Sunday, September 30, 2012

Twenty Straight

I plan to offer up my final thoughts on the 2012 Pirates with a lengthy post later this week when the season finally, mercifully, concludes, but I can't let the day on which they officially clinched their 20th consecutive losing season (say it after me now, "the longest losing streak in North American sports history") without noting this milestone, or should I say "millstone".

And when it actually comes right down to it, what can I say?  As I mentioned on Facebook a few days back, the Pirates and their play in the month of September, combined with their front office follies, have left me speechless.  So I will leave it to Bloggin' Bob Smizik who led his blog entry tonight with this great paragraph:

Forty years to the day after Roberto Clemente gloriously walked into baseball history with his 3,000 hit, the team he once so proudly represented slunk into baseball ignominy with a 20th straight losing season.

That, my friends, is a good piece of writing.

A Trip to The Rivers Casino

We celebrated a non-Steeler Sunday today with a trip to The Rivers Casino.  

Marilyn had received a buy-one-get-one-free coupon from the Casino for her birthday earlier in the month for dinner at the Grand View Buffet in the Casino, so we decided to take advantage of that and head on down to the norsside.  Let me tell you, the food at that buffet is excellent, and there is plenty of it, and the twofer coupon made this a terrific dining option.  It also convinced me of a realization I came to when we first visited Las Vegas in 1992, and that is that excessive and opulent food buffets inside of gambling casinos may not be the main reason the rest of the world hates America, but it has to be very high on the list.

After dinner, of course, we tried our hand at the games of chance available to us.  Marilyn didn't do so well on the slot machines.  I, on the other hand, managed to turn a sixty percent profit at the black jack table in little more than a half an hour.  Before you get too excited about this, I started with $50 and left the table with $80.  I only wish that I had the stones to start our with $500 and try to turn it into $800.  That will probably never happen.  

Standing With Clemente

I had the pleasure of engaging in some mild vandalism early yesterday morning when SABR buddies (from L to R) Len Martin, Jim Haller, Dan Bonk and I visited the parking lots in the vicinity of Heinz Field and marked the spots where home plate and second base were located at Three Rivers Stadium.  It was especially appropriate that second base was located and marked since today, September 30, is the 40th Anniversary of Roberto Clemente's 3,000th, and final, hit, a double against the New York Mets.   You can see us gathered around the marker above, but here is that same spot in a picture with which you are no doubt more familiar:

Actually, full credit for locating these marks goes to Len and Dan who used Google Maps, satellite Images, GPS coordinates and God only knows what else to determine the location of these spots.  Len then produced the templates for home plate and second base as well as the wording that you see on them.

If you care to see these for yourself, take a stroll down General Robinson Street towards Heinz Field.  As you walk down the left sidewalk just past Stage AE, you will see the second base marker.  Then, walk 127 feet to your right, cross General Robinson into the parking lot, and you will be at home plate.

Here you see the vandals at work:

While Len and Dan were doing this. Jim and I were pretty much standing lookout in hopes that the cops didn't come and haul us away to the hoosgow.

Next up: refreshing the paint job on home plate of Exposition Park, which is located in yet another parking lot about a half a block closer to PNC Park.  Len, Dan, and a few other SABR guys were responsible for finding that land mark back in 1995.  We ran out of time yesterday, so that will wait for another Saturday morning raid in the future.

I leave you with one more picture from yesterday:

This is a nice early morning view of downtown Pittsburgh as seen over the rooftop of Stage AE.  I took it while standing at "home plate" of Three Rivers Stadium.  Thanks to Len Martin and Dan Bonk, you can now stand in this same spot and imagine yourself to be Willie Stargell or Roberto Clemente, digging in at home plate, ready to do battle with Bob Gibson or Tom Seaver.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Homer Bailey No-Hitter

One of baseball's great cliches is that every time you go to a ball game, you might see something that you have never seen before, and tonight that was fulfilled as Marilyn and I watched the Reds' Homer Bailey throw a no-hitter against the Pirates.  There you see the evidence above - my score sheet and game ticket.  I saw my first Pirate game in 1959, and now, 53 years later, I have for the very first time witnessed a no-hitter.

Funny thing is that after the way this Pirates season has been concluding, and after some dicey looking skies this afternoon, it would not have taken a whole lot to make me skip going to this ball game tonight.  Also, I was strongly considering not bothering to take a score sheet along, but at the last minute I thought, what the hell, score the game.

I never consider the possibility of a no-hitter until the pitcher gets through the fourth inning, so when the Bucs went down 1-2-3 in the fourth, I began thinking of what might happen.  And as 1-2-3 inning followed 1-2-3 inning (Bailey only faced 28 batters tonight)  the tension, in my mind, anyway, began to mount.  I say "in my mind" because I never had the sense that the crowd was aware of what was taking place, and I was astonished to see people actually leaving the ball park in the seventh and eighth innings.

The fact that the score was only 1-0 made the crowd still root for a Pirate rally in the ninth, especially after the "hoist the colors" clip on the scoreboard before the inning began, and no doubt lessened the crowd's eagerness for Bailey to pull it off.  I wonder how the crowd would have been if the score was, say 7-0?  Anyway, once pinch hitter Michael McHenry flied to left for the second out leaving Alex Presley as the Bucs' last hope, I think at that point, the crowd began rooting for Bailey.  When Presley hit his pop up that second baseman Brandon Phillips would catch, I watched Bailey on the mound raise his arms, and it was neat to see the Reds' players, dugout, and bullpen mob him on the mound.  The PNC crowd also gave Bailey an appropriate tribute of cheers and applause when it was over, which was nice.

Lost in all of this was that this was that A.J. Burnett pitched a terrific game himself, one run in eight innings, in a losing effort, and that this was the Pirates 81st loss, so there will be no winning season in 2012.

Two months ago, we were looking at the schedule and thinking how important and dynamic this series with the Reds might be.  Well, it didn't turn out that way, but I am sure glad that I was in attendance tonight anyway.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Welcome Back, Zebras!

I don't remember if I wrote it down on The Grandstander, posted it on Facebook, or just mentioned it in discussions with friends, but my thoughts all along about the NFL lockout of their game officials was that as soon as one especially egregious officiating error took place that involved and negatively impacted one of the League's "flagship" franchises (Cowboys, Giants, Patriots, Steelers, and Packers were the teams that sprung to mind at the time), then all Hell would break loose and a settlement would be reached.

Monday Night Football.  The Packers get screwed.  Regular refs back in time for tonight's Thursday Night NFL Network game.  Scab refs go back to Saturday morning peewee league games.

On a personal level, I am most happy for a certain NFL Head Linesman, whom I count as a personal friend.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

To Absent Friends: Steve Sabol, Andy Williams

Time to wish Melancholy Happy Trails.....

A belated Happy trails to Steve Sabol, of NFL Films, who, along with his father, Ed, changed forever the way we watch all sports, and professional football in particular.  They, as much as any player, coach, owner, or commissioner, are responsible for the unparalleled popularity of the NFL in America.  Steve Sabol, who won over 40 Emmys for his work,  succumbed to brain cancer last week at the age of 69.  

Today the news arrived of the death of singer Andy Williams at the age of 84.  He has no doubt now found that rainbow's end, waiting 'round the bend.

RIP Steve Sabol and Andy williams.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The "Hawaii Five-0" Season Premiere

Warning:  This post will include spoilers!

When we last saw "Hawaii Five-0" back in the spring, that goofy bald guy was taking Steve to Japan to meet "Shellburn" and all we saw was an incredulous look on Steve's face, Chin's wife had been shot, Kono was dumped overboard a ship in the middle of the ocean while gagged and handcuffed, Danny was, well, I can't remember what sort of pickle Danny was in at the time, Wo Fat was in prison, and all sorts of evil and hinky doings were being orchestrated by some Third-String Baldwin Brother.

As the third season of the new "H5-0" opened last night...

  • "Shellburn" turns out to be Steve's mother, who he thought was killed 20 years ago.  Turns out that before she fell in love with McGarrett, Sr. and decided to become a mother, she was a spy for a "secret intelligence agency", she killed Wo Fat's father, which caused the government to put her deep undercover for the last 20 years.  This led to Wo Fat finding and killing Steve's father, while still looking for "Shellburn".  Now an understandably miffed Steve is bringing his mother back to Hawaii (safe to do since Wo Fat is being transferred to a "super maximum security prison" on the mainland).  He also has to figure out how to break the news to his sister that their mother is still alive.
  • You follow all that?  No, well, I didn't either.
  • Chin's wife dies, whereupon Chin punches his fist through a wall, stands by her slab in the morgue for two straight days, and actor Daniel Dae Kim proceeds on a course that promises to redefine "bad acting".
  • Kono gets rescued by her son-of-the-Japanese-mobster boyfriend, who jumps into the ocean at night and somehow finds her as she is sinking to the bottom.  Like that could possibly happen.
  • Danny seems to be involved with yet another custody issue with his ex-wife who wants to move to Las Vegas and take their daughter with her.
  • Wo Fat, while being transferred to this super-duper prison on the mainland, get sprung in the a prison break that is so incredulous, they wouldn't even use it in a James Bond movie.  This is orchestrated, by the way, by the Third-String Baldwin Brother.
  • The goofy bald guy is no longer around, as he will be starring in some new series this fall, the name of which I cannot remember, and which will probably be canceled by Thanksgiving, which means we will probably see this guy yet again in Hawaii.
  • Well, all sorts of pyrotechnics follow, including a shoot out between the Five-0 crew and the gang of the Third-String Baldwin Brother in a Honolulu traffic jam where not a single civilian gets hurt.  Automatic weapons for everyone!  Kono manages to shoot a bad guy in such a manner that had me leaping for the rewind button, Chin shoots and kills Third-String Baldwin Brother in a fashion that was so derivative of Clint Eastwood that I am surprised that he didn't say "Feel lucky, punk? Well, do you?"
  • Wo Fat and Steve's mother confront each other with automatic pistols pointed at each other point blank.  The scene shifts to downstairs in the house, shots are heard, Steve runs upstairs to find his mother unharmed, Wo Fat no where to be seen, and Mom saying merely "he got away".  Huh?  (This scene causes both Marilyn and I to say "oh, you've got to be shittin' me", or words to that effect.)
  • The show ends with Steve's Mom being put on a plane to go into deep cover once again until Wo Fat is brought to justice.  Only when the plane is in the air do the Five-0 guys learn that the only bullets found in the room where Mom McGarrett and Wo Fat shot it out came from Mom's gun and were fired into the floor, not at Wo Fat.  It seems that Mom let Wo Fat get away.  Zounds!
  • Oh, and Steve never did tell his sister that their mother was still alive.
As you can probably pick up from my tone, all of this seriously stretches credulity, and one has to wonder if this version of "Hawaii Five-0" is circling the shark and getting ready to jump it.  For sure, we are in for another season of Steve chasing Wo Fat and wondering just whose side his mother is/was on, of Danny fighting with his ex, of Chin chewing the scenery as he mourns his dead wife, and of Kono looking pretty and doing neat stuff with the computer in the Five-0 headquarters.

Tonight, I look forward to the premiere of the new show "Vegas" starring Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis.  Not a lot of the new shows this season look very promising, but this one does.

Happy Birthday, Cheryl Tiegs!

Today marks the 65th Birthday - yes, I said 65!!! - of Super Model and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Icon Cheryl Tiegs.  I know that many of you are probably disappointed that I didn't reproduce THAT one special photo, and you know the one I'm talking about, but I try to keep this blog family friendly.  Anyway, the above pic shows Miss Tiegs in her prime, but I think that even a more recent photo will prove that this is one senior citizen that is still gettin' it done.

Happy Birthday, indeed, to Cheryl Tiegs!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hail To Pitt!

I mentioned on Facebook yesterday that I was looking forward to my first visit to Heinz Field since 2003 yesterday, and I was not disappointed.  I was able to join friends Dan Bonk and Len Martin when one of their "regulars" was unable to use his Pitt ticket yesterday, and I really enjoyed the experience.

I had not been to a Pitt football game in many, many years, and I really have to commend the University for the job that they do in presenting and creating a "college atmosphere" at Heinz Field.  The parking lots, the businesses around Heinz Field, the student section, the Pitt Athletic department, the Pitt Marching Band and the Cheerleaders really make for a fun atmosphere.  Also, the fact that beer is not sold in the Stadium during the game also makes for an enjoyable day.  I noticed that there were lots of families in attendance with very young children, something no responsible parent would do at a beer-soaked Heinz Field Steelers game.

As for the game itself, Pitt did as expected and romped over I-AA Gardner Webb, and the quality of the opponent no doubt contributed to Heinz field being only slightly over half occupied.  I can only imagine that a strong opponent, a meaningful and quality game, and a large near-capacity crowd would only increase the pleasure of the experience.

I am hoping to repeat the experience several times in the future as Pitt becomes a part of the ACC in 2013.

Will close with a view of Len and I soaking up some pre-game atmosphere on General Robinson Street.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Greatest Generation Visits the Heinz History Center

Yesterday, I had the honor of being one of four docents at the Heinz History Center to conduct a tour for a group of World War II veterans, and I do not use the word "honor" lightly in this case.

This was an annual reunion gathering of a platoon of men that served in the infantry and marched through Europe under George Patton.  It is a reunion whose numbers get smaller each year.  Think about it.  If you were serving in WW II at the age of 18 in 1945, the year the war ended, you would be 85 years old today.  So, of the dozen or so men that arrived yesterday, many were in wheelchairs or using walkers, many were accompanied by their adult children, and some of those folks were older than my 61 years.  They came from all over the country, Iowa, Texas, Utah, California, but they were enjoying the hell out of their time together and their visit to Pittsburgh.  In touring the Heinz History Center and Sports Museum, they wanted to hear all about Pittsburgh's days as the "Smokey City" and the Immaculate Reception and the Western Pennsylvania's role in the Whiskey Rebellion and the Allegheny Arsenal explosion and the invention of the Ferris Wheel, and I could go on and on.

It was when we got to that section of the History Center that dealt with WW II that I turned the tables and asked them to talk to me.  Then I heard stories of marching through France and  Austria and Berchtesgaden and into Germany, and walking through the house that was Hitler's birthplace, and having a platoon of 100 German soldiers surrendering to you while you were holding a machine gun on them, of building pontoon bridges to cross the Ruhr River.  I asked them how old they were when this was happening to them.  19.  22. 18. .21. 25.  You get the idea.

I am seldom at a loss for words when I do these tours at the History Center, but I was yesterday.  I admit to getting choked up and barely being able to say "thank you" to all of them, words that seemed so inadequate in the circumstances.  This was a tour and a group of men that I will never forget.

God Bless them all.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

To Absent Friends: Barbara Cloud

Barbara Cloud, 83, former fashion editor and columnist for the Pittsburgh Press and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, passed away last week after a long battle with cancer.  I won't pretend that I was along-time reader of hers, but I did enjoy the column she wrote on Sundays after she retired as a full-time fashion editor at the PG.  She was delightfully old-fashioned in many ways, but her story of becoming a single mother at the age of 40 and raising a son is almost heroic. She also fought a long and, regrettably, losing battle with the City of Pittsburgh over the awful state of litter on Pittsburgh's downtown streets.

Her obituary in Sunday's Post-Gazette did tell the story of a most interesting and well-lived life.

I once remember walking down the Boulevard of the Allies many, many years ago and seeing Barbara Cloud standing and waiting for a bus.  I can truly recall that she looked elegant.  Not what you usually saw at a PAT bus stop.

RIP Barbara Cloud.

More Ocean City, plus Some Sports Thoughts

Catching up after being on vacation for a week....

In my write-up yesterday about our trip to Ocean City, I neglected to mention what was perhaps the highlight of the trip.  After a hotly contested round of miniature golf on the Boardwalk, we approached the 19th hole wherein a hole-in-one would earn you a free round of golf.  If you've played mini-golf in your life, you know that these things are set up so as to be nearly impossible to make, and I, predictably, failed miserably in my attempt.  Marilyn, on the other hand, calmly set her ball down and rammed her putt up the three inch wide ramp and jammed it right into the hole.  Sirens went off and and a ticket for a free round spit out of the machine.   No putt in the Ryder Cup later this month will be as  dramatic. 

I also mentioned how well we ate down at the shore.  A couple of comments on that:
  1. A boardwalk pizza joint called 3 Brothers from Italy do the impossible.  They produce a slice of pizza that looks good, smells good, and is absolutely tasteless.  Ended up throwing it away after about four bites.
  2. I am at an age where I can no longer eat more than about a third of a funnel cake, which is probably a good thing.  In fact, watching the girl pour the batter into that vat of grease to make my funnel cake, I almost walked away.  Yuck!
  3. On the bright side, we did find a terrific pizza joint on the boardwalk called Angelo's II.  See for yourself:

On to other subjects....
  • The Steelers now stand at 1-1 after an impressive win over the Jets on Sunday.  The running game was unimpressive.  The passing of Ben Roethlisberger was superb.  After allowing the Jets a touchdown on their opening drive, the defense, playing without Troy Polamalu and James Harrison, completely shut down the Jets.  Ryan Clark was tremendous, and you wonder how the outcome might have been different in Denver last week if Clark were able to play.
  • The Pirates.  Wow, don't those back-to-back shutouts of the Cardinals three weeks ago now seem like a million years ago?  At this point, I am going to save any in depth comments until after the season concludes, but suffice to say that I fear for a winning season, and six weeks ago I thought a plus .500 season was in the bag.
  • The National Hockey League owners have locked out the players.  Yes, the owners that have been doling out nine-figure contracts, some of them covering ten or more years, are claiming that they are going broke unless they players give back.  Haven't we seen this movie before?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Ocean City Sojourn

Perhaps you noticed that The Grandstander has been inactive for the last several days.  That is due to the fact that Marilyn and I took leave of the Home Base last week to celebrate our birthdays in the resort town of Ocean City, New Jersey.  I first visited Ocean City in the Summer of 1971, and it was the site of many Sproule Family vacations into the early 1980's.  Marilyn and I made, as best as I can recollect, five trips to Ocean City early in our marriage, but we pretty much stopped going there when we began our annual trips to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  Our last visit there came in 1996, so when we decided to take this birthday jaunt to Ocean City, we were also taking trip into the past.

I'm happy to report that Ocean City is largely unchanged.  The Boardwalk is still bright, noisy, and honky-tonkish:

I was bit dismayed to see some invasion of franchises on the Boardwalk - a Subway, a Dairy Queen, and, inexplicably, a Verizon Wireless store (never saw a soul in there) - but for the most part, it is still all t-shirt shops, carnival games, miniature golf, pizza, fudge, taffy, caramel corn, and funnel cake joints.  Real Americana!

Work has also been done to enlarge the beaches.  Don't ask me how they do that, but the beaches where we stayed were much deeper than I remember them being:

Our weather was absolutely terrific - high 70's/low 80's temps, no wind, no clouds.  We got to the beach every day, and were surprised at how crowded they were for weekdays in September after Labor Day.

We had some absolutely fabulous meals patronizing Spadafora's Clam Bar, the Tuckahoe Inn, the Happy Days Cafe, Luigi's Italian Restaurant, and, best of all, a place in Cape May called the Lobster House.  At the Lobster House, you place you order, wait for your number to be called, and then you eat your meal at outdoor tables along a wharf.  There are some great places to eat in Cape May, but if we ever go back there for an extended stay, I do believe that we will eat at the Lobster House every single day.

All in all, a great little getaway, and a nice exclamation point on what has been a nice summer for us.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Steelers Kick It Off for Real

As we have been told repeatedly, the Steelers kick off their 80th season in the National Football League tonight against the Broncos in Denver.  Since the team is celebrating this milestone season with those horrid throwback Three Stooges-style uniforms, I thought I would celebrate it with their old logo, one that I always thought was a pretty cool one.

When last we saw the Steelers playing a game that mattered, the Vaunted Dick LeBeau defense was being picked apart and shredded in Denver by that master of the quarterbacking arts, Tim Tebow.  Tonight they return to that same stadium and the Broncos have replaced Tebow with Peyton Manning, a slight upgrade in the position.  So, I don't have high hopes for how Rooney U. might fare in tonight's contest.  

As for how they will do over the course of the season, I think that they are a good enough team to win more games than they will lose, but will they be good enough to make the playoffs from a division that sent two other teams, the Ravens and Bengals, to the playoffs last season?  On the plus side, they have a great quarterback and a corps of very good, if not great, receivers. The offensive line was supposed to have been beefed up via the draft, but injuries have reared up among that corps, so will Roethlisberger continue to run for his life and get beat up continually?  I am also concerned with the running backs.  They are counting on Isaac Redman to replace an injured Rashard Mendenhall.  Redman has been okay as a short yardage guy and a fill in in the past, but it's still a question, in my mind anyway, if he can do it over the long haul. 

On defense, younger guys need to step up to replace guys like James Farrior and Aaron Smith, while guys like James Harrison and Troy Polamalu  are another year older.

Maybe this is a season where the team just takes a step backwards while retooling for another sustained stretch of Super Bowl caliber seasons down the road.  With a QB like Ben you can never count them out, and the Bengals can always be counted on to be, well, the Bengals, so you never know, but let's call it a 9-7 season with the team missing the Playoffs.  Hope I'm wrong.

Oh, one more thing, in my limited writing on the team during the practice game season, I continually talked about how everyone has been talking about Todd Hailey and the New Steelers Offense.  I'm done kicking that one around.  Let's see how the team actually plays on the field during the season.  I will leave the Glorification and/or the Bashing of the Offensive Coordinator up to the experts who call into The Fan everyday.

As for the rest of the NFL, last year I thought that I would boldly cover my butt by naming a group of eight to ten teams, one of which would be the eventual Super Bowl winner.  How could I be wrong if I did that, right?  However, I failed to include the New York Giants among that pack of sure fire Super Bowl contenders.  Amazing.   As for this year, what the hell, I'll be bold and predict that the Green Bay Packers will defeat the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl.

I am also anxiously awaiting to see who the NFL will choose to be the halftime act at the Super Bowl.  Early line favorites are The Beach Boys, Hall and Oates, and Duran Duran.  Since the Super Bowl will be in New Orleans, possible dark horse candidates to perform could be Louis Armstrong and Al Hirt.  The fact that both of those guys are dead shouldn't stand in the way of the NFL, considering what can be done with holograms these days.

As always, watch, but don't bet, and enjoy the football season!!

Friday, September 7, 2012

An Early Oscar Prediction

This morning's Post-Gazette featured a preview of the Fall movie releases, and one in particular caught my eye:  "Lincoln".  It is a serious movie about our 16th President.  It is based on Doris Kearns Goodwin's award winning book, "Team of Rivals".  It stars Daniel Day-Lewis, who makes a movie once every three or four years, but when he does, he usually wins an Oscar, and it is directed  by Steven Spielberg, who is, well, STEVEN SPIELBERG.  

Do we really need to even have an Academy Awards ceremony next winter?

More on Modell

The obit for Art Modell from the New York Times that was reprinted in the Post-Gazette made interesting reading today.  ( I was amazed to see that Modell was a high school drop out.) Not surprisingly, for all of his accomplishments, and there were many, the obit led with the fact that he moved the Browns out of Cleveland to Baltimore in 1995, forever earning him the enmity of the the community that he was so much a part of for the previous 35 years or so.

I lived in the Cleveland area from 1974-78 at a time when the City of Cleveland was pretty much a national joke.  The Cuyahoga River caught on fire and the Mayor, Ralph Perk, set his hair on fire while using a blow torch at some trade show (you can look it up!).  Amidst all of that, there was no stronger booster of Cleveland and the Northeast Ohio region that Art Modell.  In addition to owning the Browns, Modell was a staunch supporter of the the Cleveland Symphony and all of the Arts in the area, as well as serving on various civic boards and charities.  He was a true pillar of the community.  Once he took the Browns away, though, he was poison and he was never able to return to Cleveland again.  I get the anger of the City over having "their" team (but let's face it; teams belong to the owners, not the fans. See Dodgers, Brooklyn), but the whole episode is kind of sad, when you think about it.  Almost Shakespearean. 

And I know that no Cleveland Brown fan will agree with that, and I get that.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Pheasant Ridge, Pitt, An Absent Friend

Three quickies:

I had a most enjoyable round of golf today at Pheasant Ridge Golf Course in Gibsonia.  It was the first time that I had played at Pheasant Ridge, and I really liked the course.  It is one that i would definitely like to play again.  I played fairly well (103) by my standards, but the best part of the day was playing once again, for the first time in several years, with former co-worker and long time golf partner Bill H.  A truly fun day.

As an aside, one drawback to Pheasant Ridge was that there were no water coolers on the course.  This is not unique to Pheasant Ridge, as I have noticed that water jugs on golf courses this summer have gone the way of metal spikes.  You just don't see them anymore, and I think that this is not-so-nice treatment of the paying customers.

I am looking forward to watching Pitt play the Cincy Bearcats tonight.  An important game for the Panthers after that very poor showing against Youngstown State last week.  

Absent Friend:  Art Modell died today at the age of 87.  Once he bought the Cleveland Browns from Paul Brown back in the 1960's, Modell became one of the movers and shakers in the NFL, but for all of that, he will be remembered foremost for moving the Browns out of Cleveland to Baltimore.  The City of Cleveland never has and no doubt never will forgive that sin.

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Disgrace at PNC Park

Astros 5 - Pirates 1.

A guy who was pitching in the Mexican League earlier in the year was made to look like a reincarnated combination of Larry Dierker/Nolan Ryan/Roy Oswalt by the Pirates pathetic line up today.  Only five hits against some stiff named Edgar Gonzalez and an Astros bullpen consisting of Moe, Larry, and Curly.

Correction:  Moe, Larry, and Curly were playing short stop, catcher, and first base for the Pirates.

Astros first baseman Brett Wallace was made to look like a reincarnated Jeff Bagwell by Jeff Locke.

I was there today.  Spent $32 for the privilege, plus parking, plus the overpriced ballpark food.   It was as awful as anything I had seen the Pirates put out in the depths of the John Russell administration.

A Pirates team that fancies itself a post-season contender, with a chance to shake off an awful weekend in Milwaukee, came up against a team that is not just bad, but historically bad, and they laid down and died.  It was nothing short of pathetic.  I don't know how they're looking in a mirror in that clubhouse tonight.

So it comes down to this. Two more games with the Astros, and then three with the Cubs, another lousy team, over the weekend.  Unless they win all five of those games, seriously, all five of them, kiss the wild card hopes good-bye. The goal then becomes winning 82 games and ending the streak, and if it comes to that, they are going to be seriously challenged to do so,  Twenty-eight games left to play, and they now need to go 12-16 in those games.  If you told me a month ago that winning a minimum of 82 games would be a challenge for this team, I'd have said you were crazy, but, now, well, I'm the one saying it..

Two player specific comments:

  1. I guess we can hold off on that automatic induction into Cooperstown for Brock Holt.  I don't want to be harsh on the kid, but some were getting a bit carried away after he had two hits on Sunday.  And just for the record, as long as Walker is still hurt, I'd rather see Holt than Josh Harrison playing at second.
  2. Gaby Sanchez is proving to be an extremely annoying player.  In addition to being not very good (0-for-4 today with two pathetic strike outs), he is maddening to watch at the plate.  After each pitch, he steps out of the box, adjusts his batting gloves (even if he hadn't swung on the pitch), walks around, kicks dirt off of his spikes.  He took 20 to 25 seconds doing this crap between pitches today.  I timed him.  This would be maddening if he was hitting .280 with 20 home runs.  That he does it with his current level of production is intolerable.  Doesn't baseball have rules about this kind of stuff?
OK.  The challenge is very clear.  They have to win the next five games against these two lousy teams.  They HAVE to.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

To Absent Friends: Hal David

Lyricist Hal David passed away this week at the age of 91.  If you've never heard of Hal David, perhaps you've heard of his most frequent and famous collaborator, composer Burt Bacharach.  If this is STILL not ringing a bell for you, then be assured that you have heard their work for the music of Bacharach and David provided a soundtrack to America in the 1960's and beyond as surely as did Lennon and McCartney, Paul Simon, Brian Wilson, or Bob Dylan.  

Bacharach and David won an Oscar for the song "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head", but their work was best interpreted by the great Dionne Warwick.  Trying to pick "the best" or a "favorite" Bacharach/David/Warwick song is almost an impossible task for there were so many of them.  Allow me to leave you with one of my favorites:

RIP Hal David.