Sunday, June 29, 2014

Adios, Jason Grilli

As everyone knows by now, the Pirates traded relief pitcher Jason Grilli over the weekend, and neither Marilyn nor I can quite recall when the departure of a local athlete made us feel as bad as this one did.

Don't get me wrong, Grilli certainly appeared to have lost it this season, and his departure from the Pirates, either by trade or outright release, was not unexpected, and it can certainly be defended in pure baseball terms.  That, however, doesn't make it any easier to take, because Grilli was a most likable Pirate.  Loved how he took charge when he came in from the bullpen, loved how he could close out games, loved those three quick punches to the catcher's chest protector when the final out was made.  Just loved his whole attitude.  And we should never forget that the magical season of 2013 for the Pirates would no doubt not have occurred had Jason Grilli not been a part of it.   

The sad fact of Big Time Athletics is that the one opponent that ALWAYS wins in the end is Father Time, and that looks like that is the case with Jason Grilli.  Nevertheless, I hope he tears it up for the Angels for the remainder of this season.

One other point was made about Grilli the other night by my friend Tim Baker.  He pointed out that much was made prior to the 2013 season that Grilli accepted a "hometown discount" to sign with the Pirates when he was a free agent, and a lot of good that did him now.  As Tim put it, "remember that the next time your favorite Bucco signs with another team for a boat load of money."

Farewell to Grilled Cheese.  He served the Pirates well, and you will never hear a bad word about Jason Grilli from The Grandstander.

Out-of-Town Company - A Night at the Ballpark

We had a special weekend these past few days due to the visit of Marilyn's brother George and his wife Ann, plus their kids and grand kids, George, Claire, Lizzie, and Andrew, visiting from Socorro, New Mexico.....

(Unfortunately, Claire didn't make it to the ball game)

 and Bonny, Michael, Mara, and Sophie, visiting from Durham, North Carolina....

As you can see, the high point of the visit was a trip to see the Pirates play the Mets at PNC Park.  The game itself was a good one, an eleven inning 3-2 Pirates victory, won when Josh Harrison delivered a walk off double in the bottom of the eleventh.

The trip to PNC Park was especially exciting for five year old Andrew, who came prepared to show that he is the Pirates biggest fan in the State of New Mexico:

He also offered full support to Mark Melancon when he came in to pitch the ninth inning:

Attending the game with these folks gave me a valuable lesson, and that is to be fully appreciative of being able to attend a major league baseball game whenever the mood strikes me, by simply getting in my car, driving for twenty minutes or so, and buying a ticket. For our niece, Bonny, this was the first time in her life that she had ever seen a major league game.  For George and his kids, well, maybe that can get on an airplane and fly to Denver from New Mexico to see a game, but it's not an easy proposition.  It is easy for me to take for granted the ease of going to a Pirates game, but I was given a nice dose of perspective the weekend, thanks to our nephew, niece, and their families.

By the way, they loved PNC Park and their visit to the City of Pittsburgh.  They're ready to do some commercials for the Visitors Bureau!

We left the ball yard on Friday by experiencing the Left Field Rotuda, where I took these pretty cool photos of us departing the Park.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Selected Sports Subjects

A quick whirl around the wide, wide world of sports.....

Time to weigh in on the subject of the nickname of the NFL's Washington DC franchise.  How anyone, Daniels Snyder and son-of-a-US-Senator Roger Goodell especially, can defend a name as pejorative as "Redskins" as an honorable tribute to the heritage of American Indians is at best a joke, and is in actuality an embarrassment and a disgrace.  Many of you have probably received the supposed-to-be-funny email circulating that defends the "Redskins" name by attacking the entire concept of political correctness, but, really, do the folks sending that out REALLY think it is okay to bandy about a terms like "Redskins"?  In the year of Our Lord 2014? Wow.

The sad irony is that Snyder and the NFL will inevitably give in and change the nickname, not because it is the right thing to do, but because they will realize how much money can be made from merchandise sales when a new nickname is put in place.

I am not so certain where names such as "Braves", "Warriors", "Chiefs", and "Indians" fall in this discussion.  They seem less offensive, if not inoffensive, to me, but, then again I am not a Native American, so perhaps I'm not qualified to judge. That said, even if the name is okay, the Indian-head logo of the Cleveland Indians really has to go. 


The Steelers, in the person of Heinz Field Operations Manager and mouthpiece Jimmy Sacco, have weighed in on the pigsty that Luke Bryan concert attendees turned the Heinz Field parking lots into last Saturday.  In case you missed it....

The word coming down from on high is that it wasn't so bad, not nearly as bad as last year's Kenny Chesney concert (now THERE'S a great argument!), and anyway, look how much in tax revenue was collected by the City.  The Mayor's Office responded with words to the effect that a just because one pays taxes, it doesn't give you the right to turn city property into a waste dump and an open public toilet.

I think this is one instance where the Steelers should have just kept their mouths shut.


Belated congratulations to the San Antonio Spurs for their thoroughly dominating beat down of the Miami Heat in the recently concluded NBA Finals.  Winning four games out of five with each win having a greater than 15 point margin of victory, the Spurs left no doubt as to who the best team was in the NBA Playoffs.  

This was the Spurs fifth NBA title in the last fifteen seasons (and they were so close to winning it last year, too).  The term "dynasty" is not undeserved when discussing the Spurs of the Greg Popovich Era.  And is not Tim Duncan the most underated, unappreciated "great" player of his generation, if not of all time?  And you could ask the same question about Greg Popovich as well.

The Spurs seem to be getting a bit long in the tooth, so who knows how long this run will continue, but it sure has been a great one.


Speaking of the NBA, the playoffs really brought the LeBron James haters out in full force.  Not sure I understand the enmity that is out there towards James (other than in the City of Cleveland, of course), but it is only going to get worse now that he has elected to opt out of his contract in Miami - which, I remind you, he has every right to do (as he did when he left Cleveland in 2010) - and become a free agent.  The pursuit and eventual landing spot of LeBron James will no doubt completely dominate off-season basketball news.


Barring any rain outs, the Pirates will reach the literal half-way mark of the 2014 season at the conclusion of Saturday's game.  They currently sit at 39-39, and there is some stat out there that tells you that they have had the best or second best record in the National League since May 1.  They are not the team we saw last season, to be sure, but neither are they the team of the twenty seasons previous to last year.  There are areas of concern, but it really isn't a sinking ship or a lost cause at PNC Park, either.

They are going to make it interesting for fans in the second half.  Making the Post-Season will not be easy, but it is far from a lost cause at this point.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

World Cup Thoughts

At the Caring Place last night, my new friend and fellow volunteer Janine Pischke, who has become a reader of The Grandstander, asked why I haven't commented on the World Cup as yet.  

OK, Janine, here we go!

Like many people here in the US of A, I am taking my quadrennial dip into the waters of international futbol by following the World Cup, although I guess I should say the FIFA World Cup so as to avoid potential lawsuits.

I have been following the fortunes of Team USA, and am hoping that they can make it out of Pool Play and into the knockout round.  We'll know after Thursday's match with Germany.  I watched the game against Portugal on Sunday afternoon in its entirety, and was heartbroken (OK, that may be stating it a bit strongly, but you get the idea) when Portugal scored the tying goal in, literally, the last seconds of the game.

Let me say right off the bat that I have nephews and nieces who play futbol on the high school level, so I really don't want to come off as an Ugly American when discussing the world's most popular game, BUT there are some things about the game that keep me, and I suspect many other Americans, from becoming a rabid fan of the Beautiful Game.  I will not even comment upon the lack of offense in these games.  That is too much of a cliche, but here are some things that bother me.

  • Stoppage Time.  The clock never stops running in futbol games so when ninety minutes have expired, the referee adds "stoppage time" to the game for those periods during regulation when play, but not the clock, was halted.  The trouble is, no one has any idea how the ref comes up with a figure for stoppage time, and the time is nowhere to be seen on the field of play or the TV screen when the game is in "stoppage time".  That USA-Portugal game is a perfect case in point.  Would the USA have played differently had they known that there were only seconds remaining in the game when Portugal scored that tying goal?  Who knows?  By the way, if someone can correct me on this, I am happy to listen.
  • Talk is already afoot that the USA and Germany will "agree" to play for a draw in Thursday's match because such a result will allow each team to advance out of pool play and into the knockout round.  That does not strike me as being altogether kosher in terms of any sporting event, but such are the machinations of the FIFA World Cup.
  • Diving or Flopping.  People complain about players in the NBA "flopping" in order to draw fouls, but the NBA guys have nothing on these international futbol-ers.  I have seen guys fall down like they have been shot with an AK-47when replays clearly show that they have been barely touched, if they have been touched at all.  I mean...

To my many family members, friends, and readers whom I know to be big futbol fans, I apologize for what you will no doubt consider my narrow view.  I hope that my final observation will serve to put me back into your good graces.

  • Clint Dempsey is one major badass dude who I would love to have on my team in ANY sport.

All that said, Let's Go USA!!!!!!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Movie Review - "Jersey Boys"

We took in the new movie "Jersey Boys" this afternoon.  It is the film version, directed by Clint Eastwood, of the hit Broadway musical that has been running in New York since 2005, and productions of which are touring all over the world.

You probably all know the story.  It is about the formation of the musical group, The Four Seasons, focusing on lead singer Frankie Valli.  We were fortunate enough to see the play in Las Vegas several years ago, and loved it.  As for the movie, what can I say?  It was terrific!  (It also makes us want to see the play again.)

John Lloyd Young, who originated the role on Broadway and won a Tony Award for it, plays Valli in the movie.  Great move by Eastwood to cast him in the movie as well.

Other recognizable actors include Vincent Piazza as Tommy DeVito.  Piazza also plays gangster Lucky Luciano in the excellent "Boardwalk Empire". Fans of "The Sopranos" will also recognize Frankie's mother played by Kathleen Narducci (Charmaine Bucco) and a barber played by Steven Schirripa (Bobby Bacala).

A special shout out to Christopher Walken playing Jersey mob leader Gyp DeCarlo, a role that was expanded for the movie.  He's great in it.

The music in the movie is terrific.  Hey, it's the Four Seasons, so why wouldn't it be, and the story is great.  Truth often is better than fiction.

And how about director Clint Eastwood?  Who knew he could do musicals, and at age 84, no less?  Great job.

I won't give anything away here, but the sequence that ends movie is fabulous, and be sure to stay for the closing credits.

Trust me, you don't want to miss "Jersey Boys".

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Michelle Wie Wins the Open!

Michelle Wie has been around the world of professional golf for so long, it seems, that it is easy to forget that she is only 24 years old.  So, it was with interest that I noted that she led the US Women's Open at Pinehurst #2 after two rounds and was tied for the lead headed into today's final round.  Such news caused me to plant myself before the TV set this afternoon and root for Wie to capture her first major championship.

An eagle on the par five 19th hole gave her a four shot lead, but Stacy Lewis finished birdie-birdie to post the lead in the clubhouse, three shots behind Wie.  All Michelle had to do was par out and the Open would be hers.  However, on the 16th hole, an embedded ball in a hazard caused Wie to have to take a penalty stroke and resulted in a double bogey, which she saved by making a lengthy putt that was far from a gimme, and her lead over Lewis was down to only one stroke.  Perhaps a younger Michelle Wie would have lost her composure at that point, but it didn't happen.  In fact, Wie looked the same after that hole as she had all day.

She rebounded in fantastic fashion by sinking about a twenty foot putt for a birdie on 17....

...and all that remained at that point was a workmanlike par on #18 to secure the Championship.

She played the entire Open, all 72 holes of it, without having one three putt green.  Under US Open conditions, that fact is absolutely amazing!

In a golf season that has been lacking in drama, I really enjoyed this day watching the charismatic Miss Wie take home this most prestigious victory, and I hope that there will be many more for her in the years ahead.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Fake Beatles

Marilyn and I ventured out to the Homestead Carnegie Library Music Hall last night to see The Fab Four, a Beatles tribute band, or, as Marilyn puts it, "Fake Beatles".  We have seen three different such bands over the years, and we are convinced that The Fab Four are (is?) the best "fake Beatles" that we have seen.

The act began with a guy impersonating Ed Sullivan and introducing the four "youngsters".  The first act was the group doing Beatles tunes from the Fab Four/Beatlemania/Ed Sullivan era while wearing the black suits and ties.  In the second act, they came out in Sgt. Pepper outfits and sang songs from that era, and then concluded with "John" in the white suit singing "Imagine" (which wasn't actually a "Beatles" song, but why quibble?), and closed with a couple of tunes from the Rooftop Concert Let It Be era.

I was most surprised that the group did "A Day in the Life" which is so musically intricate (and is often rated as The Beatles' best song of all by many), that it is hard to duplicate outside of a studio, but this group did a terrific job of it.  They also sang "Revolution" and that number really brought down the house.

Let's face it, no one, NO ONE, can be THE BEATLES, but when the originals are no longer with us, good tribute bands have a place in show biz, if only to expose whole new generations to such terrific music.  So, if you ever have a chance to see The Fab Four perform, by all means do so.

And a word about the venue.  The Homestead Carnegie Library Music Hall is a true gem.  Small and intimate, terrific acoustics, and free parking on the street outside the Hall.  True, the old style wooden seats can be tough on the posterior, but it's a small price to pay for seeing a concert at such a great old place.   If you have chance to see one of your favorite acts there, by all means do so.

To Absent Friends - Gerry Goffin

This past week brought news of the death of legendary lyricist Gerry Goffin at the age of 75.

If you are my age and were of college age in the early 1970's, chances are you owned the great Carole King album, Tapestry, and it you did, you are very familiar with the songs of Gerry Goffin, many of which he wrote with Miss King, who was also his wife for many years.

The music of Goffin and King truly is the "music of your life" for people who came of age in the 1960's and -70's, and it is an incredible body of work:

  • Will You Love Me Tomorrow
  • Up On The Roof
  • Natural Woman
  • Take Good Care of My Baby
  • The Locomotion
  • Hey, Girl
  • One Fine Day
  • Who Put the Bomp
And the list goes on and on.  

After their divorce, Goffin and King remained friendly, but each went their separate ways as songwriters and, in King's case, a performer.  And while I love Carole King, I have to agree with the assessment of some show biz insider from one of Goffin's obituaries: "We all love Carole, but face it, what really great song has she written since she split with Gerry?"

Let's close with The Shirelles singing one of the first great songs from Goffin and King, Will You Love Me Tomorrow:

RIP Gerry Goffin

The Breakfast Club Welcomes Lanny Frattare

The famous Northside Breakfast Club welcomed Lanny Frattare and his friend Susanne as its special guests this morning.  Many thanks to Dan Bonk who turned a chance encounter at a Get Go gas station into this special visit from the former Voice of the Pirates.  The only bummer was that breakfast regular Jim Haller was unable to join us this morning.

Lanny was a most engaging guest and he shared many interesting stories about such personalities as Jim Leyland, Gene Lamont, Jason Kendall, Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, Milo Hamilton, Dave Littlefield, Bob Prince, Anna Benson, Steve Blass and many others.  The nature of our gathering was such that these stories will remain "off the record", but trust me, they were some great stories told this morning.

As I said, Lanny was most gracious, and that extended to him picking up the check for all of us this morning, an unprecedented move!  When he signed the baseball that we ask all of our guests to sign, he made note of the fact, as you can see:

Yes, it was a great morning with Lanny and there was Noooooooooo doubt about it!

Monday, June 16, 2014

To Absent Friends - Tony Gwynn

Terribly sad news comes today with the death of Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn.   Gwynn succumbed to oral cancer, the result of too many years as a smokeless tobacco user.  He was way too young, only 54 years old.

Gwynn had all the credentials of a Hall of Fame player: 20 seasons, all with the San Diego Padres, 3,141 hits, and a career batting average of .338.  Not known as a power guy, he had only 135 home runs in his career, he nonetheless compiled a career slugging percentage of .459.

His best year was arguably the strike shortened season of 1994.  In only 110 games, Gwynn hit an incredible .394 that season and had an OPS of 1.022.  Had he been able to eek out only three more base hits that season - THREE!!! - he would have wound up with a .401 average.

By all accounts, Gwynn was just as good a person as he was a ball player.

RIP Tony Gwynn.

"Noises Off" at the Pittsburgh Public Theater

Last night we took in the final show of the season at the Pittsburgh Public Theater, and it was great one - "Noises Off" by Michael Frayn.

It is a farce of a comedy is a "play within a play" about a third rate British theatrical company that is staging, or attempting to stage, a play that is a farce of a comedy.  You know the type of thing - people going in and out of rooms, which doors closing just as someone else walks into the room.  Sounds confusing, but, trust me, it was hilarious, and a perfect way to end the PPT season and also a perfect way to spend a pleasant summer evening.

"Noises Off" is running at the O'Reilly Theater through June 29, and both Marilyn and I would highly recommend it.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

My Autographed Baseball

In my previous post, I alluded to having a baseball autographed by Chuck Noll.  My friend Tim Baker asked about seeing a photo of said baseball, so here you go....

I obtained the Coach's signature when I was a participant in the Pirates Alumni Golf Outing in July 1992.  Other autographs on that ball are former Pirates Bill Mazeroski,  Bob Friend (right below Noll's), Nellie Briles, Nellie King, Vernon Law, Dave Guisti, Roy Face, Grant Jackson, and Frank Thomas.  

One other autograph on that ball is from the former ball player in whose foursome I played that day.  He was not a Pirate Alumnus, but, rather a former major leaguer who now lives in the Pittsburgh area.  I admit that I was unaware of this guy at the time I met and played with him, but he was very nice gent, and a pleasure to play with. He also was guy who would have a most significant impact on the Pirates in the years ahead, although we didn't know it at the time.  His name is Tom Walker, and one day, many years down the road, his son Neil, only six years old back in July of '92, will one day no doubt be playing in that same Pirates Alumni Golf Outing.

To Absent Friends - Chuck Noll

By now, everyone with even the remotest bit of interest in the subject is aware of the death of former Steelers Head Coach Chuck Noll this past Friday night at the age of 82.

I am not going to use this space to regurgitate the facts and figures of Noll's career - the 209 wins, the four Super Bowls, and on and on.  If you are a Steelers fan and a football fan, you know all of that.  However, if you are a Steelers fan and are under the age of, say forty or so, know this:  none of the tradition and the history of your favorite team would be what it is today were it not for Chuck Noll.  The Steelers Dynasty of the 1970's and the "Steelers Tradition" and the high standards to which the franchise holds itself to the very day, none of it would have happened were it not for Chuck Noll.

I highly recommend that you read the excellent book about those dynastic Steelers, "Their Life's Work" by Gary Pomerantz.  It will give you the picture of just what a towering presence Noll was to those Steelers teams, not only while he was coaching them, but also in the effect that he had on so many of those players' lives well after their football days were over.

I also recommend that you read the terrific special "wrap-around" section in today's Post-Gazette sports section that pays tribute to Noll with stories and columns by Ed Bouchette, Gene Collier, Ron Cook, Gerry Dulac, and Dan Rooney.  It is worth saving.  John Mehno also wrote an excellent column in today's Beaver County times.

One of my favorite Noll stories, which was also an example of his sharp wit and way with words was a quote of his when reporters asked him about the playing status of running back Sydney Thornton.  "Sydney's problems are many, and they are great."  Can't see Jim Harbaugh saying something like that, can you?

I will close with my own encounter with the man.  It was July 1992, and I was playing in the Pirates Alumni Golf Outing at Churchill Valley Country Club.  In addition to all the old Pirates who were the "stars" of the Outing, one of the other celebrity guests was the newly retired coach of the Steelers, Chuck Noll.  At one point shortly before the groups were to gather to be sent out to play, I found myself walking across a parking lot and coming towards me was Chuck Noll himself.  I introduced myself, congratulated him upon his retirement, and thanked him for all he did for the Steelers.  Then I said something inane like, "would you rather be up at St. Vincent's today than here playing golf?"  He smiled, and said "not a bit."  He couldn't have been nicer or more gracious.

When you play in that Outing, you are given a baseball that the participants will autograph for you during the day.  I have that ball, and it is signed by lots of old Pirates heroes, but the signature that makes that ball REALLY special, in my mind, is the the one that simply says, CHUCK NOLL.

RIP Chuck Noll.  The Steelers and the NFL will not see your like again.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Polanco Arrives!!!

The long anticipated arrival of Gregory Polanco to the Pirates and PNC Park will take place this evening against the Chicago Cubs.  I have not written much about the dance that has been taking place over the last two months as Polanco has been tearing up the International League, while the Pirates have been struggling, especially in right field, and while Neal Huntington has refused to bring Polanco the the big leagues until he "checks all the boxes" at Triple-A.  Money and delaying Polanco's arbitration/free agent eligibility, of course, had nothing to do with him not being here.  I haven't written about it, because we have been through this dance before with Gerrit Cole, Pedro Alvarez, and Andrew McCutchen, so why get in a lather about it?  It's just the way the Pirates (and, to be fair, lots of other teams) do business.

Anyway, Polanco's arrival is a bit bittersweet, because it comes at the expense of Neil Walker being put on the DL following an emergency appendectomy last night.  Walker has been having his best year, and a case could be made for him being the Bucs' best player in 2014.  Coming on the heels of Cole going on the DL for "shoulder fatigue", it could just be that this is going to be one of those  kinds of seasons for the Pirates.

Anyway, I will be in PNC Park tonight for the heralded arrival of Gregory Polanco.  Here's hoping for good things tonight and for a long career ahead.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Follow-Ups: Tony Awards and Big Break Performances

HUGE Congratulations go out today to The Grandstander's Broadway Correspondent, Bill Montrose, aka Big Poppy.  Bill hit on 11 of his 12 predictions for Tony Award winners, missing only in the category of Best Actress in a Musical.  As they might say on the Great White Way.... Bravo, and what can you possibly do for an encore!


Medium Congratulations go out today to "Big Break Florida" winner Jackie Stoelting.  Her "big break" was an entry in the LPGA ManuLife Classic, which was played this weekend.  Jackie made the cut, finished with a T-71, shot even par for the tournament (23 strokes behind the winner), and cashed a check for $2,923.  Not great, but considering how many of these Big Break winners fare, that was pretty good, and here's hoping that we hear more from Jackie Stoelting in the years ahead.  Which leads us to.....

Major Condolences to the male winner of "Big Break Puerto Rico/NFL", Isaac Sanchez.  The "big break" for Isaac was entry in this past week's PGA FedEx St. Jude Classic.  Sad to say, Isaac failed to make the cut, and he did so in spectacular fashion.  He shot 86-81, a whopping 27 strokes over par, and finished dead last (although, to look on the bright side, ten golfers withdrew during the course of the tourney, so I suppose you could say Isaac finished ahead of them).   After watching Isaac in two different versions of "The Big Break", I had no expectations for him when he teed it up with the big boys, but to see such a major flameout , well, I do feel a bit bad for him.  Still, he did have his fifteen minutes of fame on the PGA Tour, which is more than any of us will ever have.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

"Singin' In The Rain" On Stage

Nothing says "the arts in Pittsburgh" like the Civic Light Opera season each summer, and yesterday we took in the CLO's initial production of the season, the classic, and dare I say it, iconic show, "Singin' in the Rain".

"Singin' in the Rain", of course, began as a movie that was released in 1952.  It starred Gene Kelly, Donald O'Conner, Debbie Reynolds, and Jean Hagen, and was directed by Kelly and Stanley Donen.  Whenever polls of "Best Movies Ever" are taken, "Singin' in the Rain" always scores highly, usually in the Top Twenty, and it is always rated as the greatest movie musical ever made.  

"Singin' in the Rain" was first produced as a stage play in 1983, this is the third time that the CLO has mounted a production of it, and it is often produced on the high school musical circuit, but this was the first time we had seen it on stage.

I prepped for seeing the play by re-watching the movie on Friday.  Mistake.   The movie has so many classic bits: O'Conner singing "Make 'em Laugh", Kelly, Reynolds and O'Conner singing "Good Mornin'", and, of course, Kelly and his umbrella dancing an singin' in the rain.  These performances are so well done, so good, and so famous that anyone, ANYONE, would suffer in comparison, so it really wasn't fair for me to have watched the movie a mere twenty-four hours before seeing the play.

That said, how was the play?  It was good, well produced (as are all CLO productions) and the actors were terrific.  David Elder, Mary Michael Patterson, and Cary Tedder played Don, Kathy, and Cosmo (or the Kelly, Reynolds, and O'Conner parts), 

and Ashley Spencer played Lina Lamont, the role played by Jean Hagen in the movie, and the role that always seems to get overlooked when people talk about the movie (Hagen received an Oscar nomination).   All were very good, but I thought that Tedder was a better dancer than Elder, although Elder definitely had the looks of a "leading man".

And to answer the question that is probably in your mind, yes, it did rain in the stage at the Benedum, and Elder did all of the things Kelly did - dancing with the umbrella, splashing in the puddles, and leaping on the lamp post.  He was great.  But, he was no Gene Kelly.  Nobody is.

Remember a few months back when NBC telecast a live production of "Sound of Music" starring Carrie Underwood?  I didn't watch, mainly because I'm not all that big  fan of the show, but I thought is was tremendously unfair how Miss Underwood was savaged by the critics and the public at large - before the show was even broadcast, no less - for the simple fact that she WASN'T JULIE ANDREWS.  I thought of that yesterday watching this play, and thinking of how unfair it is to the actors in this, or any play with similar lineage.  It is a shame for anyone to deny themselves the pleasure of seeing a show like "Singin' in the Rain" just because the actors in it ain't Kelly, Reynolds, or O'Conner.  Nobody can be Gene Kelly, just like no outfielder can ever be Babe Ruth, but that shouldn't stop us from enjoying a different production of a beloved show on its own merits.  So, if you ever have a chance to see a stage production of "Singin' in the Rain", by all means do so.  But wait until after you see the play, before you decide to watch the movie again!

One final thought on "Singin' in the Rain".  The basic story of this show is what happened to a couple of beloved movie stars of the silent film era when talking pictures were first introduced.  In 2011, "The Artist" was a black and white, silent movie that was quite good, and it won the Best Picture Oscar that year, but it pretty much told the same story that "Singin' in the Rain" did. The big difference is that we are STILL watching and loving the Gene Kelly movie sixty-two years after it premiered.  I don't think that we will be doing that with "The Artist".

So, let's end this post with one of those classic numbers from "Singin' in the Rain", shall we?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Bunts and Base Hits......

Some random thoughts on the Pirates.....

  • With their first four selections in this year's entry draft, the Pirates take Cole Tucker, Conner Joe, Mitch Keller, and Trey Supek.  They are, respectively, a high school short stop, a high school outfielder, and two high school pitchers. 
  • Nothing in sports - NOTHING -  is harder to predict that how a 17 or 18 year old kid will perform in the Major Leagues four or five years down the road.  These kids could be the second comings of Andrew McCutchen, Jeff King, Neil Walker, Richie Hebner, or Gerrit Cole.  The odds are that they  will be the second comings of Austin Manahan, JJ Davis, and Chad Hermanson.  Nobody knows, but I feel safe in saying that the Pirates scouts and personnel guys who drafted these guys have a far better idea than those folks in cyber-space and talk radio who are already blasting the Pirates for these selections.
  • Chances are just as good that sometime today or tomorrow, the Pirates will draft a guy in Round Thirty-something who will turn out to be better than any kid taken by  any team in the first round last night.  Someone like Dave Parker, Albert Pujols, or Mike Piazza...guys who all were drafted deep after the thirtieth round.
  • The Bucs sit this morning at 28-31 in third place in the NL Central, five games behind the Cardinals, and seven behind the Hated Brewers, and those same Hated Brewers are in Pittsburgh this weekend for a three game set.  A sweep of the Hated Brewers would be fantastic, but almost too much to ask for. Two out of three would be good.  Getting swept could be disastrous, or at least as disastrous as one could get given that it is  the first week of June.
  • Pirates fans still await the call up of Gregory Polanco.  Would be nice it it was tonight since I'm going to the game and would get to witness has debut, but it doesn't seem like that's going to happen.  The Pirates will do business the way they do business, and I'm trying not to get my knickers in a knot over it.  I'll just be glad when he does arrive so that we can all just stop talking about it!!!!
  • Another popular topic of speculation is "who will go when Polanco does get here?".  If I had to guess, I would say that Travis Snider will be the one to lose his job, and it's hard, if not impossible, to make a case to keep him here.  However, one name keeps niggling in my mind when I think about dumping Snider, and that name is Brandon Moss.  He looked like a complete bust when he was here with the Pirates, and no one, NO ONE, complained when the Bucs finally got rid of him, but look what he's done in Oakland the last three seasons.  Fifty-one home runs in 2012-13, and so far in 2014, he has 15 HR, 49 RBI, and a .961 OPS.  
  • And how about a tip of the cap to Josh Harrison?  I have always said, and I am not alone in this, that if Josh Harrison was a starter on your ball club, then you had problems, but it cannot be denied that Harrison has been a real spark plug on this team in recent weeks. Water is bound to find it's own level at some point, and Harrison will revert to what he is, an okay utility guy.  But until that happens, let's give Clint Hurdle a lot of credit for riding Harrison while he is hot.  
  • I shall be at PNC Park tonight.  I have a 2-0 record in games I've attended so far.  Let's hope the streak continues.

The 2014 TONY Awards Predictions

This Sunday evening, the Broadway Theater will be saluting itself and honoring its artists with the Annual Antoinette Perry Awards, better known as the Tony Awards. 

This means it is time for The Grandstander to turn it over to long time friend, Bill Montrose, aka "Big Poppy", aka The Grandstander's Official Broadway Correspondent for his annual Tony Awards Predictions.

So, take it away, Bill.....

This year, I'm calling the results of 12 categories, hoping for (at least) 9 winners.  Only one slam-dunk as I see it. That's the Best Musical category ... should be "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder".  Some of my predictions are based on shows that I've read about, some are just hunches, and some are from shows I've seen and really enjoyed; (I know, shouldn't bet from the heart).  Here goes:

Best Musical ..................... A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder  (very deserving)

Best Play .......................... All The Way

Best Actor in a Musical ....  Neil Patrick Harris (Hedwig...)   (Should win: Jefferson Mays (Gentleman's Guide ...)

Best Actress in a Musical .. Kelli O'Hara (Bridges of Madison County) Her 5th Tony nomination ....
                                            She has never won.  C'mon Man!

Best Revival, Musical ........ Hedwig and the Angry Inch (The Tony's LOVE Neil Patrick Harris)              
                                                            (Should win:  Violet)

Best Score of Musical ....... Robert Jason Brown - Bridges of Madison County

Best Book of a Musical ..... Freedman - A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

Best Featured Actor, Musical .... James Monroe Iglehart - Aladdin   (might win: Nick Cordero (Bullets..)

Best Featured Actress, Musical .. Lena Hall - Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Best Director, Musical ...... Darko Tresnjak - A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

Best Actor in a Play .......... Bryan Cranston - All The Way  (It's his year)

Best Actress in a Play ......  Audra McDonald  (as they say, simply the BEST!)

So there you have it.  You see that Bill will only claim success if he has a minimum of nine (out of twelve) correct predictions.  He sets very high standards for himself.

Results will be reported come Monday morning.

Thursday, June 5, 2014


Tomorrow marks the 70th anniversary of one of the greatest undertakings in all of history.  To mark the occasion, allow me to reprint the post that I have posted on this date for each of the last three years.


Every year on this day, I always go back and re-read a section from Andy Rooney's 1995 book, "My War."

There have been only a handful of days since the beginning of time on which the direction the world was taking has been changed for the better in only one twenty-four hour period by an act of man. June 6, 1944, was one of them.

What the Americans, the British, and the Canadians were trying to do was get back an entire continent that had been taken from its rightful owners and whose citizens had been taken captive by Adolf Hitler's German army. It was one of the most monumentally unselfish things one group of people ever did for another.


Take moment or two tomorrow to remember what happened on the beaches of Normandy 70 years ago.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

To Absent Friends - Brother Gregorian, FSC

Today's mail brought the quarterly newsletter of the Christian Brothers, and in it I learned of the death this past March of Brother Gregorian McLaughlin, FSC. He was 89 years old.

I realize that many of you will have no idea who this is.  Brother Gregorian was my freshman English teacher at Central Catholic, and probably no teacher had a more positive impact on my progress through life.  Unlike other English teachers at Central, Brother Gregorian did not place a lot of emphasis on the "fun" part of English class, i.e., reading stories, or literature.  Rather, he emphasized grammar, parts of speech, and the oh so tedious exercise of diagramming sentences.  It was dull, it was boring, it was awful.

But guess what?  As I went through college, and more importantly, as I entered the business world, I found that my strong suit was communications - writing proposals, business plans, and writing business letters.  Job performance reviews over thirty-five years always, always indicated high praise for my "communications skills".  And I give the lion's share of the credit for those abilities to what I learned from Brother Gregorian.

About twenty years ago, a sermon at one Sunday's Mass urged people to think about a religious person who had an impact on your life, and to perhaps reach out to him or her.  Well, I contacted Central, found out Brother Gregorian's address, and did just that.  I received a very warm response from him.  In 2006, while Bro. Gregorian was visiting Central, I went to the Brothers' House there and we had a very nice visit with him that day.  I am glad that I had the chance to tell him the value his teachings had on my life.

He was a Christian Brother for sixty-eight years.  Heaven is a bit richer now that Brother Gregorian is there, but those souls up there had better be sure speak proper English when talking to him!

And be sure that I am double-checking everything I am writing in the blog entry, because I am sure that he will somehow be checking on it.

RIP Brother Gregorian.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The NBA Finals

The National Basketball Association has just completed an 82 game season and six rounds of playoff series, only to produce a duplication of last season's Finals match-up - the Miami Heat versus the San Antonio Spurs.  Couldn't they have just played a seven game series last October and saved everyone a lot of time?

I kid, of course, but like many of you out there, with no strong rooting interest in any particular team, I don't pay a lot of attention to the NBA until Playoffs time, but I am looking forward to following these Finals.

Surely, the Spurs, looking for their fifth championship in this era are one of the most under-regarded dynastic-type teams in any sport.  And they feature one of the least known, and certainly least hyped great players of all time in Tim Duncan.

The Heat, of course, are two-time defending NBA Champs looking to make it three in a row, and when you watch them, you are privileged to see this guy

in action.  Seriously, LeBron James is so good that I can't even come up with words to describe him.  If you can't appreciate that, then you just don't like basketball, won't watch the playoffs, anyway, and probably skipped reading this post when you saw the headline.

The teams staged a terrific seven game series for the Championship last year, and there's no reason to think it won't happen again this year.

Let's tip it off!

The Pirates, One-Third Through

At the conclusion of the Pirates' 2-1 victory over the Dodgers on Friday, they had played their 54th game of the season.  They had, literally, completed one-third of the 2014 season with a record of 25-29.

So, where are they?

This has not been a continuation of the magical 2013 season.  Disappointments have been many - the starting pitching, with the exception of Gerrit Cole, has been lousy, the bullpen has been overloaded, Jordy Mercer can't hit, Pedro Alvarez continues to frustrate the fan base, losing Russell Martin to the DL really hurt, and no production from the right field spot.  And, oh yeah, the front office did NOTHING in the off-season to improve the team, and just when in the hell are they going to bring up Gregory Polanco?

On the other hand, there have been bright spots - MVP Andrew McCutchen is hitting over .300 and leading the league in walks, Neil Walker is having an All-Star caliber season, Cole, as noted above, has the makings of an honest-to-God staff ace, the likes of which the Pirates haven't seen since Doug Drabek, and with the trade for Ike Davis, the first base platoon of Davis and Gaby Sanchez is looking pretty good.  And who knew that Josh Harrison would turn into a potential season-saver?

Prior to the season, many people thought that the Pirates might be headed for a bit of a comedown after last year's 94 win season.  Such things have happened before in Pirates history when a promising season was followed by a disappointing one just before another excellent one (1958-59-60, and 1988-89-90/91/92;  you can look it up), so perhaps this isn't surprising, and maybe it shouldn't be too worrying either.

Many doomsayers may say "yeah, and looked what happened last night, a 12-2 blowout loss." That's the least thing to worry about.  There is still two-thirds of a season to be played.  At this  point, I am going to stand by my pre-season prediction of 89 wins.  I also said that would be good for one of the two NL wild card slots.  Not so sure about that one right now, but let's keep hoping.

And, hey, Gregory Polanco is on the way.  It will be good to do away with the wailing and gnashing of teeth over him NOT being here, but let's not put too much pressure on the kid who, after all, will be facing major league pitching for the first time.  In his first year, similarly heralded prospect Barry Bonds hit only .223 in 113 games in 1986 (although he did hit 16 HRs and scored 72 runs that year; he was pretty good).

And speaking of predictions, the exalted members of the famed Allegheny Sandwich Shoppe Breakfast Club went on record with some predictions for the Pirates going forward.  Here are my answers to the questions posed:

Total wins for the Pirates in 2014: 89
Total HR's for Pedro Alvarez: 29
Final BA for Andrew McCutchen: .311
Total wins for Francisco Liriano: 8

We'll see what happens.  

Emily Talley's Big Break

Last December, 23 year old Emily Talley won $50,000 as the female winner of Golf Channel's "Big Break NFL Puerto Rico", and, the biggest prize, an exemption into the ShopRite LPGA Classic, which is being contested this week in New Jersey.

Sorry to report that Emily's Big Break ended yesterday when she failed to make the cut in the tournament.  She shot 75-72 (5 over par), thirteen shots behind leader Stacey Lewis.  However, Emily can take solace in the fact that her +5 score tied her with twelve other golfers, and that she actually finished ahead of twenty-seven other golfers, including one time LPGA major champion Morgan Pressel.

It's not what she wanted, I'm sure, but she has to be encouraged.  Here's hoping that we hear more from Miss Talley in the years ahead.

Meanwhile, the male winner of "Big Break NFL Puerto Rico", Isaac Sanchez, gets his big break this coming week in the PGA Tour's FedEx St. Jude Classic.  Also, recent "Big Break Florida" winner, Jackie Stoelting gets her big break in LPGA ManuLife Financial Classic this week, as well.

I shall be watching.