Tuesday, April 23, 2013

To Absent Friends: Richie Havens

Another pop culture left us yesterday when Richie Havens passed away at the age of 71.  A tremendous guitarist with a most distinctive voice, Havens was the opening act at Woodstock in 1969, and I remember him fondly from my college years.

Here he is in the song that was his biggest commercial hit, George Harrison's "Here Comes the Sun".

RIP Richie Havens.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Selected Short Subjects

Lots of odds and ends to deal with this Sunday morning, but before getting to the fun-and-games that are the usual topics here, I must comment on the events that took place in Boston this past week.  Like most of you, we were spellbound while watching the horrific events unfold.  Salutes all around to the people of Greater Boston, all of the first responders, and for all of the law enforcement agencies who tracked down the perpetrators so quickly.   Against that background, I hope that certain members of the United States Senate are able to sleep well this week in the knowledge that the Tsarneav brothers were apparently able to obtain such massive amounts of weaponry without having to undergo those pesky background checks that they, the Senators, and their benefactors, the NRA, so adamantly oppose in their defense of the Second Amendment.

Okay, no one comes to The Grandstander for political commentary, so back to the usual topics.....

We attended the Montour High School production of "Legally Blonde, the Musical" this past Friday evening.   We attended with our friends, Dan and Susan Bonk, whose daughter, Emily, had a role in the show.
This was the third high school musical that we have attended this spring, and, as with the others, we come away in awe of the talent and energy of the kids who perform and work in the crew of these productions.  I've said it before and will say it again, there are few things in life that make you feel better than attending a high school musical.


 I finally got around to reading the book "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn this week.  As this book has appeared on the fiction best seller list for well over a year, I figure that there is a good chance that you have already read it yourself.

(No spoilers will follow.)

In the book, Amy, the beautiful and semi-wealthy wife of Nick, has disappeared, and it looks like foul play was involved.   Nick becomes a suspect, a media circus ensues, but did Nick do it?  Where exactly IS Amy, and why can't authorities find either her or her body?

As thrillers go, this is a pretty good book, a real page-turner (has anyone ever used that phrase in describing a book before?), and I would recommend that you read it, but I will say this, the two main characters of the novel, in my opinion, are two of the most unlikable people I have ever come across in fiction.  If you've read this one, do you agree with me?

In the sports world this week, Duquesne had a double dose of bad news, and, really, is there any other kind at The Bluff?

First off, women's basketball coach Susan McConnell-Serio left Duquesne, where she had been very, very successful, to take the same position at Pitt.  Pitt will be playing in the much higher level Atlantic Coast conference, and her salary reportedly doubled to about a half-million dollars a year, so how can you blame her?  Duquesne AD Greg Ammodio said all the right things about the fact that Susie elevated the Lady Dukes' program to a degree that this becomes an attractive position to another talented young coach to come in and pick up where McConnell-Serio left off.  We'll see.

Then came the news that five players from the men's team are leaving, four seeking to transfer, and one moving over to play on the Dukes' soccer team.  At first blush, this was seen as yet another disaster for the basketball program.  On further thought, when you realize that the Dukes won exactly one (1) conference game this past year, it's not exactly the UCLA Bruins of Lew Alcindor that are being broken up here.  Also, later in the week, Coach Jim Ferry announced his recruiting class for next year, so maybe it will all turn out for the best.

Still, one gets the impression that the Administration at Duquesne is not fully committed to do what it takes to play and compete on the highest levels of college basketball, even in the city of Pittsburgh, Robert Morris has clearly moved ahead of them in the local college hoops pecking order.  Some have suggested that perhaps Duquesne should de-emphasize to the point of perhaps leaving the Atlantic10 and moving to join Robert Morris in the Northeast Conference. 

An interesting thought.

The National Hockey League hit pay dirt a few years back when they came up with the Winter Classic, an outdoor hockey game, played in an enormous football or baseball stadium, and nationally televised on New Year's Day.  Played when it's only televised competition were a bunch of now mostly irrelevant college football bowl games.  The Winter Classic pretty much had the national TV stage to itself, and the game has been a ratings bonanza.  

So, if one outdoor hockey game is terrific, the NHL punjabs said to themselves, wouldn't six of them a season be six times better?  Disregarding the fable of the goose and the golden eggs, that is what the NHL is proposing to do.  So what was once unique and wonderful, will now be just another gimmick, and that New Year's Day "special" game, will be special no more.  It will go the way of dunk contests, home run derbies, and college football bowl games.

I had told myself that I was not going to get into any serious analysis of the Pirates season until they had played about 25 or 30 games, or about fifteen to twenty percent of the season, and I am going to pretty much stick to that.  However, when it began, much was made of the ten game home stand against the Reds, Cardinals, and Braves that started on April 12.  Be honest with me now, when that home stand began, if someone had set the over/under on Pirates wins at 5 and 1/2, how many of you would have voted the "Over"?  I sure wouldn't have, but the Bucs now sport a 6-2 record with one game left against the Braves this afternoon (one game was rained out).  Pretty good, regardless of what happens this afternoon.  

Tomorrow they will begin a ten game road trip against the Phillies, Cardinals, and the Hated Brewers, and they will do so with no worse than a .500 record.  If they can win five, six, or, dare I say it, even seven games on that trip, that weekend series with the Nationals that begins on May 3rd could be a mad house at PNC Park.

Let's hope the Grilled Cheese keeps on coming!

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Great 2013 Hamburger Quest - Part 7 - A New #1

It has been a while since I've talked Burgers here, but that doesn't mean I haven't been busy scarfing them down.  

Two weeks ago, after a matinee at the Pittsburgh Public Theater, we stopped at the Atria's at PNC Park.  As it happened, the Pirates had played an afternoon game that day as well, so we  ordered from the special "Game Day Menu".  Of course, I went for the burger and it was terrific.  In fact, the only thing that keeps me from rating this higher is the fact that a week later, i happened to dine at the Atria's in Mt. Lebanon, and the burger there was not nearly on par with the one at the PNC Park location.  I give no separate rating for it, but it may have hurt the franchise when I came to rank them.

The big news, though, is that there is now a new Number One, and it is the Union Grill on South Craig street in Oakland.  Big Brother Bill Sproule has been touting this one ever since The Quest began, so earlier in the week, Marilyn and I met Ann and him for lunch.  First off the burger is HUGE.  They say it's a half-pound, but I don't believe it. It's gotta be bigger than that.  Cooked to order and with your choice of toppings (I went for cheddar, bacon, and sauteed onions).  It was delicious, and I didn't have to eat for the rest of the day.  If there is a criticism to be made, and this sounds crazy, it's that the burger is too big, to the point that I almost felt that I was forcing myself to finish it.  Marilyn was smarter than me: she took half of hers home, reheated it, had it fur lunch the next day, and assures me that it was just as good on Day Two as it was on Day One.

For now, at least, we have a new champion.....

The Rankings:
  1. Union Grill (Oakland)
  2. Tessaro's (Bloomfield)
  3. The Rochester Inn Hardwood Grill (Ross)
  4. McFadden's (North Shore)
  5. SoHo Restaurant (North Shore)
  6. Atria's (PNC Park)
  7. Bella Ria's (West View)
  8. Valiant's (Ross)
  9. The Tilted Kilt (North Shore)
  • BZ Bar and Grill (North Shore)
  • Sunny Jim's (Emsworth)
  • TGI Friday's (McCandless)
When I began this series, I deliberately chose not to include the burgers from fast food places such as McDonald's, Burger King etc.  This is not snobbery on my part, because, trust me, there are times when nothing hits the spot more than a Big Mac.  I just felt that those kinds of burgers should not be included in The Quest.  That said, let me plug the burger at Flamer's Hamburgers.  When I was still working,  Flamer's in the Fifth Avenue Place Food Court  was at least a once a week stop for me for lunch.  There is a Flamer's in the Ross Park Mall Food Court as well, and when we do go the the Mall, Flamer's is my burger of choice, even preferable to the very good burgers that you can get at the Five Guys store in the same Food Court.  Give it a shot if you haven't been there.

To Absent Friends: Pat Summerall and Frank Bank

Pat Summerall died this past week at the age of 82.  Most know Summerall as one of the great TV Network play-by-play guys, but you have to be up there in years to remember him as football player, and a pretty good one at that, so let's let the picture here depict him in his playing days.  He retired as a player after the 1961 season, and became a play-by-play guy, not a color analyst.  He soon became the #1 guy in the NFL rotation for CBS, teaming first with Tom Brookshier and later with John Madden, and moved to Fox when they swooped up the NFL rights from CBS.  He was a calm voice who let the pictures do the talking when telecasting a game.  Wish more broadcasters did the same.  He was also the voice of US Open tennis on CBS, and more significantly, golf on CBS.  Who can forget him on the golf telecasts teasing the upcoming programming for the evening on CBS:  "Tonight following your local news, Sixty Minutes, followed by Murder...(long pause)...She Wrote."

Summerall's full name was George Allen Summerall.  A placekicker in the NFL, he supposedly picked up the name for which he was know because of the frequent listings in NFL box scores of "PAT - Summerall".  That story probably isn't true, but ti should be!

As someone said, if you heard Summerall doing the broadcast, you knew it was a big event.

Perhaps less notable was the death of actor Frank Bank at the age of 71.  Actually, Bank was no longer an actor, but as a teenager, he played Clarence "Lumpy" Rutherford, one of the pals of Wally Cleaver on "Leave It To Beaver".  According to the obituary, and obituaries can be the most interesting things to read in the paper sometimes, Bank left acting after his teenage years, went to college, and became somewhat of a whiz in the stocks-and-bonds/financial planning field.  He earned a six figure income in that field, and handled the finances of many  of his old acting colleagues, including Barbara (June Cleaver) Billingsly.  Interestingly enough, he never talked about his youthful days as an actor on one of TV's biggest hit shows, and his own children were unaware of his past until they were well into their  teens themselves.

RIP Pat Summerall and Frank Bank

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

10,000th Win Contest Closed

The entry deadline for the Pirates 10,000th win contest has passed.  A total 21 entries were received and will compete for the (mythical) Jim Haller Trophy and a small, as yet to be determined, prize with a small monetary value.

Here is a look at the names of the entrants and their prediction as to what game the magical 39th win will occur:

Name Game Number
Don Lancaster 65
Mike Jones 76
Ted Knorr 77
Meg Minard 78
Mark Ecklund 79
Jim Haller 80
Dan Bonk 80
Gale Suwalski 81
Dave Cicotello 81
Jerry Frissora 82
Bill Evans 82
Pat Jones 82
Fred Shugars 83
Bob Sproule 83
Ron Loshelder 83
John Coley 83
Roger Hansen 86
Dave Jones 88
Bill Montrose 88
Jim English 90
Bill Sproule 93

As you can see, 13 different games were chosen by the entrants, with Don Lancaster being the most optimistic, and Bill Sproule the most pessimistic.  The most popular game chosen was the 83rd game (four guesses), which, barring rainouts, will take place on July 2 against the Phillies.  The most interesting reasoning for a selection came from Dan Bonk.  Game #80 will take place (again, barring rainouts) on June 28, which will be the 43rd anniversary of the last game played at Forbes Field.  He likes the mojo associated with that date.

I am choosing not to list all the tie-breakers here, but here are some interesting facts about them:

  • A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez were selected by five people as the winning pitcher for the game.  J-Mac and Gerrit Cole were selected by three, and Jason Grilli, Francisco Liriano and Jeff Karstens by one.  Most interesting, to me anyway, were the two votes for Jared Hughes.
  • Ten people thought that Starling Marte would get the first hit, which appears to be a good selection based on early returns.  Eight votes here for Andrew McCutchen.
  • As for the first home run, the leading vote getter here was "no one".  Eight people think the Bucs will be kept in the yard on this night. Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez each received four votes.
  • As for the number of Bucco hits in the game, here's how it breaks down: 5 votes for 7 hits, 2 for 8, 6 for 9, 3 for 10, and 5 for 11.
Thanks for participating.  I guess that this contest will now go into hibernation until mid- to late June, and then we will start tracking this seriously.

Good luck.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

To Absent Friends: Jonathan Winters

The great, and I do mean great, Jonathan Winters died yesterday at the age of 87.  

I found it a bit unsettling that many of the stories I read about Winters' death led with the fact that Winters had a continuing role in the sitcom "Mork and Mindy".  I made a comment on Facebook today that that is like saying that Willie Mays was an outfielder for the New York Mets.  While both statements are true, they don't even begin to cover the scope of either men's careers and accomplishments.

I remember Winters mainly from appearances on talk shows like Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, and Mike Douglas.  His oddball characters, his improvisational routines, and the sound effects that he made were absolutely hilarious.  I mean there was no one funnier.  I also remember that for a time in the late 1960's, he hosted a network TV variety show, and I can remember my Central buddies and I recounting each show every week and laughing our eyes out over it.

To say that winters influenced those who followed him is an understatement.   Johnny Carson's "Aunt Blabby" character was a blatant rip-off of Winters' Maude Frickertt, but Winters didn't seem to mind, and it isn't too big a stretch to say that if there were no Jonathan Winters, there would have been no Robin Williams, or many of the comics produced by Saturday Night Live.

He was a true comic genius and true original.

RIP Jonathan Winters.


We spent this afternoon at the movies seeing the just released "42", the story of Jackie Robinson's first season in the major leagues.  I have long felt that the story of Jackie Robinson is one of the most important pieces of American social history in the 20th century, and Robinson himself one of the most important persons, not just an important ballplayer, but important persons of the 20th century, so it is significant and perhaps long past due that an important film maker, Oscar winner Brian Helgeland, who directed and wrote the screenplay, made a movie of this story.

It is a terrific movie.  In fact, I can say that it ranks right up there with the best of all of the baseball movies such as "Pride of the Yankees", "Field of Dreams", and "Eight Men Out" (my personal favorites).  Like the first two of those movies, it weaves a love story, in this case the story of Jack and Rachel Robinson, in among the baseball.  Like the third of those movies, it focuses on a major event in the game's history.  In this one, it is the story of Branch Rickey's breaking baseball's unwritten code of "whites only" in major league baseball.  It is Harrison Ford's Rickey and Chadwick Boseman's Robinson that are the fulcrum and the heroes of the story.  Boseman, with whom I was not familiar, does a great job as Robinson.  Unlike Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig, he actually looks like a ballplayer, he carries off the baseball scenes, and he hits all the right notes in his portraying the anger, frustration, and heroic stoicism required of Robinson in that first season.  Harrison Ford also pulls off playing the larger than life Branch Rickey, right down to the bushy eyebrows.  in her review the Post-Gazette's Barb Vancheri called this Ford's best performance in years.

Baseball fans who know the Robinson story will see that the movie picks up on all of the pivotal moments....being told by Rickey "not to fight back", the petition of some Dodger players to refuse to play with  him, Leo Durocher laying down the law to the team that they WILL play with Robinson, the rampant racism in the south, and the north, during the period, being targeted by opposing pitchers, the vile racial baiting by Phillies manage Ben Chapman, and Pee Wee Reese putting his arm around Jackie on the field in Cincinnati.  Familiar stories to the avid baseball fan, but expertly told and depicted in the movie.

Now, a word about the baseball in the movie.  I thought that the baseball action in the movie was done well and was believable, but I know that the militant seamheads will no doubt find fault with it. I have already heard people pointing out that Dodgers road uniforms had "Brooklyn" across the front, not "Dodgers" as shown in the movie, and, yes, I know that the scoreboard was not in left centerfield at Forbes Field, nor were there advertising signs along the outfield walls at Forbes, but, please, as our friend Dan Bonk has pointed out, the film makers were "making a movie, not a documentary", and, hey, they did get the Cathedral of Learning right, didn't they?   In any event, the essence of the story is there, and it is told brilliantly, I think, and who cares if occasionally they don't get the exact pitch count correct. 

 "42" will move you, will anger you, will bring you to tears, and in the end, it is an uplifting story.  Be sure you watch the end of the movie when a sort of "Whatever became of...."  montage is shown before the credits.  It is a movie that I plan on owning and will watch regularly in the years ahead.

When I do tours of the Sports Museum, I always highlight the Negro Leagues in Pittsburgh, and I always start with the question "How many of you know who Jackie Robinson was?"  I am always pleasantly surprised by how many kids, even grade school kids, know who Robinson was, and what he did.  It proves that Robinson's story is not just a sports story, but an important American story.  "42" does a terrific job in telling that story.  Everyone should see it.

"A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives."
                                                                          - Jackie Robinson

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Cue the Schmaltzy Music, It's Masters Time

Hello, Friends (as Jim Nantz would say), it is time once again for The Masters.

Before commenting on this year's event, allow me to comment on what I saw while watching the telecast of the traditional Par 3 event, held every Wednesday at Augusta National before the tournament tees off on Thursday.  All players and all past Champions are invited to play in the Par 3 event, and it is usually just a big old laugh fest, fun for fans, er, excuse me, Patrons, and players alike.  In may respects, it is the equivalent of a baseball Old Timers game, and much of the ESPN attention is focused on these said old timers, most specifically the threesome of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player.  No one needs to be told of the greatness of this trio.  The reverence with which all golfers, from the best of the current touring pros right down to the weekend hacker, hold these three guys is understandable and unquestionably deserved.  I myself stand second to no one in my respect and admiration for these guys.

That said, I don't like watching these three guys playing now for the same reason that I don't like watching baseball old timers games.  Palmer is 82, Player is 77, and Nicklaus is 72, and they looked every bit of those years watching them play yesterday.  If you were behind this threesome on a Saturday morning at your local muni and didn't know who they were, you'd be bitching to the marshals to tell those old guys to speed it up or get off the course.  It was almost painful to watch, like watching Willie Mays with the Mets.

I have read for many, many years that Jack Nicklaus has long said that he would never allow himself to become a "ceremonial golfer", and I am betting that he hates going out there year after year and playing in the Masters Par 3.  I suppose that when Augusta calls, you do what they ask because you feel you owe it to them and to the game, but,from what I've read about Nicklaus, I am guessing that he would have rather been in his office in Palm Beach than on that par 3 course yesterday.

Hey, it's great when the Pirates bring Maz out to throw out the occasional first pitch, but I wouldn't want to see him try to go nine innings and try to hit off of Justin Verlander in 2013.  Same with these guys.  It's great to have Arnie, Jack, and Gary hit those "first drives" on Thursday morning, but they should be allowed to actually play golf on their own time these days.

Now, as for the Tournament itself, how can you not pick Tiger Woods to win?  That's my pick. Now settle back, put on your green jacket, smell the magnolias, have a pimento cheese sandwich, and enjoy A Tradition Like No Other.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

To Absent Friends: Annette Funicello

In the world of the Internet and Social Media, the 18 hours or so since the death of Annette Funicello at the age of 70 was announced can seem like a million years ago.  If you are at all interested, you already know of her death, and I am breaking no news here.  However, the mere fact that the news of her death was so ubiquitous (my own Facebook news feed, and I have fewer than 200 friends on FB fairly exploded with posts and comments about Annette) caught me by surprise, but after reading the obituaries, perhaps it shouldn't have.

Discovered by the Disney folks in 1955, she became the breakout star among all of  the adolescent Mouseketeers.  Only a single name, Annette, was needed to identify her, and in that sense, she predated people like Cher, Madonna, Prince, and Bono by decades!  She went on to star in the benign Beach Party movies with Frankie Avalon in the early 1960's, and released a few record albums, but for the most part, TV commercials for Skippy peanut butter aside, she devoted most of the rest of her adult life being a wife, mother, and grandmother, and when she was dealt a bad hand and stricken with multiple sclerosis as an adult, she devoted much of her time and energy raising funds for medical research to find a cure for the disease.

It was an admirable life that ended way too soon, so no wonder this news created the stir that it did.

As it happens, I was at the car dealer this morning while my car was being inspected, and Paul Anka was on the CBS Morning Show to plug his newly released autobiography (which sounds like it will be a good read, by the way).  Anka and Annette were romantically linked as teenagers back in the 1950's - Annette was the inspiration for "Puppy Love" - and he spoke very warmly of her.

Now, if you live in Pittsburgh and were regular listeners of the O'Brien and Gary morning radio show, you know that Annette's fame received a sort of "rebirth" for local listeners when that regularly played one of her recordings from many years ago.  I present it here as a final tribute.

RIP Annette Funicello.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

My Fifteen Minutes of Fame

An email I received from a friend in the Washington DC area advised me that a letter that I had sent to the Tony Kornheiser Radio Show was received, acknowledged, and read on the air on Friday's show.

As I listen to the show via delayed podcast,it might have been several days until I heard this, but, thanks to "Jerry from Virginia", I immediately went to the laptop, downloaded the show, and listened this morning.  Probably silly of me, but as a fan of the show, I found it a real thrill to be acknowledged in such a fashion.

If you're interested, go to iTunes, download Hour 2 of the April 5 broadcast of The Tony Kornheiser Show, and listen in.  My contribution can be found at the 16:42 mark of the segment, and again at the 30:45 mark.  (I include this info only because a Loyal Reader had requested it.)

I can't wait to get my coveted TK bumper sticker!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Lots to Talk About

Man, oh man, but it has been a busy few days in college sports.  Where to begin....


After video of Coach Rice physically and verbally abusing his players in practice, pushing and shoving them, kicking them, firing basketballs at their heads, and shouting all sorts of homophobic slurs at them, Rutgers officials fire Rice, and justifiably so, in my opinion.  Officials at my alma mater, Robert Morris University, where Rice coached for three years issue a bland "this was not indicative of Coach Rice's behaviour while at Robert Morris" statement and then throw a cone of silence around everyone in the athletic department.  Very disconcerting.  Rice, plain and simple, is a bully who abused his power, and did it to kids who were in no position to challenge him.  Good riddance to him, but I fear that while his behaviour may not be typical of every coach in college athletics, I am guessing that it is more pervasive than we may think.


Highly prized recruit running back Shell, now a sophomore, and slated to be the #1 running back for the Panthers this season, announces that he will be transferring out of Pitt.  Hey, he's a 19 year old kid, he's entitled to change his mind, and if he doesn't want to be at Pitt, God bless him.  It will be interesting to see where Shell ends up.  There is much speculation that the evil Todd Graham, who recruited Shell to Pitt, is now manipulating him to come to Arizona State. Hard to imagine Graham being even more sleazy than he already is, but this would do it.  Shell's character and sense of commitment have come into question since these announcement.  I don't know what is true and what isn't, but history is littered with guys who thought they were bigger than the the Whole, and who were never heard from again.  Hope it turns out okay for him.  Pitt, while they may suffer a setback in the short term, will survive without him.


Another blow to the Pitt basketball program with the seven foot Kiwi deciding to enter the NBA draft.  It seemed to me that in his freshman year, Adams was not quite ready to compete in the Big East, so I don't see how he's going to be ready for the NBA after only one season of college ball.  I think that another year in college could possibly have elevated Adams to Lottery Pick status in the NBA, and additional millions of dollars, but, as was demonstrated in the Louisville game on Sunday with the horrific injury to Kevin Ware, the end of a career is only one freak injury away, so let's wish Adams well.

It is interesting to note that Adams becomes the second big man to leave Pitt basketball, following Khem Birch last year.  Is this trend developing, and if it is, why is it happening?


With her team winless in two consecutive Big East seasons, this move is as defensible for the Pitt administration as it was inevitable.  Still, I feel bad for Agnus.  I got to meet her two years ago at the WPIAL Sportsmanship Conference held at the Heinz History Center, and I found her to be charming and pleasant, and I thought her talk to all of the WPIAL athletes gathered there that day to be quite motivating and moving.  I don't know what the future holds for her, but I hope that better days lie ahead for Coach Berenato.

To Absent Friends: Roger Ebert

Chicago film critic Roger Ebert passed away yesterday at the age of 70.   He and his Chicago newspaper rival critic Gene Siskel became famous in the 1980's and '90's, of course, with their syndicated TV show of movie reviews and criticism, "At the Movies", and their famous Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down judgments on current movies.  Siskel passed away in 1999, and Ebert went on to become perhaps the best known and most influential movie critic in the country, winning a Pulitzer Prize in the process.

The Internet and social media have been awash with tributes to Ebert since his death was announced yesterday, and who am I to add to the mix?  However, readers of this blog know how much I enjoy movies, and one thing I always enjoy doing, especially if I see an older movie for the first time, or if it has been many years since I had seen it, is going online and digging up Roger Ebert's reviews of that same movie.  His reviews are insightful and entertaining, and I almost always learn something after reading one if his reviews, and those reviews almost always add to my appreciation and enjoyment of the movie.  I did this just recently after I watched, for the first time, the 1994 movie, "The Shawshank Redemption".  Ebert's website contained both his original 1994 review, and a subsequent one that he wrote in 1999.

One great thing about the Internet is that writings such as these will always be available to anyone with access to a computer, and such informative and insightful criticism will never die.

RIP Roger Ebert.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Happy Birthday, Marvin Gaye

On what would have been Marvin Gaye's 74th birthday, let us revisit his special interpretation of our National Anthem.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Announcing A Contest for All Loyal Readers

This is a first for this Blog.  The Grandstander is using the occasion of Opening Day of the baseball season to announce a contest that I hope will be fun for all.  The name of the contest is....

"THE 10,000th WIN CONTEST"

As out favorite baseball team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, embark upon the 2013 season this afternoon, the franchise, according to www.baseball-reference.com, has recorded 9,961 victories.  That means that with their 39th win in 2013 the Pirates will become only the sixth franchise in Major League history to reach that victory plateau. 

You would think that someone in the Pirates marketing / public relations department would be beating the drums over this, but, no, they have chosen to pretty much ignore this, if they are even aware of it at all.  The Grandstander, however, is not going to let this pass.  Thus, The 10,000th Win Contest.  It costs nothing to enter.  This truly is for amusement purposes only.

The rules are simple:

  • Predict the game in which the Pirates will win their 10,000th game, or their 39th win of the season.  You do not have to state the date of the game or the opponent.  Just state something along the lines of "the Pirates will get their 39th win in the 60th (or 85th or 95th) game of the season".  Simple, right?
Of course, there will no doubt be ties, so the tiebreakers will be as follows:
  • First tiebreaker:  Who will be the winning pitcher for the Pirates in the game?
  • Second tiebreaker: What Pirate will record the Pirates first hit in the game?
  • Third tiebreaker: What Pirate will hit the Pirates first home run in the game?
  • Fourth tiebreaker: How many hits will the Pirates record in the game?
Please email your entries to me at rfsmms@verizon.net. I will record them all, track the contest, and report progress of the contest as the magic 39th victory approaches.  You have until April 15 to get your entries in to me.

Every contest should have a prize, right?  At this point, the only prize we know of for certain is that the winner will be the respect and admiration of all Grandstand readers and Facebook Pirate Chat members.  I will consider another prize in the days ahead, so long as it doesn't cost me a lot of money.  So far, though, only "bragging rights" are up for grabs.

My thanks go out to friend, SABR member, and Pirate Chat Founder Jim Haller who is the one who pointed out in the first place that the Pirates were on the brink of their 10,000th victory.   If there was a trophy for this contest, it would be called the "Jim Haller Trophy".

Thank you and get those entries in the email to me as soon as possible!!