special session of the Legislature. Without a budget by July 1, state government will shut down (which may not be a totally bad thing, but that's a discussion for another day).

So Governor Goofy is willing to incur the cost of a special session - or even a government shutdown - for what? Not for some high-minded principle like a balanced budget, job creation, increased education funding or a revitalized economy. No, he's willing to do all of this because the voices in his head say that taxes should be raised.

It's a goofiness that makes Perpich look sane and sober in comparison.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The truth: Can they handle it?

Tim Pawlenty (see below post) is only one day into his presidential campaign, but he did something today that impressed me. He went into Iowa, and said that ethanol subsidies have to be phased out.

For 30 years, candidates of both parties have been trudging into Iowa and promising support for ethanol. The truth is, corn-based ethanol isn't simply a questionable idea, or a shaky idea, or an idea needing further study. It's flat-out a HORRIBLE idea that has wasted billions and billions of dollars and done untold environmental damage, but politicians supported it because they thought they had to in order to curry favor with voters in Iowa, Minnesota and other corn belt states. Bob Dole was one of the most shameful practitioners, with Bill Clinton running a close second.

The fact that Pawlenty was willing to do that shows a certain amount of courage that most risk-averse politicians lack.

Rumor has it that Pawlenty is going to go to senior-laden Florida, and say that Social Security cost-of-living-adjustments (COLAs) need to be means-tested. It's a reasonable idea that needs to be done - Does Warren Buffet really require an annual increase in his Social Security payments? - but one that politicians have been afraid to touch. (If we had adopted a very minor COLA adjustment plan put forward in 1989 by my old boss Rudy Boschwitz, there would be no Social Security problem now.)

This tells me that Pawlenty is ready to tell the truth to the American public about the incredible depth of our current fiscal crisis. Whether the American public is willing - or smart enough - to listen to that truth will be one of the key questions affecting the success of Pawlenty's candidacy.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Pawlenty campaign launches

Today, the former governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, officially enters the race for President, and my initial reaction is that he has as good a chance of any of the current crop of Republicans to win the nomination.

He is almost exactly four years younger than me (our birthdays are three days apart), also a former hockey player, and we were students on the U of M campus at the same time. T-Paw got his start in politics when he was appointed to the Eagan Planning Commission by one of my old bosses, Vic Ellison. He went on to serve 10 years in the legislature, and eight years as governor. In that time he was a steady, principled conservative voice who consistently outwitted the DFLers in the Legislature.

He's bright, energetic and begins his campaign with far more meaningful experience than the current occupant of the White House had when he launched his 2008 campaign. Here's the video Pawlenty released in advance of his announcement. Go get 'em, Tim.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

An interesting fellow

Herman Cain announced his candidacy for the presidency today, which I'm sure prompted those who heard about it to ask, "Who?"

And to be honest about it, that would have been my reaction about a month ago, when I had never heard the name either. But in early May, Cain took part in a panel discussion - Fox News called it a "debate," but it really wasn't a debate in the classic sense - with other presidential wanna-bees, including former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

I didn't watch the discussion, but the next day I heard someone on the radio raving about how good Herman Cain was, and later in the day someone said to me "That Herman Cain guy was really good," and the two references in the span of a couple hours piqued my curiosity.

So, off I went to the internet to look for video clips and learn what I could about Herman Cain. And what I found was pretty interesting. First of all, he WAS very good in the debate. This blogger thought so, and provides clips of both the debate and the focus group reaction afterwards.

When I went to read his bio, I became even more impressed. Raised in Georgia, by parents who worked as a cleaner and a chauffeur, Cain graduated from Morehouse College with a degree in math, and later added a Master's in Computer Science from Purdue while also working full-time for the Department of the Navy.

He then entered the business world, and became a Vice-President at Pillsbury, then was later named CEO of their Godfather's Pizza subsidiary. He then organized a group of investors to buy Godfather's from Pillsbury, and remained CEO until he left to become head of the National Restaurant Association. He was later named to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City, and became both an author and radio host.

He had a moment of fame in the early 1990s, when he went toe-to-toe with President Clinton at a town hall meeting and carried the moment in a debate over Clinton's proposed health care plan.

It's a resume that really speaks to me, chock-full of private sector, real-world experience, a sharp intellect and an ability to articulate conservative positions. You can read more about him and a detailed bio here.

It's hard to imagine that someone with less than 1% name recognition in May of 2011 could be elected President in 18 months, and the last time someone did something close to that (Jimmy Carter) it produced the worst presidency of the 20th century. But at least for now, I'm intrigued, and would urge people to pay some attention to the guy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A little Harmon follow-up

Everyone with a keyboard is writing their "memories of Harmon" story this week, which is as it should be. There are tons of great stories about Killebrew as both a player, and as a person, and they are all fun to read.

Many of them I have heard before, but a writer at mlb.com had one I had never heard before, about multi-sport star Dave DeBusschere. A native of Detroit, DeBusschere had a 12-year NBA career, including a starting spot on the NBA champion New York Knicks team, and was named as one of the NBA's top 50 players during the league's 50th anniversary season.

He also tried his hand as a major league pitcher, spending parts of two seasons with the White Sox. MLB.com had this story, however, about how he decided what sport to specialize in:

Dave DeBusschere, who made his athletic mark in the NBA, also pitched for the White Sox in 1962-63. He abandoned baseball, he said, for one reason: "Harmon Killebrew."

DeBusschere faced Killebrew four times -- struck him out, walked him and surrendered two home runs. The 443 other batters DeBusschere faced combined for eight. "I've got a better chance against Chamberlain," DeBusschere said years later. "Wilt's a lot bigger, but Harmon might have been stronger."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

So long, Harmon.

He was OUR first superstar. Even though we didn't really use that word in the early '60s, one of the things that made Harmon Killebrew so beloved in Minnesota was that he finally put us on the major league sports map.

It seemed like the big cities had all the big names. Best baseball player? Most people said Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle, who played in San Francisco and New York. Best running back? Jim Brown or Gale Sayers, who played in Cleveland and Chicago. Basketball? Bill Russell or Wilt Chamberlain, in Boston and Philadelphia.

But here on the prairie, in flyover land, suddenly we had a big name on one of OUR teams. Killebrew gave us a major league identity.

He came to Minnesota in 1961 when the Twins moved here from Washington, D.C., and it didn't hurt that his personality was tailor-made for Minnesota. Strong, quiet, stoic, he had all the qualities we would like to see in ourselves. He began pounding out home runs - 46 the first season, followed by 48, 45 and 49 through the 1964 season - and when fans went to Met Stadium to see the Twins, they were mostly going to see Harmon.

As mentioned in an earlier post, I was four years old when the Twins set up shop in Bloomington, so my growing years were consumed with all things Killebrew. My t-ball teammates and I tried to swing like him, we all wanted to wear #3 and - best of all for a kid like me who wasn't particularly fleet of foot - it was okay to be slow "because Harmon isn't fast either." We even wanted our dads to buy their suits at Foreman & Clark, because that's who Harmon did TV ads for.

The Killebrew family legend has it that his grandfather was the heavyweight wrestling champion of the Union Army, and size and strength were in the Killebrew genes. Growing up in Payette, Idaho, he was a multi-sport athlete, even named an All-American quarterback at Payette High.

But my favorite part of the story involves a Republican senator from Idaho named Herman Welker. Welker liked his baseball, and he told Senators owner Clark Griffith about this huge kid back home who could hit a baseball 500 feet. Griffith send a scout out to Idaho, and the reports came back that this kid was the real deal. Griffith - as tight-fisted with a buck as his son Calvin would become - authorized a remarkable signing bonus of $50,000, and so Harmon became a Senator, which put him on the path to Minnesota.

My dad and I each had our favorite Killebrew homer. For dad, it was the 1965 walk-off homer against the Yankees in the last game before the All-Star break. The Yankees were at the tail end of their dynasty, and the Twins were gunning for their first pennant, when the Yankees came to Minnesota for a three-game series. We had an uncle living with us at the time, and my dad bet him a dollar that the Twins would win two of the three games. They split the first two games, and it looked like the Yankees had the third game won when Killebrew hit a two-run, bottom-of-the-ninth homer to give the Twins the win and propel them on to their first pennant.

For me, it came when I was sitting on the floor of my aunt and uncle's home in Pine City, watching a small black-and-white TV on May 2, 1964. We were watching the Twins play in Detroit, and Killebrew became the first man to hit a ball over the left-field roof in Tiger Stadium. Years later I finally got to Tiger Stadium myself, and the first thing I did was stand behind home plate and look at how far away that roof was, marveling that anyone could hit a ball that far.

(My good friend Gary Russell recently sent me a column by a Detroit writer who met Harmon in 2008 and asked him about the home run. Harmon told him that the ball had ended up in a gutter on the back of the roof, and was given to him after the game by one of the stadium workers. The next day, however, Harmon got several phone calls from folks who said they had "the ball" and were willing to sell it to him. Harmon politely declined.)

In the winter of 1977-78, I was a sophomore in college, writing sports for the student paper at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and happened to be in the office one day when a phone call came in from a local PR guy: Harmon was going to be in Duluth the next day to speak to a group, and would be available to the media afterwards. Did I want to attend?

Of course I did, and there I got one of the luckiest breaks of my life. The local TV stations got their footage during his speech, and the News-Tribune writer must have had enough quotes as well, because suddenly I found myself sitting in a small room that included just me, my notebook and Harmon Killebrew. If he was offended by the tiny turnout, it didn't show, and he quickly put me at ease. We spent 20 minutes talking about all of the things I remembered, and he was happy to reminisce. When I told him about my dad winning a dollar bet on his Yankees homer, he smiled and said, "Tell him I want 50 cents." He was gracious, charming, funny...everything you would want your hero to be.

We met a couple other times over the years, and he was always the same: Warm, gracious and able to put everyone else at ease. He's signed a couple baseballs for me at different times, and the one pictured here sits on my office bookshelf. I went to Cooperstown for his Hall of Fame induction, and he told a wonderful story about growing up, when his mother complained to his father that the boys were ruining the grass around their house with all their ballplaying. "We're not raising grass," his father said. "We're raising boys."

Later on, Minnesota had its share of national sports figures. Tarkenton, Carew, Puckett, Garnett, etc., but Harmon was our first, and like so many other firsts in life, he'll be the one we never forget.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Emotional weekend

I'm coming off a 72-hour stretch that included some sad tears, some happy tears and a whole host of other emotions.

It started Friday morning, when the announcement came that Harmon Killebrew was nearing the end of his fight with cancer. I'll write more about Harmon in the coming days, but needless to say he was THE superstar hero of my youth. I was four years old when the Twins came to Minnesota in 1961, and 12 when Harmon had his MVP year in 1969, so you can imagine how every t-ball and Little League at-bat I ever had in those years was an attempt to be like him. News of his impending death was hard to take.

Hours later came word of the death of Derek Boogaard at age 28, from causes not yet known. I was in Milwaukee in 2003 to watch the Wild's minor-league team from Houston play, and they had this 6-foot-7 guy that I had never heard of. "That's Boogaard," someone told me. "He's big, but he can't skate." That was the consensus opinion, but Boogaard proved it wrong by working very hard on his skating and later getting called up to the Wild, where he became arguably the most popular player in team history. The death of someone so young is always hard to take, and this one was especially difficult.

Death, unfortunately, has been a strongly-felt presence in my life the past few months. I've lost a number of friends, colleagues and relatives since early March, and during that same period I've had two friends and a cousin - all of whom are my age or younger - undergo open-heart surgery. I was at Ft. Snelling National Cemetery just 10 days ago to bury an aunt I was especially fond of, a wonderful woman of 88 who succumbed to cancer with incredible grace and courage. She decided to forgo treatment, saying, "I've had a wonderful life and I'm ready for what's next," which was a wonderful testament to the power of the faith that directed her life.

Saturday began in a much more uplifting way. I was at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls to watch youngest son William graduate. Pictured here with his fiancee, Adrienne, William made us all proud by wrapping up his degree in the allotted four years, spending time on the Dean's List and putting his musical talent to great use as a worship leader at a River Falls church. Like most graduations, it was an exciting, uplifting moment.

Afterwards I headed back to St. Paul, where Tim McGraw was performing. I approached the building feeling good, running on the excitement of the graduation ceremony, then turned the corner near Gate Two and saw this little makeshift memorial that had been started:

Which brought right back to me the reality that Boogie was really gone.

It put a damper on the evening, and from my perch up on the club level, I wasn't really watching a concert, I was just looking down and picturing the rink, and remembering great Boogie moments, like the time he dropped Todd Fedoruk with one monster punch, or the way opponents were always looking over their shoulder when he was on the ice. We'd also hear the stories - being recounted by a number of writers right now - about his great off-ice personality, his charity work and the respect he had for those in the armed forces. A good hockey player, and an even better person, as shown by the hundreds who showed up at the X Sunday night for a memorial.

Sunday should have been better, but after church it was back to River Falls to help William move home. Which is great, because it's always nice to have him around in the summer, but in the midst of carrying mattresses and moving boxes it hit me that he was coming home for the last time. He'll be here for about 12 weeks, and then he'll get married, move into a new home and fully begin his adult life. Which is what we all hope for, I realize, but when the baby of the family moves out for good, it marks some kind of milestone, and will serve as a reminder of just how much of my life is behind me already.

And now comes Monday, which means more work to do and hopefully getting back to a routine in which maybe there aren't so many emotions bubbling around the surface.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Is he lying, or just not very bright?

We've had some fun over the past couple years, pointing out the the President says a lot of things that indicate that he isn't the brightest bulb on the tree. There was here, with the famous "corpse-man" incident; and here, when he invented the "Austrian" language; and here, when he declared the U.S. to be "one of the largest Muslim countries in the world."

But yesterday he said something so totally at odds with the facts that there are really only two possible conclusions. Obama is either lying through his teeth, or he's doesn't have a clue what he's talking about.

At a town hall meeting, he said this:

"The reason the unemployment rate is still as high as it is, in part, is because there have been huge layoffs of government workers at the federal level, at the state level, at the local level,” he said. “Teachers, police officers, firefighters, social workers– they have really taken it in the chin over the last several months. And so, what we’re trying to do is to see if we can stabilize the budget.”

Got that? We have 9.0% unemployment, according to the President, because of "huge layoffs of government workers at the federal level, at the state level, at the local level."

This statement is, as National Review's Jim Geraghty (who gets a big hat tip on this post) puts it, "Extremely and mind-bogglingly wrong."

Consider these numbers, from Obama's own Department of Labor:

Recent peak of private-sector employment, June 2007:

Total private-sector employment in the month Obama became president, January 2009: 109,084,000.

Recent low of private-sector employment, January 2010: 104,933,000.

Total private-sector employment, April 2011: 108,494,000 (Seasonally adjusted: 108,862,000).

So note, we are about 8 million away from the most recent peak in private-sector employment.

Now, let’s look at total government employment (at all levels) for those four months:

June 2007: 22,176,000.

January 2009: 22,471,000.

January 2010: 22,376,000.

April 2011: 22,594,000 (preliminary)

So, since Obama took office, there not only has NOT been any decrease in the number of government workers, but the number has actually INCREASED by 120,000 or so. We've lost eight million jobs since June of 2007, but government employment has remained steady. But Obama says falling government employment is "the reason" for high unemployment.

How does it make you feel to know that the President is so totally out of touch with basic economic facts?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Lord Vader announces death of the terrorist Kenobi

Click here for details. Very funny stuff.

The Bin Laden family checks in

If you're in need of a good giggle, check out the "communique" sent by the sons of Osama Bin Laden to the New York Times. It's a long screed that first claims there's no proof that good 'ol daddy is actually dead, then goes on to say how wrong it was to kill him. If you like, you can read the entire thing here. Forgive the grammar and punctuation, since I don't think English is their first language.

They also decry the shooting of a woman in the raid (because Middle Easterners and Islamic societies are famously respectful of women, you know) and go on to complain about OBL's burial at sea. Because, of course, the families of OBL's victims at the World Trade Center, Pentagon and aboard Flight 93 were all able to review their loved one's bodies and give them proper burials, right?

The best part comes at the end, when they threaten to put a posse of lawyers together so they can get to the bottom of this whole mess:

"Failure to answer these questions will force us to go to International forum for justice such as International Criminal Court and International Court of Justice and UN must take notice of the violation of international law and assist us to have answers for which we are lawful in seeking them. A panel of eminent British and international lawyers is being constituted and a necessary action may be taken if no answers are furnished within 30 days of this statement."

Really? The International Court of Justice AND the UN? That's a great plan guys. Why don't you also file an appeal with Hennepin County Traffic Court, Judge Judy and the Commissioner of the NBA? Somewhere, someone has to feel sorry for you, right?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Willie Mays turns 80

The greatest baseball player of all time turned 80 on Friday, and very few people who saw Willie Mays play in his prime would argue with that description.

I grew up in an American League market, so my views of Willie were limited to Saturday afternoons, when NBC's Game of the Week would often bring him into my living room, but there was never a doubt in my mind that those rare opportunities allowed me to be watching greatness.

Willie started his first full season as a pro in Minneapolis, where the Millers were the farm team of the New York Giants. He got off to a quick start in the spring of 1951 and was an immediate fan favorite. The Giants started slowly, and in late May, Willie got the call from Giants Manager Leo Durocher, telling him he was coming up to the Giants. The story has it that Mays told Durocher he didn't think he was ready for the big leagues. Durocher asked what he was hitting in Minneapolis. ".477," Mays said. "Well, do you think you can hit two-****ing-fifty for me in New York?" Durocher said.

Mays went to New York, was rookie of the year, and helped the Giants win the pennant. (He was the on-deck hitter when Bobby Thomson hit his famous pennant-winning homer in October.)

From then until his retirement in 1973, Mays did everything you could ask from a ballplayer. A lifetime average of .302, 660 home runs, 1,903 RBI and 338 stolen bases. Had he not lost nearly two full seasons to military service (he played only 34 games in 1952 and 1953 combined), and had he not played in the hitter-hostile environment of San Francisco's Candlestick Park, it would have been Willie, not Hank Aaron, who first broke Babe Ruth's mark of 714 career homers.

One more set of numbers - This is an AVERAGE Mays season: .302 BA, 36 HR, 103 RBI, 79 walks, 18 stolen bases. Do that today, and you'd make more than Joe Mauer's $26 million per year. The most Willie ever made was $165,000.

And yet the numbers alone don't do justice to what Willie did on the field. He had the strongest throwing arm of any outfielder in his era, maybe ever. He ran the bases "like he was riding a bicycle," as one writer once put it. He was the best center fielder ever, and when you talk about the greatest catch ever, the discussion pretty much begins and ends with his catch of a Vic Wertz blast in the 1954 World Series. He made the All-Star team 20 times, and received 95% of the possible votes in his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility.

(The above picture is from the night he hit four home runs in 1961. YOU try holding four baseballs in one hand.)

A number of books have been written about him, but the one I recommend most is "Willie's Time," by Charles Einstein. It's not just a baseball book, but tells Mays' story in the context of the radical changes in American society from the 1950s through the '70s. A very good read.

Fortunately, I was given pretty free reign as far as names went when my boys were born. The oldest is Travis Carew Droogsma, named after another guy who handled the bat pretty well, and when our youngest came along, it was sort of a no-brainer for me: William Mays Droogsma.

My Willie graduates from college this Saturday, just days after his namesake turned 80. He, too, was a pretty good ballplayer, starting for a state championship team as a 12-year-old before turning his attention to hockey and golf. Happy Birthday, Willie, and congratulations, William. It was great to watch you both.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Doing it right in Philly

Last year at playoff time, I wrote about the great Philadelphia Flyers tradition of using "God Bless America" instead of the National Anthem before playoff games. It began in the 1970s when the late, great Kate Smith happened to be in town and performed the song before a Flyers playoff game, which they won. You can see that post by clicking here.

Since then, one variation has been to have the remarkable Lauren Hart sing the song as a "duet" with the taped version of Smith. They did it again Monday night, and the emotion of the past 24 hours made it a little more special. I'm rooting for Boston in this series, and was glad when they won in overtime (thanks to Tim Thomas, perhaps the best American-born goalie playing right now), but the opening of the game is pretty wonderful. Enjoy:

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Now he can meet the real "Great Satan"

Somewhere out there is a courageous U.S. Navy Seal who fired the shot the ended Osama Bin Laden's life. I suspect - in keeping with the nature of covert operations - that we might never know his name, but freedom-loving people everywhere owe him a debt of gratitude.

I'm very excited to read in the coming days and weeks about the details of the operation, which will probably read like a Tom Clancy thriller. This isn't a day for partisanship, just a day to celebrate a small measure of justice exacted by the United State of America. Thank you to every American soldier everywhere.