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March 11, 1999 - Image 15

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-03-11

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The Michigan Daily - Thursday, March 11, 1999 - 15A

SHARAT
RAJU
Sharat in the Dark

UCLA hopes to bruin
Blue's momentum

Legends, recollections of
DiMagglo a part of
Americanfolkore

n the first half of the 20th
Century, America was a baseball
country and New York City was
its capital. With three teams - the
Yankees, the Giants and the
Dodgers - baseball was as much a
part of people's lives as religion'.
On a lazy summer day in New
York, a bartender asked a patron, "If
these two were out on a corner, who
would you follow: Jesus Christ or
Joe DiMaggio?"
The patron's answer was quick
d simple, with no hesitation,
"Give me my glove."
That was how baseball was during
DiMaggio's time - heroes were
religious icons with followings and
denominations. Children who grew
up during that time, like Steve
Galetti, bickered over who was
greater, DiMaggio, Willie Mays or
Ted Williams.
"You needed two things growing
in New York: learn how to lie
and learn how to defend
yourself," recalls Galetti,
a retired Kinesiology
professor who also wit- I Cnn
nessed the above bar but t
scene. "I was a Giants was
fan, and if someone said silen
' saw Joe D. do this,' I 'rih
had to top it by saying
'WelI, I saw Mel Ott do
What children saw
DiMaggio do - or
heard, as baseball was a
radio sport back then - was noth-
ing short of extraordinary. In his 13
seasons, the Yankees won 10 pen-
nants and 9 World Series. Hie batted
.325 with 361 home runs.
Statistics are dry, though. They
cannot relate the story of DiMaggio,
qmooth character if there ever was
oe. Son of fisherman, DiMaggio
was a solitary man. For someone
like myself, looking back at that old
black-and-white footage, I cannot
help but think that he was
Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca -
a silent and righteous figure.
But for those who watched and
played against him, they knew what
DiMaggio was.
*'He fits the category of special,"
recalls Don Lund, former coach of
the Michigan baseball team in the
1960s. "There are certain guys,
when I played, that were called 'spe-
cial.' Ted Williams, Willie Mays,
Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio.
"These were guys who, if you
were taking infield practice before
the game, you would stop and watch
them take batting practice. They
were that special."
wfhey were special in that they
were bigger than life. They carried
the hopes and dreams of cites and
nleighborhoods on their shoulders.
They turned people's attention away
from the Great Depression, away
from the horrors of the Second
World War and towards the pursuit
of nine men towards one simple
goal - win ballgames.
Baseball then was not merely
Weball. And DiMaggio was not
merely a player. With his clean-cut
looks and style, he became the dar-
Itng of the media and was thrust
into that position during 1941 -
the year of "The Streak."
DiMaggio, who hit in the never-to-
be-broken record 56-straight games,
was the MVP in what has been
called the greatest baseball season

ever.
"My uncle was a Yankees fan and
on one mid-May or early-June day
in '41 he took me to a Yankees
game" against the Red Sox, Galetti
said with a laugh. "I didn't want to
go see them, but my uncle took me
anyway. I was rooting for Teddy
(Williams).
"I didn't know at the time, but
that was during the period of the
streak. Joe must have got a hit, but I
remember that Teddy got one."
DiMaggio didn't stop hitting until
July 17. And then, the day after the
streak stopped, Joltin' Joe hit in 17
more games. He was silky and fluid,
like his swing. He remained that
way even after serving in the war
and suffering a couple of injuries
later in his career.
"The first time I played against
him was in 1948 when I was with
the St. Louis Browns," Lund recol-
lects. "Just seeing him play, even
though he had a bad
heel, he still had that
grace. The Yankees
r help would let him play and
ik he take him out when they
.. got ahead.
and "In 1947, I played for
the Dodgers but I was
not eligible for the
*e" World Series. He made
...........- two great catches and
made them look so easy,
He caught one, running
to his left and it looked

By Stephen A. Rom
Daily Sports Writer
Coming off its most impressive
meet of the season - in which a
score of 197.025 was tallied in a win
over Arizona - an upcoming meet
has the Michigan women's gymnas-
tics team hoping to keep pace.
"This last weekend we put together
a performance we could all be proud
of," said Michigan coach Bev Plocki.
"We need to do that consistently from
here on out."
Michigan will soon get its chance
as UCLA and Rutgers make their
way to Cliff Keen Arena on Saturday
at 4 p.m.
Ranked No. 17 in the country,
UCLA has a secret rivalry with
Michigan that not too many people
know about. It is fueled by the natur-
al rivalry between the Big Ten and
Pac 10 conferences. UCLA also
holds a slight edge in the series at 3-
2.
In case there were some doubts
about the lesser-ranked Bruins'
chances against No. 6 Michigan,
Plocki dispels those myths.
"The thing about UCLA that a lot
of people don't realize is that they are
a lot better than their ranking," she
said. "Judges on the west coast are
historically tougher than the rest of
the country."

Despite this type of judging the
Bruins have managed a 13-4 record
on the season - versus Michigan's
10-4 mark.
Rutgers is not ranked and it will be
the first time the school has ever
faced Michigan. The Scarlet Knights
are 10-9 and their average team score
of 189.256 is almost six points lower
than Michigan's season average.
The Bruins will be the real focal
point in this meet, as they are nation-
ally ranked in all four apparatuses.
UCLA's best event is the vault, on
which it scores an average of 48.591.
That will be met by Michigan's vault,
which is second in the nation at
49.131 per shot.
Rounding off the events, Michigan
is currently third on the floor exer-
cise, seventh on the uneven bars, and
14th on the balance beam. In spite of
these impressive numbers, Plocki
still hopes to improve.
"We need to maintain what we are
doing on the uneven bars and floor
(exercise) and improve in the balance
beam and vault," she said. "We are
trying things on the vault and we
need to keep it up."
Plocki is referring to new routines
that senior Nikki Peters and junior
Sarah-Elizabeth Langford have been
attempting in recent meets. To ensure
that nothing is lost by this experi-

DANA LINNANE/Datj
The sixth-ranked Wolverines hope to continue their momentum this Saturday as
they play host to Rutgers and No. 17 UCLA at Ciff Keen Arena.

mentation during competition, the
more familiar jumps will be attempt-
ed on each one's first vault, Plocki
said. Then the new ones are thrown in
last once a solid score has been solid-
ified.
"The two tries gives you an oppor-
tunity to gain some competitive expe-
rience," Plocki said.
Additional experience will be
gained by competing against some of
the toughest competitors that

Michigan has faced since it ran into
No. I Georgia.
"They (UCLA) have a lot of inter-
national and U.S. national team mem-
bers. I am looking forward to them
coming in here and giving us a good
meet," said Plocki,
Saturday's meet will also be high
lighting both the current day and yes-
teryear veterans of the Wolverines, as
senior and alumni day's will be
observed.

Men's track without
Mortimer, Snyder

Woo pi

i
Fur

as easy as anything. The very next
hitter hit it short, and DiMaggio
caught it off his shoe tops and made
it look like a piece of cake."
DiMaggio's legend, equal in
stature to that of Babe Ruth or Paul
Bunyan or Johnny Appleseed, gives
America an identity. In a country
infused with so many cultural and
social ideologies that a single unify-
ing identity is impossible, baseball
has assumed the role of a collective
backbone of the nation.
In Ireland, France or other
European countries, they probably
have traditional ballads or popms of
those who were ancient rulers of
their lands. In America, we have
lyrics and poems that spin the praise
of baseball legends. So sings Paul
Simon: "Where have you gone Joe
DiMaggio? Our nation turns its
lonely eyes to you. "
The difference is that the people
in the American stories are real and
had real lives - some more open
than others. DiMaggio's life was
decidedly closed. Not many knew
him well, but many knew well what
kind of person he was by what he
did on the field.
"Dom DiMaggio was the leadoff
batter for the Red Sox," Galetti said.
"I saw a game when he was beaned.
Back then, people didn't wear hel-
mets. My uncle pinched my arm and
said, 'Junior, look out there,' and he
pointed. Joe came in from center-
field and comes in to make sure that
his little brother was okay.
"How many players make sure
that someone on the other team is
okay after getting hit by a pitch?"
That was the Joe DiMaggio that
most people followed through those
years - a hero in a time when base-
ball players were heroes.
But now, Joltin' Joe has left and
gone away.
- Sharat Raju can be reached via
email at sraju@umich.edu.

By Dena Kdscher
For The Daily
The Michigan men's track team
will have to do without two of its top
runners this upcoming outdoor sea-
son.
After sitting out the indoor season,
senior John Mortimer, six-time Big
Ten champion in the 5,00 meters and
the steeplechase, has decided that he
is also incapable of performing with
this year's outdoor track team.
"Coach Harvey and I decided that
it wouldn't be a good idea to run this
year," Mortimer said.
Senior Todd Snyder, Michigan's
No. 2 runner, is also sitting out this
outdoor season. Unlike Mortimer,
Snyder participated in the indoor
season this year. Because he sat out
last year's indoor season, he will take
off this outdoor season so that next
year he will be eligible for both.
"Snyder had run for seven consec-
utive seasons, and he was exhaust-
ed," assistant coach Fred Laplante
said. "We thought it would be in the
best interest of both him and the
team if he rests this outdoor season,
so that both he and John Mortimer
could contribute next year."
On Nov. 24, the day after earning
his third cross country All-American
citation, Mortimer underwent
surgery to repair his torn meniscus-
the cartilage used to cushion the
knee joint-in hopes that he would
be able to return after the indoor
track season completed. His recov-
ery was not as speedy as he would
have liked.
"It was frustrating initially,
because I was so anxious to get
back," Mortimer said. "But rather
than sacrificing this year's outdoor
season, I'll come back next year
when I'm stronger."
Because of the missed seasons,
Mortimer is still eligible to run next
year as a fifth-year senior. He plans
to take next fall off and come back to
get his degree in architecture the fol-
lowing spring.
"Hey, it could be worse,"
Mortimer said.
Even without Mortimer and
Snyder, the Wolverines hope to equal
last year's fourth-place finish. But
with over 20 freshmen on a 47-man
team, it may be tough.
"There's a lot of competition in the

Big Ten this year," Michigan men's
track coach Jack Harvey said.
"Especially for the second through
fifth spots. If we could finish in
fourth again, I'd be more than
happy."
Although the indoor team did not
perform as well as desired, Harvey
feels that the indoor season was
enough for the freshmen to "get a
taste of Big Ten competition." That
experience could be enough to com-
pete considerably stronger in the out-
door season than in the unsuccessful
eighth-place indoor season.
"Experience is the biggest thing,"
Mortimer said. "The more experi-
ence, the stronger and faster they
will become."
"We've got the talent," Laplante
said. "We don't want to use too many
freshmen as an excuse. We have a
great recruiting class, but the adjust-
ment from high school track to col-
lege track is hard to overcome.
Experience is just what helps along
the way."
The team's first official meet is an
invitational at Arizona State on
March 26-27. The Wolverines will
be competing against approximately
eight other schools.
Will Mortimer's and Snyder's
absences affect the team's perfor-
mance? It's possible. As the saying
goes, one man does not make a team.

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