Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The World Series in Review

As we all know by now, the Boston Red Sox won the 2018 World Series.  


I believe I had that. Although I said they'd need six games to do so, and they did it in five.

Some Thoughts-At-Large from The Grandstander on the just completed Fall Classic.
  • This just in.....The Red Sox are really, really good.  No surprise there.  108 wins in the season, beat the 100 win Yankees and the 103 win Astros in the AL Playoffs, and dusted off the Dodgers in five games in the Series.  Ruthless and efficient, that is what these Red Sox were in 2018.
  • Aside from the Red Sox dominance, this was a rather unmemorable World Series.  After the first two games, I said on Facebook that unless the Dodgers did something to alter the course of events, this thus far juiceless World Series would go down as one of the more unmemorable ones in recent memory.  Well, Game Three turned that statement pretty much upside down when the teams played 18 innings over 7 hours and 20 minutes, both world Series records, that the Dodgers won with a Max Muncy walk off home run.
  • No, I did not stay to the end of that game, which ended at 3:30 AM here in Pittsburgh.  I made it through eleven, and gave way to the sandman.  I just couldn't stay awake any longer.
  • This was also the World Series where we were bludgeoned with endless streams of no, not cigarettes and magazines, but endless reams of 21st century baseball metrics and analytics.  Launch angles, exit velocities, catch probabilities, and such arcane minutia like percentage of curve balls thrown by pitcher Jock LeStrap when he has two strikes on right handed hitters in even numbered innings vs. odd numbered innings.  Stuff like that.  I am not a complete Luddite, and if baseball guys can use such analytics to win games, I say go for it, but please, please don't present it all to me in such mind-numbing detail.
  • Speaking of analytics, both managers, Alex Cora and Dave Roberts, are strict analytics guys.  Every move that Cora made (with one exception) worked.  Every move that Roberts made blew up in his face like a cheap exploding cigar. 
  • In Game Four with the Dodgers holding a 1-0 lead in the sixth inning, Yasiel Puig came to bat with two men on and Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez obviously laboring.  The Sox metrics guys said that despite all of that, Rodriguez should be the guy to pitch to Puig.  Puig then hit one that I believe has still yet to land on Southern California soil, and LA led 4-0, and appeared to be in a position to turn the Series around, but more on that in a bit.
  • As for the Dodgers' metrics, and this is just one example, they somehow told Roberts not to start Cody Bellinger in three of the five games.  They also told him to keep using Ryan Madson in relief.  In three games, Madson came into pitch and inherited eight base runners, all of whom scored.  
  • After that Puig home run in Game Four, we got a glimpse of the cold blooded efficiency of the Sox.  They responded with three runs in the seventh, one in the eighth, and five in the ninth on the way to a 9-6 win that removed all doubt, if any existed at all, as to how this Series was going to turn out.
  • Getting back to metrics, they are great, I suppose, over the course of a 162 game season, but in a short, best-of-seven series, not so much.  Sometimes a manager has to know, just KNOW when to make a move and go against what the seam heads are telling you.  When to start a left handed hitter against a lefty, when to pull pitcher even if the book says leave him in, or when to leave him in the game.  In that pivotal fourth game, Cora left his pitcher in when he should have yanked him, and Roberts pulled Rich Hill when maybe he should have let him go for another couple of batters.  Cora's Sox bailed him out, though, whereas Roberts' lads did not.
A word about World Series Most Valuable Player Steve Pearce.


I think that it was a well deserved award, and I am delighted that a journeyman, and his career path is the very definition of that term, like Pearce gets this moment of glory and that fancy big ass Chevy truck.  Pirates fans will remember that he is a product  of the Bucco organization.  An eighth round draft pick in 2005, he was the team's Minor League Player of the Year in 2007.  He was a teammate of both Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker in Altoona and Indianapolis.  Of those three players, which one would YOU have predicted would one day be a World Series hero?  He made it to Pittsburgh in 2007 and spent parts of five seasons as a Pirate (I would never have guessed that he was here that long), but never made it like Cutch and Walker did.  In parts of five seasons as a Pirate, he played in 185 games and hit .232 with 9 HR and 52 RBI.  


After leaving Pittsburgh after the 2011 season, he kicked around with six other teams, landing in Boston midway through this season.  How fortuitous for him.

Some people have said that the MVP Award should have gone to pitcher David Price, and a case can certainly be made for him, but I'm glad it went to Pearce.  Let's face it, Price is a star, he's cashed in on free agent gold at least once in his career, and may be able to do it again before he's through.  He is a five time All-Star, a Cy Young Award winner, and now he's a World Series champion and hero.  He's also made $144 million over the course of his career and is guaranteed to earn another $127 million under his current deal.  Pearce has kicked around with seven teams, made $23.2 million.  He's a free agent again, and while his World Series heroics may help him in free agency, he'll still be scrambling for another contract, and he won't come close to making what David Price makes.  So again, I'm happy for Steve Pearce.

In conclusion, this Series will be remembered, if it is much remembered at all outside of New England, for three things:
  1. Total domination by a great team, the Boston Red Sox.
  2. That monumental 18 inning, 7 hour and 20 minute third game.
  3. The fact that wizened, gnome-like 84 year old Larry King hung  there for all 18 innings of that game.  
He never made it back for Games Four and Five.
Maybe that's why the Dodgers lost.

Monday, October 29, 2018

My Collectables

As much as I love sports (you knew that, right?), I am not one for accumulating collectables, autographs, or memorabilia.  About the only such thing that I have is a large album....


that contains and displays post cards of all members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.


I bought this album and a complete set of postcards when we visited the HOF in Cooperstown back in 1999.  Each year, I purchase the postcards for the new HOF enshrinees.  In three of those years, 2001, 2011, and 2016, I purchased the additional cards when we revisited Cooperstown.

Today, the cards for the Class of 2018, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Jack Morris, Jim Thome, and Alan Trammell arrived.


I will carefully place this cards in the album and return the album to its spot on my bookshelf.  Someday, many, many years from now, I hope, I will be in that great Grandstand in the Sky, and some great-niece or great-nephew of mine will come across this album and probably say something like, "Well, what in the hell are we going to do with this?"

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Old Movies....."The Petrified Forest" (1936)


So, I DVR'd this old movie when TCM showed it a few weeks ago and got around to watching it earlier in the week.  Based on a stage play by Robert Sherwood, the movie is the story of a John Dillinger-type gangster who descends upon a combination gas station / lunch counter in the Middle of Nowhere Arizona desert and holds the denizens of this establishment hostage as he attempts to lam in to the Mexican border.

It's no great shakes but I wanted to see this now 82 year old film it because it is often sited as the movie that was the breakout role for Humphrey Bogart.  He was 37 at the time and up until then was pretty much a bit player in a long string of B-movie gangster flicks that Warner Bros. was always cranking out back then.  He played the role of killer Duke Mantee in the stage play, that also starred Leslie Howard on Broadway.  When Warners decided to turn it into a movie, they had signed Howard to recreate his starring role and have Edward G. Robinson play the role of Mantee, but Howard insisted that they cast Bogart, or he wouldn't do the movie himself.

So, Bogie played Mantee with all the menace the role demanded, and went on to become a big star, or so the legend says.  You will note in the poster for the film above, Leslie Howard and Bette Davis received billing above the title, and Bogie was only the third billed actor below the title, yet today, "The Petrified Forest" is considered a classic "Bogart movie".


The revelation to me in the movie, though, was Bette Davis.  We all know and concede that Bette Davis was one of the great actresses of Hollywood history, but she has never been considered a great beauty as so many of her contemporaries were, but in this one I was struck by just how pretty, if not beautiful, the 28 year old Bette Davis was.


Like I said, it's no great shakes, The Grandstander gives it Two Stars at best, but it's worth seeing once just to catch two of Hollywood's all-time greats, Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart, early on in their careers.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

And The World Series Winner Will Be......

I didn't pay a lot of attention to the American League East throughout the 2018 season, but I know that the Boston Red Sox laid waste to that race by winning 108 games.  

I didn't pay a lot of attention to the American League Division Series as the Boston Red Sox laid waste to the New York Yankees.

I predicted that the defending World Series Champs and winners of 103 games Houston Astros would win the American League Championship series and then watched as the Boston Red Sox laid waste to them in five games.

So, I've learned my lesson, and I am predicting that the winner of the upcoming 2018 World Series will be.....


Not going to give a lot of analysis here.  Just calling the Sox to defeat the Dodgers in six games.

Oh, and in case you forgot, I also predicted that the Brewers would defeat the Dodgers in the NLCS.  I believe that I DIDN'T have that, so, as always, watch, but don't bet.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

To Absent Friends - Paul Allen

Paul Allen
1953-2018


The Grandstander experienced a "first" of sorts when this request from pal Dan Houston popped up on Facebook yesterday:

Hey Bob any chance you do an "Absent Friends" on Paul Allen? I know people in Pittsburgh probably aren't huge fans but he single handedly saved Pro Football in the PNW, all while starting a rock museum and owning a basketball team. He also co-founded a small computer company.

Like I said, this was the first time I received a request for an obituary, and upon further reflection, Mr. Allen is certainly deserving.  He died this past Sunday of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma at the age of 65.

On a sports related note, Allen is the owner of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, the NBA's Portland Trailblazers, and the MSL's Seattle Sounders, so, yeah, he is a giant sports figure in the Pacific Northwest.  In the area of popular culture, the "rock museum" that Dan noted started out as a tribute to Seattle's Jimi Hendrix and a place to showcase Allen's own impressive memorabilia collection.  It has since morphed into a large rock and roll and popular culture center and is now known as the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle.

But it is that "small computer company", actually  computer software company, that Allen co-founded back in 1975 with his classmate, Bill Gates, that will leave Allen's biggest impact on the  world.  The company was, of course, Microsoft, and what bit of technology has had a greater impact on society in the last fifty years or so?  If Microsoft's impact is not Number One, it is surely in the Top Five.

Allen and Gates
1981

This statement issued by Microsoft upon Allen's death says it all:

“In his own quiet and persistent way, he created magical products, experiences and institutions, and in doing so, he changed the world."

RIP Paul Allen.

 
Hoisting the Lombardi Trophy
2014 Super Bowl

On an unrelated note, for inspiring this post, Dan Houston has now been named the Official Pacific Northwest Correspondent for The Grandstander.

"Anastasia"


When we purchased a season subscription for the 2018-19 Broadway in Pittsburgh season, we all felt that "Anastasia" would be the one show where our expectations were the lowest.  How wrong we were.

This musical version of what what might have happened to the Princess Anastasia after the Romanov Family was executed in the 1917 Russian Revolution (right off the bat you might say, "they're going to do THIS as a musical comedy?") was a delightful experience.  Perhaps the most amazing aspect of this show were the sets.  It looks like that used a rear projection type of thing to change the backdrops of the various scenes.  The scene where the characters are riding on a train car is really cool.

The star of the show was young Lila Coogan as Anya, the street sweep who con artists Demitry and Vlad want to pain her off as the long missing Princess.  Miss Coogan was a wonderful singer and dancer and is quite lovely....

Lila Coogan

And did I mention that she is very young, although her own website does not list her age, she has to still be in her twenties.

While none of the songs in the show are destined to become classic popular tunes, they were quite pleasant and told the story very well.  I will note that the comic number in the show, "The Countess and the Common Man" in Act II was very funny and well performed by Tari Kelly as the Countess Lily and Edward Staudenmayer as Vlad.

Tari Kelly

Very good show and quite entertaining and enjoyable.  Terrific actors, wonderful music, beautiful costumes, and terrific staging.  What's not to like?  It runs through Sunday at the Benedum here in Pittsburgh.


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

"First Man"



When the Oscar nominations are announced and when the awards themselves are passed out, you are going to hear the movie "First Man" mentioned a lot, and rightfully so.  Saw this one this afternoon, and it is a terrific movie.

It is the story of Neil Armstrong and the journey to his being the first man to set foot on the moon.  It begins with a scene of test pilot Armstrong flying an X-15 over the Mojave desert in 1961, and the story then follows the Armstrongs losing a child (something that I never knew about), his selection as a Gemini astronaut (the sequence of Armstrong's and David Scott's Gemini 8 mission is thrilling and harrowing), the tragic deaths of the Apollo 1 astronauts in a training exercise, and, of course, the historic mission of Apollo 11 in July, 1969.

This is not only a terrific story, but it is great movie making.  The scene of the lunar landscape after the LEM lands and the musical score that accompanies it is breathtaking.  And director Damien Chazelle puts you inside a cramped spacecraft and lets you know how really, really hard it is to be an astronaut even better than such terrific past movies as "The Right Stuff" and "Apollo 13" did.

The movies stars Ryan Gosling as Armstrong and Claire Foy as his wife, Janet.



Both are terrific. Gosling plays Armstrong as the reserved egghead (as described by a fellow astronaut) engineer that he was, not as a rowdy space cowboy, but as a guy whose reserved nature can be traced back to the personal tragedy of the death of a child.  Foy, best known as the young Queen Elizabeth in "The Crown" is fabulous as Janet, who has to deal not only with the loss of her daughter, but with raising two rowdy sons, dealing with NASA bureaucrats, and being married to man who every day runs the risk of not surviving his job.  The scene where she forces Neil to talk to the kids before he leaves for Cape Kennedy and the Apollo 11 mission is the clip that you will be seeing when they  show why she received her Best Actress nomination.

The movie is directed by Damien Chazelle, an Oscar winner for "La La Land" and has a screenplay by Josh Scott, an Oscar winner for "Spotlight".   Add that pedigree to great acting performances, an exciting and true story (yeah, it's edge-of-the-seat stuff even though you know how it ends), and you have what just might be the best movie of the year.

Four stars from The Grandstander, plus a tip of the space helmet to the man who inspired the whole story.

Neil Armstrong
The First Man


To Absent Friends - Jim Taylor

The Famous Packer Sweep - Taylor follows Kramer and Thurston

My earliest memories of a Great Team in the NFL are of the Green Bay Packers of Vince Lombardi, and thoughts of those teams came rushing back to me when I heard the news a few days ago of the death of Jim Taylor at the age of 83.  Bart Starr was the  quarterback and Paul Hornung was the Golden Boy who got all the headlines, but make no mistake, fullback Taylor was the the guy who got it done when it was most needed.

He played ten years in the NFL, nine of them with the Packers.  He rushed for 1,000 yards five straight seasons (NOTE: they only played twelve game seasons then), was the League MVP in 1962, played on four NFL championship teams ('61, '62, '65, '66), and was the first of the Lombardi Packers to be inducted into the Pro Football hall of Fame.

As much as anyone, Jim Taylor epitomized the toughness of pro football as the NFL rose to prominence in the 1960's and supplanted baseball as America's favorite sport.


RIP Jim Taylor.





  

On Nate Peterman

Way, way back on December 17, 2016, I wrote the following in this space about Pitt quarterback Nate Peterman:

The Pitt Panthers will be taking on Northwestern on December 28 in the Pinstripe Bowl in New York.  I didn't want to let the season end without saying a few words about senior quarterback Nate Peterman.


Peterman came to Pitt as a transfer from Tennessee one or two head coaches/offensive coordinators ago, and became the full time starter early in 2015.  In those two seasons, Peterman's performance has often been overshadowed by guys like James Conner, Tyler Boyd, and Quadree Henderson, but it needs to be noted that he has been a solid and good to very good performer at the most important position on the field for Pitt.  In 2016, he passed for 2,602 yards, for 26 TDs and only 6 INTs while completing 59.7% of his passes.  He also rushed for 291 yards, a 4.2 yard average, and scored two TDs.

Peterman was certainly no Dan Marino or Matt Cavanaugh, and maybe not even Alex Van Pelt, but he was, as a I said a very good QB for Pitt in his time here.  I have no idea as to whether or not he has the goods to make it in the NFL, but I do know that the Panthers have some very big shoes to fill at quarterback when spring practice rolls around.

Here's hoping for a big game for Nate Peterman in his final game at Yankee Stadium in two weeks, and for a great future for him in any endeavor he chooses.

I will stand by those words that I wrote back then.  Peterman was a solid to quite good QB for Pitt, and, in fact, no one who has played the position in the subsequent season and one-half has adequately filled his shoes.  However, things have not gone well for Peterman in his NFL career with the Buffalo Bills.  He was thrown into start a game for the Bills early in the season last year way before he was ready or properly prepared by his coaches, and it was a disastrous five interception game.   Things have not gone much better for him in Buffalo since then, and although he is still with the Bills, his name has become pretty much a national punchline among pro football observers.

As I said, you can make a case that he has not been served well by the coaches up in Buffalo, but his performance also points out that the difference between high level college football and the NFL is so vast that only the very best of those players can make it on the big stage.

But, hey, call me a cockeyed optimist, but I'm still hoping that it can work out for Nate Peterman somewhere in the NFL.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Steelers 28 - Bengals 21

This is what did NOT happen to the Cincinnati Bengals this afternoon:
  • They did not shoot themselves in their collective feet with cheap shot and downright dirty play.
  • They did not have a running back fumble deep in their own territory when holding the ball would have assured a victory.
  • QB Andy Dalton did not throw a soul crushing interception that cost his team the game.
Instead, Dalton played an error free game, didn't throw an interception, the Bengals didn't turnover the ball, they held the Steelers to field goals instead of touchdowns at critical moments, and Dalton led a beautiful two minute drill drive that put Cincy ahead 21-20 with only 1:18 remaining in the game.  And you know what?

THEY LOST TO THE STEELERS ANYWAY!!!!!

After the kickoff, the Steelers got the ball on their own 24 yard line with 1:12 left in the game.  How many times have I written in this Blog that the Steelers are never out of the game with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback?  A couple of key completions later and the Steelers were setting themselves up for a field goal attempt to win the game when Ben hits Antonio Brown with :10 left on a slant over the middle that went for a 31 yard touchdown.  


A two point conversion later, it's 28-21, and the Steelers win.

In many ways, this was way more satisfying than all those other Bengals screw-ups over the years.  They played well, they had it almost in the bag, and they still turned out to be the Cincy Bungles.

What a satisfying win this one was.

Managed to grab a few pics from my TV set at the end...



Feel bad for them, don't you?  Nahhh.


Why Coaches Make The Big Bucks



Well, that was a valiant effort by the Pitt Panthers who almost beat undefeated and fifth ranked Notre Dame at South Bend yesterday, but, alas and alack, fell short in the end and lost, 19-14. For the second week in a row, Pat Narduzzi demonstrated the decisions that head coaches have to make that can be hailed as brilliant when they work and, when they fail, can lead to the boiling of tar and gathering of feathers when they do not.  

You will recall that last week, in the closing minutes against Syracuse and trailing by three points, Narduzzi elected to have Pitt run the ball and not throw a single pass as the clock ticked down.  This strategy enabled Pitt to get in position to attempt a game tying field goal, which was successful, and the Panthers went on to win overtime.   The HC stated that he didn't want to risk allowing Syracuse's strong pass rush to sack the quarterback or, even worse, force a turnover.  The strategy worked, but could you have imagined the howling that would have taken place if it backfired?

Well, sure you can, because yesterday against the Irish, HCPN had another coaching decision to make.  After leading for most of the game, Notre Dame took a 19-14 lead midway through the fourth quarter.  Pitt did get the ball back and with about four plus minutes remaining, they faced a critical fourth-and-five situation.  He sent out the punt unit, and then attempted to execute a fake punt, using a third string quarterback wearing a numbered jersey that was not even listed on the roster.  The play not only didn't work, it exploded in Pitt's faces like one of the Three Stooges' exploding cigars.  It was bizarre and ridiculous and any other negative adjective you might want to apply to it, and Narduzzi is getting roasted for it, but, hey, if it would have worked.....

Both Narduzzi and Pitt fans aren't going to like this, but that fake punt call ties Coach 'Duzz at the hip with Penn State's James Franklin due to that bizarre fourth-and-five play call that he made against Ohio State two weeks ago in a game that was lost after PSU led for much of it. So Narduzzi and Franklin now have something else in common besides engaging in juvenile Tweeting Contests.

Two other comments on the Pitt game.
  1. Call me naive, but can or should the ethics of sending a kid out in a fake jersey to execute, or in this case, not execute, a fake punt be questioned?   Not exactly above board, if you ask me, but, then again, this is big time football in the NCAA we are talking about here.
  2. Pitt did manage to  score in the second half when Maurice French ran the opening kickoff back 99 yards for a touchdown, but after that, bupkis from the Panther offense.  Pitt's continuing inability to score points in the second halves of games this year is bizarre.
And speaking of Penn State, they lose a heart breaker when Michigan State scores in the final thirty seconds of the game to win 21-17.  This pretty much dashes any hope for the Lions to play for the Big Ten Championship and/or get into a first tier, New Year's Day bowl game.  Like I said two weeks ago in this space, I don't root for Penn State to lose, but I'm not heartbroken when I see James Franklin not win.

In other local college football news, undefeated and sixth ranked West Virginia loses to Iowa State, 30-14, and Duquesne defeats Robert Morris, 48-24.  Hey, in that latter game, at least one local team was guaranteed a victory yesterday.

It's now up to the Steelers to salvage the football weekend for all of us locals down in Cincinnati this afternoon.

Friday, October 12, 2018

To Absent Friends - Mary Alice Gorman


Mary Alice Gorman
1944-2018

I only knew Mary Alice Gorman as the woman who, in 1990,  along with her partner and later-to-be-husband Richard Goldman, opened the Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont, PA.  I usually make a visit to that particular store on perhaps a once a year basis, and I always found Mary Alice and Richard to be gracious hosts, always willing to recommend a book you would like once they got a handle on what your tastes were.  I also knew that Mary Alice and Richard sold Mystery Lovers in 2012 only after they knew that the store would remain open and would continue to operate as a thriving independent niche-market bookstore, and it remains so to this day.

Ms. Gorman died earlier this week at the age of 74, and, as often happens, her obituary in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tells an interesting story.  

An early feminist, Ms. Gorman was threatened with  suspension from her job as a teacher at Pittsburgh's Peabody High School in the 1960's when she dared to show up for work wearing a pantsuit, and was once hauled into the Principal's office for wearing earrings in the classroom that were "too dangly".  She went on to serve as executive director of the Pittsburgh Chapter of the ACLU and also as director of the Allegheny County Center for Victims of Violent Crimes.   In retirement after selling Mystery Lovers, she served as a Life Trustee for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Best selling mystery writer Lisa Scottoline was quoted extensively in the obituary about how much she owed her success to Mary Alice Gorman when, back in the mid-1990's,  she was struggling to get her first novel publicized and on to bookstore shelves.  Many other now renowned mystery writers can tell similar stories.

Quite a lady and quite a life.

RIP Mary Alice Gorman.


Thursday, October 11, 2018

LCS Predictions

A friend mine at golf on Tuesday asked why I hadn't posted any baseball playoffs predictions in The Grandstander.  Apparently, some people actually do read this stuff!  Well, sometimes real life gets in the way of fun and games, so, no predictions earlier in this month.  Actually, after the Wild Card games - and isn't that one game playoff just fantastic?  I love it - I didn't see much of any of the four Division Series.  They all went pretty much according to chalk and offered little in the way of drama and suspense.

So, this leads us to the two best-of-seven League Championship Series, and I expect that the drama will ratchet up for all of us out here watching, if for no other reason than for what is at stake - a trip to the World Series.











Great match up in the American League.  The Red Sox won 108 games and blew past the 100 win Yankees in the LDS.  The defending World Series Champion Astros won 103 games and made similar short work of the Indians in the LDS.

I became somewhat familiar with the Astros while watching last year's Series, and I confess to not being all that familiar with the Sox.  I am guessing that Boston will be a slight betting favorite here, but I am going to pick the Astros to win this one for four reasons: Verlander, Kuechel, Cole, and Morton.  Stronger starting pitching triumphs.


In the National League, everything would seem to point to the Dodgers to defeat the Brewers.  Large payroll, great pitching, strong lineup, but I am going to just go on a hunch here and pick Milwaukee to win this one.




In actuality, I admit to picking the Brewers for the simple reason that this is the team that actually want to see win, and I can't believe I am saying that.  For years whenever I would write about the Brewers, I would usually refer to them as the "Hated Brewers", and you all know why - their dominance over the Pirates for much of this century, the steroid cheat Cryin' Ryan Braun....just always a team that I found easy to dislike.

Something changed, though, last off-season, when the Brewers, a team who could have chosen to sing the same "we're a small market and it's hard to compete" blues that the Pirates always sing went out and signed free agent outfielder Lorenzo Cain and swung a trade with Miami for  outfielder Christian Yelich, while the Pirates failed to sign a major league free agent, did sign guys like Josh Smoker, and continued to sing the Small Market Blues.  The Brewers are now in the LCS, four wins away from the World Series, and Yelich is the favorite to win the National League MVP Award.

So THAT is why I am rooting for the Brewers and would be happy to see them win the World Series.  Of course, if the Brewers should win it all, I can already hear Neal Huntington pointing the the Pirates' five game sweep of Milwaukee in July and saying, "See, we CAN compete with the best teams in the league."

As for the Astros, I would like to see them win because I would like to see Charlie Morton playing in the World Series, again, and I would like to see Gerrit Cole get a shot on that stage as well.  Call it a perverse form of baseball fan masochism, but I'd love to see these ex-Buccos holding that Series Trophy.

So, there you are:  The Astros and the Brewers  to face off in the World Series.  As always, watch, but don't bet!

Monday, October 8, 2018

"On Chesil Beach"



In 1962 England, a young couple find their idyllic romance colliding with issues of sexual freedom and societal pressure, leading to an awkward and fateful wedding night.

So that is how this movie is summarized on it's IMDB page.  it is a pure weepy, soap opera of a movie, one that I  would normally have no interest in watching, and when I watched it today, it lived up to those expectations.  However, when I first heard of this movie, I knew it was one I wanted to see for one reason only.

It starred Saoirse Ronan:


I have been enamored of Miss Ronan, now all of 24 years of age, ever since seeing her in "Brooklyn" two years ago, and again last year in "Lady Bird". I truly believe that she will be the next Great Actress, the next generation's Meryl Streep.  She alone is a reason to see any movie that she makes, and "On Chesil Beach" is no exception.

The movie:  On a young English couple's wedding night in 1962, we see in flashbacks the courtship between the two as they prepare to consummate their marriage.  Things don't go exactly as planned or as either of them would have hoped.  How this affects both Florence (Ronan) and Edward (Billy Howle) is then played out in two flash forwards to 1975 and 2007.

I watched it today via Amazon Prime streaming.  I'm not sure if it ever actually played in movie theaters in Pittsburgh.  It's worth seeing just to watch Saoirse Ronan perform.  Kind of like the home team in football gets three points from the bookies when the betting lines are set, Saoirse Ronan is worth at least one star to any movie that she is in.

The Grandstander rates this one at Two and one-half stars.  

To Absent Friends - John Gagliardi



The winningest coach in the history of American college football, John Gagliardi, died yesterday at the age of 91.  In a coaching career that spanned 64 seasons, sixty of them at tiny St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota, Gagliardi amassed 489 wins (489-138-1 overall), and it was the rather unorthodox methods he used that makes both he and his record so remarkable.

He called it "Winning With No", and his list of 100 No's included...
  • No mission statement
  • No surviving without humor
  • No practices in excess of ninety minutes
  • No blocking or tackling dummies
  • No use of words like "hit", "kill"  and others
  • No one gets cut from the team 
  • No rules, except the Golden Rule

Can you imagine Nick Saban or Urban Meyer doing something like that?  Of course, Division III St. John's and Collegeville, MN are worlds away from the business enterprises that are football schools in the SEC and Big Ten, but Gagliardi did amass all of those wins, so there must be something to his methods.  He even had a 42-25-1 record in a five year stint  as St. John's hockey coach!  Also, his obituaries are filled with testimonials from former players, coaches, and administrators as to the positive impact that Gagliardi had on the lives of the thousands of kids he encountered over the years, which is what intercollegiate sports are supposed to be about.

Maybe there are more John Gagliardis out there than there are Urban Meyers.  I'd like to think so, at least.

For more on this remarkable gentleman, check out this obit from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

http://www.startribune.com/legendary-st-john-s-coach-john-gagliardi-dies-at-91/495381871/

RIP John Gagliardi.




Steelers Get a MUST Win

Big Day for James Conner!!

Behind all of their vaunted offensive weapons, especially RB James Conner, a very strong defensive performance, and even great special teams work, the Steelers triumphed 41-17 over Atlanta yesterday in what was as close to a "must win" situation as you can find in Week 5 of an NFL season.  As I said about Pitt's win over Syracuse the day before, this victory doesn't necessarily save the Steelers season, but a loss to the Falcons yesterday may well have killed it.

As the AFC North stands today, the 2-2-1 Steelers are tied with the Browns, 1.5 games behind the Ravens, and 2.5 games behind the Bengals, and their next three games are, in order, @Bengals, Browns, @Ravens.  That is the make-or-break stretch of games for this squad.

As for this coming week, the 4-1 Bengals are looking strong thus far in 2018, but....


...we know that the Mike Tomlin-Ben Roethlisberger Era Steelers do to the Marvin Lewis-Andy Dalton Era Bengals.   Still, one of these years these Bengals might beat these Steelers (just like one of these years these Steelers might actually beat the Belichick-Brady Patriots), but until it actually happens, it's not the smart way to bet.  As I always say, three things in life you can count on: Death, taxes, and unbelievable screw-ups by the Cincy Bengals.

Hope this chick....



....is ready for this Sunday and a ride down the Paul Brown Stadium Escaloser....