Thursday, March 31, 2011

An Opening Day Scene

A Facebook friend, sportswriter Steve Eubanks, posted the picture below, and I couldn't help sharing it with you, my Loyal Readers. One cheery thought in seeing the repugnant Pete Rose sitting at a major league baseball game is knowing that he had to actually pay for a ticket to be there. Of course, Charlie Hustler no doubt scammed some toadie of his into buying the ticket for him.

I responded to the Facebook post by saying that "anyone with sympathy for Pete Rose surely has lost it when seeing this picture."

Eubanks' response to that was: "Anyone who has sympathy for Pete Rose has never met him."

Can't top that one.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Final Four - No Predictions!...and Movie Comment

After going 1-3 in the Elite Eight games, I said I was out of the prediction business, and indeed I am. So, instead, I will just say who I'm rooting for in the games this weekend.

Connecticut over Kentucky. Will cheer for UConn due to some sense of Big East loyalty. Also, hard to root for John Calipari (with apologies to Loyal Reader "John Bocabella") due to Cal's history of skating close to the ethical line in coaching his teams in the past. That said, it is Jim Calhoun who has crossed that line recently and is facing a suspension next season. Did I just talk about "ethics" in high level collegiate athletics? How foolish of me!

(As an aside here, I find the new trend of "suspending" coaches - Bruce Pearl, Jim Tressel, Calhoun - who have violated the rules in hopes of avoiding stiffer sanctions from the powers that be disingenuous at best, and repugnant at worst.)

Virginia Commonwealth over Butler. How can you not root for a guy with a name like Shaka Smart? Also, a win by VCU will drive the Billy Packers, Jay Bilas', and assorted ESPN "bracketologists" absolutely nuts!!! In the Championship game, I will be rooting for the winner of the Butler-VCU game over whatever team they happen to be playing.


Changing subjects....

While channel surfing tonight, I happened upon the movie "Apollo 13" just as it came on the air, and was immediately hooked. What a great movie about one of the most amazing stories of the 20th century. No one could have made up a story better than the flight of Apollo 13 back in 1970. For any younger readers out there who may not know what I am talking about, please do a little research about Apollo 13. Then get a copy of the movie and watch it. Absolutely fabulous stuff.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Infield Fly Rule

My Dad once told me that when he was confronted with some know-it-all blowhard, he would ask him to explain the infield fly rule, and that usually brought the bigmouth to his knees. I thought of this while watching the Pirates play the Yankees in a Grapefruit League game on TV this past Saturday.

The Yanks had runners on first and second with one out when the batter lifted a high pop-up (dare I call it a home run in an elevator shaft?) between home and third. The plate umpire immediately raised his hand signalling that the infield fly rule was in effect. Catcher Jason Jaramillo circled under the ball but the wind caught it, moved it out of Jaramillio's reach and it landed in fair territory, where Jaramillio routinely picked it up. The Yankee base runner on second, I forget who it was, seeing the ball land in fair territory then took off for third. So, a demerit for the Yank base runner on this one. Jaramillio then threw to Pedro Alvarez who had the presence of mind to tag the base runner for an inning ending double play. However, Pedro and several of his teammates apparently didn't realize that the inning was over as they returned to their positions. The TV camera only showed Alvarez and Ronny Cedeno retreat to their positions, so I don't know if any of the other Bucs stayed in place or began the trot to the dugout. Demerits to Alvarez and Cedeno. The umpires had to tell Alvarez and Cedeno that the inning was, indeed, over.

I am guessing that Joe Girardi and Clint Hurdle didn't spend a lot of time going over the infield fly rule during spring training. I am guessing that they just assumed that the players would know this rule by the time they got to a major league spring training camp.

Never assume, I suppose.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Great Lenten Experience

Marilyn and I just returned from seeing a "Living Stations of the Cross" performed by the youth group at St. Ferdinand's in Cranberry. Talk about a moving experience! Those kids - cast and crew - really did a great job. We, of course, were especially proud of nephew Zach Stoner who appeared as three different characters throughout the performance.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

...and on the High School Front...

....Congratulations go out to the Mt. Lebanon High School girls for taking down their third consecutive PIAA State Championship last night. Well done to the Young Lady Cake-Eaters.

My big question, however, is this:

Was the Famed Blue Devil Drum Line on hand at State College last night to help the team bring home the bacon?

Someone - and you know who you are - please answer me that question!!!!

Elite Eight Predictions

Not that my prognostication skills are worth a damn, but, just for sh*ts and giggles, here's how I call 'em:

North Carolina over Kentucky. The Tar Heels are the only one of my predicted Final Four still alive, and I did pick them to win it all, so why go against them now? Although it would be interesting to see Kentucky win and then see if Coach Cal will then be forced to vacate yet another Final Four appearance, and with a third different school to boot.

Arizona over UConn. After that total undressing of Duke on Thursday, how can you NOT pick Sean Miller's Wildcats?

Kansas over Virginia Commonwealth. VCU has been a great story, but the glass slipper breaks tomorrow. As an aside, Kansas is a school for which I have absolutely zero affinity. It's not that I dislike them, more than I just have no feeling at all. Not sure why that is.

Butler over Florida. Logic tells me to pick Florida here, but Butler has been denying logic for two years now in this tournament.

I will then go with UNC over Kansas in the final, thus giving Jayhawk fans even more reason to hate Roy Williams.

As always, watch...but don't bet.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fish Fry Fridays Are Back!!

A little of this and a little of that....

  • It's Lent. It's Friday. That means it's time to visit a local Fish Fry. Tonight we take a break from visiting a local Catholic Church and are instead heading to the Serbian Club on the South Side (or, to be more locally precise, the Sahsside). One of our neighbors are involved withe Serbian Club (through their Orthodox Church) and have been touting the Club's Fish Fry, so that's where we're headed tonight!
  • I went on Facebook between games of the NCAA double-headers last night and confidently stated that it would be the Duke Blue Devils cutting down the nets in Houston next Monday night. Shows you how smart I am. That beatdown that Arizona put on the Dookies was not something you often see to one of Coach K's squads.
  • Is it good to score 30+ points in a game while maintaining a shooting percentage in the low 30% range? Ask Jimmer Fredette and the BYU Cougars.
  • My NCAA bracket entry was utterly smashed after the first weekend, so I an watching the games now purely for entertainment purposes. I had called for a final four consisting of Pitt, Notre Dame, North Carolina, and Duke, with UNC beating ND for the Championship. This can mean only one thing - bet heavily against the Tar Heels this weekend.
  • If you are looking for a local rooting interest in the NCAA games at this point, how about cheering for Arizona and their young head coach, Blackhawk and Pitt alum Sean Miller.
  • To tie up one more loose basketball end, I am sorry to report that the Shaler Lady Titans fell to Mt. Lebanon in the PIAA State semi-finals last week. So ends a great season for these young ladies.
  • Kevin Correia gets the nod as Opening Day starter for the Pirates. Doesn't exactly fill you with optimism, does it?
  • It is also noted that Charlie Morton has earned spot in the Pirates starting rotation. Who would have seen that coming after that train wreck of a season he had last year? Be sure, though, that Morton earned this spot. He has easily been the Bucs best starter in Spring Training. Good for him for overcoming last season's travails. Maybe THAT cold be a feel-good story for 2011.
  • The NFL owners who profess to have the interests of "the fans" first and foremost in their hearts are the same group of businessmen who are now asking their season ticket holders to pony up their money for there 2011 tickets. This after they, the owners, have shut down the game putting into question if there will even be NFL games in 2011. And, yes, this includes the altruistic, Sainted Rooney family of Your Pittsburgh Steelers. I guess this is just another example of the "Steelers Way" of doing business.
  • That said, I do not believe that there will be a single NFL game lost in 2011 due to a lockout/strike. This could mean that replacement players will once again make their appearance in NFL uniforms as they did back in 1987. At the same ticket prices, of course.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Book Review: "56"

Actually, the full name of the book is "56, Joe Dimaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports." As you can no doubt figure out, Kostya Kennedy's book is all about the 56 game hitting streak of Joltin' Joe back in 1941.

Now if you are student of the history of the game, you may be thinking, "what can this book tell us that we don't already know or haven't already read about this seminal event in baseball history?" Well, perhaps there isn't a lot of new ground that can be covered concerning the streak per se, but Kennedy does add some twists to the book that make this well worth reading.

  • He sets the story of DiMaggio and The Streak against the background of events that were taking place in the world at the time. Europe was fully engaged in WW II, and President Roosevelt was gearing up the nation to the inevitable fact that the USA would soon be needing to enter the fray. The story of how the whole country stopped - including the action at the baseball parks - to listen to one of FDR's fireside chats is quite compelling.
  • Kennedy also paints the picture of the discrimination faced by Italian-Americans, including that directed to Joe himself, at a time when Mussolini was joining with Germany to overrun Europe quite vividly.
  • I learned a lot about Joe's marriage to his first wife, actress Dorothy Arnold. Joe does not come across in a favorable light here.
  • Kennedy separates the book with several sections called "The View From Here", meaning the present day. In those chapters, he talks of The Streak from the present day, often with current day ballplayers who present their viewpoint on a hitting streak of this magnitude. Of particular interest was the chapter on Pete Rose, whose 44 game streak in 1978 is the closest anyone has come to DiMaggio's 56 game streak. Rose called his 44 game streak "the hardest thing I ever did in baseball." As many of you know, Pete Rose is not one of my favorite human beings, but I'll listen to him when he talks about hitting a baseball.
  • (Interesting bit of trivia, in the course of pimping himself out and selling autographed baseballs, Rose goes through about 17,000 balls a year. Only the 30 MLB teams buy more baseballs from Rawlings than Charlie Hustler.)
  • In the final chapter, Kennedy goes on in much more detail than needed on the statistical probability of someone, anyone hitting in 56 straight games. He spends a lot of time going on and on about stuff only an actuary could warm up to, but it all comes down to one thing. No mathematician, actuary, or other type of number cruncher can explain it. Hitting in 56 straight games is simply impossible.

So, this is another book that I recommend to the baseball fans out there. I would also recommend that if you like this, you also get a hold of Robert Creamer's great book from 1991, "Baseball and Other Matters in 1941." I read this a few years back, and it's a wonderful story about a season that included many terrific and interesting events, chief among them being Joe D's streak and Ted Williams .406 batting average.

Kennedy's book is also going to prompt me to read Richard Ben Cramer's 2000 biography of DiMaggio, "The Hero's Life." This was a book of my dad's that has been sitting on my bookshelf unread for several years. I need to blow the dust off and read it soon.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

To Absent Friends - Elizabeth Taylor

I must confess that aura of Elizabeth Taylor was lost on me. Beautiful woman, yes indeed, and someone who was a Superstar in every sense of the word, and in the end, a humanitarian of great note. Still, I cannot recall a single Elizabeth Taylor movie that I ever watched.

However, that can't stop one from mourning her passing.

RIP Liz Taylor.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pirates on MLB Network

Just a reminder that the Pirates will be featured on the MLB Network's "30 Teams in 30 Days" at 11:00 PM tonight.

Set your DVR's accordingly.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Old Movie Time

I have spent some time in recent weeks watching some old movies.

One of these was really old - Billy Wilder's 1945 classic, "The Lost Weekend." If you've never seen it, and this was the first time I had, it is a grim story about alcoholism, and despite being 66 years old, it is so well made, and the subject matter is treated so realistically, that it totally relevant in 2011.

Like "The King's Speech" this past year, "The Lost Weekend" took down the four big Oscars in 1945: Best Picture, Best Actor for Ray Milland, Best Director for Billy Wilder, and Best Screenplay for Wilder and Charles Brackett. Milland's performance is quite good and certainly Oscar worthy. Also, as I watched this I was struck by the thought that I don't think I've ever seen a Billy Wilder movie that wasn't great. (Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot, The Apartment, Double Indemnity, Stalag get the picture.)

The other oldie that I watched was Peter Bogdanovich's "The Last Picture Show" from 1971. I can remember seeing this in college and liking it so I was almost afraid to watch it again. Sometimes a fondly remembered movie of your youth can seem pretty lame many years later (prime example: "Easy Rider"). "The Last Picture Show" still holds up well as a period piece and a portrait of small time life in a tiny, dying Texas town in 1951. Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman won Supporting Actor Oscars for this movie, but it may be more notable for the early performances of a very young Jeff Bridges and Cybil Shepard. It was almost surreal to see the baby-faced Bridges in this movie after seeing him play the grizzled Rooster Cogburn in "True Grit" a few months ago.

There were also good pefromances by Timothy Bottoms, (and whatever became of him, by the way), Ellen Burstyn, and Randy Quaid.

It's still a good, if somewhat bleak movie to experience.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring Training...and Other Travlin' Thoughts

For those of you who may be wondering where I have been for the last several days, the picture above should tell you all you need to know. Marilyn and I took off last Tuesday and headed down to Long Boat Key, a barrrier island situated halfway between Sarasota and Bradenton, Florida, and took in some Spring Training baseball.

Thanks to Bucco Prez Frank Coonelly, we had prime seats for the Pirates-Blue Jays on Wednesday and Pirates-Orioles on St. Patrick's Day. Second row, right behind the Bucs dugout. You could almost reach out and touch the batters in the on deck circle, as the pictures below will attest.

And if you are lucky enough to be a Grapefruit League game on March 17, you can see the Bucs wearing their once-a-year green caps. You may even get the new Skipper to tip his hat to you!

As for the games themselves, we were fortunate to see the Pirates start their Opening Day line-ups both days, including starting pitchers Paul Maholm and Ross Ohlendorf. In fact, the only projected regular we did not see was catcher Chris Snyder, who was sitting out both games with some sort of tweak. (On the bright side, we did see Snyder field a foul ball hit into the dugout and then roll it over the dugout roof to a kid with a glove sitting in front of us. So, kuddos the Snyder for this fan- and kid-friendly gesture!)

We also got to see Neil Walker belt a home run and Andrew McCutchen lace a gap shot double in one game. Watching Cutch steaming around the bases is one of the more fun things you can see at a ball game. Unfortunately, we also saw Maholm give up a four run inning to the Jays and Ohlendorf yield a six run inning to the O's, and both of these innings led to Pirates losses.

As we left McKechnie Field on Thursday, Marilyn said she wondered if what we saw was a preview of what we would be seeing at PNC Park in the season ahead. Unless the Pirates can manage to score about eight runs a game, I do fear that the mediocrity of the starting pitching could indeed cause us to see much of the same as we saw in Bradenton last week.

But, hey, what the hell...these were spring training exhibition games!!! Who really cares if you win or lose? It was just great to be at baseball game in gorgeous Florida sunshine!

Speaking of that Florida sunshine, we could not have asked for better weather. Temps in the high 70's each day, breezy, and not a cloud in the sky. Chamber of Commerce perfect!

Some other comments and observations about the trip....
  • We flew on AirTran for the first time and give them a solid "A." All four flights (Pgh-Atlanta, Atlanta-Sarasota each way) were on time. No delays. Perfect.
  • When checking our bag (which cost us $20, btw) on the flight home, we were found to be six pounds overweight. We could have checked it through for an additional $49. Instead, we made quite a picture at the Sarasota Airport check-in opening our suitcase and pulling stuff out to cram into our carry-ons. We made it with a half-pound to spare!
  • Forty-nine bucks! It would have been cheaper to pack a second bag and pay whatever they were extorting, er, excuse me, charging for a second bag!
  • It had been 18 months since we've traveled by plane, and AirTran's good performance aside, air travel really is a pain. I understand why this is so in these times we live, but it is still a pain.
  • We stayed at the Hilton Resort Hotel on Longboat Key, which we learned is the last actual hotel on Longboat Key. The rest of the place is now given over to luxury condos.
  • Very nice pool at the Hilton, but we did encounter a Sopranos-like moment. Early one morning as we sat on the side of the pool, two ducks flew in and landed in the pool! As soon as I got home today, I made an appointment for myslef with Dr. Melfi!!
  • Friday evening we decided to walk up to the beach to sit for a spell, and when we opened our room door, we almost collided with a young lady in a wedding dress. Turns out there was a wedding on the beach about to take place! I wish I knew where the happy couple lives, because I got some great pictures of the Happy Event.
  • Had some great meals down there, but our favorite was in a little bar in Bradenton Beach called the Bridge Tender Inn. Open air seating, ice cold beer, great food, a guy with a guitar singing 60's era music. An absolutely perfect seashore place.
  • It also happened that the Bridge Tender is owned by a guy from Wisconsin and the place is covered with Packers memorabilia. I told the guy that we were Steelers fans but we were going to stay and eat anyway! Ended up having a nice conversation with the guy, and that just added to the zietgiest of the moment.
  • As for the singer, if you travel to beach towns like this, you have seen the same kind of guy. He was in his 50's with a David Crosby mustache and a gray ponytail. There are hundreds of guys like this. What is his story? Is singing Jimmy Buffett and James Taylor songs for tips how he supports himself? Or, did he play in a band forty years ago and now works in a square 9-to-5 office job, and singing in a bar with a tip jar is how he recaptures his past when he was REALLY happy?
  • We watched the sun set into the Gulf of Mexico for four nights in a row. Spectacular!
  • I found myself to be hopelessly out of it by traveling without either an iPad or a Smart Phone of some type. It seems that everyone is now connected all of the time.
  • That included the jackwagon at the pool one morning who was kind enough to share his office conference call with everyone at poolside. There oughtta be a law against that.
  • Coming home last night, we had a three hour layover in Atlanta, which we learned is now the busiest airport in the world. Talk about people watching heaven! You wouldn't think an airport would be all that busy from 7:30 to 11:00 on a Saturday night, but Hartsfield Airport sure was.
  • Contrast that scene to arriving at 12:15 on a Saturday night/Sunday morning in Pittsburgh. I believe that we were one of two flights arrriving at that time. It was ghost town.
  • A word about Frank Coonelly here. As CEO of the Pirates, he takes a lot of heat, and not without some justification, for the performance of the team, but he could not have been nicer to Marilyn and I during our trip. I've gotten to know Frank due to my SABR connections, and let's face it, that is just a glorified fan club. Yet Coonelly was giving us the same kind of treatment - almost - as he was also giving during one game to Sy Holzer, Chip Ganassi, and Tom Reich, guys of considerably more import to the Pirates than Marilyn and Bob Sproule. There are a lot of reasons that I root for the Pirates, and not the least of them is being able to see Frank Coonelly succeed!
  • At the risk of slipping into an advanced state of Geezerhood here, I note that there was no loud, ear-splitting music during every stoppage in play and between innings at the games at McKechnie, and the absence of this was absolutely delightful.
  • I enjoyed running into SABR buddy Ed Luteran at the game on Thursday. Ed now lives in Winter Haven and works as an official scorer for Florida State League games. Ed is hoping for a visit to Pittsburgh in the fall, which could call for an impromteau Hot Stove Night for some of the SABR guys.
  • Having a Kindle sure makes travel easier for the reader. On the down side, you have to turn it off when the airplane is taxiing, taking off, and landing.
  • Read a thriller called "They're Watching" by some guy named Gregg Hurwitz. Don't bother with it.
  • Started reading the new book "56" by Kostya Kennedy about the Joe DiMaggio hitting streak. Am about 25% into it, and it's a good one. I'll give it a fuller review when I'm finished with it.
  • All in all a great trip, but, as always, it's good to be home once again. It is even better to be home from vacation and not have to worry about getting up for work tomorrow!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Selected Short Subjects

Selected Short Subjects for a Monday Morning....

Glad to see that the Pitt Panthers secured a #1 Seed for the NCAA Tournament, if for no other reason than to avoid listening the three days of angst and despair if they had gotten a lower seed.

Did you miss Billy Packer on the Selection Show? How fun would it have been listening to him bitching about 11 Big East teams in the field and only 3 ACC teams (and one in a play-in game at that) in the Tourney?

For what it is worth, I have a Final Four of North Carolina, Duke, Notre Dame. and Pitt.

I watched little of the golf tournament from Doral yesterday afternoon. Very good event with Nick Watney edging Dustin Johnson for the title. Good stuff, and it seems that a new wave of young golfers are starting to come to the fore on the PGA Tour. Tiger Woods did manage a Top Ten finish in this event, but through the first 2 and 1/2 months of the season, he and Phil Mickelson are appearing to be just two other guys out there. Of course, I don't expect that Tiger and Phil will no longer be relevant, but it's looking like their days of domination may be over.

What might have been even more disconcerting was seeing Aussie Adam Scott, once hailed as a Young Lion on the Tour, using a long putter. I hate those things.

You want to see an example of abject greed? Read the statement that Art Rooney II released after the NFL labor talks broke down last Friday. It reinforces my long-held belief that no one surpasses sports team owners when it comes to greed.

This morning I'm reading the PG story of the Gerry Dulac's interview with Rooney over the weekend. Halfway through I asked myself "why am I reading this?" Just let me know when it's over.

I am guessing that not one regular season game will be missed when all is said and done.


My newest addition to my DVD collection is a box set "Definitive Edition" if the old "Twilight Zone" TV series. All 156 half-hour episodes with Rod Serling and done in glorious black & white. In the last week or so, I have watched about 10 episodes, and, for the most part, the stories and the production holds up very well after 50 years. A couple of them have been clinkers, but a few are very good. "The After Hours" with Anne Francis was good, as was "The Eye of the Beholder" which starred a pre-Beverly Hillbillies Donna Douglas. And as it did 48 years ago, "Terror at 20,000 Feet", starring a very young William Shatner, can still scare the bejeezus out of you!

For the second year in a row, I volunteered this past Saturday at the Heinz History Center for National History Day, and got to view the history projects and presentations of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders from throughout the region. If you worry about the direction kids are headed in these days, your mind can be put at rest when you experience something like this. These kids are amazing.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Some Quick Hit Thoughts....

  • Different school, different conference, but Mike Rice gets jobbed by the officials for the second year in a row in post-season play.
  • Two tough OT defeats by local schools within 14 hours: Robert Morris loses by 3 in OT to LIU, and Pitt gets nailed by a Kemba Walker buzzer-beater in the Garden.
  • Up to Duquesne to salvage some local post-season glory in the A-10.
  • First round Big East loss could cost Pitt a #1 seed in the NCAA. This will be agonized over by the pundits, but could anything be more meaningless?
  • How about The Ohio State University suspending Jim Tressel for two games next year over his out-and-out violation of NCAA rules. Now, if the NCAA decides to not add any further punishment, then this will set all time records for hypocrisy by the NCAA. If some mid-level D-I school or coach did the same thing, the coach would be fired and the school would be put on two years probation. Let's see what happens to Coach SweaterVest.
  • Pirates-Orioles on TV tonight. A chance to see John Russell in the coaches box for the O's. How great is that?

Monday, March 7, 2011

"The Girl Who Played With Fire"

Okay, I know I am about the last person in the free world to read the Stieg Larsson "The Girl Who..." novels, and, at that, I am only two thirds of the way through the trilogy.

I finished the second book, The Girl Who Played With Fire, last week. It was a long book - over 700 pages in my edition - but the story of Lisbeth Salander is a most compelling one. Very complex, lots of characters, but surprisingly easy to follow despite complex, to American eyes and ears, Swedish names. I have the third book, The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, in hand, but will wait a few weeks before picking it up to finish the Salander Saga.

Anyway, yesterday I picked up a copy of the movie of "The Girl Who Played With Fire." Yes, it is in Swedish and there are subtitles, but I wouldn't let that stop you from getting the movie. Also, the DVD from Redbox did have an option where you could watch a version that is dubbed in English. I chose the subtitles. The lip movement out of sync with the dialog would have been more distracting to me than the subtitles were, but that's just me. Anyway, like the Dragon Tattoo movie, this was very true to the book.

The best part of these movies, though, is the performance of Swedish actress Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth. She really nails the character. In fact, after seeing the Dragon Tattoo movie before I read Played with Fire, I found myself picturing Rapace-as-Salander as I read the book. I will look forward to renting the Hornet's Nest movie as soon as I finish the book. American actress Rooney Mara will have a lot to live up to in the Hollywood versions of these stories.

In summary, if you loved the books, rent the movies. You really need to see Noomi Rapace in the title role. Don't let the sub-titles scare you off.

Yesterday's Pirates TV Game

The crummy fortune that has haunted the Pirates for 18 years continued yesterday. On the Bucs first spring training TV telecast of the season, a chance to have the "new" Bucs get the fans' juices flowing, we were treated to a game that was frighteningly reminiscent of the 2010 Pirates....
  • A laboring first inning that took starter James McDonald 29 pitches to complete and where the Jays scored twice.
  • A second inning that featured LF Matt Diaz turn wrong on a fly ball that allowed the ball to drop for a double, and throwing error by SS Corey Wimberly that led to two more unearned runs.
  • (In a side note to SABR and Facebook Friend Dan Bonk, Wimberly's presence at short may have served to make Ronny Cedeno look good!)
  • The Pirates fell be hind 5-0 and managed only one hit through seven innings, by which time I switched to the Robert Morris hoops game.

To be fair, it is a spring training game, and the Pirates started players at catcher, first, second, and short who will be long gone by the time camp breaks. Still, it would have been nice to see a crisp performance by the team on their first TV game of the Hurdle Era.

On the other hand, this IS the Pirates we are speaking of here.

A Pop Cultural Passing

I know that eyes will roll and people will say, "he's doing obituaries again", but I couldn't resist this one.

The PG reports today the death of Suze Rotolo at the age of 68. You may not know the name, but there is a real good chance if you are of a certain age that you have seen, and may even own, a copy of her picture. Ms. Rotolo was the one time girl friend of a very young Bob Dylan and that is her pictured on the album cover - dare I say an "iconic" album cover - of Dylan's breakthrough album, "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan." This is the album that featured Dylan classics Blowin' in the Wind, Don't Think Twice, It's All Right, and A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall.

The Dylan-Rotolo relationship lasted about four years, and if nothing else, it sure produced a neat picture.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

More Sunday Congratulations.... the RMU Colonials who defeat Quinnipaic 64-62 in the Northeast Conference semi-final game. This is the third year in a row that the Colonials have beaten the Bobcats in NEC tournament, and RMU will be playing in the Champiuonship game for the third year in a row.

I tuned this one in with 11 minutes to play and the largest lead that I saw either team have was four points. There were 18 lead changes in this game. It was a terrific ballgame.

Congrats to first year Coach Andy Toole who remained calm throughout the very hectic final minutes of this tense contest.

The Colonials now play Long Island University on Wednesday night in Brooklyn for the right to go what would be their third NCAA tournament in a row.

Survive and advance!

Let's Go Colonials!!!

Sunday Congratulations

Congratulations go out today to.....
  • Loyal Reader Mike J., who on Tuesday will begin his first "real" job after graduating from Marshall University this past summer. Best wishes, Mike!
  • The Shaler Girls basketball team for winning the WPIAL Quad-A championship last night. Some may have wondered why I have taken up the cause of the Lady Titans these past few weeks. Let's just say it was through getting to know a couple of extraordinary young ladies this past Fall and Winter who have come through some very tough times.
  • The Pitt Panthers for their outright regular season Big East Championship. The sad part is that many over-zealous fans will consider this season a failure if the Panthers do not win the NCAA championship or, God forbid, don't even make it to the Final four.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Colonials Survive and Advance

Robert Morris almost blew a 20 point second half lead, but held on and beat Wagner by four tonight. They now go on the road on Sunday against Quinnipiac, the #2 seed, in the semi-finals.

Sports Shorts for Thursday Afternoon

  • March Madness begins tonight at the Sewall Center in Moon Township when the Robert Morris Colonials take on the Seahawks of Wagner in the opening round of the NEC Tournament. Let's Go Colonials!!
  • Most interesting/disturbing piece of news out of Bradenton this week was pitcher Scott Olsen bitching about possibly being relegated to bullpen duty if that is how it all shakes out in Spring Training. Not so, says Scott. "I'm a starter" says he. What he didn't say was that "I'm also a pretty crummy starter at that." As Bloggin' Bob Smizik pointed out, Olsen was the rare major league player who had to take a pay cut this year in order to sign with the worst team in the majors. Here's hoping Clint Hurdle puts his foot down on this guy and not get any direction from GM Opie in the process.
  • How about the line of B.S. from Pitt AD Steve Pederson in response to the SI report about the criminal records of Pitt football players in 2010? Talk about classic evasion and non-responsiveness. It was classic.
  • Dave Wannstadt's response wasn't much better.
  • Contrast that to Brigham Young University bouncing one of it's top hoops players for violating the school's honor code. One needn't be a Mormon to applaud the school standing on its principles. Could you see that happening at, say, just to pick a school at random here, Auburn?
  • A prior commitment will keep me away from the Palumbo Center on Saturday night, but I will be cheering in absentia for the Shaler girls basketball team as they go against Mt. Lebanon for the WPIAL Quad-A title. As I said earlier, if you don't already have a horse in the race, cheer for the Lady Titans.
  • On the NFL front, what is more boring to you? Stories about the Combine in Indianapolis, or breathless reporting on the Player Lockout and CBA negotiations? It's a tough call.
  • If there are any readers out there interested in playing in a charity golf outing on May 23 at Shannopin Country Club, please contact me directly. $150 gets you a round of golf, lunch and dinner, and the chance to win some neat prizes while supporting the Youth Ministry programs at St. John Neumann Parish.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Greatest Generation

A former resident of Stonebrook Village passed away at the age of 89 last week. He had moved from Stonebrook to an assisted living facility before we moved here, so we didn't get the chance to know this gentleman.

When we read his obit in the PG this week, we learned that he was the very embodiment of what Tom Brokaw called the "Greatest Generation." Turns out he landed at Normandy days after D-Day, fought his way across Europe, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and served as an interpreter for liberated Polish and Slav concentration camp survivors at Auschwitz.

When the war ended, he came back to Pittsburgh, raised a family, drove a bus for Pittsburgh Railways and the Port Authority, and then opened his own bakery.

I am sorry that we didn't get to meet Walt, but I have a hunch that even if we did, we would have never known his remarkable story.