This column is “small potatoes” in relation to all that is taking place in this country with greater meaning and impact on our lives.
The End Stool is taking a break from the “heavy stuff” that many of its visitors opine, “are tired and fed up with the dysfunctional government and media in the nation’s capital.” There are issues in Madison, too, worthy of comment.
Readers know this writer is connected to the past in assessing today’s events. This also relates to leisure pleasures that we all have individual likes and dislikes.
I think of myself as having eclectic tastes – knowing it is a lie.
I love “Jeopardy,” but little knowledge to pose a question about opera, today’s music or modern movies. The last movie I saw in a theater was so long ago that my godchild Casey Besaw Roloff, was a mere five, and is now a mother of two whose daughter Isabella is now five .
I am a traditionalist.
When I began writing in 1957 for the Amherst Advocate, as a freshman in high school, much of the community activity centered around the local Falcon sports teams.
It was that way in most small and medium sized communities.
It was that way when I began writing for The Post-Crescent in 1964 in New London. The Bulldogs baseball team was honored for appearing the single class state tournament and Ernie Johnson, the Braves outstanding relief pitcher, spoke at a banquet.
The Braves were still in Milwaukee and pitchers were ashamed if they did not finish a game, pitch more than 200 innings or complete a game.
I remember lying in bed late at night May 26, 1959 – listening to Earl Gillespie and Blaine Walsh, the Braves radio announcers – anxiously waiting for the game to end. The score was tied at the end of nine innings and Pittsburgh pitcher Harvey Haddix has a perfect game. The Braves Lew Burdette also was throwing a shutout. The game finally ended in the bottom of the 13th when Joe Adcock hit a home run with two on, the first hit off Haddix. (In 1969, Haddix pitched 224 1/3 innings and Burdette 289 2/3. Warren Spahn had 17 seasons pitching 200 plus innings, including two seasons topping 300 innings.)
The full story of the game is worth looking up on the Internet, just search Haddix,
It was that way in Clintonville and Manawa, where fans turned out en masse for games. Marion dominated baseball. All had athletes of note that went on to establish careers beyond high school.
One of the things making sports special in that era were traditional opponents in conferences that existed for many years. Many were connected by history and location. Parents of rival teams often worked together or were related or had competed against each other in high school.
That began changing about the time I was transferred to the sports department in 1970.
The East Patriots joined the West Terrors as high school teams in Appleton. This affected two conferences, the Mideastern and Fox River Valley, and formed the Fox Valley Association.
The FVA was an ideal conference: natural rivalries, good facilities and most of all location, with Kaukauna and Fond du Lac the bookends for East, West, Kimberly, Neenah, Menasha and Oshkosh West. Later, Oshkosh North joined the lineup.
That left Clintonville, New London, Shawano natural rivals in the Mideast in limbo. New London was relegated to a conference including Berlin, Ripon, Omro and Winneconne – devoid of natural rivalries. Clintonville and Shawano were part of the very competitive Bay.
A few years later, the cards were shuffled again by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association and New London was added to the Bay and the Eastern Valley Conference included Clintonville.
As reported in County Post East Sports last week, the WIAA has approved another plan with Clintonville and New London remaining in separate conferences beginning in 2015. In fact, there is a conference for football and another for all other sports involving the 18 schools.
The new Bay adds Green Bay East and West, Menasha and Xavier to holdovers New London, Seymour, Shawano and West De Pere. Waupaca joins those schools for football.
The new Eastern Valley Conference adds Denmark, Luxemburg-Casco, Marinette, Oconto Falls and Wrightstown to holdovers Clintonville, Fox Valley Lutheran, Freedom, Little Chute and Waupaca. Hortonville, because of its growing enrollment, replaces Menasha in the FVA.
Bulldog fans won’t miss those trips during winter sports to Marinette, Denmark, Luxemburg and Oconto Falls. Menasha and Xavier will be automatic rivals.
Trucker backers will be trucking a bit more with trips to Marinette, Wrightstown, Denmark and Luxemburg. Waupaca is a natural county rival.
Falcon Fans, meanwhile, are waiting to learn what is in store for the Central Wisconsin Conference – divided into CWC-10 and CWC-8 – which Amherst has been a member of in my memory for at least 60 years. CWC8 includes are long-time rivals Manawa, Weyauwega-Fremont, Bonduel and Wittenberg (Birnamwood). Waupaca outgrew the CWC, but because of size was a prized opponent. Marion is in the CWC10.
I was fortunate for most of my writing career to be covering high school sports where I saw memorable games and individual performances and met a number of quality people as coaches and competitors.
Many of those included the men in stripes. I was saddened to read last week the obituary for Roy “Jumbo” Elandt, who was one of the outstanding officials. In high school, we always knew it would be a good game when Jumbo and his brother were blowing whistles. Like many officials he gained his love for the game while playing it.
It is difficult enough for an old man to follow the action on the field or court, without trying to keep up with the latest list of conference opponents.
Everything looks better in retrospect.