Flashback: “Weekend” by Mick Jackson

This song was a staple of local DJ Mason Dixon’s “Friday Festivities” back in the 80’s, and was arguably one of the biggest US hits for the German born Mick Jackson.

Jackson was also known for a version of “Blame It On The Boogie” which was also hit for the Jackson Five. Of course, that featured another “M. Jackson” in pop icon Michael Jackson.

Game 162

Yesterday marked the fifth anniversary of one of the more famous games in the short history of the Tampa Bay Rays franchise.

On September 28, 2011, the Rays played the Yankees in the last game of the season, with the Yankees already having clinched the AL East division title a few days prior to the game. They (the Rays) were tied with the Boston Red Sox for the wild card spot (given to the team with the best record not winning a division, and back then only one wild card was allotted per league), meaning if the Rays and Red Sox each won or lost, there would have been a one-game playoff the following day in St. Petersburg.

The Yankees seemed the better team that night, holding a 7-0 lead going to the bottom of the 8th inning. When the Rays were seemingly doomed to hoping Boston would lose to Baltimore to force a playoff, the bats came alive for Tampa Bay in that next to last frame. They scratched for three runs in the inning before a mammoth home run by Evan Longoria cut the score to 7-6. In the 9th, Dan Johnson would homer with two outs, tying the game at 7-7 and forcing extra innings.

As the game had moved to the 12th inning, word came down that Boston had lost to Baltimore, ensuring that at the very least, the Rays and Red Sox would go to a playoff the next day should Tampa Bay lose this game. About a minute and a half later, Evan Longoria hit a line drive down the left field line, having just enough height to clear the short wall for a home run. The Rays won 8-7, and Evan Longoria joined Bobby Thompson of the 1951 New York Giants as the only two men to send their team to the playoffs on a home run.

As for me, I watched in total disbelief. I thought for sure it was the Yankees night, but when they jumped out to a 7-0 lead, it was disheartening. I remember turning the TV off and listening to the game on radio. When the Rays cut it to 7-3, I turned the game back on TV just in time to see Evan’s first homer that cut it to 7-6. People forget how important the Dan Johnson home run was, because if that were an out, the Rays would have lost. Then when the Rays won it in the 12th, I was speechless. I was happy they won, but I just couldn’t believe that they won.

It was quite a night.

Donald, Hillary, And… Lester?

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When the numbers are finally tallied, the first debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton might wind up being the most watched debate of all time. Yes, I tuned in, hoping the playing ground would be fair and that the moderator, Lester Holt of NBC, would keep things fair.

I don’t like either candidate, but I’m going to have to vote for one of these two. To me, this is like picking which limb should be amputated off of my body. I expected the debate to be nasty, and on that front, the debate didn’t disappoint me.

The Clinton camp was openly pushing for Mr. Holt to fact-check Donald Trump on the fly. I would simply ask: since when should the onus to do so be solely on the moderator? Couldn’t Hillary do it? I couldn’t help but notice how Trump got all of the follow up questions, and Hillary didn’t get any. So much for that fair debate, I suppose.

Just so you all don’t think I’ve totally flipped my position on the elections, I thought the debate was pretty much a tie. Trump did well early, the middle of the debate was fairly even, then Hillary did well late.

However, I consider myself an intelligent voter. I don’t need the media’s help deciding who the new President should be, and did all undecided voters quite the disservice choosing sides. Let each candidate have their say, and let WE the voters decide with our ballots.

Pauly Checks Out The Automated Checkout

Saturday brought another pilgrimage to my local Walmart (more than a few call it “Wally World” after the fictional theme park in the first Vacation movie, the one with Chevy Chase and Christie Brinkley in it) which I usually do on Friday or Saturday. I find it best to go to the store by about 8:30 or so to avoid the masses, and avoid the people in their cars who hover for a specific parking spot when there’s 200 or so open spots on the sides of the lot, or in the back.

I counted the number of items I put in my cart, the total being right at 20. That qualified me for an express checkout. On top of that, it qualified me to use the automated checkout machines that had been installed at my store within the past month.

Believe it or not, this was not my first encounter with an automated checkout machine. My previous experience took place in 2000 at a Charlotte Harris Teeter store. Seeing that this was my first such checkout in 16 years, I went very slowly.

The mechanics of how to use the machine were play simple. With a hand scanner, or with a scanning device in the middle of the kiosk, you ran the product through the machine so that it read the UPC code on each item, then kept a running total of the cost on the screen.

When I got to the bananas, there was a bit of a snag. Bananas don’t have a UPC code on them, because when you pay for that fruit, you pay by the pound. I sat there a few moments, and without asking for help (I’m a guy – I don’t like admitting I’m lost, and I don’t like admitting I’m stuck on something) an attendant came over and explained how you have to search for it. Then, you put it on the middle of the kiosk so it can be weighed.

It was a pretty good experience, and I figure (unfortunately) that this may be Walmart’s future, so I had better learn how to do it sooner rather than later. I wouldn’t recommend using the machines if you have 20 items and you’re there alone, as it might take you a bit to organize, scan, and bag the items.

And with this technological advancement, the future gets a bit closer. What’s next, drones that will pick out the items we want?

Jose And Arnie

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Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, who passed away on Sunday morning in a boating accident.

Even in the “toy department of life” (as Howard Cosell put it in one of his books), there are days of sadness.

I was living in Charlotte on January 12, 2000 when Bobby Phills of the Hornets died in a car accident, and saw first hand how that incident gripped the sports community there.

The tragic passing of Jose Fernandez down in Miami has added a new dimension of sorrow for me, as I saw him pitch in what has now become his last appearance at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

My condolences go out to the Miami Marlins, his teammates, and his family. Leaving the world at the age of 24 is way too young. I’m not the most religious person in the world, but the one thing I’m sure of is that God had plans for this young man.

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Then just past 8:30 Eastern time last night, word broke that Arnold Palmer passed away at the age of 87.

It is safe to say that golf, and all the money in it these days, probably wouldn’t be there if not for this man. For that matter, I don’t think as there would be as much golf on TV if not for Mr. Palmer. He set the gold standard every major player that followed in the TV era.

Next time I go to Walmart, I’m going to get his iced tea and lemonade mixed drink in his honor.

Two men in the sports world passing away on the same exact day. It’s just the way it happens in our world sometimes.

Aircheck: Dodgers Radio Network, 4/8/1974

In honor of Vin Scully’s last game announcing at Dodger Stadium. I’d thought I’d share this.

The audio is Vin’s call of Hank Aaron’s 715th home run, which broke Babe Ruth’s record of 714. The video is from NBC, which carried the game as part of their package of baseball games that aired Saturday afternoons and Monday nights. Curt Gowdy, Tony Kubek, and Joe Garagiola called the game for the Peacock.

What I love about this clip (and I wish it’s something announcers of our era would emulate more) is how once the record breaking home run is hit, Scully “lays out” (doesn’t say anything) for about 30 seconds. Even calling the game on radio, he pauses and lets the crowd, the fireworks, everything else going on do the talking for him on that historic moment.

Aaron breaking the record was only part of the story, as he unfortunately received death threats along with letters with racial slurs as he approached the record. A lot of “rednecks” of the time didn’t want a black man breaking the Babe’s long standing record.

I know Barry Bonds has more homers, but Hank Aaron will always be the man I recognize as the all time homer leader. Ditto Roger Maris for the single season mark.

Keeping Score

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On Thursday night, I was watching the Rays-Yankees game on local TV off of Fox Sports Sun. As they have done in previous years, the broadcasters used the game as a teaching tool, telling viewers how to keep score of a game. (The Rays won the game, 2-0.)

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Why should WE learn how to keep score? Don’t the people who run the game KNOW how to keep score?” Truth be told, I didn’t know how to keep score of a game, until I played the “Pursue The Pennant” board game as a high schooler.

I know, I didn’t answer my hypothetical question yet. There’s a good reason to keep score of a baseball game, or at least until the “computer age” we all live in now, there was. The advantages of keeping score is to keep an individual statistical track of the game to peruse for yourself. Sure, you can go to Retrosheet (one of my favorite sites) and look at the records of almost any game played throughout the years. But, keeping score gives you your own personal record.

Do I keep score when I go to Rays games? Nope. I like the ability to mingle and talk about the game with who I go with. But, every time I do go, someone in my area always seems to have a scoresheet, a pen or pencil, and records the accounts of the game as the outs and hits are recorded.

Next time any of you go to a baseball game, be it little league, high school, minors, or a major league game, give it a try.

 

Flashback: “Is It Ever Gonna Happen” by Gene Carroll And The Shades

I couldn’t find what year this 45 came out, but I’d have to think that this had to be around 1960, considering the length of the song (clocking in at a robust 1 minute and 40 seconds) and the instrumentation used. (A heavy usage of guitars in pop songs was typical in that era.)

Gene Carroll was the pop moniker for a young man named Eugene Okerlund, better known to many wrestling fans of the previous few decades as “Mean Gene”Okerlund. Over a career that has lasted in the squared circle for five decades, Gene’s role was to interview the grapplers, aiding them in delivering their promotional material for upcoming matches.

If you’ve never seen “Legends House” on the WWE Network as I did last year, give it a try. Gave a new dimension and perspective to a few of the all-time greats, some of it humorous, some of it very serious which gave these guys (including Gene) a sense of humanity.

Smoke, Mirrors, And Special Effects

I’m not saying what I’m about to say to be conspiratorial. It’s just something I’ve been noticing, and I wonder if any of you are picking up on this. Considering she has recently had pneumonia, if not something else wrong with her not being reported, I’m not even saying her camp taking precautions is something wrong.

On Monday past, I watched Hillary’s speech on CNN when she was in White Plains, New York. It seemed to me as I look at the outline of Hillary’s body that she was being superimposed somehow via a “chroma key” special effect, or something similar. But, I also saw her walking away from the scene as her speech concluded.

Some people on the Internet are noticing this as well. But like I said, if it’s true, I don’t necessarily think it is some sort of grandiose conspiracy. I remember President Obama giving a nationally televised speech on (I think) a Sunday night last year about ISIS (just after the San Bernardino attacks, if I recall right), and I thought he was being superimposed in to appear as if he was at White House when he might not have been.

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I don’t understand why our leaders have to be deceptive, but at the same time, is it really all that important?

The Wordsmith Of Balls And Strikes

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When I briefly lived in Las Vegas in a couple of mistimed and under-funded ventures in 1996 and 2000, one of the things that got me through some long days was listening to Los Angeles Dodger games on the radio on Sin City’s big AM station, 720 KDWN.

I had known of Vin Scully through his nationally televised work of not just calling baseball games. People often forget that he called NFL games and PGA Golf on CBS, too. He called the famous playoff game that turned out to be a historical focal point in NFL lore when the 49ers beat the Cowboys 28-27 that marked the birth of San Francisco’s football dynasty. The punctuating moment was, of course, the Dwight Clark catch with under a minute left for the decisive score.

There was that game at Shea Stadium in 1986 where the Red Sox appeared to have a World Series won, but the Mets had other plans. (Some YouTube whiz put Scully’s call of that Met 10th inning of Game 6 to an RBI Baseball video game.)

Another magical night captured by Vin’s audio artistry was Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, where another improbable improv played out with one swing of an ailing Kirk Gibson’s bat.

Sunday will be Scully’s last game behind the microphone at Dodger Stadium. His last game overall will be the following Sunday in San Francisco as the Dodgers travel to face the Giants.

When his announcing career began with the Dodgers at the start of the 1950 season, they still called Brooklyn home, and my mother was less than a year old. (Oops, just gave away her age.) He called the only perfect game in World Series history, when Don Larsen retired 27 Brooklyn hitters in a row in 1956. Sixty years later, he’s calling Dodger games on local cable TV with no second man in the booth to analyze or to play off of.

He’ll be 89 in a couple of months, but the sports broadcasting world will likely never be the same once he calls his last pitch. If you’ve never heard Scully call a Dodget game, you can’t fathom just how good he is as a broadcaster, even to this day. He should be thanked (and has been) for his contributions to the game, and if and when the Dodgers ever move out of Chavez Ravine, Vin Scully Stadium would be a great name for the new park in an era of corporate greed.

Whoever Speaks First Loses

I’m instituting a new rule this political season.

Remember a couple of years ago when I got all those calls from Alex Sink? I’ve decided that if I get any political calls this season, I will vote for the opposite candidate. If both sides call me, I’ll vote against whoever called me first.

It’s more of a protest against the system as opposed to a protest against any given candidate. I don’t remember giving the Pinellas County voting registrars permission to give my phone number to candidates and to pollsters. If I did, there should be a way to “opt out” of receiving these calls that is easily accessible.

The irony of the 2014 race and now is that the David Jolly people are calling me for their vote. Former Florida governor Charlie Crist (a former Republican, too) is his opponent, and will likely be the first Democrat to represent our district in decades.

Looking forward to voting him in.

Blowout In The Desert

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The Bucs got whipped like a government mule (as opposed to a mule not employed by the government), losing to the Arizona Cardinals 40-7 yesterday.

It’s bad the Bucs got beat that soundly, but Arizona’s no slouch. They were a game away from the Super Bowl last year before the Carolina Panthers blew them out, much the way the Cards beat Tampa yesterday. I’d rather see the Bucs lose bad early and learn from their errors as opposed to winning a bunch of games and then losing bad.

Does that make any sense? I don’t suppose it does. I had the Bucs going about .500 this season, then perhaps becoming an elite NFL team next year. They’re not there yet, but these are the kind of games that you learn from, and those kind of games are important, too.