May 3, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Nationals sweep the Cardinals
There's a first time for everything, and the series in St. Louis over the weekend was a perfect example, as the Washington Nationals won all three games. It was supposed to be the "road trip from hell," with games on ten consecutive days against teams that were in the postseason last year. But instead, the Nats rolled over the Cardinals, their first sweep in St. Louis since the team was "reborn" in 2005. On Friday, Stephen Strasburg gave up just two runs in seven innings, as the Nats hung on to win, 5-4. It was his fourth win of the season. On Saturday, the Nats jumped on top with four runs in the first inning, thanks mostly to Jayson Werth's three-run homer. Young Joe Ross pitched another superb game (his ERA is only 0.79!), as the Nats won easily, 6-1. The final score on Sunday was the same, but the path to victory was slower. Neither team scored for the first five innings, but the Nats finally got to the Cardinals' ace Carlos Martinez, who took his first loss of the year. For the Nats, Max Scherzer finally pitched like his old self and chalked up his third win. He grew up in the St. Louis area, so a lot of his friends and family were probably there to see him, no doubt with mixed emotions.
Another sweep? Nope.
Then the Nationals headed to the other side of Missouri, where the World Champion Kansas City Royals were waiting. Once again, the Nats got on the board in the first inning, and once again an RBI by Ryan Zimmerman proved to be all the Nats needed to win, as neither team scored after that. D.C. 2, K.C. 0. Gio Gonzalez had another fine outing, going six innings without allowing a run; he has a 1.15 ERA right now. Tonight's game was a thriller, with home runs by Anthony Rendon, Daniel Murphy, and Jayson Werth, plus three doubles and a triple. Tanner Roark recovered after giving up three runs in the third inning, and was in line for the win, except that Jonathan Papelbon blew the save opportunity in the bottom of the ninth inning. In fact, he gave up three runs on five hits, as the Royals came back to win it, 7-6. That one stung a little bit, but "you can't win 'em all."
Meanwhile, the Mets and the Cubs keep winning. Those two teams and the Nationals are the hottest teams in the National League right now. The Mets lost to the Braves tonight, thus remaining 1.5 games behind the Nats, while the Cubs trounced the Pirates again in Pittsburgh. After the rubber match game in K.C. tomorrow, the Nats head to Chicago for a true "clash of titans" -- a four-game series that could well be a preview of this year's NLCS. OK, let's not get ahead of ourselves...
The mail bag
Ohio resident Jim Gumm informed me that when Riverfront Stadium ("Cinergy Field") was reconfigured in 2001 to make room for construction of Great American Ballpark next door, the diamond was moved backward about ten feet. An article in the Cincinnati Enquirer provides plenty of detail, and clears up lingering doubts in my mind. Diagram update pending!
On a related note, after looking at photos of Riverfront Stadium, I realized that it should have been included among the stadiums with a "ribbed" roof, which I mentioned when I updated the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium diagrams last week.
In another week or so, I'll have a lot more time to work on diagrams and respond to e-mail inquiries.
April 30, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Migration season reaches peak
I wasn't even planning to go out today (too exhausted from school work!), but when I saw the e-mail alert from Greg Moyer about a Golden-winged Warbler at Cook's Creek Arboretum in Bridgewater, I just couldn't resist. So I hit the road and drove north. I didn't see that species, unfortunately but there were plenty of other warblers to make the trip worthwhile; see list below. It was a truly spectacular "fallout" of neotropical migrants, perhaps aided (ironically) by the gloomy weather. Many thanks to Greg!
While at Cook's Creek, I had nice chats with two prominent local birders, Ken Hinkle and Ken Ranke.
- Cape May Warbler *
- Black-throated Green Warbler (FOS)
- Palm Warbler (FOS)
- Yellow-rumped Warbler
- Yellow Warbler
- Blue-headed Vireo
- RC Kinglet
- Spotted Sandpiper (FOS)
- American Goldfinches
- White-crowned Sparrows
- Plus many Robins, Grackles, etc.
* I saw my first Cape May Warbler of the year (from a distance) at Betsy Bell Hill on Tuesday. Later that day I saw my first Grasshopper Sparrow of the year on Bell's Lane.
Cape May Warbler (male), at Cook's Creek Arboretum, in Bridgewater today.
Last Sunday afternoon, I heard a familiar high-pitched song in the back yard, and sure enough I soon spotted a Yellow-rumped Warbler in the bushes. Then I saw a small yellowish bird taking quick baths in a stream, and managed to get closeup photos of a Yellow-throated Vireo. Finally, I saw what I thought was a female House Finch, but the photos I took proved that it was a Pine Siskin. Not bad day!
Oddly, I had rarely seen Yellow-throated Vireos, much less gotten good photographs of one, until about a year ago, when I saw one at Sweet Briar College and later at Natural Chimneys. They seem to be more common than they used to be.
Yellow-throated Vireo, in Staunton, April 24.
Other photos from today and recently can be seen at: Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.
April 30, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Trump & Clinton take commanding leads
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton followed up their victories in the New York primary elections last week with decisive wins in five other mid-Atlantic states this past Tuesday. In all five states, Trump won by a wide margin, while Hillary won in four of them. Bernie Sanders won Rhode Island. Thus, after a momentary pause in Wisconsin earlier in the month, the front-runners have regained the momentum they had recently lost to "Ted" Cruz and Bernie Sanders.
As of now (see politico.com), Hillary Clinton has 2,165 delagates, and Bernie Sanders has 1,357. She is so close to the 2,383 mark she can almost taste it. Bernie has begun laying off staff workers, and has shifted his rhetoric from seeking outright victory to merely getting his way with the Democratic platform. In other words, for all intents and purposes, it's all over on the Democratic side. I updated the Decision 2016 page with the latest delegate totals.
As for the Republicans, Trump now has 996 delegates, far more than "Ted" Cruz's total of 565. That puts Trump within close range of getting the 1237 delegates he needs to claim a first-ballot automatic victory. In response, John Kasich and Cruz announced they will cooperate by not competing against each other in the upcoming primaries. Cruz will in effect run head-to-head against Trump in Indiana (election day is this Tuesday, May 3), while Kasich will do likewise in Oregon (May 17) and Washington (May 24). Whether this arrangement lasts that long is another matter. (According to Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post, the deal is already dead.) Rumors suggest that more Republican "establishment" figures are facing up to Trump as the "presumptive nominee." Nevertheless, hopes for a contested convention are not dead yet. It may come down the very last big state primary election, in California on June 7.
Here's an irony: Trump frequently complains that the delegate selection process is "rigged" against him, but the latest primary elections indicate the opposite is true. In all five states, John Kasich won at least 20 percent of the vote, but he only was awarded five delegates, in Rhode Island. In fact, the system is "rigged," but it's rigged in favor of the front-runner: Trump!
The other day, Kasich said he was going to make a special announcement, leading people to expect he was withdrawing from the race, and then after a pause for dramatic effect, he said he would remain a candidate. Good for him! Does he have a realistic chance of winning? Of course not! For those of us who worked for years in the trenches for the GOP, always putting the party ahead of self, only to be spit on and cast aside by a gang of thugs, it is a great tonic to see a courageous Republican leader. Kasich stared cold, hard reality in the face, and yet remains determined to give the voters a real choice!
Campaign signs for the presidential races and (at bottom) for the Staunton City Council or School Board.
Thoughts on Facebook
On his Facebook page, Bruce Bartlett often proclaims support for Donald Trump, but merely as a way to hasten the demise of the Republican Party. Prior to the Virginia primary on March 1, I explained why I resisted voting with such a extremely consequentionalist (indeed cynical) rationale:
I think it's probably too late to save the GOP, so strategic voting such as Bruce suggests is not likely to make a difference. Those in the center-right who still cling to hope are begging others to vote for Rubio as the only one who can stop Trump, but I plan to vote for the only remaining candidate whom I could respect as president: Kasich. Call it a futile protest vote.
On Ryan Setliff's page, I took exception to the suggestion that the Republican Party should identify itself with right-wing populism:
Historically, the Republican Party was never identified with "hard right populism," [as Ryan Setliff advocates] and the push to make it that has understandably met with some resistance by the "RINOs." (Ironic!) It is not neoconservatives who define the dwindling core of old-timers, but rather a commitment to free markets, international engagement (a middle course between unilateral interventionism vs. isolationism), and fiscal responsibility. Personally, I favor an amicable divorce, in hopes of cooperation in future years.
Humor the best medicine
On Jimmy Kimmel's show, they did a great parody of the movie and Broadway play The Producers, in which a couple of sleazy political operatives concoct what they think is a bogus presidential campaign for Donald Trump, taking advantage of gullible elderly donors, and then the whole scam goes south when Trump ends up winning. See vox.com. Truth is stranger than fiction?
April 28, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Phillies sweep the Nationals
After winning eight straight home games this month, the Washington Nationals fell flat against the visiting Philadelphia Phillies, losing all three games in the series. Unlike the Tuesday game, both the Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon games featured superb outings by the starting pitchers. Yesterday Gio Gonzalez allowed only one earned run over six-plus innings, and today Tanner Roark only allowed two hits in seven full innings. In today's game, the Phillies scored all three of their runs in the ninth inning immediately after Bryce Harper struck out with the bases loaded in the eighth inning, while Daniel Murphy crushed two balls to deep right field that would have been home runs were it not for the chilly, wet weather. Instead, they were just long outs, so his batting average has now dropped below the .400 mark. The final score of both games was 3-0. So much for home field advantage...
This marks the first time since last August that the Nats have been shut out in two consecutive games, and the first time that has happened at home since 2007, back when they played in RFK Stadium. Here is the complete list:
|Aug. 27-28, 2005||STL 0-6||STL 0-6||(home)|
|May 16-17, 2006||CHC 0-4||CHC 0-5||(away)|
|May 29-30, 2007||LAD 0-10||LAD 0-5||(home)|
|May 31-June 1, 2008||ARI 0-4||ARI 0-5||(away)|
|July 26-27, 2008||LAD 0-6||LAD 0-2||(away)|
|Aug. 8-9, 2008||MIL 0-5||MIL 0-6||(away)|
|July 17-18, 2010||FLA 0-2||FLA 0-1||(away)|
|May 18-19, 2011||NYM 0-3||NYM 0-1||(away)|
|June 3-4, 2011||ARI 0-4||ARI 0-2||(away)|
|Aug. 11-12, 2015||LAD 0-5||LAD 0-3||(away)|
|Apr. 27-28, 2016||PHI 0-3||PHI 0-3||(home)|
And on that disappointing note, the Nationals embark on a brutal ten-day road trip, facing (in order) the St. Louis Cardinals, the Kansas City Royals, and the Chicago Cubs. Meanwhile, the New York Mets have won nine of their last ten games and are now only a half game behind the Nats in the NL East race.
Speaking of the Cubs, I would be remiss not to mention their lopsided 16-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds one week ago, April 21. Jake Arrieta threw a no-hitter, backed by five Chicago home runs, including two from Kris Bryant. Somebody up in heaven got a big smile from that one... The Cubs are now 16-5, which is the best record in all of baseball. The second-best team right now is on the other side of Chicago -- yes, the White Sox, who are 16-7! Hmmm....
Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium tweak
I made a few minor enhancement to the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium diagrams, with the "ribbed" section dividers in the roof now displayed, and more detail in the bullpens. Perhaps it's not even worth considering an update.
This was motivated in part by my ongoing (agonizingly prolonged) work on updating the Angel (Anaheim) Stadium diagrams, as that one likewise features prominent "ribs" between each section on top of the roof. Other such stadiums:
April 26, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Nats can't win 'em all
After a memorable weekend in which the Washington Nationals swept the Minnesota Twins, the "D.C. 9" couldn't quite beat the visiting Philadelphia Phillies tonight. For the second game in a row, Max Scherzer gave up a home run in the first inning, a disturbing sign. Even though the Nats put together a nice rally in the fifth inning to tie the game 3-3, the Phillies tacked on another run in the seventh and won it. So now the Nats are "only" 14-5, rather than 15-4.
On Friday night the Twins came to town, and Gio Gonzalez had another solid outing, giving up only two runs in six innings. The Nats took an early lead (7-0 after three innings), as Jayson Werth homered and Jose Lobaton had three RBIs. Nats 8, Twins 4.
On Saturday afternoon, Ryan Zimmerman hit a two-run single in the first inning, and neither team scored any runs after that. Tanner Roark was spectacular on the mound, throwing 15 strikeouts over seven innings. It was the third-highest strikeout total in Nationals history. (Max Scherzer threw 17 once, and 16 once.)
The third and final game on Sunday was a wild one, with Stephen Strasburg only gave up one run until the eighth inning, when Bryan Dozier hit a three-run homer. Ouch! The Nats scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth, and with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, who should step up to the plate but Bryce Harper!? With the game on the line, he rose to the occasion and smashed a ball over the center field fence, making the score 4-4. (That put him back into the lead in the majors, with nine home runs.) Yusmeiro Petit did splendidly as a long reliever, pitching from the 11th until the 15th inning. That's when the Twins finally got to him, taking a one-run lead. In the bottom of that inning Danny Espinosa drew a walk, and then stole second base. With the bench all but empty, Manager Dusty Baker had the pitcher Oliver Perez go to bat for the first time since 2010. Then, to the surprise of everyone on the field and in the stands, Perez put down a perfect bunt toward third base, and the catcher threw the ball over the first baseman's head, allowing Espinosa to score the tying run. Un-be-lievable!!! In the bottom of the 16th inning, Chris Heisey had a long at-bat with one out, and finally smashed the ball over the left field bullpen, thereby winning the game in a most bizarre fashion. Nats 6, Twins 5. It was the Nationals' first walk-off homer of the year.
Marlins Park changes
I noticed during the series at Marlins Park last week that the center field fence has been moved in significantly, making it a little less friendly to pitchers but still very daunting for batters. In fact, both Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman took advantage of the shorter distance by hitting homers into the new shrubs that have been planted in the intervening space. And so, I made that small adjustment, with new separate diagrams for 2012 and 2016. Those diagrams haven't been updated otherwise since 2012, so it's possible further corrections will be needed in the months to come.
April 23, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Field trip to Augusta Springs
Ed and Nancy Lawler led a very successful (though underattended) Augusta Bird Club field trip to Augusta Springs today, accompanied by just Jo King and me. Nancy heard a Louisiana Waterthrush as soon as we got out of the car, and we found it shortly thereafter, along with several Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. Those were only two of the seven (7) first-of-year bird sightings for me; here is the complete FOY list:
- Louisiana Waterthrush
- Blue-gray Gnatcatchers
- Eastern Kingbird
- Yellow-throated Vireo
- Ruby-throated Hummingbird
- Worm-eating Warbler
Other notable sightings included several Bluebirds, Towhees, Goldfinches, a Raven, a Downy Woodpecker, and most of the other usual birds. I also spotted a Swamp Sparrow, I believe the first one I had seen since the winter of 2014-2015. (They head north in the summer.) I also heard but did not see a Red-eyed Vireo, a Blue-headed Vireo, a Pine Warbler, and an Eastern Phoebe. We had to hurry back to the car as it started to rain at 11:00, just when the forecast had said it would. On the way back to Staunton we stopped to see the Bald Eagle nest in Swoope, and saw two big juveniles in it, and one adult in a nearby tree.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Louisiana Waterthrush, Worm-eating Warbler, Swamp Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird (M), Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and Ovenbird. (April 23, 2016)
Other bird sightings
At Sweet Briar College yesterday I saw my first Yellow Warbler of the year, and saw my first Chimney Swifts of the year the week before that.
On Tuesday I hiked around Montgomery Hall Park after unloading stuff at the recycling center, but didn't see any new spring arrivals. Likewise on Bell's Lane later in the afternoon, it was relatively uneventful.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: White-breasted Nuthatch, Eastern Towhee, Red-winged Blackbird (F), Brown-headed Cowbird (M). (April 19, 2016)
The above montages, as well as individual photos of most of the birds shown therein, can bee seen on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.
April 21, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Flying out to So. Dak. (& back)
One of my dear departed Dad's favorite movies was Flying Down to Rio (1933), in which Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers danced together on screen for the first time. Hence the title above. I didn't have much time to prepare for this trip, and didn't even bring my Canon camera. Given my Dad's medical emergency, photography was not one of my priorities. But I was fortunate to have mostly clear skies for most of the trip, including the westbound and eastbound flights. That is how I was able to get surprisingly good photos from my iPod Touch. I was especially excited to get this photo of Massanutten Mountain, hoping to show it to my Dad, since he often asked me to explain the geography of the Shenandoah Valley region. But alas, he passed away right about the same time as I took that photo...
The southern tip of Massanutten Mountain, with the South Fork of the Shenandoah River below. (April 11)
On my second full day in South Dakota, I persuaded my brother Chris to take a slight detour in Sioux Falls so that I could see Augustana University. I had probably been there before, on a debate trip most likely, but my recollection was vague. Lighting conditions were perfect for photos, as you can see:
Augustana University East Hall, Old Main Building. (April 13)
In the afternoon, we paid some visits to University of South Dakota, among the many arrangements that had to be done in preparation for my Dad's funeral.
University of South Dakota - Old Main Building. (April 13)
On Thursday night, Jacqueline arrived to join me, bringing the Canon camera, which was of great use in the indoor photos during the visitation (Friday evening) and the funeral (Saturday morning).
Flowers from Tom Brokaw, with a funny note. (April 16)
On the way back east on Sunday, I took many aerial photos of various cities, as well as O'Hare Airport in Chicago and Dulles Airport in Northern Virginia, where I photographed several jet airliners, including the new Airbus A380 double-deck jumbo jet. It is HUGE!!! As the turboprop plane I was in crossed the Blue Ridge near the end of the trip, I was startled to see a large forest fire, which burned for several days.
Rocky Mount forest fire, south of Elkton. (April 17)
The above photos are merely a sample; the complete set of photos from my trip can be seen at the new April 2016 photo gallery.
April 21, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Nationals start the season red hot
You can never tell for sure whether a team's performance in spring training is a sign of how well they will play in the regular season, but so far the Washington Nationals are doing just as well as they were last month. While I was out of town (see note at bottom), the Nationals swept the Atlanta Braves in Washington four games straight, and then on the road they took two of three from the Phillies. In Miami, they lost the first game to the Marlins, 6-1, as Tanner Roark had another shaky outing. But the Nats came roaring back on Tuesday, with a team record four (4) home runs in the seventh inning, one of which was a grand slam by Bryce Harper -- his second of the year, and indeed the second of his career! Aside from that one inning, it was a great pitchers' duel. Final score, 7-0. The Nats beat the Marlins 3-1 on Wednesday, and started this afternoon's game one an auspcious note, with yet another Bryce Harper home run (his eighth of the year!) in the first inning. But Max Scherzer was uncharacteristically sloppy on the mound, and gave up three runs in the first inning, and two more after that. Fish 5, Nats 1.
At this rate (8 homers in 15 games), Bryce Harper will hit 86 home runs this year! He shares the home run lead in the majors with Trevor Story of the Rockies, but he has six more RBIs (22) than anyone else. Hot, hot, hot! His .320 batting average is pretty darned good as well. Other Nats worthy of mention are Daniel Murphy, who has an average of .404, and Wilson Ramos, who is batting .314 so far.
With an 11-4 record, this the Nationals have equalled the mark they set in the first 15 games of the 2012 season, but it is the first time that they have won nine of their first ten games. (They won seven of their first ten games in 2012, 2013, and 2014.) The following table (similar to one I posted on April 17, 2012, which showed the first twelve games) compares the Nationals' record during the first [ TEN ]
twelve games for each of their first seven seasons in Washington [thus far] with their cumulative percentage for the year. It's only a rough correlation, but there is a definite pattern:
||First ten games (W-L)
||Season total (%)
Go Cubs, Go!
In [Cincinnati] this evening, the Cubs crushed the Reds, 16-0, as Jake Arrieta threw a no-hitter. It was the largest margin of victory in a no-hitter in a major league game in over 130 years. Kris Bryant hit two home runs, one of which was a grand slam. See MLB.com. The Cubs and Nationals have been neck-and-neck in the race for the highest winning percentage in the majors, and since the Nats lost today, the Cubs (12-4) are ahead once again. It makes me wonder if there might be some "divine intervention" going on.
The recent lack of baseball blogging was due to the passing away of my father, Alan L. "Cub" Clem, an avid Cubs fan his whole life. At about the same time he died last week, on April 11, the Cubs were on the verge of losing in a no-hitter in their home opener against the Reds, which would have been a disgrace. And then, as if by miracle, they came back after the seventh inning stretch to win the game, 5-3. Coincidence? I wrote and delivered a eulogy for my Dad last Saturday, and posted it on my blog for everybody to read on Monday. "Wait till next year"? It may just be that this year IS next year!
Sister Connie, Dear Old Dad, and Yours Truly watching a Cubs-Rockies game at Coors Field, on August 9, 2009. (Photo previously shown on August 22, 2009.)
April 18, 2016 [LINK / comment]
R.I.P. Alan L. Clem (1929-2016)
My father, Alan L. Clem, passed away one week ago -- Monday, April 11 -- while I was traveling west in hopes of getting a chance to talk to him one last time. It was a sudden, unexpected health emergency. Five days later, I gave the eulogy for him at funeral services held in St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Vermillion, South Dakota. The manuscript is shown below. As befitting a man of his great stature, there was a huge turnout at both the visitation on Friday evening and the funeral itself on Saturday morning. I'm still stunned and disoriented by it all, finding it hard to believe that Dad is no longer with us.
An article written by Carson Walker (University of South Dakota Media Relations), based in part on an interview he did with my brother Chris and me, appeared in the Yankton Press and Dakotan and the USD.edu Web site. The Sioux Falls Argus Leader took that same article and severely edited it, wrongly attributing to me words spoken by Chris.
Dear Old Dad, in a typical relaxed, cheerful mood. (Dec. 26, 2013) This photo was used in a newspaper salutation to Dad which my siblings and I put in the Vermillion Plain Talk on the occasion of his 85th birthday, just over two years ago.
Eulogy for Alan L. Clem
When I was trying to make up my mind in the late 1980s whether to stay in the government or go for a Ph.D., my dad told me that in the academic profession you can be the "captain of your soul." Those words really captured my imagination. Quite frankly, I was tired of being the "galley slave of my soul," and so decided once and for all to make my mark on the world by following in my father's footsteps. And the rest, as they say, is political science.
Looking back, that conversation with Dad sheds light on something very special and profound that he left behind as his legacy to our family, and thereby to American society: He instilled in each of us five children -- Dan, John, Connie, Chris, and me -- a strong inner "moral compass" to guide our choices in life. If there is one common characteristic shared by us five siblings, it is a fierce disinclination to fit in and go along with the rest of the crowd. When it comes to conventional ways of thinking and acting, we are all stubborn nonconformists. Modest appearances aside, we are "unconquerable."
Much has been written about Dad's innumerable career achievements, of which we Clems are of course all very proud. Not everybody gets to grow up with a Dad who often appeared on TV, and was widely regarded as an esteemed authority figure. But there are many aspects of his personal life that few people outside the family know very well, things that molded his sterling character and pushed him to achieve greatness in a way that would not immediately grab attention. Dad's life as a cadet at St. John's Military School imbued him with solid character traits, including self-discipline and studiousness. But there were also moments of loneliness and anxiety which he learned to remedy by reading classic literature and nurturing a vivid imagination.
At the University of Nebraska, Dad's combination of athletic prowess and literary talent came into full fruition. He played on the varsity baseball team, and for many years one of the family treasures was Dad's old-style baseball glove with the huge heel and small fingers. I wish I knew what happened to that glove. Dad was active socially at the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, and became editor of the Daily Nebraskan. Words cannot express the depth of his passion for his alma mater. Last summer he and I took a drive down to Lincoln, where he showed me Memorial Stadium, home of the Cornhuskers, the ATO house, and other familiar places from those days. He really enjoyed that.
After working in advertising for a while, Dad took a job in Washington, DC. Without a doubt, the day Dad first saw a fetching young woman from North Carolina named Mary Louise Burke was one that was divinely ordained. Dad spotted her across the hall in a Capitol Hill office building where they both worked, and soon began courting her, even though he did not yet own an automobile. In October 1953 they took a train west to Salina, Kansas, where they were married. My grandfather, Col. the Rev. Remey Leland Clem, officiated in the services.
A couple years later, I arrived on the scene, and from what I am told, I was giving impassioned speeches through the front window by the time I was two. Then came Chris, and then came Connie, and then came the day when Dad announced we were going to move from the Washington area to a faraway place called Vermillion. There was a television drama series at the time called "The Millionaire," and I naturally concluded that we were all going to be millionaires. Not quite.
Indeed, life was often hard growing up on the northern plains, but we managed to survive the years of drinking powdered milk and sleeping in a dank basement with concrete floors. Two more boys arrived in the mid-1960s, John and Dan. They were lots of fun to play with, and we the proverbial "one big happy family." In spite of Dad's busy schedule running the Governmental Research Bureau at the University of South Dakota, he found time to come watch my brother Chris and me play little league baseball. One of the most thrilling moments of my young life was when Dad took us to see his beloved Chicago Cubs play the Pittsburgh Pirates in historic Wrigley Field in 1963. We got to see Hall of Famers Ernie Banks and Roberto Clemente, among others.
Later on, Dad taught Chris and me how to swing a golf club, patiently explaining the importance of a proper grip, a proper stance, and the proper shifting of weight. Chris had a junior-sized five iron, and I had a junior-sized seven iron. Golf absorbed nearly all of our athletic energy through our teen years, and Chris in particular excelled at it. Later on, John and Dan learned to play golf as well. Meanwhile, our sister Connie embarked on a different athletic path, becoming a champion swimmer with many medals and trophies to her credit.
One of the smartest investments our frugal father ever made was a set of World Book encyclopedias. We kids literally devoured those books! Well, no, we figuratively devoured them. Dad was always annoyed by bad grammar, usage, and punctuation, making sure that his children learned proper English. In that regard, I should mention that for years he complained about the sign on the small park in our neighborhood, using an apostrophe in the name "Bluffs," where it did not belong. When I was visiting around Christmas time a few months ago, we decided to finally do something about it, so we spoke to one of the officials in City Hall, and lo and behold, the correction was made. Trivial or not, fixing that typo was deeply satisfying for Dad.
Mary Clem, our "sainted mother," was always the light in Dad's life that kept him active in the local social circuit. 902 Valley View Drive was the scene of many a party for the university crowd, thanks mainly to Mom. For us kids, that meant being exiled to the basement while the adults whooped it up upstairs. But we understood the importance of such events.
By the time I was a teenager, Dad stimulated my interest in political analysis, especially political geography, and I vividly remember his night analyses being broadcast on local television stations. In 1972 I was helping phone in the election results to NBC, and used the opportunity to witness the concession speech of George McGovern, the Democratic candidate for president. About 25 years later, I introduced myself to McGovern at the University of Virginia, and he asked me to send fond greetings to Dad. The warm praises of Dad expressed by former NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw, former Sen. Larry Pressler, and other distinguished figures are a testament to what a great impact he had on their lives, and by extension, on America as a whole. The rock-solid, morally upright Dakota character is evident in those people, and in hundreds of other former students of Dad's. God willing, the same propagation of scholarly virtue for which Alan Clem was renowned will carry forward in future generation of Clems.
After Mom passed away, Dad become less involved in social affairs, deriving most of his pleasure from family and fellow church members. I made a point to visit Dad at least once or twice a year, and every single minute with him was a sheer joy. He is so pleasant, so friendly, so amusing, and so interesting. I was looking forward to spending more years enjoying his company, but God had other plans. I am at least grateful that I had the opportunity to take Dad on a cross-country road trip in June of 2014, driving south to Texas and then west to New Mexico, to the home of his sister Connie and brother-in-law Bill, who recently passed away. That trip was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, as well as being a special occasion for a reunion among dear family members.
In the 1990s, while I was slogging my way through the insane labyrinth that is graduate school, Dad offered me another piece of advice that was fitting and well received: Ad astra per aspera. That means "To the stars through difficulties," and is the state motto of Kansas, where he grew up. As Dad departs from this earthly realm and charts his soul's course into the afterlife, it is worth remembering that all the pain and suffering we endure in life is but a preparation for what lies beyond. Farewell, Dad. As that Vera Miles song from World War II went, "We'll meet again."
by Andrew G. Clem
Complete blog entries for the current month:
(with links to archives of previous months)