Monday, November 29, 2010

To Absent Friends - Leslie Neilsen

Actor Leslie Neilsen died yesterday at the age of 84.

His obituary in today's paper indicated that he had well over 150 roles in live television dramas in the 1950's, and he did do some romantic "leading man" type stuff in Hollywood, but he will probably forever be know for he comic roles as the doctor in "Airplane" and for the role of Lt. Frank Drebin in the Naked Gun police movies. (Surely I can't be serious about that, right?)

I'm guessing that he is meeting up with Lloyd Bridges right about now to plan a series of heavenly sequels.

Rest in Peace, Leslie Neilsen.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Steelers 19 - Bills 16....and Some Thanksgiving Leftovers

The Steelers were lucky to escape Buffalo today with a 19-16 overtime victory. As I watched this game unfold, there was something unsettling about seeing how the Steelers thoroughly dominated the Bills yet only held a 13-0 lead at halftime. As the second half unfolded, and the team was unable to go anywhere offensively, thanks in large part to numerous penalties, it was hard to get a good feeling about the team, not only in today's game, but in where they might be going as the season unfolds. I hope I'm wrong, but I just don't have a good feeling that this team will be able to make a deep run in the Playoffs with the way they are currently playing and how they are currently constituted.

And they do need to do something about all the penalties. It was easy to laugh off 160+ yards in penalties when thrashing the Raiders last week, but another 100+ yards today in a game that was a dropped Buffalo pass in the end zone away from a defeat is another matter. That will never fly against Baltimore next week.

Now, what better way to end the Thanksgiving weekend than looking at all the leftovers in the Mental In-Box.....
  • Congratulations to the North Allegheny Tigers for their win over Woodland Hills last night and claiming the WPIAL Quad-A Championship. It was actually a pretty entertaining game. Nice to see that my tax dollars have brought home the WPIAL hardware to the University of North Allegheny!
  • I am no expert on high school football, but I am willing to bet that the playing surface at Heinz Field last night was the worst field that either NA or WH played on all season.
  • An interesting drama is being played out in the Bronx right now involving the contract negotiations between the Yankees and their free agent short stop, Derek Jeter. Who knows how accurate they are, but reports are that Jeter is asking for a five or six year deal for between $22 - $24 million dollars a year. The Yankees, these same reports say, are offering three years at $15 million a year, and Hal Steinbrenner has already issued statements about how "we've already made these guys rich." The Little Stein's bluster aside, you can see the Yankees point of view here: Jeter will turn 37 in June, and would be 41 at the end of a five year deal, coupled with the fact that Jeter showed signs of slipping this past season, well, would you want to sink that much dough in somebody who may be well into the back nine of a great career? On the other hand, he's DEREK JETER. The Face of the Franchise and the key player on the team that has won five World Series titles over the last decade-and-a-half. How could he possibly wear another team's uniform?
  • My guess is that if push really comes to shove, the Yankees would let Jeter walk. You can talk about player greed all you want, but nobody - nobody! - is greedier than a team owner. They would take a PR hit for it, no doubt, but they would weather the storm, pay a gazillion bucks for Cliff Lee or Carl Crawford, and keep on winning, and ten years from now, Jeter will be invited back to Yankee Stadium to have his number retired and his monument unveiled in a tearful all-is-forgiven ceremony.
  • Having said that, I really think the two side will work it out. They both need each other. Still, it is a fascinating play to watch.
  • Hey, here's a wild thought: How about Bob Nutting opening the purse strings and making an all out pitch to land Derek Jeter? Yeah, pay him his $20 million or whatever and have him be the steadying hand that will mold the Pirates Youth Corps into a champion. It's not like the Pirates can't afford it, and it's not like he wouldn't be a huge improvement over Ronny Cedeno. Can you just imagine the splash THAT would make. Plus, it would drive everyone in New York absolutely NUTS!!!
  • I wonder how Tiger Woods celebrated Thanksgiving this year?
  • I came home on Thanksgiving Night and switched on the Jets-Bengals game for about 20 minutes or so. They have gone to a three man booth on the NFL Network this year. The two color men are, get this, Matt Millen and Joe Theisman. Not sure who the play-by-play guy is, he seems decent enough, but God help him for having to work with these two guys. Millen, who was arguably the worst NFL front office guy in history after his disastrous run with the Lions should have no, zero, none, nada credibility with the audience. How did he get hired for that gig? And have you ever read a media critic, or even had one of your buddies say to you, "You know, I just love Joe Theisman doing commentary on a football game." As I said, I watched for about 20 minutes on Thursday and was exhausted just listening to those two clowns.
  • I spent this morning as part of the crew hanging Christmas wreaths on twenty light poles in Stonebrook Village. The crew consisted of four guys, of whom I was the youngest by about 15 years, the wife and daughter of one of the guys, a pick-up truck, a step-ladder, and long pole used to lift the wreaths to the proper height on the poles. Don't worry, the McCandless EMS crew did not need to be summoned. It actually was a pretty fun morning!
  • There's no way of ever knowing, but I wonder if the 2010 version of Jeff Reed would have gone 4-for-4 today up in Buffalo.
  • Nice to see Dejon Kovacevic back on the Pirates beat on the Sunday Post-Gazette this morning, and his note that it is only 77 days 'til pitchers and catchers report.

Friday, November 26, 2010

WVU 35 - Pitt 10

Wow, not much you can say about the colossal El Foldo that the Pitt Panthers showed the world this afternoon. THIS is what you do in a game that means everything in a tremendously disappointing season, and against a traditional rival? I have always liked Dave Wannstadt since he took the head coach job at Pitt, but it gets harder and harder to defend him in light of what has transpired this season. I feel bad for the guy.

I don't like to be overly critical of college athletes, especially one with roots at St. Phil's and Central Catholic, but Tino Sunseri does not appear to have the goods to be an elite, or even a very good college QB. Yes, I know he's only a sophomore, but has there been any significant improvement in his play from the Utah game in September until this afternoon?

Now it will be interesting to see how this coaching staff gets this team to respond against Cincinnati next week after what has to be this thoroughly disappointing loss against West Virginia, not to mention in whatever third tier bowl game they end up playing.

Finally, a word on the uniforms that the teams wore today. This was yet another example of the athletic departments of our universities whoring themselves out to Nike. I thought those uniforms - on both teams - were pretty bad, although I did kind of like Pitt's helmets. I hope that nobody spends a dime to buy one of these gimmicky game jerseys.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Stan Musial

Stan Musial turns 90 this coming Sunday. Read this great column about a great ballplayer who isn't often remembered these days.

Magazine Cover

Earlier in the summer, I succumbed to a mail offer to subscribe to ESPN The Magazine. It was one of those deals where they practically gave it to you for free. Anyway, I can't say that I'm a big fan of the magazine, and probably won't renew, but I have to give them props for the current "Movie Spectacular" issue. One of the features is a ten page photo spread using current athletes posing as well known movie characters, and they put the best of the lot on the cover.

That is Olympic Gold Medalist alpine skier Lindsey Vonn posing as Sharon Stone from "Basic Instinct" and that, my friends, is a great magazine cover!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Remembering a Date

Monday is November 22, and to those readers of a certain age the date will always be seared into our consciousness.

Just wanted to pause and remember.

Steelers 35 - Raiders 3

Hey, it's ALWAYS a pleasure to put a beat-down on the Hated Raiders, and the Steelers certainly did that this afternoon at Heinz Field.

The most amazing thing to me about this game was the fact that the Steelers rolled up 163 yards in penalties and still managed to eek out a 32 point win. If nothing else, this game exposes the Raiders, who were becoming trendy again, as a pretender to NFL royalty. The fact they the AFC West is a somewhat weak division is the only thing that might keep them in contention over the final six weeks of the season.

And on the subject of penalties, I was as critical as anybody of James Harrison earlier in the season, but I think that the officials have gone a bit overboard in targeting Harrison and the Steelers in some of those penalties that were called today. Even the CBS announcers were critical of the zebras in their zealousness this afternoon.

I was surprised to see the Steelers still throwing at the end of the game. The screen that resulted in the final touchdown appeared to this untrained eye to be merely an effort to get a first down and maintain possession. I am wondering if coach Mike would have sent out instructions to "take a knee" if that was the only result of the play. But as Dan Fouts said on the telecast, if you were rookie back Isaac Redman and you caught that pass with nothing in front of you, what else could you do but run it in for the TD.

I also have to comment on the TV broadcast which made the obligatory reference to the Immaculate Reception game of 1972. Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts wanted to know if "the ball hit the ground" before Franco Harris caught it. As anyone with an ounce of memory and a sense of history know, the ball not hitting the ground was NEVER the question in that play. The question was, did the ball hit Jack Tatum or Frenchy Fuqua before Harris caught it. That was the rules issue in 1972.

The Greatest Rock & Roll Song Ever?

Many critics say that the greatest Rock & Roll song ever was written and recorded by the great Bob Dylan.

Do you agree? See for yourself:

Big Football Sunday

Looking forward to over-indulging in some football today.

Steelers and Raiders at 1:00, of course, and this has all the trappings of a "must" game for the Steelers. Win, and they get back on track after the ass-kicking they received from New England last week. Lose, and the season could, not will but could, begin to spin out of control and playoff-less for Rooney U. The Raiders have won three straight and have the NFL's leading rusher to go against a Steelers defense that has been anything but inspiring over the last 3-4 weeks.

I'll call for a Steelers win, but I don't think it will be easy.

The 4:15 game pairs the Colts and the Patriots. Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady. This one will compel me to devote significant viewing time to a non-Steelers game for the first time this season.

Isn't it funny that even thought the Pats and the Colts play in different divisions, the two teams always seem to play each other every season. You don't think that the TV bigdomes could have the fix in with the NFL schedule makers, do you?

Finally, the Eagles play in the Sunday night NBC game, and while I think I will be pretty much footballed out by the time that one comes on, the performance thus far of Mike Vick would pretty much demand that I watch at least a little bit of this one.

On a final note, please cheer for both the Titans (-7.5) and the Bengals (-5.5) to cover today. It would be worth eighty bucks for The Grandstander should that happen.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pitt 17 - South Florida 10

Pitt wins one on the road at South Florida and takes control of the Big East, BUT do you get the same feeling that I do when I watch them that they just aren't that good a football team? They still have a lot of grass to mow in having to face WVU and Cincy over the next two weeks, and if they win out, they get the BCS bowl game as Big East Champion. Then they get to face maybe the number two team in the Big 12 or SEC, or maybe even Boise State or TCU. I don't think that THAT result will be very pretty.

Some Pirates Farewells

The Pirates are in the news this morning with the announcement that they have "designated for assignment" Delwyn Young, Andy LaRoche, and Zach Duke. Effectively, this will end their careers as Pirates.

As he was coming off two very poor years, and was eligible for arbitration this off-season, the news about Duke was not a surprise, but it comes as sad news for fans who can remember the electricity that Duke generated when he came to the Pirates in mid-season 2005 and went 8-2 with a 1.81 ERA. The future seemed limitless for Duke. Then, of course Jim Tracy and Jim Colburn felt the need to tinker with Duke's delivery, and things were never quite the same since. He leaves with a career record of 45-70 and a 4.54 ERA. (To be fair to Tracy and Colburn, however, the Zach Duke Story could also be a story of major league hitters figuring out a guy after he goes through the league a time or two. Baseball history is littered with such stories.)

He has also been a solid citizen in the community, representing the Pirates in a number of charitable events. Here's hoping that he lands on his feet somewhere and can find some semblance of that 2005 season.

Andy LaRoche was the perceived linchpin of Neal Huntington's biggest trade, the three-way deal that sent Jason Bay to Boston in 2008. LaRoche never seemed to get any traction with the Pirates and was benched for good when Pedro Alvarez was brought up this season. LaRoche was another good guy, the Pirates' Clemente Award nominee in 2010, who did wonderful things in the community, but he never did live up to his "can't miss" scouting reports in the minors. (Related side note: GM Neal has GOT to be praying that Bryan Morris turns into a good, and not just a passable, major league pitcher, or else the trade involving the Pirates best player over the last half-decade will go down as a complete and total bust, and could be a major factor in costing NH his job.)

As for Delwyn Young, many will argue that he more than earned his chance to be an everyday player when he played second base for much of the '09 season, but the Pirates brain trust never seemed to see him as a long term everyday player. He did develop into a pinch hitter extraordinaire this past season, but I guess the Pirates feel that they can find guys like that anywhere (and I am guessing that money entered into this decision as well). We'll see.

Friday, November 19, 2010

King (of the Geeks) Felix

Congratulations to the Mariners Felix Hernandez for being awarded the Cy Young Award in the American League fro 2010. As far as I know, he didn't actively campaign for the award, so I can't blame him for what I think is a travesty of justice.

Yes, I know he's a good pitcher.

Yes, I know he played for a lousy team that gave him abysmal run support.

And, yes, I know he lead the league in ERA.

I also know that CC Sabathia won 21 games for the Yankees and David Price won 19 games for the Rays, and last time I looked, the ultimate payoff for teams, i.e., Playoffs and World Series, is based on how many games you win.

While I am a proud member of SABR, I believe that this award is a triumph of SABRmetrics run amok, wherein a bunch of geeks can haughtily state that "wins are really the worst way to measure a pitcher's performance" (really? if that was the case, then I think Ross Ohlendorf should have pulled down a few votes), and then come up with all of their esoteric alphabet soup of stats, to proclaim who we are all too stupid to see is REALLY the best pitcher in baseball.

And, by the way, playing for a lousy team doesn't preclude a pitcher from accumulating Cy Young Award-worthy numbers. I refer you to Steve Carlton and the 1972 Phillies. Look it up.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Marilyn Monroe at The Warhol

Marilyn and I went to the Andy Warhol Museum today to see the special exhibit now on display on Marilyn Monroe. There are over 300 vintage photos of MM on display, and of all the pictures - the glamour shots, the pin-ups, the nudes, the cheesecake - this one, titled "Marilyn Monroe Peasant Series," was probably our favorite.

It is an exhibit worth checking out.

And an advantage to being older - "Senior" prices begin at age 55 at The Warhol! We saved six bucks apiece on the admission charge!!

More on Last Saturday at the Byham....

The Post-Gazette's Brian O'Neill had an great take on last Saturday's 1960 Festivities at the Byham Theater....

Remember to Wear Blue Tomorrow

Tomorrow, November 18, is Children's Grief Awareness Day. Please wear blue tomorrow to commemorate this day, and tell people why you are doing so.

More information can be found at

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Mickey Mantle Book

I just finished reading Jane Leavy's new book "The Last Boy, Mickey Mantle the End of America's Childhood." Despite the ponderous title, I strongly recommend that any baseball fan read this book. Few ballplayers of the post-war era have been written about more than Mantle, so you would wonder why would someone tackle yet another bio of him and what could possibly be written that hasn't been written before.

Leavy's book is so thoroughly researched - it took her six years to complete the project - and so well written that it makes it worth the effort and worth reading. There may be little about the Mantle the ballplayer new in this book, but the most fascinating part of the book, as is often the case with such biographies, is that part that tells about Mantle's life after his playing days were over.

Unlike players today who can earn millions of dollars during their careers, Mantle needed to make a living and earn money when he retired, and what does someone who has spent his entire life playing baseball, and who is relatively uneducated, do to earn a living at that point in life? And then there are all of the other demons that were in Mantle's life: alcohol, the inability to relate to his wife and his sons, the fear of life ending diseases, the constant womanizing, and being always surrounded by people who enabled this lifestyle made this, to me, a very sad story. There is a episode in the book about Mantle going to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown - as a paying customer - with his mistress and another couple on a weekend in 1988, 14 years after his induction, that is almost heartbreaking.

If you read Leavy's book on Sandy Koufax from a few years back, you will recall that she structured that book around the nine innings of Koufax' perfect game in 1966. She uses a similar device here as she goes back and forth describing her encounter with Mantle when she was a young sportswriter who interviewed - or attempted to interview - him when he was shilling for a casino in Atlantic City in 1983. (After making a crude pass at her, Mantle drunkenly passed out and fell into her lap.) As it did in the Koufax book, this method works as Leavy tells the story of The Mick.

As I read this book, and read about how Mantle played his entire career in such great pain, I remembered my one time of seeing Mickey Mantle play. It was in an old-timers game at Three Rivers Stadium shortly after the Stadium opened. That would have been 1970, and the Pirates were celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the 1960 World Series win over the Yankees. (Can you imagine the Pirates doing something like that today?) Anyway, I was sitting in the first row of the centerfield seats at Three Rivers with my Dad and my brother Bill (not sure if Jim was there or not). Anyway, playing centerfield for the Yankees was none other than Mickey Mantle. I can remember someone hitting a ball to centerfield that got through the gap or over Mantle's head, and he had to run back to the wall to chase it down, and I can remember the very painful look on his face as he did so. It made all those Mickey-playing-in-pain stories that we had read about over the years come to life right in front of us.

Another terrific baseball biography written by Jane Leavy. Put it on your must read list.

Skippy, We Hardly Knew Ye

The benevolent, paternalistic Steelers (aka, "The Rooneys") cut Jeff Reed today. As I have been saying at several points this season, this makes them NO DIFFERENT than any other team in the NFL, not Al's Raiders, not Jerry's Cowboys, nor Danny's Redskins.

Reed has been on the downside in 2010, no doubt about it, but he has been a good performer, if not always a solid citizen off the field, in his time here, which included two Super Bowl champion teams. One can only hope that whoever they sign performs better, and there is no guarantee of that.

Monday, November 15, 2010

On the Steelers, Clint Hurdle, and Agnus Berenato

Well, that was one Grade A, Extra Large egg laid by the Steelers at Heinz Field last night on national TV, wouldn't you say? As the first half ended with the Patriots up 10-3, my thought was that there was no way the Steelers should be within one score of New England, and in the second half, the Pats and Tom Brady stopped fooling around and just thoroughly dominated in winning this one.

While Brady seemed to have been able to sit in a rocking chair and pilot the Pats, Ben Roethlisberger never, not once, seemed to have any kind of time at all to make any plays, and receivers who couldn't seem to hold on to the hog bladder until fourth quarter garbage time weren't helping. As for the Steelers defense, where were they? Brady made it seem as if he were playing against the Little Sisters of the Poor last night. I know what the statistics say about the Steelers defense, but in these last several weeks, even in games that they have won (Browns, Dolphins, Bengals), they have not looked good. For some reason, no one ever will get on the case of Dick LeBeau, but if you didn't have cause for concern before last night's game, you surely must be concerned now.

Elsewhere on the Pittsburgh sports scene, the Buccos made it official by naming Clint Hurdle as their new manager today. I heard a couple of interviews with him on the radio today, and he certainly seemed to make a good impression. Seems excited and passionate about the job at hand (and not to beat a dead horse, but were the words "excited" and "passionate" EVER used to describe John Russell?), which is certainly a good thing. He also knows what lies ahead. If he can coax 70 wins from this team, I would make him an early candidate for Manager if the Year in the National League for next year.

While volunteering at the Heinz History Center today for a "Sportsmanship Summit" sponsored by the WPIAL for over 600 local high school athletes, I was able to meet and chat a bit with Pitt women's basketball coach Agnus Berenato, who was there as the special guest speaker. What an impressive woman! Very nice to talk with one-on-one, and terrific in her address to the kids in attendance. I am now a big fan of Coach Agnus! Here's hoping for a big season from the Lady Panthers!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Looks Like It's Gonna Be Clint Hurdle

In yet another prediction that The Grandstander got wrong (see post of November 5), it is being reported that tomorrow the Pirates will announce that their new manager will NOT be Jeff Banister, but former Rockies skipper and current Rangers hitting coach, Clint Hurdle.

First, with apologies to Jeff Banister, who I am sure is a nice church-going man who loves his family, I am glad that he was not hired by the Pirates. If after 18 losing seasons, the team had gone within the organization to hire the new manager, well, how do you think that would have been perceived and received by the ticket buyers? We'd have been in for another off-season of Nutting-bashing, Coonelly and Huntington bashing, and they-only-care-about-fireworks-and bobbleheads letters to the editor, talk show calls, and blog posts. So, at least we won't have that going for us, which is nice.

As to Hurdle as Manager, we know the following:
  • He was fired by the Rockies and replaced by Jim Tracy, who was fired by the Pirates. (hey, it has always been thus in baseball!).
  • He will be getting a team with four good young position players around whom a winning team can be built, a capital-L Lousy pitching staff, and an ownership/management group with a track record of spending nothing to improve the team now.
  • He has been heavily involved as a manager and as a hitting coach on teams that have played in two of the last four World Series. This puts him miles ahead of every Pirates manager since Chuck Tanner.
  • As far as we know, when he will speak with the media and the public we will know that he is alive and breathing, which puts him miles ahead of John Russell.

We all knew that Russell had to go, and we all know that no manager is going to make these Pirates look like a contender in 2011, but going outside of the organization and hiring someone who has had some experience as a winning manager is a positive move, and I hope that everyone will give him a chance.

And speaking of Public Relations, how about the Pirates making this announcement on the day after the Steelers play the New England Patriots. The Pirates could be announcing the resurrection and hiring of John McGraw, and it would be a lesser story than Trai Essex straining a groin muscle in the game against the Pats. Welcome to Steelers Nation, Clint Hurdle!

1960 Game 7 at the Byham Theater

It was an unforgettable evening at the Byham Theater last night for Marilyn and I, as we were lucky enough to be invited to attend the taping of the MLB Network's screening of the recently discovered kinescope of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. (Many thanks to Pirates Prez Frank Coonelly for extending the invitation!)

The show was hosted by Bob Costas, and joining him on stage were '60 Bucs Bill Virdon and Dick Groat and the Series MVP that year, Yankee Bobby Richardson. Costas opened by giving the background of the discovery of the film of the game in the Bing Crosby wine cellar, and introducing Bing's son, Nathanial, from the audience, along with actor Michael Keaton, who had done an intro video, recalling his memory of the '60 Series as a 9 year old living in Robinson Township. Also introduced were other members of the team in attendance: Joe Christopher, Roy Face, Bob Friend, Vernon Law, Bob Oldis, Hal Smith, and Vera Clemente. In a poor twist of fate, the star of the night, Bill Mazeroski, was not there. He had recently had a bout with kidney stones and was in the hospital. However, Costas assured everyone that MLB would be visiting with Maz so that he will appear on the MLB telecast on December 15.

The format was that three innings of the game would be shown, then they would break for comments from the panel, then show another three innings, etc. At certain points in the game, the sound was lowered on the telecast, and Costas would ask questions of the players seated in the theater while the game was being shown. For example, he asked Law about how he wanted to pitch to Maris and Mantle during the Series. They also broke the format by stopping the game and talking to the panel after the Pirates' five run bottom of the eighth, after the Yankees tied it in the top of the ninth to lead into the dramatic bottom of the ninth.

Some bullet point highlights of the evening:

  • Bob Prince broadcast the first four and half innings and Mel Allen did the last four and a half innings. I was struck by what a really good broadcaster Mel Allen was. Really good.
  • Your enjoyment of the broadcast did not suffer, not one bit, by only having one man in the broadcast booth. There is a lesson to be learned there, I think.
  • While NBC broadcast the game in color, the kinescope was taken from a black and white TV set, so what you will see will be a B&W telecast. No replays, no color commentators. We have become spoiled by constant instant replays, but as you got caught up in watching the game, you almost - almost - didn't miss not having them.
  • From the audience, we could see that Virdon, Groat, and Richardson were as engrossed in watching the game as we in the audience were. It was like they were still playing the game.
  • Many batters would walk to the plate swinging two bats to loosen up and then hand one to the batboy just before they stepped into the batter's box. I immediately remembered batters doing that, but I can't think of any ballplayer who does that today.
  • Nobody wore batting gloves, so no batter stepped out of the box after each pitch to adjust his gloves. This could explain why a game with 19 runs and seven mid-inning pitching changes took only 2 hours and 36 minutes to play.
  • No player wore pants down to their shoe tops. It looked a LOT better than current day unis. I couldn't resist adding that.
  • The crowd at the Byham would react and cheer every time, and I mean every time, Roberto Clemente would appear on screen. Bob Costas commented on this during one of the breaks and asked Vera Clemente to talk about this. A very moving part of the program.
  • Allen blew the call on Berra's three run HR that put the Yanks ahead 5-4. He called it foul, but immediately corrected himself.
  • Perhaps one of the most touching parts of the night involved Hal Smith's three run HR that put the Bucs ahead 9-7 in the eighth. The crowd in the Byham all stood and applauded, and when they stopped the telecast after the inning, Costas recognized Hal Smith in the audience and another standing ovation was given. Smith was pretty overcome. I hope this is included in the December 15 broadcast.
  • After Smith's homer, Allen kept referring to it as "perhaps the most dramatic home run in World Series history" and as a "home run that will be remembered forever." Knowing what was to come, these comments were pretty funny and one guy in the crowd yelled out "not for long" after Allen said it.
  • The play in that inning where Jim Coates failed to cover first on Clemente's grounder to first was interesting. When talking about it, you could see that Richardson is still upset over it. "You practice covering first from the first day of spring training" he said. Interestingly enough, he also said that in watching it again, and this may have been the first time Richardson was seeing the play in 50 years, too, he said that (a) it looked like Coates biggest mistake was trying to make a play on the ball initially, which prevented him from running directly to first base, and (b) had Skowron not fielded the ball, had he let Richardson make the play, he thinks that he would have thrown Clemente out.
  • Then there was Mantle's base running play in the top of the ninth that allowed the Yankees to tie the game at 9-9. Mantle has long been praised for his instinct in diving back to first base, and while his slide to avoid Nelson's tag was a great athletic play, the better move would have been to proceed to second base, get in a rundown and allow MacDougald to score the run before he could have been tagged out. Virdon said that in watching the play from centerfield, he thought that Nelson had caught the ball on a line before it hit the ground and that was why Mantle dove back.
  • Either way, it was interesting to watch Virdon, Groat, and Richardson analyzing what went on fifty years after the fact. Once a ballplayer, always a ballplayer.
  • Getting back the Mel Allen, I was again impressed as to how he was able to describe and decipher that Mantle play instantly, without benefit of replay or a color analyst. As I said, Allen was good.
  • And speaking of good, I can't say enough for how good Bob Costas was in managing the show. A real pro.
  • And, of course, what more can be said about the bottom of the ninth? We all know what happened, and watching it again as it was televised, and not in the official highlight film that we've all seen a million times, was wonderful.
  • It was interesting to see that in the mob of Pirates players and fans that were on the field, you could see the Yankees players walking in the crowd trying to get to the clubhouse through the Pirates dugout.
  • And for high comedy, wait 'til you see Bob Prince interviewing players in the locker room after the game. Get 'em on, ask a question, and get 'em off - that was the way he did it.
  • And if you think Bud Selig is a stiff, wait until you get a load of Ford Frick being interviewed.

We have all been overdosed on the 1960 Pirates throughout this 50th Anniversary season, and, frankly, it will be good to give it a rest once we turn the calendar, but the event at the Byham last night was really and truly a fun and unforgettable experience. We are glad that we were fortunate enough to be there.

Beat 'em Bucs!!

Friday, November 12, 2010

UConn 30 - Pitt 28

Well, that Pitt football game sure took an ugly turn after I signed off on The Grandstander last night, didn't it?

It is hard to put a good face on it. That was a very bad loss for Pitt last night.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

On American Flags, Skippy Reed, Mickey Mantle, Adrian Beltre, and Claude Rains (and other thoughts)

Some random thoughts while watching Pitt doing not-so-well against the UConn gridders....
  • Spent a part of my Veterans Day morning today with a couple of neighbors placing American flags in front of all the homes in Stonebrook Village today. The flags will be in place throughout the weekend.
  • Interestingly enough, we have developed a greater sense of community in three months at Stonebrook Village than we did in 25 years at Field Club Drive. Funny how that has worked out.
  • Speaking of a sense of community, my old work department invited me down to the Highmark cafeteria yesterday for the traditional Thanksgiving dinner that the cafeteria serves up. It was the first time I had actually been inside the building since I retired. I saw and b.s.'ed with a lot of old friends, which was great. The visit made me realize that I miss many of my old buddies a lot, and that I miss the actual work not a bit!
  • Well, I did predict the Steelers win over the Bengals on Monday night, but just barely. Since the game is now three days ion the past, I won't spend much space on it here. I will say that the performance of the Steelers vaunted defense - and even the vaunted offense - over the last three weeks is causing a bit of concern in my mind.
  • And hasn't Jeff Reed's performance seemed to have slipped a bit. Maybe he needs to kick a few men's room towel dispensers to get his mojo back.
  • Say what you will about Terrell Owens, but he sure can play football, can't he? He really undressed the Steelers on Monday night, and, while I hate to admit it, his mime act after he scored that first TD made me laugh.
  • I am about 40% of the way through the new Mickey Mantle book by Jane Leavy. You might not think that there is anything new that could be written about Mantle, but Leavy's book is so thoroughly researched and so well written, that it should be must reading for any baseball fan. I'll do a full review when I finish reading the book.
  • Speaking of baseball, I am very excited to have been invited to attend the taping of the MLB Network showing of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series at the Byham Theater on Saturday night. One of the people that will be on the show will be Bobby Richardson. Not sure that we will hear anything new from Maz during the taping, so it will be interesting to hear someone from the Yankees talking about that Series.
  • I just read today that part of the Mantle book that talked about the '60 Series. Mantle positively destroyed the Bucs in that Series, and it was a loss, apparently, that he never got over.
  • Pitt has just gone up 21-13 as the third quarter comes to a close.
  • No sooner do I write that than UConn takes the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a TD to cut it to 21-20. Yikes!!
  • I will once again recommend a good blog for your sports reading pleasure: John Feinstein's Feinstein On The Brink. You can find it at
  • So, a report says the Pirates are inquiring about free agent Adrian Beltre. An interesting ballplayer, and not the kind of guy the Pirates have pursued in the past, but I wonder why they'd go for a third baseman. IS the long hinted move of Pedro Alvarez to first base going to happen as soon as 2011. Of course, they would have to sign Beltre in the first place, and a team like the Pirates would have to overpay to get a player like that, so this is all no doubt a moot point.
  • My comment on the whole Cam Newton Affair? To paraphrase Claude Rains in "Casablanca", I am shocked - SHOCKED - to learn that an elite college football player might be receiving illicit payments from boosters at a major football power university.
  • And ever since ESPN has co-opted the Heisman Trophy as it's own over-hyped property, I find that I don't much care about the award that much anymore.
  • Forbes Field Chapter SABR meeting on Saturday at the Heinz History Center. We start at 9:00. All are welcome. All we ask is a $5 charge to cover the cost of the refreshments.
  • Signing off. Pitt still up 21-20 with 12 minutes to play.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Veteran's Day

A salute and a Thank You to all Veteran's who have served our country, particularly my two older brothers!!

Children's Grief Awareness Day - November 18

Did you know that one in seven children will experience the loss of a family member before they graduate from high school?

Next Thursday, November 18 is Children's Grief Awareness Day. Commemorate this day by wearing blue, and letting people know why you are wearing blue.

To learn more, go to

Thank you.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Steelers Tonight

I know that public WANTS TO KNOW!!!!

The Grandstander calls for a Steelers victory tonight in the Rhineland.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Next Manager

It now appears that the Pirates next manager will be either Clint Hurdle or Jeff Bannister.

Hurdle is a guy with some past managerial success with the Rockies, although he was sent packing by them two years back (to be replaced by a guy that had been fired by the Pirates). Still, he has managed in a World Series, was a coach for the pennant winning Rangers, and is said to be on the interview list of the hapless, but money laden New York Mets. So there could - could - be a bidding war for his services.

Bannister is baseball lifer who has spent his entire career in the Pirates organization. He bleeds Black and Gold, and has been all but begging for the job with his comments to the media. He has not managed at any level of organized baseball since 1998. There will be no bidding war for his services. All indications are that he will be a lapdog for GM Neal, and he will come cheap.

The guess here is that rather than go outside the organization that has known nothing but failure for 18 years, the Pirates will stay within that very organization, and name Jeff Bannister as the next Skipper.

Movie Review: "To Kill a Mockingbird"

I mentioned a few days ago that I had finally gotten around, about 40 or so years too late, to reading the classic American novel, Harper Lee's
"To Kill a Mockingbird." Last night, I finally watched Robert Mulligan's classic American movie based upon the book.

The 1962 movie stars Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. He deservedly won the Best Actor Oscar that year in a role that came to define his entire career. He is excellent in the movie. In the role of Scout Finch, 10 year old Mary Badham was wonderful. She was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar that year, and lost to another child actress, Patty Duke. Some research on IMDB tells you that Badham still lives today, but never seriously pursued an acting career. Her most notable other acting credit was a 1959 episode of "The Twilight Zone." Another acting note about this movie, and most people know this, is that it was the movie acting debut of Robert Duval (as Boo Radley).

As doesn't always happen in such adaptations, the movie remains remarkably true to the book. It is a wonderful story of basic human decency, and is made all the more so when read and viewed during this recent Election Season, which was most notable for its lack of basic human decency.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

To Absent Friends - Sparky Anderson

As they say on Pardon the Interruption, a melancholy Happy Trails today to Sparky Anderson, who died today at age 76 due to complications from dementia. Not a happy way to go for one of the foremost baseball strategists of his generation.

Sparky managed in the majors for 26 seasons and won World Series Championships in both leagues. He managed the Reds for nine seasons and 1,450 games. He managed the Tigers for 17 seasons and 2,580 games. Despite the majority of his managerial career being spent in Detroit, are you like me in that when you think of Sparky Anderson, you ONLY think of him as the manager of the Big Red Machine in Cincinnati?

26 years as a big league manager, 4,030 games, 2,194 wins, 5 pennants, 3 World Series titles, member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

RIP Sparky Anderson.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Giants Win!!

Many congratulations go out to the San Francisco Giants tonight for winning the World Series in five games over the Rangers.
Some quick thoughts...
  • The pitching match-up between Lee and Lincecum lived up to what everyone hoped it would be. Scoreless into the seventh, lots of K's. Great ball game.
  • Thirteen years after he drove in the run that won the World Series for the Marlins, Edgar Renteria does it again for the Giants tonight. Pretty neat.
  • This will not go down as a particularly great or memorable World Series, I believe, but if you are the Giants, or if you are a Giants fan, you don't care! Good for them.
  • I am really, really happy for Freddy Sanchez!
  • The totally of the Giants win should not diminish the accomplishments of the Rangers. That ALCS win over the Yankees should make for many happy memories for them and their fans this off-season.
  • Just heard that the only other players to do what Renteria did - drive in the winning run of the clinching games of two World Series - are Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Yogi Berra. Pretty nice company.
  • Baseball people have been saying that "pitching is the name of the game" for well over 100 years. These Giants proved that throughout the post-season, and definitely in this World Series.
  • 106 days, more or less, until pitchers and catchers report!!

A Steelers Loss, A New Month, and Visit to the Mental In-Box

Cleaning out the Mental In-Box on the 1st day of a new month.....

  • While out on our morning walk this morning, we had to stop to let a beautiful buck pass in front of us. What a sight!
  • Well, I did call the Saints to beat the Steelers last night. Roethlisberger played like this was his first game back after his suspension, they couldn't run the ball, Mendenhall's 38 yard TD scamper notwithstanding, they could stop Drew Brees in the second half, and that Heath Miller turnover was a real killer.
  • On the other hand, the Saints DID win the Super Bowl last year, so it shouldn't be considered an upset to lose to them.
  • Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians gets killed in the media and the talk show circuit every time the Steelers lose, but his defensive counterpart Dick LeBeau never seems to draw any ire whatsoever. Let's see now, the Steelers defense blew five fourth quarter leads last season, as well as a fourth quarter lead against he Ravens this season. Last night, Drew Brees went through the Steelers defense like they only had nine men on the field, and was there a critical third down conversion that the Saints did NOT make in the second half? How much longer will Coach LeBeau get the free pass that his offensive counterpart never seems to get?
  • Moving on to other areas, the San Francisco Giants seem to be turning the World Series into another anti-climatic conclusion to the baseball season. Game One was a one-sided affair, Game Two was close until the Rangers bullpen imploded and wasn't able to throw a strike in the eighth and turned the game into a rout, games three and four were compelling ones, but unless the Rangers can extend the Series tonight, this Series will go down as a pretty unremarkable one. Unless, of course, you are fan of the Giants.
  • And how about Madison Bumgarner? A first round draft pick who has advanced quickly through the Giants system and who finds himself to be a World Series hero after pitching a gem last night at the age of 21. I know that I am beating a very old and very dead horse here, but if Bumgarner were in the Pirates system, would he have advanced beyond the high Class A Bradenton Marauders at this point in his career?
  • Speaking of the Pirates, they are certainly being deliberate in their search for a manager, aren't they? We'll see if they inertia continues once the World Series comes to an end.
  • Are you glad that Election Day is tomorrow? As one of my Facebook friends posted today, "when did politics get so RUDE?" I suppose that it was always thus, but it is sad to see that the level of discourse has sunk so low. I suppose, I hope, that there are still some statesman and women out there, but they are becoming increasingly hard to find.
  • It is fashionable to knock Tim McCarver as a broadcaster, but I like him.
  • Put carrots on a dinner plate in front of me, and I will eat around them. That said, Marilyn makes something called a Carrot Souffle that is one of the best things you have ever tasted. She made it for company over the weekend, and last night we enjoyed the leftovers.
  • In addition to the aforementioned buck, hardly a day goes by in Stonebrook where we are not visited by a flock of wild turkeys on the grounds.

Best wishes to all for a good week and good month of November!