From the “They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To” file.
The anniversary was Wednesday.
On October 26, 1881, the Earp brothers face off against the Clanton-McLaury gang in a legendary shootout at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona.
After silver was discovered nearby in 1877, Tombstone quickly grew into one of the richest mining towns in the Southwest. Wyatt Earp, a former Kansas police officer working as a bank security guard, and his brothers, Morgan and Virgil, the town marshal, represented “law and order” in Tombstone, though they also had reputations as being power-hungry and ruthless. The Clantons and McLaurys were cowboys who lived on a ranch outside of town and sidelined as cattle rustlers, thieves and murderers. In October 1881, the struggle between these two groups for control of Tombstone and Cochise County ended in a blaze of gunfire at the OK Corral.
On the morning of October 25, Ike Clanton and Tom McLaury came into Tombstone for supplies. Over the next 24 hours, the two men had several violent run-ins with the Earps and their friend Doc Holliday. Around 1:30 p.m. on October 26, Ike’s brother Billy rode into town to join them, along with Frank McLaury and Billy Claiborne. The first person they met in the local saloon was Holliday, who was delighted to inform them that their brothers had both been pistol-whipped by the Earps. Frank and Billy immediately left the saloon, vowing revenge.
Around 3 p.m., the Earps and Holliday spotted the five members of the Clanton-McLaury gang in a vacant lot behind the OK Corral, at the end of Fremont Street. The famous gunfight ensued.
Decades ago when my father worked for the US Postal Service he’d come home and quickly change from one uniform to another: usher for the Milwaukee Braves at the old County Stadium.
In 1965, the final season for the Braves in Milwaukee before moving to Atlanta, Dad would take me to the ballpark and slip me under the turnstile so I could roam the stands and take in a game. No one in authority batted an eye. Everyone knew the Braves were history, so the seats were mostly empty.
I’ve blogged in the past that my father was not the overly emotional type. But on one September 1965 car ride to County Stadium I’ll never forget how dad, without crying, still couldn’t hide his sadness from this young sharp kid. When I asked dad what was wrong as we approached the stadium parking lot, he answered succinctly that the team wasn’t coming back next season. My questioning stopped. Once Hank Aaron left the Atlanta Braves I stopped following and liking that team for life.
That was the idea in 1968, when Milwaukee, still smarting from the loss of the Braves to Atlanta in 1966, lured the Chicago White Sox to play at County Stadium.
After the 1967 season, White Sox owner Arthur Allyn announced that the team would play 10 games in 1968 — one game against each A.L. team, and a preseason exhibition game against the crosstown Cubs — at County Stadium. The games were “sponsored” by the Brewers, the Milwaukee Sentinel reported on Oct. 31, 1967. The White Sox did play at County Stadium again in 1969 — 11 games, one against each team in the league, which had expanded to 12 teams for the season.
So when the White Sox came calling, Dad’s phone rang, asking if he could usher once more, and he did. And yours truly got to sneak into more games, even if it meant being subjected to, as Dad called them, the “banjo hitting” White Sox.
I checked the online stats, and the old Washington Senators played the White Sox at County Stadium on August 2, 1968, and again on August 6, 1969. In BOTH games, huge powerful slugger for Washington Frank Howard (who later became a coach for the Milwaukee Brewers) blasted a homer in each of those games.
I don’t know which game I attended. Maybe it was both. Just don’t know. But this I do remember, vividly. Watching from the stands with a perfect view from behind home plate I was soon awestruck when the Senator’s imposing first baseman Howard launched an atomic bomb to straightaway center field.
Gone for sure. Just a matter of how far. As the ball soared, kids my age in the outfield bleachers immediately were in retreat, quickly running upwards, one row after another until they ran out of rows. No longer facing the field they now looked over the back wall to the parking lot. No chalet housing Bernie Brewer back then to obstruct Homer’s missile. The ball landed, who knows where, smashing a windshield or any other part of some innocent vehicle.
If there was technology at the time measuring hits over the fences I’m unaware. How far did Howard’s onslaught travel? You got me.
This is all a long prelude to what happened 35 years ago today. That would be reportedly baseball’s longest home run 35 years ago today. And it was belted by a guy who later played for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1988 and 1989.
On this day, in 1907, 115 years ago, John Wayne was born in Winterset, Iowa. Nicknamed “The Duke,” Marion Robert Morrison became an instant star after his role in John Ford’s 1939 film, “Stagecoach.”
He went on to play the hero in 142 pictures, and won the Oscar for Best Actor for “True Grit.” in 1969. His voice, swagger, and charisma in action films and westerns made him a major box office draw for thirty years.
In his final screen performance, in “The Shootist,” he played an aging gunfighter battling cancer — three years before his own death in 1979 from stomach cancer at age 72.
The 2021 National League Division Series (NLDS) between the Milwaukee Brewers and Atlanta Braves will be the first-ever postseason meeting between these two franchises. Milwaukee finished the season with the better record of these two division champs (95-67), clinching the NL Central nearly a week before the Atlanta Braves (88-73) wrapped up the NL East.
Thus, Milwaukee has home-field advantage in this best-of-five series. What a matchup: an intimidating and slugging Braves lineup against a Brewers pitching staff that’s amongst the best in baseball.
How do I feel about the Braves, more than 50 years after they rode out of town?
Here’s a blog I wrote last October:
Milwaukee baseball fans were sucker punched in 1965. Their beloved Braves played their final season here and moved to Atlanta the following year.
My father was an usher at Milwaukee County Stadium every season the Braves played there. He’d work his regular job all day for the Post Office, wolf down dinner at home, and then rush to the ballpark to return home much later in the evening.
I rarely saw my father cry, maybe a handful of times, if not, even fewer. One of those times was when he and I drove to the stadium in September of 1965. Dad would occasionally sneak me under the turnstile to see a ballgame which wasn’t a problem because attendance wasn’t good at that time.
As we turned right on National Avenue onto the drive into County Stadium it was clear Dad was unhappy and I asked him what was wrong. Dad was succinct and to the point when he replied that the Braves wouldn’t be around anymore.
Henry Aaron of the Braves was a boyhood hero of mine. So even with the Braves now calling the South their home I still followed them. They still had ‘Hammerin’ Hank.” And Eddie Mathews. And Rico Carty who one year flirted with hitting .400. I cheered for players, not as much the Atlanta team.
Then we got the Brewers. What little allegiance I had with the Braves disappeared quickly, and I developed a disdain for the team that dumped our city, breaking the hearts of so many loyal and loving fans.
In the early to mid 1990’s when I worked in the news department at WTMJ Radio the station’s program director Steve Wexler gave me an additional duty to go along with my news gathering obligations. Every day for WTMJ’s highly rated morning drive show I was to produce and voice a “radio column,” a radio equivalent of a newspaper op-ed piece.
During one of those on-air columns, and I don’t remember the context, I talked sports. And it might have been the Atlanta Braves. Or the Chicago Cubs. To me they’re interchangeable.
I mentioned that I hated the Braves. Or the Cubs. Didn’t matter. I said I hated one or both. Probably was the Braves and I included everything you’ve just read. Probably Ted Turner and that annoying tomahawk chop, too.
About a week later I got a handwritten letter from a listener. The woman disclosed that she had always listened to when I previously worked at WUWM Milwaukee Radio, and she found me to likable and admirable. That’s why she was so disappointed for me to express hatred…on the radio. The letter writer was a Catholic nun.
How did I respond? I sent off a letter of my own and discussed it in another “radio column.” When I said I hated the Braves, sorry Sister, I did mean it, but from a sports perspective. Certainly I wasn’t wishing their next plane trip would crash. However I’d root for the Russians before I’d ever stomach backing the Braves.
If I had a time machine, I’d make a beeline to Mayberry. Maybe even set the dials for the day Barbara Eden got off that bus.
Except the quaint cozy town was fictitious.
Andy Griffith was born and raised in Mount Airy, North Carolina, a community that was the inspiration for Mayberry in the classic comedy “The Andy Griffith Show” and its spinoff, “Mayberry, R.F.D.” Now, Mount Airy has reinvented itself as a destination for fans who come by the hundreds of thousands each year. CBS Senior contributing correspondent Ted Koppel visited Mount Airy to find out what attracts so many nostalgic for a show created more than 50 years ago.
Good stuff in spite of Koppel’s blatant effort to inject racial and political elements into his story, who, in my view, got his hat handed to him. For that the video is worth watching.
Singer Marvin Gaye surprised the pop music world 50 years ago today, May 21, 1971. Known for his soulful ballads Gaye released a totally different message album focused entirely on social commentary.
“What’s Going On” is filled with songs from the perspective of a Vietnam vet who has recently returned from the war and deeply reflects on inner city problems.
Motown’s Berry Gordy was at first reluctant to release “What’s Going On,” thinking the scat vocals and jazzy sound weren’t contemporary enough. But the single took off, so Gordy instructed Gaye to within a month come up with an entire concept album of similar material.
Last September when Rolling Stone published its latest ranking of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, “What’s Going On” was listed as #1.
In honor of the album’s anniversary, a new animated lyric video for the song came out today.
Gaye’s father was a violent alcoholic who made no secret that he never wanted his son. At one time Gaye said, “By the time I was twelve, there wasn’t an inch on my body that hadn’t been bruised and beaten by him.”
“My husband never wanted Marvin, and he never liked him,” Alberta Gay, Marvin Gaye’s mother explained. “He used to say he didn’t think he was really his child. I told him that was nonsense. He knew Marvin was his. But for some reason, he didn’t love Marvin, and what’s worse, he didn’t want me to love Marvin either.”
On April 1, 1984, Marvin Gaye and Marvin Gay Sr. argued. Gaye reportedly allegedly began beating his father until his mother, Alberta, separated them. While Gaye was talking with his mother in his bedroom and trying to calm down, his father reached for a gift that his son had once given him: a .38 Special.
Gay Sr. entered the bedroom and saying nothing shot his son once in the chest. Gaye fell to the floor and Gay Sr. shot him a second and third time at point-blank range.
Marvin Gaye died the day before his 45th birthday.
Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy.
This Monday marks the 29th anniversary of the death of bandleader and TV celebrity Lawrence Welk.
Whoa whoa whoa, Kevin! Are you actually devoting your Friday night music feature… to him?
Well, as a matter of fact, I am. You do realize you’re taking a big chance?
Kev, Kev, Kev. Your audience, man. They may have already abandoned you. Probably never even got this far into the blog.
Hey, the guy was a star. Yeh, but he wasn’t cool or hip. Corny. Hokey. Campy. Kinda cheesy. And those costumes…crazy.
That’s what made his program so popular. I would also submit wholesome. Clean. Successful. With talented, gifted musicians. And I’ve got examples. So travel back with me to a time that was sweeter, more innocent that gave generations many memories.
Back when I was a kid television choices were limited. You had NBC, CBS, ABC, public TV, and an independent local station. That was it.
In the Fischer household there were certain couldn’t miss TV shows. Like “The Fugitive.” “The Ed Sullivan Show.” “The Hollywood Palace.” “The Man from UNCLE.” “The Avengers.” “The Big Valley.” “Batman.”
And on Saturday nights, “The Lawrence Welk Show.” A regular ritual, our family warmly sat together , never missing a minute of the cornball hour.
Lawrence Welk was inescapable. Even if we paid a visit to a relative’s house on a Saturday there was a 100% chance the TV there would be tuned to ABC, Welk’s home for 27 years. And there I was, being a good boy, but secretly I was in my room with my transistor, listening to the Beatles on WRIT or WOKY. Later I would realize how skilled those Welk performers were, especially the orchestra that when unleashed had quite a sound. Welk called it champagne music.
Never an innovator, Mr. Welk’s criteria for success was to keep it sweet and simple: play the proven standards the people want to hear, in the simplest of arrangements, and in less than three minutes just in case someone did not like a particular song. It was safe-and-sane TV entertainment, painfully predictable and stable and wholesome.
For that, he went virtually without praise from within the TV industry itself. His reward came from his audiences, those who could not wait for their weekly taste of ‘uh-one and uh-two’ accompanied by a succession of Champagne Ladies, accordionists and talented instrumentalists. —Tom Gorman, The Baltimore Sun
Welk had a different theme to his program every week and often paid tribute to a singer, musician, musical group, or holiday.
In addition to the orchestra there was plenty of singing and dancing. A popular feature was the dancing team of Bobby Burgess and one of the three partners he performed with every week. One of the original Mickey Mouse Club Mousketeers, Burgess won a 10-week contest on the Welk show in 1961, dancing with Barbara Boylan. Both were 19 at the time.
Here Burgess is paired with Cissy King.
Welk wasn’t nuts about the instrumental, but his music director George Cates told him that he’d record it if Welk didn’t. Fortunately for Welk he changed his mind. “Calcutta” went to #1 for a few weeks in February of 1961.
Time for a short break from the Welk program with a group that appeared as the bandleader’s guests a few times. John Williams conducts the Boston Pops that accompany the sweet harmonies of the Mills Brothers. From the “They don’t write them liked they used to” file.
Now watch and listen to Welk’s treatment that really swings.
Mr. Welk was an unlikely candidate for national fame, but parlayed his German accent, charisma and a keen discernment of Middle America’s musical taste into a business empire founded on television, records and music publishing. At first uneasy as a television personality, fearful that his fourth-grade education would betray him, he soon enough became smitten by the love affair he developed with his audiences.
Still, he was ever gracious to his fans and the proud patriarch of his so-called Musical Family of studio musicians, dancers, singers, entertainers and support crew members, serving as a gentle but firm disciplinarian and preacher of conservative values.
Long-time band member Barney Liddell, a Roman Catholic, recalled Mr. Welk’s reaction when he divorced his wife and later remarried. Mr. Welk, himself a Catholic, fired Mr. Lidell from the band after he announced his intention to remarry.
“He said I’d be living in sin and that’s not right. But then he talked to three guys in the band — a Jew, a Methodist and a Presbyterian — and they said, ‘Why don’t you let him run his life and you just run his trombone.’ So he called me back on my wedding day and said I had my job back.”
Norma Zimmer, who became his last Champagne Lady in 1960, said that Mr. Welk would seldom lose his temper. “He was always in control. You knew he was upset [only] because he’d just beat his leg with his baton. That was his sign that things weren’t right.” —Tom Gorman, The Baltimore Sun
That’s it for this week.
Have a wunnerful weekend.
We close with one the best musical pieces of all-time and a huge favorite of my late father.