Friday, August 30, 2013

Tom Petty -- "You Wreck Me" (1994)

Tonight we ride
Right or wrong
Tonight we sail
On a radio song

"You Wreck Me" was released on Tom Petty's 1994 album, Wildflowers.  This post will feature pictures of some of the wildflowers I saw on the walks I took on a recent sojourn in Rochester, Minnesota.  (I was there because my mother was having a shoulder replacement done at the Mayo Clinic.)

That's a pretty thin connection between the subject matter of this post and our featured song, but it will have to do.

In fact, the pictures that appear in this post are all of one wildflower – the Maximilian sunflower, or Helianthus maximiliani, which is a perennial wildflower that is native to the plains states.

Maximilian sunflowers at Silver Lake
(Rochester, MN)
The plant's single stems are three to ten feet high.  Here's a plant that was considerably taller than I am.  (The building in the background to the left is the main Mayo Clinic building, which is about two miles away.)

Rochester has an extensive system of paved hiking-biking trails.  One of the trails nearest our hotel skirted Cascade Lake, and there were plenty of Maximilian plants along that lake.

The Maximilian sunflower is named after Prince Alexander Philipp Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied, a German explorer and naturalist who encountered it when he travelled up the Missouri River in 1833.

Prince Maximilian
Maximilian was accompanied by Karl Bodmer, a Swiss artist.  The drawings and paintings Bodmer created during his time on the Upper Missouri has been called "one of the most perceptive and compelling visual accounts" of the American West.

Especially remarkable are his portraits of native Americans, which were probably the first truly accurate portrayal of plains Indians in their native environment.  Here are Bodmer's portraits of two chiefs:

I like and respect Tom Petty, but I've never bought one of his albums, and I've never bought a ticket to one of his live shows.  

He's just not a guy who really excites me.  I don't think of him as a superstar, even though nine of his singles reached #1 on the Billboard "Mainstream Rock" singles chart, and he's sold roughly 60 million albums.

Tom Petty
Petty is the tortoise, not the hare.  He's like a baseball player who never broke any significant records, and never won the MVP award, but who played at a high level for a long, long time.

Think Roy White, who was one of my favorite Yankees of the post-Mickey Mantle era.  White played 15 years – his entire career – for the Yankees.  He never finished in the top ten in MVP voting, and appeared in just one All-Star game.  (He batted only once, as a pinch hitter.) 

His "Triple Crown" numbers – batting average, home runs, and RBIs – were not impressive.  And he was 5' 10" and weighed 160 pounds – not exactly someone whose physical presence struck fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers.

Roy White
But White was a solid, competent professional you could rely on.  He led the league in games played and plate appearances twice.  He walked a lot – he led the league in walks once, and finished in the top ten six other times – and almost always had fewer strikeouts than walks, which is an uncommon accomplishment.  He finished in the top ten in singles, doubles, triples, hits, total bases, and stolen bases a number of times, but was never #1 in any of those categories.

He was also a very good left fielder.  He got to more fly balls than any other LFer eight of the nine seasons from 1969 to 1977, had the best fielding percentage among LFers five different seasons, and led all AL LFers in assists twice.  But hitting gets a lot more attention than fielding, and LF is not a very glamorous defensive position.

To sum up, White showed up and did a very good job every day.  He rarely missed games, and rarely made a mistake on defense.  He was a patient hitter with an excellent batting eye, who focused on getting on base, not swinging for the fences.

He was arguably the best position player on what were admittedly some bad Yankee teams of the late sixties and early seventies – and a solid contributor to the teams that went to the World Series in three consecutive seasons (1975-77) near the end of his career.  (Oh, yes – his postseason stats were even better than his regular-season numbers.)

Roy White was no Reggie Jackson, George Brett, or Rickey Henderson.  And Tom Petty was no Mick Jagger, Elton John, or Michael Jackson.  But Roy White won a lot of games for the Yankees, and Tom Petty made a lot of very good records.  Their accomplishments should not be lightly dismissed.

Here's the official video for "You Wreck Me":

Click here to buy the song from Amazon:

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