Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Very Tired Hall of Fame Debate

The old Put-Gil-Hodges-in-the-Hall-of-Fame Debate has been raging in recent days on the SABR-L listserv. This is a debate that should be packed away with all of the batting practice baseballs and never be discussed again. It rekindles ONLY because of the New York-centric influence among many baseball writers, and ONLY because Hodges played on one of baseball's iconic teams, the Boys of Summer Era Brooklyn Dodgers. Oh, and Hodges also managed the New York Mets when they won their improbable World Series championship in 1969. I grant you that that was no small feat, but there are a lot of managers who have won one World Series, so that in and of itself does not make you Hall of Fame worthy.

But back to Gil Hodges the player. Here are his stats over 18 seasons and 2,071 games:

HR 370
RBI 1,274
BA .273
OPS .846

Now, consider these stats of a player who played in relatively the same era as Hodges, only fewer season, 14, and games, 1,841:

HR 364
RBI 1,159
BA .266
OPS .848

The player in question? Rocky Colovito. How many people are on the bandwagon pushing for HIM to get into the Hall of Fame?

By the way, I take no credit for coming up with the Colovito comparison. One of the posters on SABR-L did that. There are as many people debating against Hodges for the Hall as there are for him. My point is, why even argue it at all?

When a Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words...

Thanks to to the Post-Gazette's Rob Rodgers.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Movie Review: "The Descendants"

Yesterday we decided to take advantage of our retired status and headed out to The Waterfront to take in a weekday matinee. The movie we selected was the newly released, highly touted George Clooney movie, "The Descendants." The movie is getting a lot of Oscar buzz, and I can do nothing but add to the praise. This is a really, really good movie.

The movie takes place in Hawaii, where Clooney plays an attorney who controls 25,000 acres of pristine Hawaiian land that the family is planning on selling to developers. At the same time, he is facing a very serious family crisis. His wife lies in a coma following a boating accident, and he is now faced with the responsibility of dealing more directly with his two daughters, age 17 and 10, than he ever has in the past. He admits that he was always the "secondary parent." As he faces the wrenching decision of how to deal with his wife's condition, his older daughter reveals to him a secret about her mother, his wife, that only adds to the turmoil.

This is a movie that is at times both funny and heartbreaking. It points up the fact that no one's life is ever perfect, and how everyone has to deal with the curve balls that life throws at us.

As I mentioned, this movie is getting four star reviews left and right, and the kudos are well deserved. Clooney is getting talked up big for the Best Actor Academy Award. Having recently seen another actor getting similar buzz, Leonardo DiCaprio in "J. Edgar", I will give my vote to Clooney. A young actress named Shailene Woodcock, who plays the older daughter, is excellent, and I would expect her to get a Supporting Actress nomination. Other small but excellently portrayed roles are Robert Forster as Clooney's father-in-law, Beau Bridges as one of his many cousins, and Judy Greer, who's peripheral involvement with Clooney's family is a critical part of the movie.

Another thing that recommended this movie to me was the involvement of Alexander Payne, who directed this movie and wrote the screenplay. Payne had similar duties for one of my favorite movies in recent years, "Sideways" (he won the Oscar for Best Screenplay on that movie). "Sideways" is a movie that I can watch again and again, and I think that "The Descendants" could fall into that category as well.

December is the time when lots and lots of good movies get released, but try to make time on your movie going calendar to see this one. Excellent movie.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Here's hoping that all readers out there had a terrific, fun, and safe Thanksgiving holiday and weekend. Ours was a great one and doings over the long weekend kept me away from the keyboard for several days, so let's serve up a helping or two of leftovers from the long weekend.

Leftover Turkey

"Turkey" sure is an appropriate term to describe the much ballyhooed Backyard Brawl between Pitt and West Virginia. I heard a great line from Ron Cook on The Fan this morning. He was saying how when you see a great game between two good teams the thought occurs to you that "it's a shame one of these teams has to lose." In watching Pitt-WVU on Friday, his thought was that it was shame that one of these teams had to win. My own thought was that when WVU muffed two punts giving Pitt the ball deep in WV territory, and all that Pitt came away with was two field goals, well, you just had a feeling that that was going to come back to haunt them, and did it ever.

As you all know by now, if you care about this, is that the brunt of all things wrong with Pitt lies with QB Tino Sunseri. I prefer to hold college players to a different standard than their professional counterparts, and I don't like to go overboard in criticizing college athletes. That said, Sunseri did not play well at all in that game on Friday, and this has been pretty much the case all season. In two years as the starting QB, it does not seem that he has improved in his play, and you could probably make a case that he has regressed. Is that his fault? His coaches? I don't know, but it is pretty clear that Pitt is going to need improved play at quarterback in 2012 to improve upon what has been a very disappointing season.

Still, I hate hearing people dump on a college kid, who is, nominally, at least, an amateur, the same way they would, to use examples from recent history, Kordell Stewart or Neil O'Donnell, pros who were paid big bucks to perform, just kind of goes against the grain with me.

As for first year coach Todd Graham, I have plenty of thoughts on him, but I'll save those until after the regular season ends this weekend against Syracuse.

Leftover Stuffing

Let's stick with football for the moment and talk about that Steelers game in KC last night. They won't be showcasing that one in the film rooms at Canton, will they? The Chiefs did everything in their power to give that game to the Steelers, and they still had a chance to win it in the end. Any kind of performance other than what Tyler Palko gave the Chiefs last night and that win would have probably been a loss for the Steelers.

Well, no one says that wins have to be pretty, and a win is a win, and you are what your record says you are and blah blah blah. A tough one with the Bengals next week. I'm figuring that the Steelers are going to almost have to win all of their remaining five games to hold on to the Wild Card spot in which they currently sit.

Also, will people please stop saying that the Steelers need to run the ball more. Were you watching last night? They CAN'T run the ball. The game has changed and neither Franco Harris nor John Henry Johnson is suiting up for them any time soon. They are a PASSING team, and when the receivers have a lackluster game like they did last night, combined with the non-running game, you get the near-unthinkable almost-loss you saw last night.

Final note on last night's game. A law should be passed that requires that Chris Collinsworth be the analyst on EVERY telecast of a football game. He's the best guy out there.

Leftover Pumpkin Pie

I did not see any of the Pittsburgh Thanksgiving Day parade on Saturday, but I did note that the big celebrity (not sure if he was called "Grand Marshall" or not) was Mitch Ryder. Mitch Ryder! The Detroit Wheels, sad to say, were not with him. I am guessing that 80% of the people who were watching the parade had absolutely no idea who he was. I mean, I don't even think the Pirates would line up Mitch Ryder to do a post-game SkyBlast concert. Is that the best that Macy's could come up with for the City's parade? Not even Luke Cravenstahl would show up for a photo op with Mitch Ryder! Who are they getting next year? How about Danny Bonaduce?

And on the other side of the coin, how do you think Mitch felt when his agent called and said that he had a great gig for him - riding in a Thanksgiving parade in Pittsburgh.

The Dishes Are Done

The Thanksgiving and Fall decorations have been packed away, and the Christmas decorations, with the exception of the Christmas Tree, are in place in our house. We look forward to a busy few weeks between now and Christmas Day with family and friends. We started the season off today by taking in the new, highly touted George Clooney movie, "The Descendants." I will write more on that in a separate posting later in the week, but will tell you now that it is a very good movie.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Week That Was

Looking back on the week this Sunday morning.....

High(?)light of the week for me involved the return of an old nemesis - kidney stones. The unmistakable pain in my right side came on Thursday morning. There then followed a call to the doctor, a CT scan, a visit to the doctor, lots of water drinking, and the continued use of a strainer. I have not been in any pain since Thursday morning, but the offending little bugger currently lodged in my internal plumbing has yet to pass, so the story isn't over yet.

I posted about this event on Facebook on Thursday, and few posts that I have ever made on Facebook have drawn the number of comments from Friends as this one did. Everyone's concern was and is most appreciated.

I worked the WPIAL Sportsmanship Summit at the Heinz History Center this past Monday morning. A great event with over 600 high school athletes in attendance. I really enjoyed seeing the energy of all of these kids. Made you realize that the high school athletes with the sense of entitlement of, say, Terelle Pryor, are the exception, thankfully.

Last year's featured speaker was Pitt Womens Basketball coach Agnes Beranatto, and she was terrific. This year the speaker was Lavar Arrington. Let's just say that it is safe to assume that Arrington never took a public speaking course while matriculating at North Hills High School or Penn State.

News Item: Franco Harris steps down as chairman of the Pittsburgh Promise under political pressure from Mayor Luke Ravenstahl because of his expressed support of Joe Paterno.

You can question Franco's judgement in this matter while at the same time admiring his loyalty to his old coach. What cannot be questioned is the naked political opportunism of Boy Mayor Cravenstahl in his attack on Harris in the news media. The Mayor, who has made a habit during his administration of being invisible during moments of crisis, never misses an opportunity to grandstand in the very worst sense of the word. But, hey, he did get that cameo spot in the new Batman movie, and Davey Lawrence never did anything that cool, did he?

While being stalled in Monday morning rush hour traffic this week (it was raining, after all), I tried to relieve the boredom by punching the radio buttons, and I was astonished to be reminded that Jack Bogut is STILL on the air in morning drive time on WJAS, the Music of Your Life station (aka, the Geezer Station). Yes, Bogut is still doing all of the same old boring stuff he did at KDKA back in the Jurassic Age. I am not quite sure what this says about the Pittsburgh market.

It made me wonder about just how old this guy is, so I googled him when I got home. I find out he even has his own website! Interestingly enough, his bio on his website does not include his year of birth. It does say, however, that he came to Pittsburgh in 1968. Forty-three (43) years ago!!! He has to be well into his seventies.

Maybe fresh air is good for your teeth.

It is being reported that the Pirates are close to signing a two year deal with free agent short stop Clint Barmes, age 32. The deal is reported to be worth $5 million. On Twitter last night, Dejan Kovacevic stated that the "Pirates have no peers when it comes to lateral, inexpensive offseason moves. Looks like that will be 2 for 2. Actual upgrades, anyone?"

Can you describe this move and the Rod Barajas signing any better?

Will either of these signings significantly improve the Pirates in any way?

My SABR and Facebook friend Dan Bonk described the Barajas move as a completely irrelevant free agent signing, and the Barmes signing will prove, no doubt, to be the same.

My brother Bill summed it up very well - "The Pirates: Where ballplayers in their thirties go to die."

Amazingly, Tim Tebow is turning out to be one of the biggest stories of the year in the NFL. I tuned into the Thursday night NFL game at the end, just in time to see him engineer that 95 yard game winning drive against the Jets. (What happened to Rex Ryan's vaunted defensive schemes?) He may win ugly, and his style may not be sustainable in the NFL, but right now, Tebow is 4-1 as a Broncos starting QB, and how can you ignore that?

What surprises me is how much of a lightning rod Tebow is for criticism. Why? Some have speculated that this is because of his public profession of his Christianity. While I am somewhat suspicious of people who wear their religion on the sleeves, I don't think Tebow is any more or less overt in this than any one of dozens of athletes you could name, and they don't get dumped on by the public as Tebow seems to be.

Maybe the criticism stems from the fact that Tebow is not the ideal of an NFL quarterback or, even worse, not a good "Fantasy Guy." Hey, if he doesn't have the goods, the other teams in the league will catch up to him soon enough. Until then, though, give the guy credit for winning games right now.

Speaking of the NFL Network, they seem to be working on another set of announcers for their Thursday night telecasts. This time it's Brad Nessler and Mike Mayock. Nessler is a more than capable play-by-play guy. Mayock is okay, I suppose, but he suffers the same disease as all color guys in that he has to comment and expound on EVERY SINGLE PLAY.

The good news is that (a) it is a two man booth and (b) Matt Millan and Joe Thiesman are not there any more.

A Sunday with no Steelers game. How are you planning on spending this day?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Before MLB Signs That New CBA.....

As I knew would happen, the naysayers are weighing in on the new playoff structure (additional wild card team and a One Game Wild Card Playoff game - hereafter to be known as the OGWCP game), so before Bud and whoever the guy who replaced Don Fehr is sign off on that new Bargaining Agreement, they should consider the following Modest Proposal to make everything right with the purists.

  1. Get rid of 14 franchises. Contract them, dissolve them, just make them go away.

  2. Make sure one of those 14 teams is the New York Mets. They've only been around for 50 years, so nobody really cares about them anyway.

  3. Move the Dodgers and Giants back to Brooklyn and New York.

  4. There will now be 16 teams remaining divided into two 8 team leagues.

  5. No teams west of the Mississippi. Their scores never make the morning papers in the east, so they're pretty much irrelevant as it is.

  6. Play a 154 game schedule that would include double headers for every team for every Sunday.

  7. No night games.

  8. One pennant winner per league, even if the pennant winner opens up a 20 game lead in mid-August, thus effectively killing any interest in that league's games for the remainder of the regular season.

  9. Limit the amount of televised games to one per week. Teams contract with local TV stations to televise about 20-25 games per year. All telecasts to be in black & white.

What do you think?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Movie Review: "J. Edgar"

The new Clint Eastwood directed and Leonardo DiCaprio starring movie, "J. Edgar", was heavily advertised during the baseball playoffs, and those ubiquitous commercials had me convinced that this was a movie to see. It had so much going for it....a great director in Eastwood, perhaps the best actor of his generation in DiCaprio, and a subject, J. Edgar Hoover, that was ripe for controversy and, perhaps, some rousing action.

Sorry to say, the whole was not as good as the sum of its parts.

While Hoover certainly deserves credit for building the FBI into the elite crime fighting organization it is today, a case could also be made that Hoover was also one of the more evil figures in our history. Personally, I was interested to see how Eastwood, whose personal politics are somewhat right of center, might portray Hoover. Would he emphasize the crime-busting anti-Communist passion of Hoover? Would he gloss over the Hoover who wiretapped seemingly everybody and use those findings to blackmail several Presidents and Attorneys General into keeping him at his post as FBI director until the day he died?

Well, the movie does show Hoover, warts and all, and it also plays up Hoover's long term relationship with his #2 man at the Bureau, Clyde Tolson. Unfortunately, the movie, which is told in flashbacks as Hoover dictates his memoirs to a present day Agent, is somewhat disjointed, which makes it somewhat hard to follow. The colors in the movie also are washed out through much of the movie. Sometimes that works well, but I don't think it did here. As a fellow viewer said to me as we exited the theater, "I expected more."

One thing that did not disappoint was DiCaprio's performance. He is really a great actor. I haven't seen everything he's done, but I've never seen him be anything less than excellent in anything that I have seen him in. I also like Armie Hammer, despite some ridiculous make-up, as Tolson. Very good performance there.

One of the historical figures portrayed in this movie was Robert Kennedy, and this leads me to a pet peeve. Whenever the Kennedys are portrayed in movies or on TV, why must the actors speak with such obviously phony New England accents? Is it really necessary to use accents when portraying historical figures? Would it make the movie any less valid if Jack or Bobby Kennedy just, you know, spoke their lines without making you think you are watching a bad version of Rich Little on the screen? Don't know who the actor was who played RFK in this movie, but the "pahk-the-cah" affectations were distracting in the extreme. Maybe they should have had him wearing a Red Sox hat, too.

BIG Changes in Major League Baseball

Major League Baseball has announced some MAJOR changes to it's structure that include the following:

  1. The Astros to move to the American League in 2013, thus creating two 15 team leagues, which means that interleague play will now occur throughout the 26 week season. Purists and old school seamheads are already bemoaning this fact, but this particular genie left the bottle in 1997 when interleague play began, and there is no turning back. Why is this only important to baseball people? Nobody cared when the the NFL and AFL merged in 1970 and inter-conference play became a fact of life. No one even thinks of this when the NFL schedule comes out.

  2. Expansion of the playoffs to include two wild card teams in each league with the wild cards meeting in a one game playoff to start the post season. While you can argue that this dilutes the playoff pool, I think I like this. When wild cards were introduced, people said that the idea of down-to-the-wire-pennant-races had been killed, and we see that that hasn't happened. The final week of the 2011 season is ample proof of that. I also think that having a one game playoff between the wild cards will provide real incentive to finish first in your division. Now it will really MEAN something for the Yankees to finish ahead of the Red Sox, and vice versa.

  3. And how pressure packed will that one game playoff be? Off the charts. If you say that it isn't fair to play 162 games and risk being eliminated in one game, then I say just play better, finish in first place, and avoid that one game shoot out.

  4. Word is being leaked that teams and the players are close to coming to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement. Well, nice to know that there will be no NBA-like work stoppage, but I am guessing that the Yankees will still be the Yankees, and the Pirates will still be the Pirates under the new CBA. I know, I know...the Yankees are only playing by the rules that are in place, and the Pirates are cheapskates who make lousy decisions anyway. The beat will continue to go on.

  5. The Florida Marlins are now the Miami Marlins with some very cool new logos and colors. They are making a splash with their new stadium by making, by all accounts, serious contract offers to free agents Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes, and Mark Buerhle. As one Loyal Reader has pointed out to me, when the Pirates got a new stadium, they made a splash by signing Jason Kendall to a $60 million long term contract. That was 10 years, two principal owners, and three GM's ago, but you could say that the shadow of that contract still hangs over the Pirates to this very day.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Welcome, Rod Barajas

Lost amidst the noise and the news coming from State College this past week was the signing by the Pirates of free agent catcher Rod Barajas. By all accounts, the Pirates were front and center in the courting of Barajas, and Barajas himself said all the right things about coming to the Pirates.

So, the team now has a catcher to replace Ryan Doumit. Barajas himself has admitted that he is neither a high average or high on base percentage guy, but that he can hit the ball out of the park (16 HR in 2011 and 125 over a thirteen year career). By contrast, Ryan Doumit has hit 67 HR over a seven year career, and sports a .271 career BA and .777 OPS, as opposed to .238 and .698 for Barajas. Of course, Doumit's biggest problems have been his many many trips to the DL and a salary commitment of $15 million over the next two seasons. Barajas will make $4 million next year (highest on the team as of today).

The one number on Barajas that scares me the most is his age: 36. Fairly old for a ballplayer, and really old for a catcher. Why am I filled with images of Pirates free agent signings of years past of guys who are in their mid-thirties who turn out to be washed up when they arrive in Bradenton? I really hate to be such a pessimist on this, but the Pirates track record on such matters makes you leery to say the least.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thank You to All Veterans Today!!

On Penn State

Throughout the last several days, there has been some terrific writing and reporting from all across the country on this subject. I will not add to it except to say this.

If you have grown up, lived, and worked in Allegheny Country, western Pennsylvania, and the state of Pennsylvania, chances are very good that, if you are not one yourself, you know someone who is a Penn State alumnus and a dyed-in-the-wool Penn State fan. A family member, a co-worker, a neighbor, someone from church, you know these people, and this week I feel truly bad for these people. They are certainly not "victims" in this case, but they are indeed part of the collateral damage that has resulted from this mess.

It is easy to tweak and kid the caricature of the "bleeds-blue-and-white" Penn State fan. I've done it myself, but let's face it, part of that teasing stems from jealousy. I am envious of people that have spent a portion of their life at a place and institution that has engendered a passion and devotion that has lasted their entire lives. I wish I felt that way about any institution with which I have been associated over the years. These folks have not been well served by the stewards of their University.

As I mentioned, there has been some absolutely terrific writing from writers and reporters all over the country on this topic. Locally, I can point to Gene Collier, Dejan Kovacevic, Joe Starkey, and Bob Smizik. Smizik has also posted on his blog links to writers from papers all over the country to make it easier to find these stories.

No writing that I have read, however, was as eloquent than an email that I received from my nephew George, now age 41. George is the son of two Penn State alums, was born and raised in Centre County, and is a Penn State grad and a proud member of the Blue Band. As his thoughts came to me via a personal email, I will not share it here, but I can assure you that his thoughts summarize the sadness and disappointment that has been felt by these loyal alums and fans over this matter. I am sure that he speaks for thousands of Penn Staters across the land. I will take the liberty to share one sentence from his note to me:

It is "exquisitely ironic that a culture (Penn State football) that was in the business of creating upstanding and heroic men, didn't create a sufficient hero in this case."

This will probably be the last thing I wrote on this topic. It hardly falls within the fun-and-games part of life that I usually opine on, and I doubt that there is much of anything that I could add to what will be written in the weeks, months, and years ahead as this story continues to evolve.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Book Reviews - A Baseball Icon and a Football Time Capsule

I have just concluded reading a couple of old books with a sporting theme that I would like to mention to you now.

The first is Richard Ben Cramer's biography of Joe DiMaggio, "Joe DiMaggio, The Hero's Life." Cramer spent five years researching and writing this book which was published in 2000, one year after Joltin' Joe's death. If you are a baseball fan and have even a rudimentary knowledge of baseball history, you already know a lot of the "baseball stuff" about DiMaggio - the sterling quality of his play, the 10 pennants and 9 World Series championships, and, of course, the epic 56 game hitting streak in 1941. However, as is often the case with such biographies, it is the off the field stuff, the post-playing days life, that make for the most interesting reading. For example, you will learn a lot about Marilyn Monroe in this book.

You will also learn that this most beloved of baseball heroes was not the most lovable of men. He was demanding of those around him, but would turn his back on you and cut you off completely if he thought that you were disloyal to him, or, even worse, using your relationship to him to your advantage. He was cheap and never paid for anything.

This is a pretty long (over 500 pages) book, thoroughly detailed, and sometimes slow moving, but worth reading for those who appreciate baseball history.

The second book is even older, "...And Everyday You Take Another Bite" by sportswriter (now boxing commentator on HBO or Showtime) Larry Merchant. This book was written in 1971 and was Merchant's somewhat iconoclastic view of the National Football League in 1971. I had read this book when I was in college, and I stumbled across it in a used bookstore in Cooperstown last month.

Yes, I said 1971, forty years ago. Think about it. When this book was published, the Steelers had never even made the playoffs, ESPN did not exist, Monday Night Football had been on the air only one year, and that relatively new event on the sporting landscape, the Super Bowl, had only just started using Roman numerals. Bob Sproule had not yet met Marilyn Moellenbrock! I had enjoyed the book when I read way back then, and I thought it might be interesting to see what had changed, and what had not changed, since Merchant wrote this book. It was like opening a football time capsule.

The book opens with Merchant's write-up of the previous season's Super Bowl. It was number V, and it was won 16-13 by the Baltimore Colts on a last second field goal that defeated the Dallas Cowboys. If you recall, the game was an error filled contest - fumbles, interceptions, wacky plays, and inept quarterbacking by Johnny Unitas, Earl Morrall, and, especially, Craig Morton. The sloppy play by both teams was made all the more apparent when set against the hype and bombast that NFL used to stage this showcase event. And this was during a time BEFORE 6:30 kick-offs, four hour pre-game shows, and $3 million per minute commercials.

In any event, Merchant's first chapter that summarizes the game is a classic.

The book details the pervasive influence that television was exercising over the game. Again, this was before the birth of ESPN, the NFL Network, and Thursday Night Football. So Merchant's warning bells were quite prophetic.

Some of the book is terribly dated. Remember Dave Meggesey? Didn't think so.

However, there is just all sorts of fun memories that can be dredged up reading this book. Such as....

  • The 1968 "Orange Juice Bowl" when the lousy Steelers beat the lousy Eagles 6-3 in a game where both teams were "as futile as the law allows." At the time, it was felt that the loser of that game would win the right to draft O.J. Simpson. Ironically, the Eagles won two of their final games and lost the right for the #1 pick. Merchant says that Eagles coach Joe Kuharich thus "refined the art of losing to its finite limit - losing while winning."

  • And isn't any book that tells Joe Kuharich stories worth reading?

  • Lots of stuff on Joe Namath, which, in retrospect, seem a bit overblown looking back on it.

  • Stories about Joe Don Looney. Again, any book with stories about that dude is worth reading.

  • Vince Lombardi had only died within the prior year, so Merchant spends some time on him, and how he was officially canonized by the NFL.

Some good stuff. It might be hard to find this book anywhere now, so if you care to read it. I'll be happy to lend it to you.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Andy Rooney on D-Day

In my post earlier today, I made reference to an Andy Rooney essay on D-Day. It was run this morning on CBS' Sunday Morning show.

Watch and listen.;contentBody

A Trip to the Movies, Football Fun & Games, and Other Topics

Cleaning out the Mental In-Box....

  • As I usually try to confine this blog to light-hearted topics, saving outrage for baffling moves on the part of the Pirates, I will not expound on the truly awful news coming from Penn State this weekend. Better writers than I are opining on that, and I refer you to Gene Collier in today's PG, Joe Starkey in today's Trib, and Bob Smizik's blog on, for more analysis. All I can ask is this: why did no one - no one -at the University call the police when the 2002 assault in the shower room was witnessed and reported to various University officials?

Okay, I will now return to the Fun & Games Department.....

  • For the first time in months, we took ourselves out to the movie theater yesterday and saw "Tower Heist" starring Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy. Now some readers who know me will be shocked - SHOCKED - to hear that I went to see Ben Stiller in anything. However, he did not play the usual put-upon character he usually plays (see those awful Focker movies), so I'm glad I kept an open mind. This is a movie that will never win any awards, but it was fun and entertaining, and a nice way to spend two hours. Also, it has been awhile since I've seen an Eddie Murphy movie, and I had almost forgotten how really FUNNY he is.

  • I watched the Alabama -LSU game last night that LSU won 9-6 on OT. Two great defensive teams, to be sure, but if you purport to be the Number One team in the nation, shouldn't you be able to play at least SOME offense?

  • On the other hand, any game where you can see Nick Saban lose has its merits.

  • You can get into all sorts of debates over the validity of overtime in regular season games, but I can recall Myron Cope once commenting that sometimes a tie can be a just result in a game. I think that game last night was an example of that premise.

  • The SEC Loyalists out there are already tub-thumping for a rematch of LSU-Alabama in the BCS Championship Game. Please, God, save us from that.

  • Got into an interesting, if short, exchange with a Facebook buddy last night. He was saying how awful the Oklahome State - Kansas State 52-45 game was because it was circus with no defense at all. I was saying how the 6-6 Alabama game was far from the "game of the century" the flacksters were promoting because of the complete lack of offense. I would say that we were probably both right.

  • Pitt once against snatches defeat from the jaws of victory, blowing a 10 point third quarter lead against Cincinnati last night. I was switching back and forth between that game and the Alabama game, but I saw enough to state that the Pitt offense in that fourth quarter was thoroughly awful. Almost unwatchable.

  • Then again, West Virginia loses to Lousiville yesterday. Big East football really is terrible, isn't it?

  • I have written in the past about how I enjoy listening to the "60's on 6" radio station on the Sirius XM satellite radio. Great music from the 1960's. However, when you listen for an extended period of time, as we did on our recent drive to Cooperstown, you learn that not everything from that era was great, and some of it was downright bad. As evidence I give you "Honey" by Bobby Goldsboro, and anything by Bobby Vinton.

  • I was saddened to read in the paper a few weeks back that Highland Country Club has closed. I was never a member there, but for a period of time in the 1990's my boss was, and, thus, I was able to play there quite a bit when entertaining customers. Highland was never ranked as one of the truly great country club courses here in western PA, but I always found it a fun and enjoyable course to play. Too bad.

  • Also saddened to hear that Joe Frazier, 67, has been stricken with liver cancer and is now in hospice care.

  • And of course, I was also saddened to hear of the death of Andy Rooney. This morning's "CBS Sunday Morning" show was devoted to Rooney, and it included his essay on D-Day, which is something everybody should see.

  • Finally, I hear tell that a football game of some note will be played at Heinz Field this evening. The Ravens have been struggling of late, and the Steelers are coming off that huge win against the Patriots. What the hell, the Steelers to win tonight!!

Friday, November 4, 2011

"Million Dollar Quartet"

On a December day in 1956, musical legends Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis really did meet in the Sam Phillips' Sun Records studio in Memphis, and really did have a jam session. That session has been fleshed out dramatically for the purposes of creating the musical "Million Dollar Quartet" that Marilyn and I took in at the Benedum Theater last evening.

While the show does tell a story, it is really all about the music, and the four actors who play the leads really do it up right. These guys are not "impersonators" as we have come to know them, but actors playing a part, and they all do it really well. The idea of an "Elvis impersonator" has become a show biz cliche. What this role in MDQ requires is someone playing Elvis (and Cash, Perkins, and Lewis), and the actors in last night's production hit just the right notes. The actor who played Elvis got the hip-shaking moves down right, and while the voice isn't exactly like Elvis, you know that you are seeing the 1956 version of Elvis on stage.

The show confirms that the pre-Army Elvis Presley was and is the "real" Elvis, the Elvis who really was The King. People whose only impression or knowledge of Elvis Presley consists of cheesy movies and a fat guy in a white jump suit on a Vegas stage, really need to learn more about Elvis prior to his 1960 induction.

(Which brings to mind John Lennon's quote when he learned that Presley had died in 1977: "The real Elvis died the day he went into the Army.")

Back to the show, the actor who played Jerry Lee Lewis really stole the show. Pure energy and he played the piano just like the Killer.

The encore to the show was great with each actor performing a signature song of each artist:

Hound Dog by Elvis, Ghostriders in the Sky by Cash, See You Later, Alligator by Perkins, and a rousing finale of Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On by Lewis. And, of course, when it was over, the announcement was made that "Elvis has just left the building."

Great show!!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

To Absent Friends - Matty Alou

News arrives today that Matty Alou passed away today in his native Dominican Republic at the age of 72. Alou is, of course, famous for being one of the three Alou brothers who played in the major leagues in the 1960's and -70's.

Pirates fans will remember him coming to the Pirates after in 1966 in one of Joe L. Brown's great trades (Joe Gibbon and Ozzie Virgil went to the Giants). All Alou did in his five seasons with the Bucs was put together seasons where he produced batting averages of .342, .338, .332, .331, and .297, winning the NL batting championship in 1966. Over 15 big league seasons, he compiled a .307 lifetime batting average.

I will remember Alou as being a part of some of my favorite Pirates teams of all time in the late 60's when the Pirates often challenged for a pennant, but never quite made it, but, man could those teams hit...Clemente, Stargell, Clendennon, Alou, Mota, Pagliaroni....Some cherished memories there.

It might also be noted, that even when Alou left the Pirates, he served them well. He was traded after the 1970 season to the Cardinals for Nelson Briles and Vic Davillio, two key guys on the 1971 World Series Champions.

RIP Matty Alou.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Clemente Picture

Below you will see a picture of the picture of Roberto Clemente that I won at the World Series Gala at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown last week. We bought the frame and decided to hang it in a place of honor in our den at home.

Appropriate that it hangs below a painting of Forbes Field, don't you think?