Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Night Thoughts....

  • No trick-or-treaters at our house tonight. One of the advantages of an "Over 55" community. Guess we will now have to eat all that candy we bought ourselves.
  • Steelers on NBC tonight. World Series Game 4 on Fox. A night made for the remote control.
  • I am figuring that the Saints will be hyped up for a national TV game tonight and will be looking to overcome the embarrassment of last week's loss to Cleveland. I'm gonna predict a Saints win tonight.
  • Of course, with the way my predictions have gone of late, that could be good news for the Steelers.
  • I have not watched any football today, but I was delighted to hear that the Packers defeated the New York RexRyans today. 9-0??? That must have been a scintillating contest.
  • I guess the RexRyans will have to now settle for going 14-2.
  • Spent that afternoon at the movie theater seeing the movie "Secretariat." Terrific movie. A week or so ago I posted a YouTube clip of the '73 Belmont that Secretariat won by 31 lengths. I didn't think a movie could ever do justice to such a performance, but I really think that the folks at Disney nailed it. See the movie.
  • If you are of a certain age and can remember Secretariat's Triple Crown of 1973, you might also remember this remarkable picture (I think it was on the cover of Sports Illustrated):

Enjoy the game tonight and Happy Halloween!!!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Book Reviews: Catching Up with a Couple of Classics

We all know that there are books which are considered "classics" and which are included on almost every standard reading list for American Literature. Somehow, however, there are two classic American novels that somehow eluded me during my Central Catholic and Robert Morris College (now University) careers: "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain and "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee.

Inspired by Mrs. Grandstander, who chose "To Kill a Mockingbird" when it was her turn to choose for the Stonebrook Village Book Club, I decided to take a crack at this classic, but first, I was going to read Twain's masterpiece.

To Brother Gregorian, Ron Borsch, Dr. Agnes Vardy, and any other of my esteemed literature teachers in my formative years, whose names don't come to me right now, I have to say, "I'm sorry" because I just didn't get Huck Finn. I waded through about a third of the book, but I wasn't seeing what everyone else has seen over the 120+ years since the publication of Huck Finn. I wasn't grasping the life lessons, nor was I seeing a lot of humor for which Twain is famous. It's gotta be me, I realize, but I have to put this one back on the shelf. Perhaps some of my great-nephews and -nieces who are now in or approaching high school can give me some pointers that will make me revisit this work someday, but for now, it is on the Kindle shelf.

On the other hand, I am glad to say that this was most emphatically not the case with "To Kill a Mockingbird." What a terrific book! As everyone no doubt knows, the story takes place in Alabama in the 1930's and is told from the point of view of Jean Louise "Scout" Finch, who goes from age 6 to age 8 in the book, and she is wise way beyond her years. She is the daughter of lawyer Atticus Finch, and in telling about her and her older brother's upbringing she weaves a mesmerizing depiction of that time and place. The story hinges on the trial of a black man accused of the rape of a white woman, and Atticus Finch is appointed to defend the man in this highly segregated and prejudiced town. How everyone acts and reacts to these events is the crux of the story.

At first, I thought the story moved slowly, but after about 60 pages or so, you are drawn into the lives of these people as Scout tells the story. The writing is terrific. There were passages that I found I just had to stop and read aloud. One of the critical blubs on the jacket of the book that we had said that as soon as you finish the book, you want to go back to page one and start all over. I agree. This is a book that I see my self rereading every other year or so, and I really regret that it has taken me 50 years to discover "To Kill a Mockingbird." This truly is a book that everyone should read.

Now, the next task is to see the 1962 movie version of "To Kill a Mockingbird" wherein Gregory Peck won an Oscar portraying Atticus Finch. As I have missed this classic book, I have also missed seeing this classic movie. That error will be rectified within the next week.

Friday, October 29, 2010

To Absent Friends: Book 'em, Danno!

October has not been kind to the, dare I say it, "iconic" TV stars of a bygone era. Earlier this month, we said good-bye to Barbara Billingsley of "Leave It To Beaver" fame, and, just a few days later, "Happy Days'"Tom Bosley. Today I open the obit page in the PG and see that the Grim Reaper has now claimed James MacArthur who played second banana Danny Williams to Jack Lord's Steve McGarrett on "Hawaii Five-O."

MacArther was the last surviving major cast member of the original Five-O troop, and I had read that the producers of the new version of the series wanted very badly to get him to do a cameo role of some kind on the show. Alas, that won't happen now.

While I am sure it wasn't intended to happen this way, the terse line of Steve McGarrett at the end of each show, "Book 'em, Danno", become a national catch phrase that stayed in the lexicon long after the show went off the air in 1980. Hey, it is one on Mike Lange's many famous catch phrases when a Penguin scores a goal. In trying to forge a new identity for the new show, the current producers struggled with whether or not Alex O'Laughlin's McGarrett should tell Scott Caan's Williams to "book 'em, Danno." In the end, they knew that they just HAD to have McGarrett utter these lines in the new series, but they are doing with a bit of a comic twist that I rather enjoy when watching the new Five-O.

It is also fairly well know, and it was noted in the obit, that MacArthur comes from famous adoptive parents: playwright Charles MacArthur and the legendary Helen Hayes. What the obit did not note was that James MacArthur was also married (not sure if the marriage was still in tact) to an actress from a short-lived but rather legendary sitcom of the 1960's. anyone care to tell the reading audience who that was and what role she played?

So, Rest in Peace, James McArthur, and always remember to Book 'em, Danno!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Dud of a Match-Up

Wow, that Cy Young match-up between Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum last night sure fizzled out. Not exactly Jack Morris vs. John Smoltz, was it? But Cheers for ex-Bucco Freddy Sanchez who shone brightly under the World Series spotlight.

Bring on Game 2 tonight!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Fall Classic

Not everyone still views baseball's World Series as America's pre-eminent sporting event anymore, but there are still a few of us around who look forward to the Fall Classic each year, despite two layers of Playoffs leading up to it. Some extra excitement has been added in 2010 due to the fact that two totally unexpected teams, the Giants and Rangers, are facing each other in baseball's showcase event.

I have for the most part usually rooted for the National League entry in the Series each year, but his time, I find myself pulling for the Texas Rangers. There was something about seeing a team and a franchise doing something that they have never done before that makes you pull for them a bit. Plus, they are a good looking ball club. A strong eight man line-up and good starting pitching would make them appear to me to be the favorite to win the Series.

The Giants also bring strong pitching to the table, but I do not believe that they can match-up to the Rangers from top to bottom. Of course, they couldn't match up to the Phillies either, and you saw what happened there.

My pick: the Rangers strong line-up prevails and wins the first World Series in their franchise history. Giants pitching makes it a close Series, but Hamilton-Cruz-Kinsler-Young make the difference over Ross-Posey-Sanchez-Burrell and Company.

Here's what I REALLY wish for, though - a World Series that goes seven games. There hasn't been one since 2002, and, tell me, is there anything better in sports than a Seventh Game in a World Series? Recent years have seen Series' that have been anti-climactic, with five of the last seven Series lasting four or five games. Both the 2010 Rangers and Giants might turn out to be one hit wonders, but that doesn't mean that they can't produce a World Series for the Ages. Let's hope for close games and Game Seven.

Watch but don't bet - The Rangers to take it all.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

NBA Tips Off Tonight

Yes, sports fans, the National Basketball Association tips off its 2010-11 season tonight, and The Grandstander is ready to offer his prediction.

After digesting reams of scouting reports, watching all the pre-season games I can, scouring the Internet for information, I predict that the NBA will crown the LOS ANGELES LAKERS as champion come next June.

So, how do you like that for a bold, out-on-a-limb prediction?

I also predict that the team that the Lakers defeat on the NBA Finals will not be the Miami Heat. I couldn't tell you who the Eastern Conference representative will be because I actually haven't digested reams of scouting reports, watched any pre-season games, or scoured the Internet for information. However, since you have asked for a prediction (haven't you?), I will go out on a limb and say that the Lakers will defeat the Chicago Bulls in the Finals.

Check back with me next June.

Tomorrow: I make my call on the World Series.

A Mysterious New Follower

I noted this morning that the Grandstander has a new Follower, and he/she identifies him/herself only as The Legend.

Who is The Legend? I do not know. Can he reveal a hint or two so that The Grandstander can know who this part of his audience is?

Many thanks.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Check Out Some of Our Neighbors!!

The hillside that you see in the pictures below is just across the street and to the right of the front door of our new home. The other day Marilyn just happened to have the camera with her when she spotted the flock of wild turkeys that you see here. Well, not sure how well you can make them out, but they are dark spots that you see on the lower half of the hillside. We see these guys at least 3 or 4 days a week. Pretty neat, huh?

What she DIDN'T see when she was taking these pictures, and wheat had to be pointed out to us by someone else, was the deer standing and grazing at the top of the hill right by the tree line.

How cool is that?

Steelers 23 - Dolphins 22

Believe it or not, we went through he entire ceremony at The Caring Place yesterday with no one checking a football score, so we left the building without knowing the outcome of the Steelers game. We drove home with no radio, and at about 4:20 or so, I hit the "play" button on the DVR remote and settled in to watch the game.

Interestingly enough, with the use of the fast forward button, I was able to finish watching the entire game by a little after 6:00. Of course, I would have finished up sooner, had it not been for the endless replay of what will be one of the most talked about plays of this week (if not the entire season), the fumble-that-wasn't-a-fumble-and-the-recovery-that-no-one-could-determine.

Hey, I'm happy for a Steelers win any way they can get one, but this one, well, it's hard to quite explain how they got away with this one. More to the point, it's not so much that they "got away" with it as they were handed a great big gift by the officials.

I can understand how it was initially ruled a TD by the linesman. I understand how the replay reversed the TD call and ruled a fumble. I cannot understand how they can't determine who recovered the fumble. As the Miami writer who was reprinted in the Post-Gazette this morning said "isn't that what officials are supposed to do?" My thought was if the same play occurred on the 40 yard line, wouldn't they have been able to figure out who recovered the ball?

Interestingly enough, in his Monday Morning QB column on today, Peter King says the officials made the right call (as opposed to "got the call right"). He says that once the play was ruled a touchdown, the resultant loose ball was irrelevant so no attention was paid as to who recovered it. It "seemed fishy" King wrote, "but what else were they going to do?"

It will be interesting to hear what the national football talking heads will have to say about this call in the weekly post-mortems. I am also sure that the League Office will comment. They will no doubt support the officials, but if I'm Gene Steretore, I'm thinking not to make plans for officiating any post-season games this year.

Some other comments:
  • If I'm the Dolphins, I'm worried less about being screwed by an officiating call, and more about starting the game with two fumble recoveries inside the Steelers 25 yard line and coming away with only two field goals.
  • You may not want to invite Ben Roethlisberger to your daughter's Coming Out Party, but is there a better QB in the NFL right now? I'll give you Peyton Manning, maybe, but I'll put Ben ahead of Brady, Brees and all the rest of them.
  • I mean, when the Steelers got the ball at mid-field after the Dolphins went ahead 22-20, was there any doubt that Roethlisberger would lead them down field to a score (the ultimate unconventional nature of that score notwithstanding)?
  • Earlier in the season, I said that Hines Ward is the greatest Steelers receiver ever. He only seems to get better each year.
  • The loss of Aaron Smith, probably for the season, is huge. Time for Ziggy Hood to show he was worth that #1 draft pick.
  • One of the things you sacrifice, if you could call it that, when watching a game and using the FF button, is that you miss much of the commentary of the broadcasters. However one of the things I did pick up was the fact that Dan Dierdorf was definitely NOT a big fan of the emphasis on safety and taking away the head hits in football. I mean there was pure blood lust in his voice as he bemoaned what was being taken away from the game by the wimps and pu****s in the NFL office. He didn't use those words, but they sure were implied.

OK, next week, Rooney U. faces the Super Bowl Champs, who are coming off a humiliating loss to the Browns, on the Sunday Night game. That could be one of the best match-ups of the first half of the season.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Who's Reading The Grandstander?

From John Mehno's column in today's on-line Beaver County Times:

Your perception of Harrison’s style is probably influenced totally by the uniform he wears.If his hit on Cleveland’s Mohamed Massaquoi had been duplicated by Baltimore’s Ray Lewis on Steelers receiver Mike Wallace, people would be screaming about what a thug Lewis is.It all depends on your rooting interest.

From The Grandstander, Friday, October 22:

I wonder what Art II's reaction would be if, say, Ray Lewis had delivered an identical hit to Mike Wallace.


Sunday Morning Thoughts...October 24, 2010

  • Today is the Quilt Dedication Day for the families that went through the Winter/Spring sessions at the Warrendale Caring Place. This will be especially moving for Marilyn and me since one of the quilts will be for "our" families from the last session. We are really looking forward to seeing these families once again on what will be a very emotional day for them.
  • Duties at the Caring Place will preclude me from watching the Steelers first game in the Kinder, Gentler Era of the NFL. Will set the DVR and watch later tonight. Unless, of course, the Steelers lose in which case I may just skip the whole thing.
  • Much has been made of the killer four game stretch (Dolphs, Saints, Bengals on the road, Pats at home on a Monday night). Ever stop to think that those teams might be worried about having to play the Steelers? I'm thinking that the Steelers will come out of this stretch at a minimum of 2-2 and it starts with a win at Miami today.
  • Seriously, the Steelers winning all four of these games, while I don't expect it, would not shock me either.
  • What to make of a Giants - Rangers World Series? On the face of it, the Rangers eight man line-up seems superior to the Giants, and, based upon the LCS's, I would give the Rangers pitching staff an edge as well. But, I said exactly the same thing about the Phillies when comparing them to the Giants. Seems like the Giants are just on a stretch where all the buttons being pushed are working for them. The Rangers, on the other hand, just thoroughly whipped the Yankees, who most folks thought would waltz into the World Series. This could be a most interesting Series.
  • Interesting to note that the two games started by Tim Lincecum in the LCS were the games that the Giants lost.
  • I made the following comment on Facebook last night: The suits at Fox must be suicidal at the thought of a Rangers - Giants World Series. Tough s**t, Fox!
  • Speaking of Facebook, I repost most of my Grandstander entries on Facebook, and while few people ever comment/respond on the blog itself, I get many responses to the posts on the Facebook page, and there are fewer steps (as in no steps at all) to make a response on Facebook. So, if you are not there already, consider getting on Facebook and "friending" me at
  • One of the fun aspects of this blog is the responses it might receive, so the more interaction, the better.
  • Unless the Pirates are seeking to talk to someone currently involved in the MLB post-season, I am putting my money on Jeff Bannister as the new Pirates skipper. He is on the current coaching staff as bench coach; he is a Pirates "lifer" as player, coach, and minor league jack of all trades; it is likely that he will follow the dictates of GM Neal; he will come cheap, always a valuable consideration for the Pirates. Also, he is all but standing on the Clemente Bridge and begging for the job. Hey, he may turn out to be the best guy for the job, but hiring a guy who has been an "organization man" in what is arguably the worst organization in professional sports, doesn't exactly get the juices flowing.
  • Enjoy your Sunday, everybody!!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Congratulations to the Giants

Wow, that was some Game Six tonight in Philly. Really, really tense, and lots of opportunities missed by both teams. I was rooting for the Phillies, mainly because nephew Gavin Richards is a HUGE fan, but it was not to be.

Amazing work by the Giants bullpen, and it's going to be a long winter for Ryan Howard. And on a happy note, Freddy Sanchez gets to play in a World Series! On a not so happy note, we have to look at Brian Wilson and that creepy beard for another series.

My predictions for the World Series are now completely shot. Will have to think about the match-up and offer a prognostication prior to the Opening of the Fall Classic, not that my prognostications are relevant in the least.

And speaking of predictions, if you were in Las Vegas last March, I wonder what the odds would have been for a parlay that would have had the Rangers and Giants meeting in the World Series?

Secretariat at the Belmont, 1973

Want to see something amazing? Click on the link below. I remember being astonished when I watched this live in 1973. It is still astonishing today, thirty-seven years later.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Congratulations to the Rangers

Congratulations to the Texas Rangers upon winning their first pennant. It was no fluke. That was thorough beating of the defending champs in this Series.

To Loyal Reader and Big Brother Jim, my condolences. I'm sure you died a thousand deaths watching tonight.

To Loyal Reader and SABR Friend Madison, I am guessing that Will and you were rooting for the Yankees, but it had to be exciting to be there tonight. That had to be a terrific experience to be in that crowd in Arlington.

As for The Grandstander's reputation as a prognosticator, well, it takes another hit tonight. You will recall that I called for a Phillies-Yankees World Series with the Phillies winning. I may still be half right. Should the Phillies come back against the Giants I will stand by my pick, but I certainly have a lot of respect for the Rangers. That is a very good line-up that put out there, and the pitching certainly dominated the Yankees.

Am looking forward to game Six in Philly tomorrow night.

Self-Righteous Steelers

So, the Post-Gazette headlines, on Page 1 no less, that Art Rooney II is coming to the defense of James Harrison, defends Harrison's hits last Sunday that led to $75,000 in fines, and warns the NFL that they may be going "overboard" in their reactions to the headhunting going on every Sunday.

I wonder what Art II's reaction would be if, say, Ray Lewis had delivered an identical hit to Mike Wallace.

Seriously, is there anyone on the Pittsburgh sports scene more self-righteous than the Rooney Family? I don't think so. And will anyone in the Pittsburgh sports media ever, EVER call them on it? I think people like Bob Pompeani and his media brethern would burn an American flag in Market Square before they would ever say anything critical of the Rooneys.

I can't come up with a baseball parallell to what Harrison did on Sunday, but can you imagine the heat Bob Nutting or Frank Coonelly would take if they defended a player the way Art II slurped up to Harrison in today's paper?

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Well, the big fuss and foldorall this week in the world of sports involves the National Football League getting religion on the subject of vicious hits to the head being made by and upon their players. This is the same NFL, by the way, that has made fortunes by marketing such videos as "NFL's Greatest Hits" and is now seeking to add two more games to the regular season schedule.

Of course, locally, this focus falls upon James Harrison who was hit with a $75,000 fine from the League for his two head shots against the Browns on Sunday and for being a "repeat offender." Poor James is put upon to the extent that he is considering retiring, and his agent says he is "serious" about this. Poor James indeed. Good luck with whatever it is you hope to do as your life's work, James. Perhaps, one could work up some sympathy for Harrison if it weren't for some of the other little incidents that have cropped up around him in recent years, like the pet pit bull that bit his son, and that nasty little domestic violence incident that Dan Rooney somehow found to be okay and overlooked.

I'm sure that James will realize that the 75 Large that the NFL is taking from him will be a mere dent in that $51 million contract the Steelers are paying him and that he will somehow figure out that he can, indeed, "play football" within the rules (at least until the next kill shot).

Of course, we'll all be cheering him on, which, in the words of Michael Corleone, makes us all "a part of the same hypocrisy." And I include myself in this hypocrisy. Maybe we should keep Jerry Seinfeld's thought in mind that we are really just cheering for laundry, and not the people wearing the laundry.

Jerry Seinfeld and Michael Corleone in the same paragraph - a Pop Cultural Bonanza!!

Monday, October 18, 2010

...and on the Pirates Front

News arrived this weekend that the Seattle Mariners had hired Eric Wedge as their manager for 2011. Wedge, and old buddy of GM Neal's from their Indians days, was reported to be the Pirates preferred candidate to replace John Russell.

So, where does this leave our Beloved Buccos? Well, as I see it, they will go one of two ways.

The first way is to hire some retread who has already been fired from at least two other managerial positions. (I once read a theory that said most teams will hire someone who has been fired twice because he is a "sound baseball man." The other side of that theory is that a "sound baseball man" is anyone who has been fired twice.) Now the name that springs to mind from this camp is Ken Macha, or, as the Pittsburgh media refer to him, "Monroeville's Kenny Macha." In addition to being the twice fired sound baseball man, Macha has one other sterling quality: he's "a Pittsburgh guy." I can already hear the PR machine spewing out how Macha will bring a "blue collar ethic" to the Pirates who will bring there "lunch buckets" to work everyday as they scrap and fight their way to the National League pennant. Meanwhile, did you see the note in some paper over the weekend where some of the sports media in Milwaukee talked about the "drab personality" that Macha presented to the media and the public during his tenure in Brewtown. Wow, after three years of JR, that is JUST what is needed at PNC Park, don't you think?

The second and more likely way to the Pirates will go is to hire someone non-entity on the cheap. Now, this may not be a bad thing. In my own memory, people like Chuck Noll, Ben Howland, Jim Leyland, Bill Cowher, and Mike Tomlin were unknowns who turned out OK for their respective teams. However, given the track record of the Pirates over these last 18 years, do you have any confidence that they could luck out like that?

On the bright side, in 2035 we will be able to celebrate the Diamond Anniversary of the Pirates 1960 World Series win over the Yankees!!

Steelers 28 - Browns 10 and Other Games People Play

Some thoughts after a big sports weekend.....
  • The Steelers eventually dusted off the Browns yesterday, and the return of Ben Roethlisberger certainly makes them a better football team, but it sure seemed like they let Cleveland keep that game a lot closer than they should have.
  • If James Harrison played for another team, he'd be the most hated man in Pittsburgh. That hit on Joshua Cribbs SHOULD have been flagged, and while I can't honestly say that I saw the second hit on the Browns WR, it sounded like it was even worse from reading the paper today.
  • For all the wailing and gnashing of teeth about how the Steelers need to play "Steelers Football" and run more and pass less, it seemed to me that they played a lot better - a LOT better - when Roethlisberger was passing the ball yesterday.
  • The schedule makers did the Steelers no favors this season. The next four weeks, three of them on the road, will tell a lot about where this season is going. If the Steelers come out of this stretch at 2-2, it will be a WIN for them.
  • After watching Texas cough up a 4 run lead in the eighth on Friday night, I gave them very little chance to come back in the ALCS against the Yankees. But they did win in Game 2 and have Cliff Lee going tonight. Could make it very interesting.
  • There are no easy outs in that Yankees line-up, are there?
  • The Halladay-Lincecum duel in Game 1 of the NLCS sort of lived up to expectations, but Oswalt and Sanchez put on a better show in Game 2.
  • At a SABR meeting a few years back, Steve Blass remarked that Roy Oswalt was one of his favorite current pitchers to watch. No nonsense, old school, put him any era of baseball and he'd excel. I agree. He sure was fun to watch last night.
  • Good line from Norman Chad's column today: "I thought Brett Favre didn't play exhibition games."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Celebrity Republican Baseball Reality Show

Seeing George Bush the Younger at the Rangers game tonight, and knowing that Rudy Guiliani will be planted next to the dugout when the ALCS moves to the Bronx, I had an idea for settling this Series if it goes to seventh game: A Celebrity Republican Reality Show. Guiliani and Dubya to arm wrestle at second base with the winner's team going to the World Series. Loser gets to go on a hunting trip with Dick Cheney. Fox News gets the exclusive to cover the whole thing.


You can now communicate with The Grandstander on Twitter. He can be found at

I have been down the Twitter road before under another name, but that went pretty much dormant a few months back. Gonna give it another shot.

On Enduring Fame

With all the talk this week of Maz's big home run in 1960, I happened upon this quote when reading another article online about Joe Carter's World Series winning HR for the Blue Jays. What is it like to do something and be remembered for it, and seemingly ONLY for it, for the rest of your life? I'm not sure who wrote this (it might be Joe Posnanski of, or maybe he is quoting someone else), and it relates to music, not sports, but I think it is a terrific summation. I wonder if Bill Mazeroski feels this way.....

"I think about this with musicians. You write a song, and you work on the words (“Wait, what else rhymes with heaven?”) until it’s exactly what you want it to sound like. You bring it to the band, and maybe they collaborate, add a guitar thing here, a drum thing there. You record it, then record it again, and again, and maybe again. And when you finally get it down, through production, you really like it. You think it might become a hit.

"Does it occur to you while you are doing it that it really might become a hit? And if it does, yes, of course, it will make you a lot of money. But you might have to play this song FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE? Does it occur to you that you may end up traveling city to city, for years and years, and every time you start this song people will go crazy and they will sing along, and after a while the song may become used up for you, but it will NEVER become used up for them? They will never get tired of it, not ever. When you are old and retired, and you show up somewhere, they may STILL want you to sing that song. In fact, for them this song actually IS you.

"Every time Bruce Springsteen pours his heart into Born To Run, my admiration for him doubles."

Thursday, October 14, 2010

From This Week's Sports Illustrated

An interesting issue of SI this week.

First, Peter King's story, "The Gathering Storm" on the upcoming labor negotiations between NFL players and owners. Now, I have made a promise to myself that if there is a work stoppage in the NFL, I am not going to beat my head over it. I'll survive without the NFL (and so will everybody else; really!), and I'm not going to waste a lot of time reading about these guys fighting over how to split $8 billion, or whatever the figure is, a year. King's story, however, is brief, gives a good overview of the situation, and is worth reading.

Of great interest was this fact: even if there is no NFL football in 2011, the teams will still be paid by the TV networks. It's guaranteed. How did the NFL get the networks to buy into that? Talk about a sales job! So, if there is a work stoppage, the players don't get paid, and the owners still receive $4 billion in TV money in '11. Guess who's gonna cave in that situation?

Remember Leroy Kelly, the great Hall of Fame RB for the Cleve Brownies back in the 60's? He gets a $176 monthly pension from the NFL. Whatever the outcome of these negotiations, I would hope that BOTH sides do something about old-timers like Kelly. With the kind of money the NFL rakes in, that kind of story is a disgrace.

The second SI story of note is the much publicized story of former player agent Josh Luchs who talks about how he paid college players to recruit them for his agency when they were ready to turn pro. Now, if you follow sports, you are pretty much aware that this is a dog-bites-man story, but it sure does expose the sleazy world of college athletics. Nobody looks good in this one....players, agents, and coaches and institutions that turn the other way when these goings on, er, go on.

Miracle in Chile

Spent part of this evening watching the ABC News special that aired last night on the Chilean mine rescue. I have no words that can possibly add to this event. It is a triumph of the human spirit and the human will, and a tribute to the amazing technology that God has given man the ability to develop. It is amazing to see what mankind can do when everyone works together for good.

It is truly miraculous story.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Sister's Visit; October 13 at Forbes Field

  • I very much enjoyed seeing my sister Susan and hubby Jerry at the Heinz History Center today when their church group came in to tour the Vatican Splendors exhibit. She stirred up some good memories of our grandfather, Bill "Pappy" Madden, when she saw the big Westinghouse sign in the History Center's Great Hall. We laughed about Pappy talking about "the Westinghouse" and working "down the shop."
  • I also noted how all of her friends referred to her as Sue, and recalled how Frank and Ruth never got used to that name for her. Of course, the rest of the family still calls her "Susan" come to think of it.
  • Word is that Jerry scored $70 when the St. Columkille folks visited the Rivers Casino after they left the History Center. Good for Jerry! I guess he got that Vatican blessing he was seeking after all!


When History Center duty was finished up, Marilyn and I headed over to Oakland with plans to attend the October 13 Forbes Field Wall celebration. We never made it as about the closest parking spot was at approximately Forbes & Murray in Squirrel Hill. So, we decided to forgo the stresses of searching for parking and did go to Squirrel Hill and had lunch at the Murray Avenue Grill where I had one of the best hamburgers that I have eaten in recent memory.

I have some thoughts on how the October 13 celebration has evolved, especially in this 50th Anniversary year. I hope I am wrong, but it seems to no longer be the pure grass roots celebration that it once was. Now the Pirates have involved themselves in it, as has the City. I'm surprised that Bob Nutting and Boy Mayor Luke haven't tried to figure out how to charge admission for it. Maybe next year it will return to what it always was. Who's gonna care about the 51st anniversary?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

First Round Finished

The first round of the 2010 MLB Playoffs are complete, and I go 2-for-4 in my predictions. However, my two predicted pennant winners, Yanks and Phillies, are still alive, and I see no reason to back down from those predictions.

Phillies and Yankees to win there respective LCS with the Phillies beating the Yankees in the Fall Classic.

Watch, but don't bet.

1960 Game 7

Information about the MLB Network's broadcast of the newly discovered copy of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, set for Wednesday, December 15, courtesy of Bob Smizik's blog:

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Where Do You Think This Conversation Took Place?

Yesterday, I found myself with a group of like-minded folks and the following quotes were bandied about (these may not be verbatim quotes, but the gist of them is accurate)....

  • "The only way they are ever going to be any good is if they sell the team and get a new owner."
  • "Why get excited over a young player? He's only gonna get traded for someone cheaper, or sign with the Yankees when he can be a free agent."
  • "At least we have a nice ballpark."
  • "Why should they pay big money to a free agent when they're making money the way it is right now."

Well, obviously, you are saying, I was commiserating with a bunch of fellow long-suffering Pirates fans, and we were rehashing the sorry state of affairs that is the Pittsburgh Pirates, right?

Well, if that is what you are saying, you are WRONG. This conversation took place in Cleveland, Ohio yesterday. I had the pleasure of traveling to the Forest City yesterday to attend the meeting of SABR's Cleveland/Jack Graney Chapter, and all of the quotes you see above were said in reference to the Cleveland Indians. Yes, these are the same Indians who have played in the World Series twice since the Pirates last had a winning season, and who three years ago played in a seventh game of the American League Championship Series, but their fans are saying things that are remarkably similar to what Pirates fans have been saying during the dark days of the McClatchey/Nutting eras.

It made me wonder about where else throughout the MLB landscape are these same conversations taking place. I daresay that perhaps only on New York City, Boston, and perhaps Dallas, where new ownership has just taken control of a team now playing in the post-season, are exempt from this type of talk, and I would guess that that portion of NYC that wears Mets orange and blue, rather than Yankees pinstripes is probably saying the same kind of things these days.

I am not sure if this is a commentary on the state of Major League Baseball's balance of power, or on the fickle nature of fandom, but I was amused by the whole thing.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Playoff Predictions

I know that you all remember how well I did in my NFL Playoff predictions back in January (please note use of the sarcasm font in that statement), so I now bring you my playoff predictions. I know that I should have done these on Monday or Tuesday, before the games started, but I will be honest here in how I was going to go.


Phillies v. Reds: Gotta go with the defending champs here. When you can throw out a rotation of Halladay, Oswalt, and Hamels, that's who you go with. Halladay's masterpiece only reinforces this opinion. (An aside: I regret to say that I did not see any of the Halladay game yesterday. A once in a lifetime happening, and I missed it.)

Giants v. Braves: I am going to go against the grain here and pick the Braves. I must confess a personal bias here. I always admired how the Braves were able to put together all those winning teams in the 90's and early 'oo's. I know they spent big to do it, but perhaps the fact that they were able to win the World Series only once in that incredible span makes me feel sympathetic. Plus, I like an old school guy like Bobby Cox (call him the Anti-John Russell) , so I'd like to see him go out with a winner.


Yankees-Twins: Yankees in this one, and this would have been my pick before the win last night. I heard this morning that last night was the 7th consecutive playoff game where the Twins led the Yankees in the game and ended up losing. Good luck to Ron Gardenhire getting THAT little monkey off of his players' backs.

Rays-Rangers: Rays, although the Rangers beatdown of David Price yesterday now makes this a shaky proposition.

NLCS: Phillies over Braves
ALCS: Yankees over Rays
World Series: Phillies over Yankees. Will the Yankees bullpen (ie, Mariano Rivera) overcome the Phillies starting pitching? I'm gonna say no, and that the Phils will prevail. Hope it goes seven games.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New Session at The Caring Place

We started another session at The Caring Place last night. Marilyn is working with the pre-school kids (six of them) once again, and I am working with the teen group (12 kids). It's going to be a challenging group, but it looked like progress was made in just one hour last night. Still, it won't be an easy session, but we look forward to trying to help out these kids.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Book Review: "The Burning Wire"

If you are a fan of popular fiction, particularly of thrillers and mysteries, you may be familiar with author Jeffery Deaver and his series character, Lincoln Rhyme.

If you are not familiar, Rhyme is a "criminalist" or a forensic scientist whose specialty is gathering, studying and interpreting evidence gathered at crime scenes. The gimmick here is that he is also a quadriplegic, who was injured while investigating a crime scene prior to when the series of books began.

Rhyme is assisted by an ongoing cast of cops and investigators and he still manages to solve the crimes in question while studying the evidence brought to him in his elaborately equipped New York City town house. The crimes that have been described in the eight Rhyme novels are always brutal and sensational, but Rhyme somehow manages to solve them from his wheelchair. They have always been well written and tense, usually have a twist to them that surprises the reader, and make you want to read the next Rhyme novel as soon as Deaver pumps one out. I discovered this series a few years back with "A Cold Moon", and have since read all of the Rhyme novels as well as other novels by Deaver. They are good stuff. The stories also usually take place in a very short period of time - "The Burning Wire" covered a three day period - so they are always fast moving.

All that said, I just completed the ninth and newest Lincoln Rhyme book, "The Burning Wire", and all I can say is that even Joe DiMaggio went into a batting slump once in awhile, and that Deaver and Rhyme don't quite connect on this one. Despite his physical condition, Rhyme is not always an especially sympathetic or likable character, and he is especially acerbic in this one. Also, the plot of this one involves a villain who uses electricity to kill his victims and terrorize the populace, and Deaver goes on and on...and on...and on...and on about electricity and its properties to the point where you want to scream "enough already." This book could have been reduced by about 50 pages and been a better story.

Still, the last 100 pages or so are such that you don't want to stop until you finish the book (at 1:01 AM this morning in my case). You can gather that I don't consider this one of my favorite Rhyme books, but I hesitate to say that Deaver "jumped the shark" with "The Burning Wire." As I said, everyone is entitled to a batting slump, so I'll reserve that particular judgement until the next Rhyme novel in 2012.

Oh, and this story includes a very important personal development in the life if Lincoln Rhyme, which I will not reveal since some of you may already be readers of the series.

And if you have not read any of these books, they are all in print, and I would suggest you start with the first one, "The Bone Collector." While the books are a series, each one stands on its own so it is not absolutely necessary that you read them in order.

Europe Wins the Ryder Cup

The time difference, coupled with crummy weather in Wales that screwed up the schedule, made it difficult to follow the Ryder Cup this year. However, the exciting finish today sure made for good TV viewing on a rainy Monday morning in Pittsburgh.

The Europeans hold off a furious comeback effort by the USA and win the Cup by a score of 14.5 to 13.5, and the outcome was in doubt until the 17th hole of the final match before Graeme McDowell closed out Hunter Mahan, 3 and 1. If you are a golfer, you really had to feel bad for Mahan when he flubbed that chip shot on 17.

The Russell Era Ends

Being someone who was once told by my employer that my services were no longer necessary, I take no pleasure in seeing someone lose his job, so I do feel bad for John Russell today. He has bills to pay and a family to feed, so I hope he won't be unemployed for too long. (He also has a year left on his contract, so he'll still be cashing checks from the Pirates through 2011. So he's got that going for him, which is nice.)

Having said that, how can it be denied that this is a move that HAD to be made. Yes, we all know the hand that was dealt him - the few good players he had traded away, constant turnover, interfering GM, etc - and we will concede that no manager could have won with this bunch, but 299 losses in three years, combined with a complete blank page for a personality positively cried out for Russell's ouster. And you have to admit, some of the strategic decisions coming out of the dugout this season have been real head-scratchers. JR's video epitaph will be pitcher Sean Gallagher being sent to bat for himself in the 4th inning of a game with the Pirates down 7-2 and with runners on second and third in a game with the Mets in August. You all know the game I'm talking about. And there were others.

Also, from a purely business standpoint, the Pirates, who are going to have a hard time selling tickets this off-season anyway, would have had an impossible task of doing so if Russell were allowed to come back for 2011. That would have sent the message to the ticket buyers that the team could never have spun in a positive manner.

The other news from Piratesland today was that Neal Huntington was being retained as GM. The Russell firing would indicate that 2011 will absolutely be a make-or-break year for Huntington as General Manager. Another disaster on the major league level like this season and no amount of draft pick signings and Dominican Baseball Academies will make it possible for GM Neal to keep his job, I would think. The accountability that Nutting/Coonelly/Huntington have been preaching for three years came to bear today, and that shadow hangs over GM Neal's head as preparations for 2011 begin.

I'll offer no speculation on my part as to who the next skipper will be. I'm just hoping it won't be some retread who has been fired from three other manager's positions over the last 20 years.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


The three year tenure of the John Russell Era has now totalled 299 losses. It is almost a shame that during the course of these three seasons the Pirates couldn't manage to eke out one more loss. The symmetry of a nice round mind numbing number like 300 would have been artistic in a warped sort of way if, as has been reported, JR is sent off into the sunset in the upcoming days.

Ravens 17 - Steelers 14


When all that was needed was one crummy first down in the shadow of their own goal post, the Steelers couldn't grind one out. Too bad, especially in light of the great goal line stand that the defense had just put up - and successive terrific plays by William Gay - to stop the Ravens.

Oh, well, as mentioned this morning, I think that everyone would have signed up for a 3-1 start for Rooney U. (again, The Grandstander skews old with dated reference!), and I also think that everyone conceded that the Ravens game would go in the loss column.

An off week next week, and then the Brownies in two weeks with Roethlisberger back at the helm.

And just how does Ray Lewis manage to still cover the field at age 51 or however old he is?

In other sports news, Pirates lose to the Marlins to finish the season at 57-105. RIP 2010 Pirates.

Sunday Morning Thoughts...

  • Dejan Kovacevic reports in this morning's PG that sources within the Pirates tell him that John Russell will be fired after the 2010 season mercifully ends today. No surprise considering the silence coming from Frank Coonelly's office in the last month or so. If you are a regular reader, you know my thoughts on JR. I will weigh in more fully once the season comes to the end and once the axe finally falls.
  • Steelers-Ravens today. All logic leading up to this point would have had the Steelers losing this one, but what the hell? Steelers over the Ravens today, a 4-0 start heading into the bye week, and Ben Roethlisberger returns in two weeks against the lousy Cleve Brownies. No one would have envisioned that six months ago, would they?
  • Regardless of how well Charlie Batch may do today - and let's hope he does great! - can we dispense with the idea of some moronic talk show callers (and hosts) that Batch remain the starter when Roethlisberger comes back? Ben has given people a lot of reasons to not like him, but from a purely football point of view, he plays when he comes back. Period.
  • I will respect the opinions of those people who say Ben should not be playing, ever, for the Steelers. I would also invite those folks to tell me how they will spend their Sunday afternoons the rest of the football season. I am presuming that they will stand on their principles and just quit watching the Steelers.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Noomi Rapace

In my earlier post on "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," you may have picked up on the fact that I was intrigued with the Swedish actress, Noomi Rapace, who played Lisbeth Salander in the movie. I ask you, how can you NOT be intrigued by someone named "Noomi."

The picture to the left is of the lovely Ms. Rapace. The picture above shows Noomi in character in the movie, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."

Book and Movie: "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"

If you have been to a bookstore, or a Target or Costco, or anywhere that mass markest paperbacks are sold, you have no doubt been exposed to the ubiquitous green and yellow cover that you see to the left here. Well, based upon the recommendation of some people's whose opinions I trust, I recently became, apparently, one of the last people to read Stieg Larsson's thriller, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."

The book is about a reporter who is hired by a wealthy Swedish industrialist to look into the mystery of the disappearance of his niece 40 years ago. He is assisted by a strange young woman, Lisbeth Salander, the tattooed "girl" of the title. It is a lengthy, but quite compelling read. I will now no doubt have to read the next two novels of the Salander trilogy.

I also hit up the Redbox to get the Swedish version of the movie, and it is a faithful version of the book and worth watching as well. Be forewarned, however, that it is a Swedish made movie, so be prepared to read the subtitles. Either that or take a crash course in Swedish. Or, you can wait until 2011 when an American version of the movie will be made. The actress who played Lisbeth is a Swedish babe with the exotic name of Noomi Rapace. She was quite good, and the American actress who will play her, Rooney Mara (for all you sports fans out there, she is the great-granddaughter of Art Rooney and Tim Mara) will have a lot to live up to in playing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.