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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Basic Biittner: Following up

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

In today's column, I will tie up some loose ends from some of my previous columns.

In a column I wrote near the end of April, I asked readers whether the quaint "holiday" of May 1 was still being celebrated. I received three responses, all from women who are a little bit - but not a lot - older than I am. All three remember May Day fondly, with the distribution of May Baskets at school and in the neighborhood, but don't feel it's a big thing anymore.

I consulted with a recently-retired elementary school teacher, and she said that the "holiday" is no longer a part of school, but she said that she did have some neighbor boys who have left May Baskets at her door in recent years. So, I guess the consensus is that May Day is not part of the life of most young families today. Too bad.

In another recent column, I wrote about the Roger Maris Museum in Fargo, N.D., and mused about the eventual election of Maris, who slugged 61 home runs in 1961 without any assistance from steroids or other illegal substances, to baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Since that column, I have looked up how Maris has done in Hall of Fame elections. For the record, players are first eligible for Hall of Fame induction five years after their playing career ends, which would have been 1974 in Maris' case. A player must then receive 75% of the votes cast by the baseball writers of America to gain election. Here's how Roger Maris did - in his first year of eligibility, 1974, he received 78 votes, for a whopping 21.4%, just 53.6% short. It didn't get much better the next few years, with his vote ranging from 16.6% in 1982 to 29.4% between 1975 and 1984. Maris developed cancer and died in December 1985, at the age of 51. Not surprisingly, I guess, his vote totals in 1985, 1986,1987, and 1988 were the best of his post-playing career - 32.4, 41.6, 42.6 and 43.1 %, respectively.

His name no longer appeared on the BBWAA ballot after that 1988 peak. I think maybe he had been on the ballot for 15 years, and that's the maximum allowed (I think - sometimes the rules are a bit confusing, and they've also been changed in recent years). At any rate, I don't see any mention of Roger Maris in connection with Hall of Fame voting again until 2003, when his name was on the ballot of the Veteran's Committee. In the vote by that august group, Maris' 2003 numbers went back to his pre-1985 level, as he drew just 22.2% of the votes cast. In their next vote, in 2005, he received 23.8%; in 2007, 18.3%, and in 2009, he didn't receive enough support to even be included among the 10 names listed on their final ballot. An interesting side note for me was that Joe Gordon, who played for the Yankees and Indians 15 years before Maris did, was elected by the Veterans' group this year, and will be inducted in July. In 2005, when Roger Maris received 23.8% of that committee's vote, Joe Gordon drew even less support (17.5%) than he did. Sad to say, it seems unlikely that Roger Maris will ever be voted into the Hall of Fame.

The other column I re-visit here is my "Wonderful Year - 1959" column, in which I celebrated the "birth" in that year of the Cherokee County Conservation Board, the Cherokee Community Theatre, and R.J. Thomas Mfg.

I have some 1959 additions in this column. 1959 was also the year after the Baltimore Colts beat the New York Giants in "The Greatest Game Ever Played" - the overtime NFL Championship Game - basically creating such an interest in pro football that it is seen in hindsight as the point where football began taking over the "National Pastime" mantle from baseball. The pro football season ended in December in those days, so 1959 would have been the date of the Super Bowl that season, if there had been such a thing as a Super Bowl. That was still a few years off.

Of more local interest, 1959 was also the year that "tiny" Calumet High School, in O'Brien County, won the Class B Iowa High School Boys Basketball Championship. Back then, there were only two classes in Iowa High School Basketball, and Northwest Iowa also took the Class A "big school" championship when Sioux Center - hardly what we'd consider a big school today - beat up the "big boys" to take that trophy, too.

I guess, despite the fact that my Yankees did not appear in the World Series that year and the sudden appearance of automobiles with those ugly tail-fins, 1959 was a pretty good year.

Dan Whitney
Basic Biittner