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Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968.

Reusse: Sports proving again and again how they can impact us

It has been a staple of American sports writing for decades: When there are dramatic events (primarily tragic) in the world or our region, we like to embrace humility and suggest we are working for the “toy department’’ of a news outlet, that it’s sports and it doesn’t really matter that much.

I’ve been writing columns since 1979 and I’m sure there are some among the thousands where those clichés were embraced.

I’ve decided over the last week that this has been wrong all along. Sports touch so many people in so many different ways that they are gigantically important.

We’re not comparing this to terrorist attacks and heinous crimes. We’re talking about what’s important in people’s everyday lives. And, sports here and elsewhere rarely have seemed more important than in the past week.

It started last Thursday with the death of Walter Bush at age 86. Bush had more to do with bringing the NHL to Minnesota than anyone. He was the lead person in the group that landed an expansion franchise in February 1966, and then was president for the North Stars for a decade.

Minnesotans reveled in having an NHL team. That was not always obvious with attendance during the down years, but it became clear after Norm Green moved the franchise to Dallas after the 1993 season.

It took seven years for us to get an NHL team on the ice again. From the outset, people have supported the Wild in a style to assure that Minnesota never will be without a NHL team again.

It was Walter Bush’s vision that gave Minnesota the taste of the NHL that is now irresistible.

On Sunday, we had a double dose of sports importance: the tragic death of Miami pitcher Jose Fernandez, 24, in a boating accident, and the death of Arnold Palmer, the man who was golf’s first hero of the TV age, at 87.

Reading and watching the level of anguish in South Florida over the young pitcher’s death was remarkable. Reading and hearing the tributes from the golf world for Palmer has been a reminder of how much influence one person can have on people through sport.

Arnie’s Army. It was real.

We also learned again that sports has fate. It really does. We saw that twice in 24 hours in baseball.

The Marlins cancelled Sunday’s game with Atlanta in the wake of Fernandez’s death. Play resumed Monday night in Miami with all of the Marlins wearing replicas of Fernandez’s No. 16 jersey.

Dee Gordon was the leadoff hitter in the bottom of the first. He homered. He cried. Everyone cried.

Also Monday, Cardinals shortstop Aledmys Diaz flew to Miami to be with Fernandez’s family. Diaz and Fernandez had grown up on the same street in Cuba before defecting.

Diaz returned to St. Louis on Tuesday. He was an emotional mess because of his friend’s death, but decided to play. He hit his first grand slam in the big leagues in the fourth inning to bring the Cardinals from behind in what became a 13-5 victory.

There was a little fate involved with Arnie’s death, also. He died at the start of Ryder Cup week, putting a large share of the world’s best golfers in one place – Hazeltine National – to pay tribute.

There were an estimated 37,000 fans at the course for Tuesday’s first practice round. They were swarming the gigantic merchandise building to the point that it was closed briefly because of overcrowding.

Yup. Too many people give their all (including credit cards) to sports for it to be meaningless in the big picture.

I mean, were you watching as Vin Scully had a tape played of him singing “Wind Beneath My Wings’’ to his wife as his Dodger Stadium sendoff on Sunday?

He was an L.A. play-by-play man who I met once, and I was sniffling in the TV den in Golden Valley.

Sentimental, tragic, sad, grand (slam) ... sports are great.

Reusse: Palmer's one U.S. Open win came at crossroad of golf greatness (Aug. 8, 2010)

Arnold Palmer talked with me at the 3M Championship about the famous U.S. Open duel that took place 50 years earlier in Denver. This column appeared in the Star Tribune on Aug. 8, 2010:

Arnold Palmer won the U.S. Amateur in 1954 and turned pro in the fall. He had seven victories from 1955 through 1957, and then started changing golf's buttoned-collar image with his first of four Masters titles in 1958.
Appreciative applause turned into cries of encouragement and roars of elation. Emotions kept under a hat were replaced by the squint, the grimace, the hitch of the pants and the triumphant toss of a visor.

Palmer had five PGA Tour wins in 1960, including the Masters, when he came to Cherry Hills Country Club in suburban Denver for the U.S. Open. This was a time when the Open concluded with 36 holes on Saturday -- a format that would change in 1965.

That day of golf 50 years ago has been immortalized in Curt Sampson's book, "The Eternal Summer," and in an HBO documentary, "Back Nine at Cherry Hills," which the network has been repeating recently.

These retrospective pieces have been able to look at Cherry Hills as among golf's greatest generational moments. The contenders on the back nine included Ben Hogan, 47, the man in the white hat and with ice water coursing through his body; Palmer, 30, and emerging as the game's superstar; and Jack Nicklaus, 20, still an amateur and reaching a large national audience for the first time.

At the time, golf followers only suspected that they were seeing Hogan as a factor in the U.S. Open for the last time. They were not sure that Palmer's run of glory would last long enough to earn him the eternal nickname "The King" -- or that Nicklaus, this collegian from Ohio State, would become the player by whom all others would be judged.

All we saw that day was Palmer making the astounding charge from seven strokes behind third-round leader Mike Souchak, and that Hogan was among those left in the wake of Arnie's 6-under-par 65.

A half-century later, Palmer was ready to make his appearance with the Greats of Golf in the 3M Championship. His gallery at TPC Twin Cities would be large and include 60-somes that could remember the thrill of hearing on an AM car radio that Palmer had driven the green on the par-4 first to open his final round at Cherry Hills.

"If I really got into it, I could hit a ball 300 yards, at that time," Palmer said Saturday. "This was 346, but at altitude, so I felt I could get there. The first three rounds I made two pars, and a 6, when I went in the creek.

"On Saturday afternoon, I finally got there, and two-putted for a birdie."

He had five more birdies over the next six holes to get 6 under for the round and 4 under for the tournament. On the eighth tee, he noticed Pittsburgh's Bob Drum among some arriving sportswriters.

"Drum had followed me as I came up in the game in Pennsylvania -- sort of raised me in the ways of media," Palmer said. "After the morning round, I saw him at lunch and said, 'Bob, if I shoot 65, do I have a chance?' And Drum said, 'Wouldn't do you any good.'

"That hacked me off. So, I saw Drum at No. 8 and said, 'What are you doing here? I don't have a chance.'

Palmer bogeyed the eighth and shot 30 on the front. Souchak was blowing up to an 82 and the Open was wide open. Dow Finsterwald, Jack Fleck, Julius Boros, Jerry Barber and Don Cherry surfaced and then fell back.

So did Nicklaus, the kid playing with Hogan, with a pair of three-putts on Nos. 13 and 14.

It became Hogan vs. Palmer, and Hogan arrived at the par-5 No. 17 with a Saturday run of hitting 34 consecutive greens. There's a slight debate on what happened with Hogan's 55-yard third shot:

Hogan and others said it spun off the green and into the creek. Others agree with Palmer: "I was watching from the 17th tee. Hogan hit it a little heavy and it came in short."

No matter. Hogan was wet, made bogey and cleared the way for Palmer to finish with two pars to win the U.S. Open.

Greatest victory of all? "Souchak had me by seven strokes going into the last 18 holes, so it's a pretty good one," Palmer said.

One more unknown for the freshly minted golf fans on that Saturday in June 50 years ago: We didn't know this stupendous comeback had produced The King's only U.S. Open victory.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

< >
  • Twins at Kansas City

    6:15 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Wild at Winnipeg (preseason)

    7 pm on NHLN, 100.3-FM

  • Phoenix at Lynx

    7 pm on ESPNEWS, 106.1-FM

  • Lindenwood at Gophers women's hockey

    7:07 pm

  • Twins at Chicago White Sox

    7:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Lindenwood at Gophers women's hockey

    2:07 pm

  • Gophers football at Penn State

    2:30 pm on BTN, 100.3-FM

  • Twins at Chicago White Sox

    6:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Jacksonville at Minnesota United FC

    7 pm on Ch. 29

  • Twins at Chicago White Sox

    2:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Lynx at Phoenix

    4 pm on ESPN, 106.1-FM

  • Carolina at Wild (preseason)

    5 pm on 100.3-FM

  • N.Y. Giants at Vikings

    7:30 pm on ESPN, 100.3/1130

  • Wild at Colorado (preseason)

    8 pm on 100.3-FM

  • Minnesota United FC at Tampa Bay

    6:30 pm on Ch. 29

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