A good news story from the ’94 Olympics

Where are they now — speedskaters Kristen and Jason Talbot

Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding have been stealing the headlines again, thanks to a film, a “20/20” special and interviews with the man who clubbed Kerrigan’s leg. For several weeks before and during the 1994 Olympic Winter Games in Norway, the lead story every day was about Kerrigan and Harding. Concurrent to that drama 24 years ago, another story played out, but this story has a happier ending.

Five days after Shane Stant whacked Kerrigan in her right leg, ending her chances to defend her U.S. figure skating championship in Detroit, U.S. speed skater Kristen Talbot and her brother Jason were undergoing a life-altering procedure in Baltimore. Kristen, 23 at the time, had just qualified in Milwaukee for her third Olympics. Three days later, she was in excruciating pain donating bone marrow to help save her brother’s life. Doctors inserted a corkscrew-like device into several locations in her hips and withdrew one pint of bone marrow in a procedure that lasted two hours.

“It’s hard to describe the pain,” Kristen said during a conversation this January in her farmhouse living room. “Imagine if you slipped on the ice, both feet went straight up in the air and you landed directly on your hips. That’s what it felt like, everytime they went in there.”

Jason had been diagnosed in December 1993 with aplastic anemia, a rare condition in which the body stops producing the normal amount of new blood cells. According to the Mayo Clinic, aplastic anemia develops when damage occurs to your bone marrow, slowing or shutting down the production of new blood cells.

For Jason, a 19-year-old short track speed skater with amazing conditioning, it meant a sudden bout of headaches and fatigue. In the summer of 1993, he won 17 races at the Olympic Sports Festival Trials in St. Louis and had his eyes on the 1998 Olympics. A few months later, he was winded doing mundane activities. He visited his family physician, and after a round of tests, doctors thought it was either aplastic anemia or leukemia. Soon thereafter, he and his family visited Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.

Without a bone marrow transplant, Jason’s odds of survival were low. With a transplant, he was looking at an 80 percent chance of recovery. Two of Jason’s three younger brothers were matches, but they were too young for the procedure. Kristen was a near perfect match and held the “gold medal” for Jason.

Doctors loaded Jason with chemotherapy for a week leading up to the procedure so that his body wouldn’t reject the transplant. The normal white blood cell count is 10,000; Jason was at 41.

The procedure on January 11 went smoothly. Kristen was released from the hospital the next day and returned to Milwaukee to resume training, though now she had a physical handicap.

“It’s something I would do for anybody,” she said at the time. “I was ready to pack in the season. My family means more to me than anything else.”

Back on the ice

By late January, she was competing in the World Sprint Championships in Calgary, feeling like she was back on schedule. On February 7, just five days before the Opening Ceremonies in Lillehammer, Jason was released from the hospital. His white blood cell count was above 1,000, but he had to remain in Baltimore for daily treatments. Doctors told him that he probably wouldn’t have children.

Today, 24 years later, he has five children and lives in Glens Falls with his wife, Adrienne.

“Baylee, Madison, Tiernan, Muirenn and Cogan,” Jason said proudly, naming off his kids, who range in age from 18 to 6. “I won a three national titles and made a couple of (national) teams, but my greatest accomplishment, in life, lays in those five names. This story has always been about family. My sister gave me the opportunity to make one of my own, and I’ll always be indebted to her for that. My sister isn’t just a former Olympian. She’s something we should all strive to be.”

Sportswriters and broadcasters at the Lillehammer Games caught wind of the Talbot story, and she quickly became a media darling.

“I don’t consider myself a hero at all,” she told them on February 11, the day before the Opening Ceremonies.

Her teammate and friend, five-time Olympic gold medalist Bonnie Blair, spoke up.

“She had been skating real well in the fall, and we didn’t want her to have to stop,” Blair told the media. “We’re all glad to see her here. She’s got a great attitude. If it had to happen to anyone here, she’s the best to handle it.”

Talbot had one more hurdle to cross before her race. On Tuesday, February 15, her grandfather Edward Joseph Talbot died at Saratoga Hospital.

Four days later, on a Saturday afternoon in Hamar, Norway, Kristen finally took to the ice and tried to focus on the 500 meters between her and the finish line. Kristen’s dad, Gary Talbot, was rinkside in Norway, cheering on his daughter. Jason and the rest of the family were gathered in their Schuylerville home. She was shooting for a top-15 finish. She skated her fastest time of the season at 41.05 seconds and finished 20th.

Blair won the race with a track record of 39.25 seconds and claimed her fifth career gold medal. After the event, she said, “I respect her (Talbot) a lot of everything she’s been through. She’s someone that I really admire.”

“Lillehammer was an Olympics with mixed emotions,” Kristen said recently, reflecting on the series of events and her three Olympic competitions. “Jason was sick, so I was worried about him. The Norwegian people were so friendly, so welcoming, so in love with winter sports. They just loved hosting the world there. It was a pretty cool Olympics.”

So cool that International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch called them the “magic Games” and “the best Olympic Winter Games ever”.

Kristen and Jason’s mother, Michele “Mickey” Talbot said recently that the winter of 1993-94 was “kind of a blur. First, the excitement that Kristen was going to make another (Olympics) team, then we got the news that Jason was sick. We didn’t think Kristen would be able to go. You change your perspective at that point.”

After Lillehammer

After the Games in Norway, Kristen resumed training and racing in Calgary. “I ended that season thinking I’d keep staking,” she said. “But I got home and thought about life. In the spring of ‘94, I called my coach in Milwaukee and told him I was going to enroll in school,” she said. By the fall, she was enrolled at Russell Sage College in Troy to study physical therapy.

Meanwhile, Jason was recovering throughout 1994 and started college.

“I was trying to figure out if I wanted to skate again,” he said recently while sitting in Kristen’s farmhouse. “But just climbing stairs, I’d be out of breath. I had dedicated so much time of my youth to this sport. I was so close. People believed in me, told me I could make it.”

He started working at West Mountain in Glens Falls during the ‘94-’95 winter season to make money for school. He worked there for 11 seasons, then operated his own chrome-plating business for about 10 years before returning to West Mountain where he makes and grooms snow, manages lifts, welds and fixes electrical equipment.

“It’s something different every day. I love that,” he said. “It’s not a desk job. And the cold doesn’t bother me.”

He last laced up his skates two years ago with his children at the Glens Falls Civic Center, wearing the same skates that he wore when he won a short track national title.

“It’s with a bit of regret that I didn’t keep trying,” he said. “But then I think I wouldn’t have my wife. I wouldn’t have my kids, and I’m very content with my life.”

Kristen finished her master’s degree in physical therapy in 1999. A few months prior, she had torn her ACL and hobbled across the stage to accept her diploma. After her knee surgery, she recuperated with Matt O’Neil at Saratoga Physical Therapy Associates. He connected her with the Lexington Center in Gloversville, where she worked as a physical therapist full time for six years and now works there three days per week.

“She gives — whether skating, her studies in PT and now in her professional career — always gives 110 percent,” O’Neil said. “Knowing the epic part of the story then coming to know her personally, it is not surprising what she did, giving to her brother.”

Kristin did give speed skating one more try and trained for the 2002 short track team with Amy Peterson of Minnesota and others at the Saratoga Winter Club. Kristen fell short at national qualifiers, but Peterson made the team and carried the U.S. flag at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

“It was a great experience, and I’m glad I did it,” Kristen said.

Family grows

In the summer of 2003, Kristen attended the annual Bacon Hill Bonanza party, a pig roast and celebration for the community near the Peck farm in Schuylerville. Neil Peck, a sixth-generation farmer on the property, was asking a friend about Kristen. “I finally got the nerve to call her,” he said. Two summers later, they were married. Bonnie Blair was among those who attended the wedding.

Peterson returned to train with veteran coach Pat Maxwell and the Saratoga Winter Club for the 2006 Games. While visiting Kristen and Neil, she met Neil’s brother, Billy, and they were married in 2006. They live just down the road from Neil and Kristen with the four sons, ages 10 to 4. They are four of Neil and Kristen’s 17 nieces and nephews.

Neil and Billy manage the family farm. Together they own 1,200 acres, operate 2,000 acres and grow hay and corns for their cows — all 800 of them. Their staff of 18 employees milk the cows three times daily, and their milk is sold to the likes of Cabot Creamery.

Neil and Kristen live in the original farmhouse, which they figure was built in the 1840s. Along with Gary Talbot, a lifelong carpenter, they gutted the home and rebuilt the inside. “We’re still working on it,” Kristen admits, pointing out some molding and a door that need new paint. Her goal was to maintain as much of the original look and feel of the home, including the historic colors, but she did paint one living room wall a Schuylerville High School orange. A Black Horses blanket is folded and sits on the back of the couch.

Gary is still working as a carpenter and plays soccer in a 50-plus men’s league. Soon he’ll be helping his son Matthew and daughter-in-law Kelly rehab a home they’re buying. Michele retired from nursing after 30-plus years at Saratoga Hospital and Schuylerville Central School. She works in first aid at Saratoga Race Course in the summer. Together, they look after and enjoy their six grandchildren with one more on the way later this winter. In addition to the grandkids and their own five children, there are in-laws, and everyone lives within a short drive of their home where they host a big Sunday dinner every week.

“We don’t have any speed skaters,” Gary chuckled a bit when talking about his grandchildren. “But Jason’s kids ski, and they’re really good athletes.”

When the 2018 Games run their course in South Korea this winter, you can bet the Talbot family with gather around to watch, probably at Gary and Mickey’s house after Sunday dinner.

“We’re Olymp-aholics!” Mickey exclaimed. “It brings back a flood of memories. When we see families of a new Olympian on TV, it all comes back. To see the reaction of the parents in the stands … we’ve been there.”

Now isn’t that a story with a much better ending than Tonya and Nancy?


Dec. 11, 1993 – Saratoga Springs High School freshman running sensation Erin Davis wins the national title at Foot Locker Cross Country Championship in San Diego.

Dec. 14, 1993 – Jason Talbot, at age 19, is diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a disease that attack bone marrow and slows production of red and white blood cells. His chances of survival are low without a transplant.

Jan. 6, 1994 –  Figure skater Nancy Kerrigan is attacked by Tonya Harding’s bodyguard at the national championships in Detroit. Harding wins the U.S. title the next day.

Jan. 8, 1994 – Kristen Talbot, 23, qualifies for the Olympics in the 500-meter speedskating event in Milwaukee. Saratoga Springs speedskater David Tamburrino, 21, qualifies for the Olympics in the 1,500 and 5,000 meters.

Jan. 10, 1994 – Kristen Talbot flies from Milwaukee to Baltimore.

Jan. 11, 1994 – At Johns Hopkins University Hospital, Kristen and Jason undergo procedures to transplant bone marrow from Kristen’s hip into Jason. Doctors take 2 hours to extract one pint of bone marrow from Kristen, who reports by phone that Jason is “a little sick because of the chemotherapy, but he’s doing OK.”

Jan. 12, 1994 – Kristen is released from hospital and attends a news conference.

Jan. 16, 1994 – Kristen is back in Milwaukee where she says, “My family means more to me than anything else.”

Jan. 26, 1994 – Kristen is in Calgary training and declares she’s back on schedule. Jason’s white blood cell count is up to 500. It was down to 41 before the surgery. Doctors say he can leave hospital when count is over 1,000. Normal is 10,000.

Feb. 6, 1994 – One day after a brutal massacre in a marketplace in Sarajevo, UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali requests NATO carry out air strikes. Sarajevo hosted the 1984 Olympic Winter Games as was the focus of several moments of silence during the 1994 Games.

Feb. 7, 1994 – Jason is released from hospital and moves into a nearby Baltimore apartment.

Feb. 12, 1994 – Media focuses on Kristen’s story during a news conference with the speedskating team. “I don’t consider myself a hero,” she says. Teammate Bonnie Blair adds, “If it had to happen to anyone here, she’s the best to handle it.” That evening, Lillehammer hosts the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Winter Games.

Feb. 15, 1994 – Jason and Kristen’s paternal grandfather passes away. Edward Joseph Talbot, 66, of Gansevoort, dies at Saratoga Hospital.

Feb. 16, 1994 – Tamburrino skates personal best in 1,500-meter speedskating event and is best American finisher (22nd of 41 skaters).

Feb. 18, 1994 – After years-long tragedies on and off the ice, speedskater Dan Jansen wins gold medal and sets world record in 1,000-meter event.

Feb. 19, 1994 – Kristen finishes 20th in women’s 500-meter race, which is won by Blair. Kristen’s time of 41.05 seconds was her personal best for the season. Her father Gary is rinkside. The rest of her family, including Jason, watches on TV in the Talbots’ Schuylerville home.

Feb. 20, 1994 – Speedskater Johann Olav Koss of Norway wins his third gold medal in eight days at the Olympics.

Feb. 24, 1994 – The Dow Jones Industrial Average drops 51 points to 3,839.90.

Feb. 25, 1994 – Kerrigan wins the silver medal in ladies’ figure skating. Oksana Baiul of Ukraine wins gold in a tie-breaker. Tonya Harding finishes 8th after stopping her routine due to issues with her skate.

Feb. 27, 1994 – On last day of Lillehammer Olympics, Sweden beats Canada in men’s hockey after overtime and a 10-shot shootout. Norway wins medal count with 26; U.S. is sixth with 13 medals.


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Two steps away, but those two steps are like light years

I look forward to Sunday with cautious optimism. I’ve been a Minnesota Vikings fan for almost 50 years now, and again they are but a couple victories away from the Super Bowl, something they haven’t visited since SB XI. Yes, that’s eleven in Roman numerals.

If things break right for the team, they could avenge two overtime NFC Championship Game losses on its way to a home game in Super Bowl LII. No team has ever played in its home stadium in a Super Bowl, so already there’s reason for my caution. Other Vikings fans can feel the pain before the game even starts. Forget about how it ends, usually painfully and memorably.

Minnesota lost three Super Bowls in four years in the mid-’70s, and they had lost Super Bowl IV to the Chiefs in the last season before the NFL and AFL merged. They were nearly two-touchdown favorites in that game, though I was too young to remember it. The other three? They lost to a Dolphins team one year after its perfect season; they lost to the Steelers at the beginning of their dynasty; and they lost to a Raiders team that had lost three straight AFC championship games before finally knocking off their hated Steelers.

To you Boston Red Sox fans who kept crying about not winning a World Series: Consider that the Sox won in 1918 then experienced its long “Curse of the Bambino” stretch for 86 years. They lost four times in the Series during that span — 1946, 1967, 1975 and 1986 — and lost the American League Championship Series four times — 1988, 1990, 1999 and 2003 — before winning the World Series three times in 10 years between 2004 to 2013. Pencils down and calculators out … that’s eight losses in the final or penultimate step over a span of 86 years — or 9% of the seasons.

The Vikings have lost nine times in the final or penultimate step over a span of 41 seasons — or 22% of the seasons.

So what about those five NFC Championship Game losses, all since the Vikings’ last SB appearance? With a chance to go to its fourth Super Bowl in five years, the Vikings lost 23-6 to Dallas after the 1977 season. They were never in the game, but it stunk because it was the the Cowboys, who beat what was probably the best Vikings team two years earlier on the “Hail Mary” pass. (Drew Pearson – pass interference; just sayin’.) If not for the Cowboys, Minnesota could have visited (and probably lost) FIVE Super Bowls in a row!

After the 1987 season, they lost to the Redskins 17-10 when Darrin Nelson dropped a potential touchdown catch that might have tied the game, but that was a strike season, so it doesn’t count as much.

After the 2000 season, they were blown out by the Giants. I gave up at halftime.

It’s those other two games — the overtime games — that sting.

The 1998 Vikings team was explosive, with Randall Cunningham, running back Robert Smith and receivers Cris Carter and Randy Moss. They set an NFL record with 556 points and won their nine previous home games by an average of 23 points. I was doing touchdown dances in bars, in my living room and with my young sons. The Vikings were favored by 11 points at home against the Atlanta Falcons and held a 13-point lead late in the first half. Then a series of mistakes and bad decisions doomed the team. First, they fumbled the ball deep in their own territory rather than running out the clock to close out the first half, so they saw a 20-7 lead turn into a 20-14 halftime edge. With a 27-20 lead, Smith carried the load and Minnesota drained the clock in the fourth quarter on its way to setting up a field goal by Gary Anderson. The veteran kicker had converted all of his extra points and field goals that season, but he pulled the kick wide left, and the Falcons drove down the field. Defensive back Robert Griffith dropped what would have been a game-ending interception in the end zone, then Atlanta scored a touchdown on the next play to tie the game. The inevitable bad ending came in overtime when Morten Andersen, Atlanta’s veteran kicker, nailed the game-winner from the same spot on the field where Gary Anderson had missed his kick a few minutes earlier.

After the 2009 season, the Vikings again lost in overtime in what turned out to be Brett Favre’s last game. Favre threw an interception that ended regulation when the Vikings were in (long) field goal range, and the New Orleans Saints took the overtime kickoff down the field to win on a field goal. Minnesota never touched the ball in OT. As a result, NFL rules have been changed to allow both teams to have a possession in overtime.

Fittingly, the Vikings face the Saints on Sunday. If they win and the Falcons defeat the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday, Minnesota would host the Falcons in the NFC Championship Game next weekend. Two home games against the Saints and Falcons — teams that beat them in OT.

Excited? Of course, but it’s reserved. Remember, no team has played at home in the Super Bowl. Do I really think the Vikings will be playing at home on the first Sunday in February?

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Trying to make sense of something

Today’s quote is a spin off something I have been telling myself for the past year-plus. From Vaclav Havel: Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.

As I’ve been searching for new career opportunities since 2016, I’ve been telling myself not to hope for any specific thing to happen but rather hope that things will turn out well. It seems that perhaps I should take that thought two more steps. First step — be confident that things will turn out well. Second step — be certain that something makes sense. The rest will take care of itself.

As I re-read this, I wonder what that “something” is. What needs to make sense? Does anything make sense? I know that my skills and experience make sense. I know that my love for my family, including myself, makes sense. My appreciation of others makes sense. I heard yesterday someone say that you need to treat yourself and others with respect, and that’s all that really matters. That makes sense. The Patriots lost to the Dolphins last night. Now, that doesn’t make sense.

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I wonder …

I experienced a quick but strange pondering over the weekend. I saw a Yankee Candle on a shelf and thought, I wonder how well Yankee Candle sells in the south?

According to yankeecandle.com, there is one Yankee Candle store in all of Louisiana, one in Arkansas, two in Mississippi and four in Alabama. There are 12 in Georgia, 11 in South Carolina and 15 in Tennessee.

Meanwhile, there are 41 stores in New York and 66 in New England, including 34 in its home state of Massachusetts.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s stats show that those seven southern states have a population of 37,444,624. That’s one Yankee Candle store for every 814,000 people or so. Meanwhile, those seven northeast states have a population of 34,480,814, or one store for every 322,000 people.

Yankee Candle’s latest publicly reported revenue was $844 million in 2013. While I may never know the exact financial number to what I wondered, I know more today and can likely conclude that Yankee Candle sells at least twice as well in the northeast than it does in the south. Not really a surprise, but I feel better having done some research.

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What Trump could learn by visiting a YMCA

Like the rest of the world, I was pondering the results of the presidential election last week. I was at the YMCA where I saw posters proclaiming their core values.

Caring: To demonstrate a sincere concern for others, for their needs and well-being.

Is Donald Trump a caring individual? Well, he did propose federal subsidies for child care that include tax deductions, rebates, savings accounts and paid maternity leave. However, a closer look shows that families earning $60,000 or less get $15 for every $100 they pay for childcare. Those making a half million or more would get $39.60 for every $100.

Honesty: To tell the truth, to demonstrate reliability and trustworthiness through actions that are in keeping with my stated positions and beliefs.

Just two months before the election, a CNN/ORC poll showed that 50% of registered voters considered Trump “more honest and trustworthy” compared to just 35% who said the same about Hillary Clinton. An ABC News/Washington Post poll had similar numbers at the end of October — 46% for Trump, 38% for Clinton.

These polls, perhaps, explain why Trump won. He sold the narrative better. His message — A Mexican-paid wall, blocking immigrants, bringing back all those overseas jobs and busting the corruption in Washington — was believed more than Clinton’s “better together” message.

Meanwhile, Politifact, the fact-checking group, rated 70% percent of Trump’s 331 statements they checked to be mostly false, false, or “pants on fire,” while 26% of Clinton’s 293 statements were in the same false range. Somehow telling half-truths or better 30% of the time convinced enough people to vote for him. I think we need to aim a higher next time, folks.

Respect: To treat others as I would want them to treat me, to value the worth of every person, including myself.

“Nobody has more respect for women than I do. Nobody.” That was Donald Trump during the third and final presidential debate at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas in October. That comment prompted guffaws from the audience that Chris Wallace had to quiet.

Despite the Access Hollywood bus open mic fiasco that allowed us all to hear that Trump wants to grab women by the, um, p-word, and get away with it … despite dozens of sexual-assault allegations and claims of him groping beauty pageant contestants … despite his insinuating during a Republican primary debate that Fox News host Megyn Kelly was menstruating (she had “blood coming out of her wherever”) and complaining on stage about Carly Fiorina’s face … despite saying that he’d like to date his own daughterhe won the vote among white women in this country by a 53-45 percentage score.

Responsibility: To do what is right — what I ought to do, to be accountable for my choices of behavior and actions and my promises.

I can’t create something out of nothing here. I find no evidence on the positive this time.

Trump and his businesses face thousands of lawsuits, ranging from defamation to people who claim Trump didn’t pay them for services rendered. He used hundreds of thousands of dollars from his own charity to settle his many legal problems. His third wife, Melania Trump, broke immigration laws by modeling before she had obtained a work visa, and he reportedly had an affair while married to Melania.

Since the election, we’ve seen and heard a different Donald Trump. He appeared to be humbled during his visits to the White House and the Capitol. He was calm and thoughtful during a “60 Minutes” interview. He has to balance the boisterous, entertaining and bigoted candidate who won almost half of the country’s votes with a more gracious, humble and serious president-elect to calm the other 49% or so. It starts with his staff selection … and perhaps visiting his local YMCA to ponder the meaning of its core values.

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Presidential election proves we need to fix a broken system

What kind of country do I live in? It’s not the same one that I thought as recently as a year ago, but I’m forced to face — and accept — a new reality.

For more than a year, I thought Donald Trump was playing out a joke. Surely he couldn’t be taken seriously during the Republican primaries. After all, he referenced his own genitals, insinuated that Fox News host Megyn Kelly was menstruating during a debate (she had “blood coming out of her wherever”) and complained about Carly Fiorina’s face. All of this live on stage. On national television! He must be crazy, I thought. He won’t win any primary with language like that. He insulted John McCain, Rosie O’Donnell, Mexicans, Muslims, Chinese, President Obama, handicapped people. All of this several months before the open mic on the Access Hollywood bus.

He slung his scariest insults at the media. RightWingWatch.org reported in April that he said, “I think the press really, really misrepresents and it’s extremely dishonest. I think that’s the biggest problem with the campaign, is the dishonesty of the press, honestly.”

He and I disagree on policies about climate change, immigration and energy, but I confess that I agree with our new president-elect about one thing — the system is broken. Our two-party system is broken. A dysfunctional Republican Party featured veteran leaders who wouldn’t endorse Trump but put him on the ballot for the rest of us to consider as a finalist. A disillusioned and probably corrupt Democratic Party weaseled its way around Bernie Sanders to make sure Hillary Clinton landed on the ballot. We’re a country of more than 300 million people, and we were left to decide between two people who each had higher than 50% dissatisfaction ratings. We faced a lose-lose situation on this historic election day.

Thanks to a two-party system that’s fueled by a human growth hormone known as Citizens United, we may never again see two final candidates that can be respected by the majority of our country.

Trump doesn’t much believe in the two-party system either. According to The Washington Times, he changed political party affiliations at least five times. He started as a Republican in 1987, switched to the Independence Party in 1999, became a Democrat in 2001, went back to the GOP in 2009, then marked the “I do not wish to enroll in a party.” box in 2011. He ultimately flipped to Republican for a third time in April 2012. Of course, in New York state, that was too late to vote in the 2012 primary but not too late to complain on Twitter.

Trump and his supporters are spot-on about one thing — we need to change our system.

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Here’s to you, Harvey Haddix

When the final out was anticlimatically recorded Wednesday night, Armando Galarraga was not alone in posting an imperfect perfect game. Sure, he had his legendary and compassionate manager, Jim Leyland. His Detroit Tigers teammates shared in his disbelief and disappointment. Somewhere in Ohio, where Harvey Haddix was born in 1925 and died in 1994, the Haddix family understands.

Far too much focus has been on the umpire, Jim Joyce, who incorrectly called safe the Cleveland Indians runner, Jason Donald. SportsCenter focused on highlights of the 1985 World Series, when a similar close play at first base with a pitcher covering was missed by the umpire in the ninth inning. The Kansas City Royals rallied for a Game 6 victory, then won the championship the next day.

Far too little focus was shown to the young pitcher and to any comparison the Haddix gem, which was even more impressive and more unjust. Galarraga is a 28-year-old right-hander from Venezuela. Wednesday’s start was his third this season and 57th of his journeyman career. His previous start was 11 days prior. He threw a 28-out perfect game, as we all know by now, but the official record books show that he crafted a complete-game, one-hit masterpiece.

Haddix was a 33-year-old left-hander with the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 26, 1959, when he faced the Braves in Atlanta. This was a Braves team that had gone to the previous two World Series and boasted a lineup that included future Hall of Famers Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron. They went a combined 0-for-8 in that game.

Haddix retired 27 consecutive batters over the first nine innings. Ordinarily, that would be a perfect game. But the Braves Lew Burdette matched Haddix with zeros on the scoreboard.  They continued to shut down the batters in innings 10, 11 and 12. When Haddix went to the mound in the bottom of the 13th, he had set down 36 straight Braves, but it was still 0-0. First, the perfect game went when Felix Mantilla, a substitute second baseman, reached safely on an error. After a sacrifice bunt, Haddix intentionally walked Aaron. Haddix still had a no-hitter going when Joe Adcock smashed a home run. Adcock never scored because he passed Aaron on the base paths. He was credited with a double, and the Braves won 1-0. (See the box score.)

Haddix had other highlights in his 14-year career, which was spent with five teams. He had a 136-113 record with 1,575 strikeouts, a 3.63 ERA, 99 complete games and 21 shutouts. He started and won Game 5 of the 1960 World Series against the Yankees, then helped the Pirates upset the Bronx Bombers in Game 7 as a reliever.

So when you’re feeling sorry for Galarraga and Joyce, think not of blown calls but remember and honor Harvey Haddix. He and Galarraga share imperfect perfection.

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