Friday, April 29, 2011
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Bob ... Just saw in this week's Sports Illustrated that Lynn Chadnois died at age 86.
The NFL wasn't much in the early 50's, but my Dad used to have Steeler tickets
(@ Forbes Field) back then, and we used to enjoy these "Pro games". (Pitt football was probably a hotter ticket). Anyway, Lynn Chadnois was the Rashard Mendenhall of that era, at 6' 2", 200, and was running back and kick return specialist. 8th overall pick in 1950
draft from Michigan State, retired in '57.
OK, my age allows me to go back almost 60 years; Perhaps Chadnois was never a household name, but his career kickoff return average of 29.6 yards is second only to Gayle Sayers' 30.6 yards. LC was often thrilling.
Well said, Bill. Well said.
RIP Lynn Chadnois.
Aiken is at first reluctant to participate in the defense of a conspirator in the plot that killed the President. He soon comes to realize that while he may be uncertain as to Surratt's guilt or innocence, he is fully aware that she is being denied the rights of all citizens under the Constitution, which he fought to uphold: the presumption of innocence, and trial by a jury of her peers, all in the name of "national security" and the "greater good" of the nation. Here is where the movie gets a bit ham-handed. One can't help but see that Redford is drawing a parallel to events going on today. In fact, substitute Dick Cheney for Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, and you get the idea.
All that aside, it is a very well done movie, and it certainly does raise questions about the fairness of the trial of Mary Surratt and as to whether or not justice was done. Wright and McAvoy are very good in their roles. Stanton is played by one of my favorite actors, Kevin Kline, and I have to admit that I didn't even realize it was him until the ending credits.
Any American history buff will enjoy seeing this movie.
By the way, as I watched The Conspirator, Marilyn was in another theater in the multi-plex watching "Water for Elephants." She gave it a thumbs up for any of you who might be interested.
Monday, April 25, 2011
- Hope that everyone had a pleasant Easter Weekend. We attended the Easter Vigil services at St. John Neumann, something that we will probably always do. It has a special meaning since Marilyn came through the RCIA program in 2010.
- Nice touch by Father Al to call up the RCIA "alumni" from past years to the altar at the end of Mass.
- So, exactly how tired are you of all the rain?
- I have been beating the the Pirates pick up of Brandon Wood to death in recent days, so I will give it a rest after making only two more points: (1) Ronny Cedeno stinks, this pick-up costs the Pirates nothing, maybe they'll get lucky, so what the hell?, and (2) did you see the GM's classic NealSpeil on this pick-up in the paper this morning? Among other things, he assured us that the front office did their "due diligence" in scouting Wood. Makes you feel a whole lot better, doesn't it?
- As you know from the lack of hockey writing that appears on this blog, I am not a hockey guy and don't profess to have a lot of knowledge on the subject. That said, how can you explain the Pens losing 8-2 on Saturday when they had the chance to close out the Lightning and end that series? Such things happen in sports, and perhaps that loss will be easier for the Pens to shake off than had they lost 2-1 or 1-0 in overtime. We'll see how it plays out this evening in St. Pete.
- How tired are you already of the "Range Resources Strike Zone" on the Pirates telecasts? Do we really need to see a replay of EVERY pitch in EVERY at bat? I am verrrry tired of it, as well as the cloying Range Resources commercials that run in the late innings of each game.
- I have to admit to a change in my position - and this is gonna surprise certain Loyal Readers out there - regarding Pirates announcer John Wehner (The Man Who Hit the Last Home Run in Three Rivers Stadium), or should I say Carrick's John Wehner (The Man Who Hit the Last Home Run in Three Rivers Stadium). Used to be I couldn't stand the guy with his Yinzer-speak and his odd way of pronouncing words that begin with S-T-R ("this is a guy who can really throw shtrikes out there on the mound"). Oh, he's still a yinzer and he still says that Pedro Alvarez needs to cut down on his shtrike outs, but if you listen to WHAT Wehner has to say instead of HOW he says it, he has a lot to offer.
- That proves that I am not close-minded, right?
- Have been hearing lot lately of various nephews and nieces on both sides of the family and their exploits at school track meets these days. Reminded me of a great old school term used in sports pages in days gone by referring to track athletes: thinclads. As in "Panther Thinclads Rule in Dual Meet with Carnegie Tech." Great stuff!
- Oh, for the good ol' days when the Steelers were "Rooney U.", track teams were "thinclads", boxers were "mitt-tossers", and sportswriters wore their press passes in the band of their fedoras.
- Oh, and by the way, pats on the back go out to all of those familial thinclads: Monica, Brian, Samantha, Zach, and Nate. Good work!!
- Is everyone all excited and geared up for the NFL Draft this week? Wake me up when it's over and let me know who the Steelers drafted. Then, wait until next January before evaluating said players and declaring whether or not Rooney U. had a good draft or not.
Friday, April 22, 2011
A one time #1 draft pick of the Angels, Wood shot through the Angels system and made it to the big club in 2007, but as often happens with hotshot, can't-miss prospects, things became different in the major leagues (can you say "Chad Hermansen"). With the Angels Wood has managed to play in 173 games in five MLB seasons and put together a career batting average of .168. That is not a misprint. His BA is One-Six-Eight. He has hit 11 home runs and driven in 33 runs in those 173 games. He has walked 13 times, and struck out 153 times.
Reports are that the Pirates will be "all over" Wood as he travels through waivers. Hard to imagine that the Pirates, in looking for a short stop to replace Ronny Cedeno would be able to come up with a player who was actually worse than Cedeno, but it looks like GM Neal is going to do exactly that.
I'll say this for Huntington - he doesn't embarrass easily. He has to know the ridicule that he will face if the Pirates claim this guy and put him in the line-up at PNC Park, but if the reports are accurate, it looks like he's going to do it anyway. It might make us long for the glory days of Brian Bixler at short.
Of course, maybe the theory is that a change of scenery will work wonders for Brandon Wood. On the other hand, that same theory never worked for Chad Hermansen in Chicago, LA or Toronto.
Speaking of L.A. the news that Major League Baseball will be taking over the operations of the Los Angeles Dodgers has to be shocking to long time fans of the game. You would probably not get any arguments if you said that apart from the New York Yankees, the Dodgers, both in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, have been the most important, historical, successful and stable franchises in the history of the sport. That the shaky finances and marital squabbles of the McCorts has brought this franchise to this point is sad to behold.
I made a comment about this on my Facebook page the other day and it elicited a lot of comments. Some were pretty good, like..."why doesn't MLB take over the Pirates"...."as happened with the Expos, maybe MLB will allow the team to move; I hear that Brooklyn needs a team." My own comment was that there are surely some still-bitter old fans in Brooklyn who are now screaming "serves you right."
However, I will leave you with this snippet from LA Times columnist Bill Plaschke on the matter:
"Since buying the team in 2004 with more smug than money, Frank McCourt kept his hands in his pockets while the stadium became a dump, the fan base become dangerously belligerent, and the team became the Pittsburgh Pirates."
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
The Grandstander was not the only person to greet the Correia signing with great ennui last winter, but so far the results have been outstanding:
3-1, 2.48 ERA, 1 CG, 29 IP, 12K, 7 BB
If the NL All-Star team was being picked today, Correia would be on it.
So, at this point in the season, put this one in the PLUS column for Neal.
Another Pirates thought, and, yes, I know it is early in the season:
After going 1-11 in 2010, after beating the Pirates for over $2 million in arbitration in the off season, after an '11 start that has produced a 7.27 ERA in two starts and 8.2 IP, and after being dispatched for what appears to be a lengthy spell on the DL, I am guessing that Ross Ohlendorf will be a prime candidate to be "designated for assignment" (a la Zach Duke) this coming off-season.
Monday, April 18, 2011
Personally, I would discount Cabrera. He was just another guy on an opposing team doing his job. I also strike Bonds from the list. While he was never enormously popular during his years as a Pirate, I do not recall him being a truly disliked figure until many years later when his home run totals increased with proportion to his head size.
That leaves Nutting, and he's going to be a hard guy knock from this dubious pedestal.
Some guys receiving votes on Facebook included Kordell Stewart, Neil O'Donnell, and Dave Littlefield.
Anyone else care to make a nomination?
Sunday, April 17, 2011
There are several heroes in this tale. Secret Service Agent Jerry Parr instinctively grabbed and shoved the President into the back of his limo, and then made a split second decision that truly saved the President's life. The team of ER docs and nurses and the surgical team at George Washington University Hospital. The others who were wounded (press secretary Jim Brady, a secret service agent, and a DC policeman).
And, of course, Reagan himself. We all remember the stories of Reagan's one liners to the docs ("I hope all you fellows are Republicans") and how he walked on his own power into the ER, but in this book we see that the President was also a seriously wounded, 70 year old man. He collapsed as he walked into the hospital, and was fearful that he was having a difficult time breathing. But he survived and spent time in the recovery room writing notes to the nurses who were attending him. In one note, the ex-actor said "Can we re-write this scene beginning from when I left the hotel?"
A bit more disconcerting was the reactions of those in the government regarding what should be done while the President was unconscious, incapacitated, or if he should die. We all remember Secretary of State Al Haig's complete incomprehension about the constitutional line of Presidential succession. At the time of the shooting, Vice President Bush was in Texas at an official function, and communication between the White House and the VP's airplane was unbelievably primitive. It seemed that the real power rested not with true government officials, i.e., cabinet secretaries, but with appointed people like Chief of Staff Jim Baker and his people, Ed Meese and Mike Deaver.
We all know how the story ends - Reagan recovered, left the hospital in 13 days, and returned to the Oval Office in 26 days. He served two terms, was enormously popular, and history seems to be judging him well. And this book reconfirms one thing that has often been said of him: you may be 180 degrees apart from Ronald Reagan's politics, but it is absolutely impossible to not like, if not love, Ronald Reagan the man. (Cute anecdote: while in New York City once during his acting days, a lady approached him on the street thinking he was actor Ray Milland. Not wanting to disappoint the fan, Reagan played along and signed Milland's name when giving an autograph.)
Monday, April 11, 2011
- Did I predict that a European golfer would win the Masters? I meant to say that an international golfer would win.
- Still Rory McIlroy was making my prediction look pretty good until he got to the back nine - excuse me, the Second Nine - on Sunday, which as we all know is when the Masters really begins.
- By all accounts, McIlroy is a very decent and good kid, which makes his El Foldo all the more painful. Here's hoping he can bounce back from that.
- How about that finish by winner Charl Schwartzel: 4-2-3-3. That is called grabbing opportunity by the throat and not letting it go.
- It is beginning to look like Jack Nicklaus' standard of 18 majors is not going to fall. Can't see Tiger winning five of these things from this point going forward, despite his strong showing this weekend at The Masters.
- Big news out of PNC Park was the Pittsburgh Police tasering and putting a beatdown on some drunk at Saturday's Pirates game. It is a YouTube sensation (it went viral, as the kids say), although I have not seen it. I wasn't there, I didn't see the video, and I am sure that the cops will end up as the bad guys in this, but a part of me says that no punishment is too severe for obnoxious drunks at sporting events.
- Obnoxious drunks are why I gave up my Steelers tickets eight years ago.
- An interesting observation by a caller to The Fan this morning: with beer going for $7.50 and up at PNC Park, who can afford to get so blasted at a ball game?
- Took in my first Bucco game of the '11 campaign yesterday. After overcoming a 4-0 deficit, it was a tough one to lose. Once again, those dreaded bases on balls killed the team.
- Another first of the season this morning: first round of golf for 2011. Scored a 44 at Clover Hill. For the first round of the year, that's OK, I suppose, but having to mark down a snowman on the ninth hole was most definitely NOT okay.
Sunday, April 10, 2011
Clint Hurdle is still learning the lay of the land in his first season as Pirates' manager. That provided an awkward moment before the home opener Thursday at PNC Park.
Hurdle was walking in the hallway that leads from the clubhouse to the dugout about three hours before game time when he saw Pirates owner Bob Nutting. Hurdle put a bear hug on Nutting. Nutting is not what you would call a huggable guy. The look on his face was priceless as he received what was assuredly his first-ever man hug.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
On another note, certain readers of this blog will recognize the name of a well-known baseball aficionado from Munhall, PA, Bill Madden. I can remember he always bemoaned whenever a Pirates pitcher walked a lead off hitter. "You never walk the Leading Lady", he would say. Well, I am sure Pappy is spinning in his grave after watching Evan Meek last week and Jose Veras tonight. Lead off walks in the eighth inning of games led to two Pirates defeats on successive Saturdays.
That's baseball, as the saying goes.
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Perhaps one of the hardest single thing to do in sports is win a golf tournament, which makes predicting winners almost impossible, a true shot in the dark. So my prediction will be somewhat generic. I predict that The Masters (A Tradition Like No Other) will, for the first time since 1999, be won by a European golfer. It's a deep field of Euros - Luke Donald, Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter to name a few.
You heard it here first - the Green Jacket goes across the pond to the EU in 2011.
Enjoy The Masters, A Tradition Like No Other, and remember, no running and no unseemly yelling and shouting while watching. Bob Jones would not approve.
Thanks to Loyal Reader and NPL Buddy Harv for tipping me off to the fact that former Pirates Skipper Larry Shepard passed away yesterday at the age of 92.
Shepard had a rather undistinguished tenure as Pirates manager in 1968-69, although, in terms of winning percentage, it was a lot more distinguished that the administrations of recent Bucs' pilots. My one memory of Shepard was that at one point he seriously lobbied Joe L. Brown to trade Roberto Clemente to the Washington Senators for, I believe, short stop Ed Brinkman. (That would have made Aramis Ramirez for Bobby Hill look good by comparison!)
I also remember asking Bill Mazeroski at a golf outing a number of years back what he thought of Larry Shepard as a manager (can't remember why that even came up at the time). Maz' response was that Shepard "was okay for an a******." (If you can't figure it out, that's a body part that everyone has!)
Fairly or not, something tells me that the passing of Larry Shepard will not be met with the rush of sadness and great memories as did the recent passing of Chuck Tanner.
RIP Larry Shepard.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
If I am not mistaken, I believe that this leaves Bryan Morris as the last man standing to try to salvage something, anything, from GM Neal's biggest trade involving the best player that he inherited when he became GM. Morris will be a part of the Indianapolis starting rotation this season, and I am sure that Neal will be rolling his rosary beads every time Morris takes the bump in Indy. If Morris washes out, the Bay deal becomes a complete and total 100% bust.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
- Neil Walker, with 7 hits, 7 RBI, and an OPS over 1.000, has been the Pirates best player, and his scoring the winning run on Sunday from second base on an infield single has been the Pirates' best play of the four game season.
- Not bad for a guy who the Pirates last year were grooming to be a utility infielder.
- While Walker has been the best player so far, Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata have not been far behind.
- The biggest surprise has been the fairly strong performances of the four starting pitchers. Correia, Maholm, Ohlendorf, and Morton, especially Charlie Morton, all have done good work in their starts, each of them lasting six innings.
- How about Clint Hurdle coming out of the dugout on Sunday in Chicago to vociferously argue an umpire's call? After the three years of sleep-walking John Russell, I didn't think that Bucco skippers were allowed to do that.
- And kudos again to Hurdle for yanking his ineffective Eighth Inning Set-Up reliever, and bringing in his Closer with two outs in the eighth inning to put out the fire last night. Used to be that your best relievers were often called upon to pitch two or even three innings at a crack.
- On the minus side of the ledger has been Even Meek and Ronny Cedeno. You have to think that Meek will turn things around and be an effective reliever. You have no such hope that Cedeno will be an effective short stop. He has butchered two seemingly sure fire double play balls two games in a row, and the team is extremely fortunate that those two blunders didn't cost them the last two victories.
- GM Neil can be criticized for many things, and the fact that Ronny Cedeno is the best SS the Pirates have to offer four years into the Huntington Regime ranks very high on the list.
Switching from the diamond to the hardwood, congratulations to the Connecticut Huskies for winning the NCAA Championship last night. The game was, shall we say, far from an artistic masterpiece. I was glad that I had a baseball game to switch too for most of that hoops game. However, that takes nothing away from the well-earned Championship for UConn.
Incidentally, Loyal Reader Bill had pointed out to me over the weekend that the two teams that played for the Championship last night, UConn and Butler, were the same teams that handed Pitt it's two post-season losses in the Big East and the NCAA, respectively. Those victories over Pitt came by a combined score of a whopping three - count 'em - THREE POINTS. Kind of adds a bit of perspective to the Panthers' season.
Sunday, April 3, 2011
There is probably no front office executive in all of baseball history more important or influential that Branch Rickey. He died almost fifty years ago, and casual followers of the game may not know of Rickey's place in the game's history. For that reason alone, it is good that this book was written. People with a sense of baseball history may not learn anything new here, but, if for no other reason, the book is worth reading just to appreciate the way Jimmy Breslin writes.
The main focus of the book centers around Rickey's greatest accomplishment: signing Jackie Robinson for the Brooklyn Dodgers and forcing the integration of major league baseball. One thing I did learn was of a meeting among and a resolution passed by MLB owners after Robinson's 1946 season in Montreal that was aimed to prevent Robinson, or any other "negro player" from ever playing in the major leagues. Also, the shameful silence from white sportswriters, many of whom were in the ball clubs' pockets, regarding the segregation that existed in major league baseball.
But the highlight of the book was the way Breslin wrote of his subjects and the comments that he made. Some samples:
- On Rickey's ability as a spellbinder: When he spoke "the cigar in his right hand provided the smoke and his waving left hand was the mirror."
- On Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey: "(Yawkee) would spend the next twenty years keeping blacks off his teams, and he got what he deserved, which was nothing."
- On Rickey and politics: "Rickey took the sport of baseball into politics, of which nobody in baseball today knows anything beyond giving city council members free box seats."
- On Satchel Paige: "Did he need the money? Whatever Paige had made lasted as long as a puddle in the sun."
I could go on and on with a bunch of great quotes like that about Walter O'Malley, Leo Durocher and many others (for Pirates fans, there are even a few about Bob Prince, Roy Face, and Bill Mazeroski), but you'll enjoy them a lot more by reading the book.
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Friday, April 1, 2011
- Opening Day for the Pittsburgh Baseball Club. Today, all things are possible. Not probable, but most certainly possible.
- Perhaps the most memorable quote from Spring Training came from Bob Nutting when he told that team that starting in 2011 "incremental progress will not be acceptable." Personally, and maybe I've just been totally beaten down by this bunch, I would be thrilled to see even "incremental progress" by the Pirates in 2011. Lord knows we haven't seen any such progress during the PNC Park era.
- I am guessing that that "incremental progress" quote will be thrown back at Nutting more than once as the season progresses.
- Setting a moderate goal, I said back in December that if Clint Hurdle could coax 70 wins out of this team, he should be Manager of the Year. That would be a 13 game improvement over 2010, so what the hell.... 70 Wins or Bust in 2011!!!
- When I am looking for a specific game score or result, the crawl at the bottom of the screen on ESPN is terrific. When I am not looking for a specific score or result, the crawl is extremely annoying.
- Just finished reading "True Grit" by Charles Portis. Had I read this novel when it first came out in 1968, I'm not sure that I would have thought "Wow, this would book make a great movie."
- Next on my reading list: "Branch Rickey" by Jimmy Breslin, and "Rawhide Down" (about the assassination attempt on President Reagan) by Del Quentin Wilber.
- Speaking Bob Dylan, my issue of the AARP Magazine (insert appropriate smartass comment here) arrived yesterday, and it includes a feature story commemorating Dylan's 70th birthday on May 24. Yes, Bob Dylan will be 70 years old next month!!
- Tonight is Fantasy Baseball Draft Night. I have the first pick in the North Park League draft, which I earned by finishing last in 2010. Just like in real baseball, all things are possible on Draft Night. I can tell you that Albert Pujols will be my first round selection tonight. After that, who knows?
- Readers of this blog know my abysmal track record making sports predictions, but last October 26, I predicted that the NBA Finals would be contested by the Los Angeles Lakers and the Chicago Bulls (you can look it up). As of this morning, the Lakers are #2 in the West and the #1 team in the East is none other than the Chicago Bulls. Still a lot of grass to mow until the Finals, but How 'Bout Them Bulls?
- Purchased the DVD set of Mad Men Season 4 yesterday. Looking forward to settling in with that.
- Bad news is that Mad Men Season 5 won't start until 2012. Will jumping an entire season mean jumping the shark for this great series?
- Welcome news for North Hills residents in the PG today. Cinemark will be building and opening a new, modern 12 screen movie theater complex in McCandless. Finally, modern comforts and amenities for movie goers in the North Hills, and good-bye to the dumpy Rave (formerly Showcase) Cinemas on McKnight Road. The bad news is that this complex won't be open until Fall, 2012.
- I am looking out my window as I type this and watching it snow. Wish I could say "April Fool's" to that one, but it is all too true.
- Enjoy the Bucco Opener today. Eighteen - and counting - seasons of ineptitude can't stop you from being a fan. Let's Go Bucs!!!