Friday, May 31, 2013


By Bob Golon
Special Contributor

Baseball teams, that is, lest anyone get the wrong idea!

Back in 1960, I was a baseball-obsessed eight-year old, fully devoted  to the likes of Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, and of course, the inimitable Casey Stengel. I took my second trip to Yankee Stadium that year, and arrived early enough to gasp, as ball after ball flew into the stands during batting practice. Nothing could be so good!

I suffered my first broken heart in October, 1960, when Bill Mazeroski’s home run went flying over the Forbes Field fence, denying the Yankees the World Series. That disastrous (from  my point of view)  loss was  followed immediately by the firing of Stengel. But along came Ralph Houk to replace him. Roger Maris hit 61 home runs in 1961, and Whitey Ford won 25 games while losing only 4 that year. My heart mended quickly.

In late 1961 it was announced that this new team in New York being planned for 1962, the Mets, were hiring my beloved Casey Stengel to be their first manager. Hmmmm, pause for thought. As the 1962 season began, I now realized that I often had two games to watch on TV, which was especially convenient when one of them was rained out or was being played late at night on the West Coast.

The 1962 Mets, even though a dreadful club, simply provided me with more baseball! It was a chance to see National League stars like Willie Mays and Stan Musial, and besides, they never played the Yankees. Where was the conflict? There was none, in my young mind.

I lived and died with these two clubs as a young man. The hollow feeling of the Yankees' futility, which began in 1965, was soon replaced by the utter euphoria of witnessing the Mets’ World Series “miracle” trouncing of the thought-to-be-invincible Baltimore Orioles in 1969. Thurman Munson, Tom Seaver, Bobby Murcer and Jerry Koosman were equals in my mind and heart.

So, it was no surprise that last night, as I was driving home from the Trenton Thunder game, I tuned in the “subway series” finale on the radio. I was immediately appalled that the Yankees could not touch Dillon Gee for more than one run. When  Joba Chamberlain bounced a pitch that set up the Mets insurance run in the eighth inning, I cursed under my breath. Yet, just two seconds later, I felt happy for the upstart Mets. They remind me of the 1967 Mets: one very good young pitcher (Matt Harvey) among a not so talented young team.  Yet those ’67 kids accomplished great things within two years.

Maybe these kids will, too.

They say you can’t root for two teams, but I am living proof that you can. Tonight, I can go back to being “myself” again. Go Yanks! Go Mets! The TV remote will be where it always is, squarely in my hand, switching between my two loves

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


        I love this arrangement, and I think you will, too. It is sung by one of my favorite choruses, the Masters of Harmony, then under the direction of Jeff Oxley, who also sings the solo. It was their acceptance song, after winning the 1999 International Barbershop Chorus Championship. Click here, then turn up the volume, enlarge your screen, and sit back and enjoy an inspiring rendition of "This Is the Moment!"

Sunday, May 26, 2013


This poem was written in August, 1945. I was inspired to write it while I was on the island of MogMog, Ulithi, in the Marianas. The island I was writing about was an imaginary island in the Pacific to which my imaginary soldier had returned, having been there before during combat. It contains a message that seems appropriate for Memorial Day.


He heeded not the ocean's muffled roar,
as sweeping waves refreshed the baking sand.
He stood and gazed along the golden shore,
and brushed his sweating forehead with his hand.
He marveled at the change before his eyes.
Could such a transformation really be?
Here was indeed an island paradise ---
a tropical oasis of the sea.

The air was still, save for the faintest breeze,
that breathed upon the greenish tufts a while
and rippled through the bent palmetto trees,
reluctant to escape this magic isle.

Could this sweet spot that same inferno be,
where scarce two years before amidst the slain
he prayed to God that he would live to see
his country, home, and loved ones once again?

No shrieking shells, whose mission to destroy
leave silhouetted in the blinding glare
the crumpled, blood-stained body of a boy
whose eyes, once clear, are fixed in glassy stare.

Not long ago this same enchanted isle
  where now he walked had been a blazing hell.
O demon War, so murderous, so vile,
because of you now tolls the mourning bell!

Return now to your gloomy heritage
and rest you from the efforts of your work
of ruin, sorrow, havoc.  Let the age
of peace return anew.  You will but lurk

behind the curtain of a few more years,
till once again you burst upon the world,
when human pride and greed eclipse the tears
of death, and flags of hatred are unfurled.  

God grant the prayer that now bestirs his soul,
that humankind might learn what ne'er before
their minds have grasped, that this must be the goal:
to win not wars but peace forever more.


Friday, May 24, 2013

"TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME," Sung by the American Boychoir

        In case you were not able to open the video in my previous post of the American Boychoir singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, try clicking on the song title below.
        As I explained in the earlier post, the boys had just learned this song and were singing it publicly for the first time. Tour Proctor Matt Caruso had written the creative arrangement just the day before!
        You will see boys raising their hands throughout the song. They were invited to do so by Music Director Fernando Malvar-Ruiz, whenever their favorite Major League team was mentioned.      Listen carefully and you may hear your favorite team, as well!
        Click here: "Take Me Out to the Ball Game"

Thursday, May 23, 2013


        Way back in 1954 the Baltimore Orioles conducted the largest fan survey in the history of Major League baseball and the first of its kind ever taken. The survey covered a stretch of twenty home games over a two-month period, during which approximately 2,500 questionnaires were distributed on a random basis throughout Memorial Stadium. More than 2,400 completed forms were returned, representing an amazing response of close to 97%! Without going into detail about the carefully supervised and deliberate procedures we followed, I want simply to say that having studied public opinion polling and having conducted numerous surveys for various clients and organizations, including the Philadelphia Athletics and their farm club in Portsmouth, Ohio, I made sure that approved polling methods were used throughout the massive project.        
        From 100 to 150 carefully designed questionnaires were distributed by the well instructed ushers on each date at the start of game and collected by the third inning. Those who received the forms were most cooperative and seemed delighted to have an opportunity to participate.
        Not having computers at our disposal, the massive amount of information gathered took us several weeks to tabulate. The results were first reported publicly at a major press conference, with colorful charts to portray the highlights graphically. It had taken about two hours to present the full report to the Board of Directors. The results were also summarized and published in a 24-page booklet, attracting huge interest throughout the country. The Sporting News, for example, featured this two-page cartoon spread on the story: 

Friday, May 17, 2013


The American Boychoir, direct by Fernando Malvar-Ruiz
        This weekend the world renowned American Boychoir is celebrating its 75th Anniversary. Established in Columbus, Ohio, in 1937 by Founding Director Herbert Hoffman, the Columbus Boychoir moved to Princeton, New Jersey, in 1950, where until the current school year it was located at Albemarle, the former Lambert family estate. It is now located on the expansive campus of the Princeton Center for the Arts and Education (PCAE), with two other schools as its sub-tenants.
        In 1980 under the enterprising leadership of  Board Chairman Herbert W. Hobler, who got a green light from the American Choral Directors Association, the name of  the school was officially changed to the American Boychoir School, which remains the nation’s only non-sectarian boarding school. The American Boychoir is America’s most widely touring and frequently performing choral ensemble.
        On their recent Spring tour they were the over-night guests of the First Presbyterian Church of Cooperstown, New York, where my daughter the Rev. Elsie Armstrong Rhodes is pastor. With the help of

Thursday, May 16, 2013


By Bob Golon
Special Contributor

. Rutgers University President Robert Barchi looks on as
 newly appointed Athletic Director Julie Hermann takes
questions. (A. Evans/AP)
        As a Rutgers’ alum, a former employee, and an aficionado of all things Scarlet, I have high hopes that yesterday will be remembered as a good day for Rutgers and its beleaguered Athletic Department. Julie Hermann was announced as the new Athletic Director. Her appointment is being called “historic,” as she becomes the first woman Athletic Director in the University history, as well as one of only three women currently serving in that capacity at BCS level schools.
        After the Mike Rice fiasco and the fallout that followed it, I was beginning to wonder if the otherwise positive historic nature of the Rutgers athletic program could ever again be appreciated. After all, good old RU is the “birthplace of college football” in November, 1869. It has a men’s basketball final four appearance in its distant past, as well as national championships and numerous tournament appearances in its storied women’s basketball program.
        It should be understood, however. that Ms. Hermann is not the first woman “pioneer” in Rutgers athletics history. The trail was blazed for her and others by a remarkable woman named Rita Kay Thomas.

Monday, May 13, 2013


By Bob Golon
Special Contributor to "Minding What Matters"

Sergio and Tiger exchange a brief handshake
after the match (AP photo). 
        At the completion of yesterday’s Mother’s Day festivities, about 5PM, I settled in front of the TV to see what sports were on. Mid-May is a great time for this. Major League Baseball is finally starting to sort itself out from the Spring Training malaise, do-or-die hockey games are being played, and the NBA playoffs are in full flower. 
        But the most compelling event of the weekend was played at the TPC Sawgrass Golf Course at Point Vedra Beach, Florida – The Players Championship of the PGA. For the first time since 2001 Tiger Woods prevailed in this event, but, like anything involving Tiger these past few years, it was not without controversy.
        On Saturday, Woods and Sergio Garcia of Spain were locked in an epic struggle at the top end of the leader board. On the par-5 second hole, Woods, after receiving clearance from one of the tournament marshalls that Garcia had completed his shot, committed the sin of reaching into his bag to select his club, causing a loud gasp from the gallery. The only problem was that Garcia was

Friday, May 10, 2013


        As I explained in a previous post, two of our fellow Nassoons, because of other obligations, did not feel they could participate in the Triangle Show. They would be sorely missed, but their absence did not dampen the enthusiasm of the remaining ten of us It was not that we didn't have other demands on our time as well. Everyone of us was heavily involved in other extracurricular activities. A few of us, of whom I was one, were also facing the daunting requirement of a senior thesis.
        But being in the Triangle Show was an experience we all felt we could not afford to miss. There would be many rewards, including our being inducted into the historic Triangle Club. So it was full speed ahead for "Clear the Track!" Learning the songs, rehearsing with the cast, the dress rehearsal ---it all went so fast. Opening night was upon us sooner than we ever could have imagined, when we first agreed to take part, and before we knew it winter break was over and we were on campus again, looking back on the tour and sharing stories with our friends.

The Princeton Nassoons in  the 1946-47 Triangle Show "Clear the Track!" - L to R: Bill Rogers '48,
Jack Pemberton '49, Jim Buck '46, Ed Knetzger '46,  Jeff Penfield '49, Og Tanner '48, Al Burr '49,
Don Elberfeld '47, Dick Armstrong' 46, Don Finnie '47

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


        If this part of the Princeton Nassoons’ history is ever to be told, I realize that I’m the one who will have to tell it, as there are only two other living  members of the original twelve post-WWII Nassoons. I have spoken with my two fellow surviving ‘Soons, Jack Taylor ‘45 and Jack Pemberton ‘49, and while neither of them recalls too many details of that first year (1946-47), they do recall our having to face a major decision early that fall.
        We were proud of the fact that several of our members also had been or were currently in the Princeton Glee Club, including two stellar first tenors, Jack Pemberton and Steve Kurtz, who was President of the Glee Club that year. It was a tacit assumption that we would resume our affiliation with the Glee Club, and perform as a special added attraction at their concerts at home and on the road. This, of course, would work out well for those who were also in the Glee Club. We were already lined up to make our public debut at their joint concert with the Dartmouth Glee Club on November 22.
        We had hardly begun practicing, however, when we were invited to become the featured singing group in the Triangle Club’s first post-WWII production, “Clear the Track!” Having been involved in conversations with some good friends who were producing what sounded like a very exciting musical, with a great story-line and some wonderful songs, our Music Director Don Finnie and I were all for accepting the invitation, hoping our fellow Nassoons would agree. We realized, of course, that it would be a particularly tough decision for our Glee Club members, especially for Steve Kurtz, given his responsibilities with the Glee Club.
        So we faced a really tough choice between the Glee Club and the Triangle Show. There were strong feelings on both sides, and our newly organized singing group, which had gelled so nicely, was in danger of becoming divided over the issue. At the request of Steve Kurtz President Og Tanner called an “emergency” meeting to decide what to do. Unfortunately, I couldn’t be at that meeting, and I was most distressed when I was informed that the group had decided to go with the Glee Club.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

HOW WE GOT STARTED: The Early Days of the 1946-47 Nassoons (revised)

 The Princeton Nassoons' logo 
        My article on the 1946-47 Princeton Nassoons attracted such interest that I decided to tell more of the story. My original account of "How We Got Started" has been slightly revised, based on some information I garnered from some faded clippings in an old scrapbook I hauled out this morning.
        I am sad to report that of the original twelve reconstituted Nassoons, only three of us are still living. Later in this article I have included links to obituaries for some of the deceased members.
        It has been hard to lose such good friends over the years, and each death has stirred wonderful memories of that first amazing year, when twelve men from several different classes, including mostly returning veterans, had to start from scratch and develop a repertoire in a few short weeks. 
       Along with our own new arrangements we wanted to include some of the favorite songs of the pre-WWII Nassoons, whose "modern" harmonization had distinguished them from other college men's a cappella groups like the Yale Whiffenpoofs, with their traditional four-part harmony. The accomplishment was all the more remarkable considering that we had never sung together as a group, and we had no members of the earlier Nassoons to serve as a nucleus to build upon.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


        I have decided to expand MINDING WHAT MATTERS by inviting a number of special persons with expertise in various disciplines or who are keen observers and analysts of life here on Planet Earth to participate as occasional contributors.
        One of the first persons I immediately thought of was my friend Bob Golon, whose book NO MINOR ACHIEVEMENT is not only a fascinating history of minor league baseball in New Jersey but an intriguing example of how baseball reflects and is interwoven with the history and growth of America. I heartily recommend it. 
        I was delighted when Bob readily accepted my invitation, and amazed at how quickly he responded with his first article, in which he reveals his own interesting background and why he is excited to become part our Blog team. Welcome aboard, Bob! I look forward to your future contributions! 
        And here, dear MWM readers, is his introductory article.

What a Pleasant Surprise!
By Bob Golon

        Sometimes the most pleasant of surprises comes totally unexpected, as was the case when I received a phone call from Dick Armstrong inviting me to join “Minding What Matters” as an occasional contributor. I enthusiastically accepted!
        By way of introduction, let me say that Dick and I have three very major things in common: 1) our intense love for baseball, 2) we were both “career changers,” and 3) an affiliation with Princeton Theological Seminary. Yet, our paths only crossed for the first time within the past three years. Let me describe the road I have followed here, which is much different than Dick’s.
        After the typical years of growing up, doing military service, marrying my wonderful wife Jill and establishing our family, I took on a business career for a major technology firm. That job paid the bills, bought the house, and took care of the kid’s college. But, there was always something missing.
        I found it in my pursuit of knowledge for the game of baseball. It led me to the publication of articles, speaking engagements at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, an appearance on a “Yankeeography” TV program, and it culminated in the publication of my book No Minor Accomplishment: The Revival of New Jersey Professional Baseball in March 2008. 
        Along the way, my company gave me an early retirement and I gravitated to library and archival work, which is how I landed at the Princeton Theological Seminary Library in early 2009.
When Dick’s book, A Sense of Being Called, came out in 2011, I read it immediately, and was astounded and touched by such a wonderful story of the intersection of baseball and faith. We met, talked baseball, and even though Dick roots for the Baltimore Orioles and I root for that team in the Bronx, we are indeed baseball and Princeton Seminary buddies!
        I’ll be providing occasional articles, not only about baseball but about other sports as well. I tend to focus on the societal aspect of sports, even though I’m not averse to writing about outstanding performances, even if they are not by my favorite teams.
        So, I’m pleasantly surprised to be here, and I hope to provide to you readers with the same high level of enjoyment that Dick provides through his work. 
        See you soon!