Monday, September 1, 2014

All Games Count - Even the Ones in April

On this Labor Day, 2014, the Pirates sit at  71-65 in third place in the NL  Central, two games out of first place and two games out of the final wild Card spot.  By all accounts, it has been a pretty exciting season, and it looks like the Bucs are going to give us a nice ride over the final month of the season.  

Just for fun, I decided to do a little research to put to rest the old cliche that now that it's September and the weather gets chilly and the stadiums get packed, these are the games that "really count".  In point of fact, those games played in the chilly days of April before sparse crowds actually count too.  Here is how the team has fared, month-by-month:

April 10-18
May 16-12
June 17-10
July 15-11
August 13-14

So, had the Pirates been able to reverse that April record and gone 18-10, today they would 79-57, and would have far and away, the best record in the National League.  Even had they just scraped by in April at 14-14, their record today would be 75-61, which would still be the best record in the League.  And keep in mind that some of those additional April wins could possibly have been additional losses for the Brewers or Cardinals.

Moral of the Story:  All Games Count - Even the Ones in April.

The Bucs now have 26 games remaining.  I had predicted at the beginning of the season that they would win 89 games.  They will have to go 18-8 to achieve that, and that is really asking a lot, but if they do, then I'd say the NL Central championship would be theirs.   Playing .500, 13-13, would give then 84 wins and would probably not be good enough for a wild card spot. 16-10 would probably put them in the playoffs.  It's asking a lot, but the team is capable of doing it.  And as April and that stretch in mid-August showed, they ware also capable of going 11-15.  

Either way, it is going to be an exciting ride to the finish.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Classic Movie Review - "How to Marry a Millionaire" (1953)

"How To Marry a Millionaire" played last night as part of The Essentials series on Turner Classic Movies, and, having never seen it, and spurred on in part by the recent death of Lauren Bacall and by an ever-abiding interest in Marilyn Monroe, we settled in for a Saturday Night at the Movies to watch this one.

The premise of this movie is probably one that could not get made in 2014:  three attractive, but poor, models, set themselves up in a swanky New York City apartment in the hopes of attracting, snagging, and marrying  rich men.  Essentials co-host Drew Barrymore admitted that she, as an actress and producer today, found the concept that "a woman needs a rich man to survive in the world" made her a bit squeamish, but that the dialog and the performances of the three stars, Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe, and Lauren Bacall overcame her misgivings over the premise.

(As an aside, I initially agreed with Barrymore on this point, and thought that this is a movie that would never get made in 2014, but then I thought - throw in some raunchy language and some occasional gratuitous nudity, and what you have here was the early 1950's version HBO's "Sex and the City", but I digress.)

Anyway, I am not sure I'd call this movie a "classic" but it was frothy and fun and the performances off the three leads were quite good.  In his introduction to the movie, Robert Osborne made some interesting points:

  • This was the first movie that Bacall, 29 at the time, made in color, and that while she was third billed, she was perhaps the catalyst of the trio, and delivered her comic lines perfectly.
  • The movie represented a passing of the torch of Hollywood glamor girls from Grable, 36, to Monroe, 27.  It has been said that during the filming Grable said to Monroe, "Honey, I've had mine, now you go get yours!"
  • The movie cemented Monroe's stature as a comic actress, and she was brilliant in it.
The movie also featured William Powell as one of the rich millionaires upon whom Bacall sets her sights.  Powell was 61 years old when this movie was made, and still terrific in a comic role as the wealthy sophisticate, a la Nick Charles of the "The Thin Man" franchise.  Powell would make only one more movie after this one, "Mister Roberts" in 1955, before retiring from the movies.

There were a couple of funny "inside" lines in this one.  In one scene, Grable listens to music on the radio and mentions that its a recording by that "dreamy Harry James" and Bacall, in talking about how she likes older men, mentions that she is even crazy about "that old  guy in The African Queen".  The historical timing wasn't quite right or I am sure that Monroe would have been given a Joe DiMaggio line to deliver as well.

I mentioned that the movie made Monroe's reputation as a comic actress, and I will point to one scene in particular to emphasize this.  One of the gimmicks in the movie is that Pola, Monroe's character, needs to wear glasses, is "blind as a bat" without them.

Of course, she never wears them because, as she puts it, "you now what they say about girls who wear glasses".  This leads to such goofy things as her holding a book upside down while pretending to read, but the best scene occurs while she is wearing this spectacular dress:

In this scene, the three girls meet and strategize in the Ladies Room of a posh night club. Monroe primps and checks her hair and make-up, and the lines of her dress in the mirror, removes her glasses, and then walks right into a wall when she tries to exit the ladies room. Simple, but very funny when done right, and Monroe did it right in this scene.

There are time lapses and plot holes in the movie that one could drive a truck through (for example, how does Grable get back with her ranger, after she and Fred Clarke are photographed on the George Washington Bridge?), but who cares?  As I said, it was frothy and fun, and it answers the question, When it comes to finding true love, is money really all that important?

This one will turn up again on my DVR Alerts.

Oh, in a specially taped introduction to The Essentials opening, Robert Osborne paid special tribute to Lauren Bacall, and mentioned that TCM will be devoting the entire day of September 15th to her with a twenty-four hour marathon of her movies.  Something to watch for.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Time to Award an H.A Citation

It has been some time now, but The Grandstander now sees the need to dust off a coveted award, The H.A. Citation, after reviewing the behavior if Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon.

A talented football player, Gordon led all NFL WR's in receiving yards last year, in spite of serving  a two game suspension for a violation of the NFL's collectively bargained substance abuse policy (emphasis mine).  However, Gordon has somewhat of a checkered personal life.

While at Baylor University, Gordon was suspended not once, but twice for substance abuse violations and was eventually kicked off of the football team.  He has had not one, not two, but three violations of the NFL's policy, and it was the third such violation that led to his being given a one year suspension from the NFL, a suspension that was upheld by the League in a decision handed down yesterday.

However, none of the above, believe it or not, has led to the awarding of The Grandstander's H.A. citation to Gordon.  No, it was Gordon's statement upon hearing the news yesterday that  - and I may not have the quote 100% accurate, but the gist of it is accurate - that he was shocked and "disappointed" that the NFL didn't express "better discretion and judgement" in the adjudication of his case.

So, it is for Josh Gordon's questioning the judgement and discretion of ANYONE ELSE in the entire world, let alone the NFL Lords of Discipline, that an H.A Citation is hereby award to Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns.

Josh, this one's for you!

(Photo courtesy of Dan Bonk Enterprises)

To Absent Friends - Sophie Masloff

Sophie Masloff, Mayor of Pittsburgh from 1988-94, died earlier this month at the age of 94.

With her beehive hairdo, extreme Pittsburgh accent, penchant for malapropisms, and perhaps shrewdly calculated "Jewish Grandmother" image, it was easy to make fun of Sophie, but it is now easy to look back from the vantage point of a twenty year old rear view mirror, and see that Pittsburgh got pretty lucky when Sophie, then President of City Council, ascended to the mayor's office upon the death of Mayor Richard Caliguiri back in 1988.  

In his column in the Post-Gazette today, Brian O'Neill states the case that Mayor Masloff's decision to cut the city wage tax at a time when unemployment in the City was in the stratosphere, and young people were leaving the City in droves, a decision that was advised against by many, including her own close advisors, at the time, has contributed mightily to reshaping the City of Pittsburgh into what it is today, one with a tech-oriented economy that is now bringing younger people INTO the City.  I suggest that you look up O'Neill's column from today, and one from last week as well, that states far better than I can the impact and the legacy of Sophie Masloff.

And being a baseball and a Pirates fan, it has to be noted that Mayor Masloff was among the first, and certainly the first political honcho, who stated back in the early 1990's that the City needed to provide a new baseball only ballpark for the Pirates in order for them to remain in Pittsburgh.  She even envisioned it on the North Shore.  People made fun of the notion and criticized Sophie for such an outlandish thought, but that thought eventually became PNC Park.  Pittsburghers have a penchant for going overboard in their desire for statues and monuments, but I don't think it would be asking too much of the Pirates to dedicate some sort of plaque or marker to Sophie Masloff somewhere in PNC Park to honor that crazy vision of hers way back when.

RIP Sophie Masloff.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pirate Chat Night 2014

On Tuesday evening, August 26, the Pirate Chat group from Facebook celebrated it Second Annual Night at PNC Park.  As you can see from the above photo above, we had terrific upper deck seats behind home plate, and we saw Gerrit Cole pitch a fabulous game for the Bucs, a game that the Pirates won 5-2 over the Cardinals on a bottom of the eighth inning three run blast off the bat of Ike Davis.  

Fabulous ballgame, but even more importantly, a terrific night out with a great and fun group of people.  Thirty Pirate Chatters - up from twenty-one in 2013 - attended, and we recognize the following "newcomers" of 2014:

Tom Elling and friends, Steve Brightman and his fiancee, Rob Tuchman, John Sebastian, Bill Montrose, Stephanie Liscio, Michael Fleet, Keith Bittell, Karen Golik, Ryan Frankhauser, and Ron Rulli and his friend.

To Dave Glass, Craig Britcher, and Max Copper, we're sorry that life got in the way and that you were unable to attend last night.  As we all know, "stuff" happens in life, and we hope that you will be able to make it next year.

To Len Martin, thanks for the great job on the t-shirts, as modeled by Bill Montrose and myself.....

Those who didn't buy one, were sorry that they didn't (except maybe Joe Risacher and Fred Shugars, who stayed loyal to the 2013 "throwbacks").  All I can say, Len, is that you better get started on the design for the 2015 shirt.  Demand will probably be high.

David Cicotello, of Murfreesboro, Tennesse, again wins the "He Traveled the Farthest Award", but props also go out to folks who traveled in from Philadelphia (Bill Montrose), Lock Haven (Tom Elling), Cleveland (Stephanie Liscio), and Akron (Steve Brightman).

Here are some photos that will give you an idea of the good times at both the pre-game gathering at Dominic's on Federal Street (which included a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday To You to Donny Copper), and at the game itself.

And the symbolic High Five when Mark Melancon's strike out of Daniel Descalso allowed for the Raising of the Jolly Roger.

No question about it, there WILL be a Third Annual Pirate Chat Night come 2015.  A date will be selected shortly after the schedule is announced.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Great Experience While Golfing This Morning.....

No, the "great experience" while golfing at Clover Hill today wasn't so much the actual golf (a so-so 45), but, rather, my playing partner.

I walked up to the first tee and there was young man on the tee who said, "Do you mind if I join you?"  We introduced ourselves and I learned that I would be playing with a young man named Jake who tomorrow will begin his senior year at North Hills High School.  He plays in the NH marching band, and is a member of the golf team.  He has already been accepted to attend IUP next fall, and he just couldn't have been a nicer kid.

When we departed today, I told him that I wish that I could meet his parents so I could tell them what a nice son they have raised.

One thing about playing golf is that you will often have experiences like this, meeting up with total strangers and spending a couple of delightful hours with them, and when it comes in the unexpected form of a teen aged kid, it is a real bonus.

So, thanks for the company today, Jake, and have a terrific senior year.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Football Quick Kicks....

At a function we attended yesterday, I wore a golf shirt with a Steelers logo on it.  A friend said to me "Glad to see you're not giving up on the Steelers after that game on Thursday", to which my response was that I never get excited over what happens in exhibition games, on way or another, and I am not going to change that stance now.

That said, what little I have seen of the Steelers in these three practice games - and I admit that I have yet to watch any of them in their entirety - isn't real encouraging.  

With that in mind, some football thoughts and questions:

  • I heard on the telecast from Bob "The Cheerleader" Pompeani that the Eagles have 25 assistant coaches.  TWENTY-FIVE!!!!!  How far away are we from the day that there will be an assistant coach for each player on the team?
  • There were over thirty penalties in that Steelers game on Thursday.  I only watched the first half, and I would have guessed that there were thirty in the first half alone.  If the zebras are going to strictly enforces the contact rules regarding DBs and WRs, the coaches and players had better adjust how they play, and soon.  They obviously haven't made the adjustment as yet, rendering that game almost unwatchable.
  • Ryan Shazier looked well worth that first round pick against the Bills two weeks ago.  Against the Eagles, he looked like just another guy.
  • Speaking of first rounders, still waiting for Jarvis Jones to do something.
  • If the NFL is going to crack down on taunting (a good idea, imo) then why can't it include the exaggerated signaling of a first down by a player who just squeezed out a yard and a half on a third and one play?  The Steeler could be among the league leaders in this particular piece of hot-dogging.
  • A friend tells me that the Vegas over/under line on Steelers wins this year is 8.5.  Despite what we've sent he last two years and so far in the practice games, I would be inclined to bet the Over.
  • On the college front, I see that new Penn State Coach James Franklin is looking upon PSU's upcoming game in Ireland as strictly a "business trip" for his players.  Not going to allow too many distractions for his players as they visit a foreign land.  No reason that they should have fun or be open to new experiences when there is a game to be played.  We have already read this summer that Franklin is one of those coaches who sleeps in his office.  Looks like Franklin is going to be one of those fun guys in the Nick Saban/Urban Meyer mold.  Of course, that will be long as he wins.
  • Six days away from the Pitt opener against the Delaware Blue Hens.  Looking forward to being there!
  • I still can't get over the fact that the Eagles have 25 assistant coaches.