• Andrus and Carlson

"I've long thought that Governor Andrus has never been given the full credit he deserved for the critical role he played in leading the way to passage of the greatest single piece of conservation legislation in American history. So I set out to make sure the history books properly reflect this excellent piece of his legacy." - Chris Carlson

carlson

October 8th was the sixty-first anniversary of one of the great sports events of all time: Don Larsen, pitching game five of the 1956 World Series, threw the only perfect game in series history. Twenty-seven Brooklyn Dodgers came to the plate, and 27 walked back to the dugout as Larsen led the New York Yankees to a 2-0 win.

Most baseball fans have seen the famous picture of the joyous Yankee catcher, Yogi Berra, rushing the mound to jump into Larsen’s arms. While there have been regular season no hitters pitched since then and even another Divisional play-off no hitter, there never has been another perfect game and some baseball pundits don’t believe there will ever be another.

The last survivor of those who played in that historic game is none other than Larsen himself. Since he and his spouse, Corrine, retired 23 years ago, the Larsens have lived quietly at Hayden Lake. He makes occasional appearances at Yankee Old-Timer events and signs a baseball now and then.

Otherwise he enjoys fishing on various Idaho lakes and streams. A few days before the anniversary a mutual friend arranged for my wife and I to have lunch with Don and Corrine. It was one of the most delightful two hour lunches I’ve spent in years.

My first surprise was how tall he still is, easily 6’5”, still slim, still ramrod straight and his mind and memory were still sharp. Not bad for one who turned 88 in August. Born in Indiana, the fmaily moved to San Diego when he was 14 where he attended Point Loma H.S. and was known more for his basketball skills (my second surprise) than his pitching talent.

His senior year he was named to the first team all-Southern California High School basketball team but he turned down basketball scholarship offers from St. Mary’s and Oregon. While playing baseball he caught the eye of a scout for the St. Louis Browns who signed him for a signing bonus of $850 (about $10,000 in today’s dollars) and in June of 1947 reported to his first minor league team. He rose steadily but in early 1951 was drafted into the Army and served for two years during the Korean War before being honorably discharged in early 1953.

During the spring he made the major league roster of the St. Louis Browns and made his major league debut on April 18, 1953. That winter the Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles. Larsen struggled during the 1954 season, winning three and losing 21 games.

Two of his three wins though were against the Yankees and their manager, Casey Stengal, insisted Larsen be included in a large swap of players in 1955. Stengal saw something no one else did for there is virtually nothing in Larsen’s early career that hinted he had a date with destiny and baseball immortality. On that October day though even Larsen admits he had incredible control of his pitches.

Larsen was not aware that the 27th and last out against pinch-hitter Dale Mitchell has become the subject of some college philosophy classes on life’s ambiguity. Mitchell had a ball one, two strike count when Larsen let loose with his 97th pitch. Mitchell, started to swing then he claims checked his swing because he thought it would be ball three. The home plate umpire called it strike three and the game was over.

To his dying day Mitchell insisted it was a ball. The umpire retired after the game and never spoke about it again. At this lunch, Larsen growled “he swung and it was strike three. Game over.”

Asked who was the toughest out in the Dodger line-up, Larsen growled again,”they were all tough outs. These were the Dodgers after all.”

My third surprise was learning that Larsen “on his way down” as he put it, pitched in Spokane against the Spokane Indians while a member of the 1966 Phoenix Giants. He also pitched in Tacoma early in the 1967 season. His last major leaue appearance came with the Cubs on July 7th, 1967. He retired shortly thereafter.

His final record was 81 wins and 91 losses, an earned run average of 3.78 and 869 strike outs. It appears to be an average record for someone who spent 15 seasons in the majors. Packed in there though is that one magic October day when he pitched the only perfect World Series game.

For that he was named the World Series MVP and garnered baseball immortality. Understandably he is proud of that incredible achievement, but he has handled the ensuing years, which had both ups and downs, with dignity and grace.

Before leaving he signed a baseball for me and wrote on it “a perfect Dad.” I’ll treasure it as long as I live, undeserved though it is.

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carlson

One of the many refreshing attributes of Pope Francis is “he tells it like it is,” even when he states the obvious. To a lay person it is astounding to hear a Pope who speaks clearly, non-judgmentally, with compassion, intelligence and common sense.

It reminds one of a saying uttered by another plain-speaking leader from an earlier era: President Harry Truman. While running against the “do-nothing’ Congress in 1948 he responded to the charge that he was giving them hell by saying “I just say the truth and they think it’s hell.”

In late September Pope Francis met for the first time with members of an advisory commission he named in 2014 to look into the Church’s less than sterling response to the matter of priestly sexual abuse. In the course of the meeting with this panel of outside experts he acknowledged the Church’s initial response was late and the initial response of just moving pedophile priests from one parish to another was morally and legally wrong.

Some bishops responded quickly, recognizing the gravity of the issue, indeed the criminality of it, and instinctively knew that transparency was critical to maintaining confidence within the laity for the Church hierarhy. Others thought first that they had to protect the image of the Church and its leadership and tried to dodge the gravity by moving offending priests around and minimizing any adverse publicity.

For differing responses one need look no further than the Spokane diocese, where Bishop William Skylstad responded quickly and adroitly. This response contrasted greatly with Boise Bishop Michael Driscoll, who, while Vicar General to the Bishop of the Orange County California diocese, had knowingly moved several pedophile priests around to different parishes.

In Driscoll’s defense he subsequently acknowledged his error and apologized.

Skylstad’s response was comprehensive and should have been the model for all bishops.

He formed a panel to review all cases, whether new or old; he authorized immediate reporting to civil authorities; any priest against whom a charge was levied, if still alive, was suspended while charges were investigated. He ordered more comprehensive background checks for any new diocesan employees and all teachers in the parochial schools. He formed a special communications committee to advise how to best and most quickly respond; he met with victims and apologized to them; he was one of the few bishops in the nation to meet with all the nuns in his diocese and he heard an earful.

He was one of the leaders in the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops in shaping the new protocals dictating a response from the Church that would clearly protect children.

Despite the extensive publicity, international as well as national, when the issue erupted into a mushroom cloud over the Vatican Pope John Paul II remained disturbingly quiet. His successor, Benedict XVI, did start authorizing bishops to identify and where possible, purge offending priests, but he too was largely silent.

The issue had to wait until Francis, the third Pope since this story broke, could look into it. Francis is finding out the truth in a saying of President Reagan’s: people can vote with their feet. This is especially true in the United States. Good “pray, pay and obey” Catholics have left or are leaving the church because of disgust with how many bishops handled his matter.

The fact is attendence is down as are contributions. There isn’t a parish or diocese in the country that isn’t engaged in some form of discussion and debate on how one should respond to a Church gone astray.

Even a Bishop as good as Skylstad realizes the Church has to pro-actively do more to win back victims as well as angry laity. It has to demonstrate that it has uncovered the why and taken steps to protect children to ensure it never happens again. It has to commit itself to working sessions with dissenters where it listens first.

It has to be creative in its outreach but show it knows it needs to reclaim lost members and reintegrate them into a more open, engaged and changing Church,

At the close of his meeting Francis spoke nailed the core of the issue:: “The consciousness of the church arrived a bit late, and when consciousness arrives late, the means to resolve the problem arrive late. Perhaps the old practice of moving people around and not confronting the problem kept consciousness asleep,’ he stated. No kidding, your Holiness.

Now lead the Church further along the path that lives what it preaches.

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carlson

The National Park Service (NPS), one of the few loved and admired federal agencies, is cruising for a black eye. Set aside that nine months into the Trump Administration the President and his Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, have yet to name a director for this venerable agency.

Lack of leadership is indeed a problem but the black eye is going to come the Park Service’s way when the public realizes the Park Service has decided the best way to overcome an over-population of mountain goats in Olympic National Park is to start shooting them.

Many Americans have a soft spot for warm and fuzzy animals that look cuddly to them, whether it be mountain goats, wild burros and horses, buffaloes, lynx, wolves or even grizzly bears. Rational thinking goes out the window.

The problem is the goats are consuming too much of the flora and fauna within the park, and are particularly attracted to the salt a person carries around whether it be in the urine discharged next to the trail or the sweat soaked handle of a hiking stick.

Despite their benign look goats can be dangerous also. Attacks on humans are extremely rare but in 2010 a goat gored a 63-year old male severing an artery and then would not allow others to try to assist the hiker who did bleed to death.

The Park Service closed comments on a voluminous Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on September 26, 2017. The document appears to favor darting goats from a helicopter, landing the chopper while the goat is tranquilized and moving them across Puget Sound and releasing them in the similar habitat of the North Cascades. However, the plan also allows the NPS to shoot to kill problem goats or those in difficult terrain.

Part of the justification is the fact that the NPS does not believe the goats are natives. They cite stories pointing to the introduction of 12 goats into the park in the 1920s by a hunting group. By the 1990s the goats had grown into the thousands and an open hunting season drew the goat population down to the more sustainable 300 or so. Last year the population was 623 and has been growing at 8% per year. Thus, the goal is to again reduce the number to 300.

A decision is expected in support of the preferred alternative by spring.

Don’t be surprised though if the fuzzy, furry loving Fund for Animals, founded by Cleveland Amory in the early 1970s, doesn’t file suit and seek a temporary restraining order (TRO) that will suspend the program pending a hearing and possible trial.

In 1979 a similar problem existed in the Grand Canyon National Park and at New Mexico’s Bandolier National Monument. The guilty party though was wild burros which had a penchant for finding native American artifacts such as priceless mixing bowls and then stomping them to bits, as well as munching on most of the native grasses.

Since this was the early days of producing impact statements the Park Service did a fairly cursory one to justify its plans to shoot a number of burros. The Fund for Animals filed suit which temporarily stalled the plans. The Park Service then acted on advice from the then Interior Secretary’s office, that it separate out Bandolier, quickly do another EIS, figuring on it escaping notice, and commence shooting the offending burros in Bandolier.

By the time the Fund for Animals realized what had happened the desired number of burros was achieved. This success in Bandolier stands in marked contrast to the Grand Canyon which still is dealing with the burro problem today.

Americans also love birds, even those that are not endangered. Even pigeons that sully statues and are basically an unclean scavenger have a constituency. I found this out the hard way when as Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus’ press secretary I sanctioned and orchestrated a highly visible reintroduction of peregrine falcons into the nation’s capital.

Nests were set up on the Interior Department Building’s roof and a picture of Secretary Andrus holding a peregrine chick with its mother carefully watching while perched on his shoulder made the front page of the Washington Post.

Peregrines of course feast on pigeons. Instead of letters praising the department for the reintroduction of a bird that would help control the pigeon population my office was inundated by angry letters from the pigeon lovers of the world.

Now it’s the turn of the goat lovers. I hope the Park Service is ready.

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