Dec 9, 2019

Signs Of The Past


Restroom Signs
Genetti Ballrooms - Hazleton, PA
The Best Western Genetti's Lodge has been in business since the 1950's.  These incredible vintage restroom signs in the lobby of their ballroom look as if they've been in use since the place opened.

Dec 8, 2019

The Computer Concerto

GE-115 Computer Concerto
Pietro Grossi (1967)
This is one of the most fascinating recordings I've ever listened to.  Italian composer Pietro Grossi experimented with using computers to make music decades before the days of synthpop and chiptunes.

In 1967, he used a General Electric GE-115 computer to compose three original pieces of music: Mixed Paganini, Permutations Of Five Sounds and Continuous.  These compositions were pressed onto Side B of a 7" vinyl and given to employees of Olivetti as a Christmas present.  It's crazy to think that even though this music sounds like it's from a 1980's arcade, it was actually recorded two years before Woodstock.

Dec 7, 2019

It Belongs In A Museum


Raiders Of The Lost Ark
Atari 2600 (1982)
The hot video game of the holiday season 37 years ago was Raiders Of The Lost Ark.  The Howard Scott Warshaw classic was an incredible adventure game filled with puzzles that was many years ahead of its time.

Dec 6, 2019

Dec 5, 2019

Zack Attack


It took all of two days for my off-season projection to get blown all to hell.  I was mildly disappointed to see Mike Moustakas sign with the Reds and Dylan Bundy get traded to the Angels, but that pales in comparison to the heartbreak in seeing what happened with Cole Hamels.  The stage was set for Cole to return to Philadelphia and end his career where it began.  Instead, he'll cash an $18 million dollar check to spend the year pitching for the Braves.

The Phillies did make a splash today in the free agent market, but I'm not sure how to feel about it.  Zack Wheeler is 29 years old and he has a hell of a fastball and has the potential to develop into an ace, but he's also got a history of injuries and giving up big innings.  He's definitely an upgrade over everyone not named Nola in the Phillies 2019 rotation, but five years at $118 million dollars is a lot of money for a guy who has yet to live up to his potential.

This could turn out to be a fantastic deal.  Zack wouldn't be the first guy to get a change of scenery and make that one last adjustment that turns a pitcher from good to great, but it's far from a sure thing.  It's tough to say what will happen, but I've got high hopes... high apple pie in the sky hopes.

Dec 4, 2019

By The Power Of Titan Tower


Masters Of The WWE Universe
Mattel (2019)
If they ever decide to make another live action Masters Of The Universe movie, they ought to consider casting John Cena as He-Man and Triple H as Skeletor.  It can't be any worse than the Gary Goddard film.  Maybe the could even coax B. Brian Blair or Jumpin' Jim Brunzell to come out of retirement as Buzz Off.

Dec 3, 2019

Just Another Gadget


The Tampa Times
December 3, 1977
Within seven years of the publishing of this interview, Milton Bradley formerly the world's largest and oldest game company, was purchased by Hasbro.  I guess their business model was just a passing fad.  Meanwhile, the global video game market is expected to exceed $150 billion dollars this year alone... not too shabby for a passing fad from the late 70's.

Dec 2, 2019

Foresight Is 2020


The Phillies made their most important acquisition for the 2020 season in late October when they signed Joe Girardi to replace Gabe Kapler to manage the team.  However, they have a number of other needs to address if they hope to compete for their first playoff appearance since 2011.

The non-tender deadline is at 9:00 pm tonight, so there's a strong likelihood that a number of moves will be made over the next few weeks.  I had a few thoughts on what those moves should be when the season ended, but now that a couple of months have passed, I've had some time to think it over a bit more.  It would be easy to say that the Phillies should sign Gerrit Cole, Steven Strasburg and Anthony Rendon, but that's not going to happen.  It's possible that they'd be willing to go over the luxury tax threshold this winter with $33 million coming off the books in 2021 (Jake Arrieta and David Robertson), but I don't see them committing to the years and dollars that it would take to get the three biggest fish.  With that being said, here are the moves that I'd like to see the Phillies make this winter.

Non-Tender: I've been a fan of Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez for years, but it appears that the time may have come to move on.  Franco is projected to make over $6 million in arbitration with Hernandez projected to earn almost $12 million.  While I think that both have productive years ahead of them, the team has pitching needs and the almost $20 million that it would cost to retain both in arbitration would be better spent elsewhere.  I'm tempted to say that I'd like to see the Phillies work out more team-friendly contract with each of them, but Franco's bat and Hernandez's defense have been on the decline, so I think it's the right time to move on.

Dylan Bundy: The former first round draft pick hasn't lived up to expectations in Baltimore, but he's made significant improvements in 2019.  He's projected to make $6 million in arbitration this season, and he's under team control through the end of 2021.  There's reason to hope that at age 27, he may begin to put it together and be a valuable piece at the back of the rotation.  I'd like to see if the Orioles would be willing to take Odúbel Herrera.  He's a year older than Bundy, he'll be making similar money over the next two seasons, and he could most certainly benefit from a change of scenery to earn his way back to a starting job in the major leagues.

Mike Moustakas: I once thought that he wasn't a significant enough upgrade over Maikel Franco to make it worth signing Moose to the Phillies, but his 35 home runs in 2019 have changed my mind.  Moustakas is a productive bat in any lineup, and his ability to play second and third base would make him an extremely valuable addition to the Phillies over the next 2 - 3 seasons.

Didi Gregorius: The Phillies have been rumored to have interest in the Yankees shortstop for a few weeks now, and I couldn't be happier.  He spent most of 2019 working his way back from injury, but when he's at the top of his game, he's got good range at shortstop and can hit for average with 20+ HR power.  He's been clutch in the post season, and he's known to be a positive presence in the clubhouse.  Also, like Moustakas, Gregorius doesn't have a qualifying offer attached to him, so it won't cost a draft pick to sign him.  There's always a chance that he isn't able to return to his pre-2019 production, but I'd like to see the Phillies take a chance with a two or three year deal.

Jeff Samardzija: Shark is signed through the end of 2020 at just under $20 million.  He threw over 200 innings for five straight seasons until injuries hampered him in 2018.  He had a decent season last year at age 34, and since the Giants are looking to shed salary, it probably wouldn't take too much to acquire him in a trade.  I don't expect a miracle, but I'd rather see the Phillies overpay a dependable veteran for a single season than to overpay a guy like Zack Wheeler for four years and lose a draft pick.

Cole Hamels: I'm kind of surprised that this hasn't happened already.  Hamels has not only expressed an interest in returning to Philadelphia, but he's come right out and said that he would be willing to take a one year deal.  This would give the Phillies a quality left handed starter, and it would bookend Hamels career where it began.

_________________________________________________________________________

With each of these moves, here is how I would project the 2020 Philadelphia Phillies 26 man roster:
At a glance, one of the drawbacks of this projection is that it would include three pitchers who are 34 or older and who have had a variety of health concerns over the past few seasons.  However, the upcoming season will see the major league roster size increase from 25 to 26.  Instead of keeping an additional bat on the bench or specialty reliever, I think the best use of this extra man is to go with a six man rotation.  This would give each starter an extra day of rest throughout the entire season and help lessen their workload for a playoff run.  It would also give the Phillies at least two veteran starters who are only signed through the end of 2020 (three if Hamels agrees to a one year deal).  If the first half of the season is rough, they can position themselves as sellers at the deadline without giving up any building blocks for the future.  Even if they're in first place at the at the deadline, it would free them up to move one veteran starter in a trade to make room for a Spencer Howard promotion.

The team would have a similar degree of flexibility for position players.  Scott Kingery would be available to play 2B, SS and 3B and would get plenty of starts in center field.  Additionally, newly acquired Josh Harrison can play 2B, 3B and both corner outfield spots.  More importantly, the Phillies have top prospect Alec Bohm waiting in the wings.  He'll almost certainly start the season at Triple A, but if he continues to be productive and earns a promotion to Philadelphia, the team has a few options:
  • If Bohm can stick at 3B, move Moustakas to 2B and shop Segura in a trade.
  • If Hoskins continues to slump, keep Moustakas at 3B, move Bohm to 1B and shop Hoskins in a trade.
  • If an opportunity comes along for an ace starter, keep the veterans in place and shop Bohm in a trade.
Assuming Rhys Hoskins works through his 2019 offensive struggles and returns to form, I would prefer to see the Phillies trade Jean Segura.  However, he has a full no-trade clause that could potentially be a problem.  Each of these options has pros and cons, but the important fact is that they have options, and if anyone in the infield gets hurt, they can always plug Scott Kingery into a starting job and make adjustments from there.

At the end of the day, I don't think there is a realistic combination of moves that would make the Phillies the favorites to win the 2020 World Series, but there are plenty of adjustments to be made to get them into the playoffs.  After that, anything can happen... just ask a Washington Nationals fan.

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UPDATE (7:00 pm): Well, that didn't last long.  This afternoon, Jon Heyman announced that Mike Moustakas signed a 4 year, $64 million dollar deal with the Cincinnati Reds.  The only announcements so far from Philadelphia have been that they came to terms with Andrew Knapp and they claimed a relief pitcher named Trevor Kelley off of waivers from Boston.

Dec 1, 2019

Seasonal Soda


Limited Edition Cinnamon Coca-Cola
and Limited Edition Winter Spiced Cranberry Sprite
Coca-Cola (2019)
These are both very good.  The Cinnamon Coke is my favorite, but the Cranberry Sprite has more of a Christmas flavor.

Nov 30, 2019

The Battle Against The Gorgon Invaders


Atlantis Shadowbox Art
Artovision
This impressive artwork perfectly captures Atlantis, one of the greatest games for the Atari 2600.  Like Missile Command, there is no way to win this game.  You can only hold out against the Gorgon invaders and defend the underwater city until they overwhelm you and destroy the city.  When that happens, a small ship is shown escaping with the last survivors of Atlantis, which sets up the game's sequel - Cosmic Ark.

Nov 29, 2019

Multiple Bean Adjectives


Dr Pepper Baked Beans
Serious Bean Company (2019)
They're serious, they're sassy, they're sweet, and they're soda-flavored.  They really do taste like Dr Pepper.  The reviews that I've read for these have skewed negative, but I have to disagree.  I'm not the biggest fan of the soda, but the beans are pretty damn tasty!

Nov 28, 2019

The River Queen


Carol Shaw
Activision (1982)
River Raid was published 37 years ago today.  It was designed and published by Carol Shaw, and is a true classic that is just as fun to play in 2019 as it was in 1982.

Nov 27, 2019

Twas The Night Before De Ern Karrich...


Raymond The Amish Comic
Cinema & Drafthouse - West Hazleton, PA
There's no better way to spend Thanksgiving Eve than with a technology-loving Amish comedian.  Raymond The Amish Comic, who is best known on the national stage from his appearances on Comedy Central and Season 10 of America's Got Talent performed earlier tonight at the Cinema & Drafthouse on Broad Street in West Hazleton.

I've heard of Raymond, but I haven't seen or heard him before, and I deliberately avoided his stuff in the weeks leading up to this show because I wanted to go in fresh.  I had no idea what to expect, but what we got was an hour and forty minutes of some of the funniest stand up comedy I've ever seen.  My god, this man is hysterically funny!  He started off with the differences between Hazleton and West Hazleton's Christmas decorations, which were both hilarious and true, and the show just kept getting better from there.


I'm no good at writing reviews of comedians (or anything else, for that matter), and I don't want to spoil any of his jokes.  I'll just close by saying that if you have the opportunity to see Raymond The Amish Comic, please do so.  You will have a great time!

Dad and I with Raymond the Amish Comic on Thanksgiving Eve - 2019.

Nov 26, 2019

A Giant Sized Breakfast


Honeycomb Cereal
Post (2019)
The Big Show hasn't wrestled since November of last year, so his appearance on the front of Honeycomb boxes to promote three free months of the WWE Network came as a bit of a surprise to some wrestling fans.  However, unlike scripts written by Vince McMahon's creative team, this idea has logic and continuity.  Thirty years ago, the great Andre The Giant appeared in a Honeycomb commercial along with a robot and a group of cereal munching children.  I can't say for sure, but I think they may have dubbed over Andre's voice with another actor (his French accent was very thick and sometimes difficult to understand), but the Hall of Famer looks to be having a great time filming.  He was said to have loved his time working on The Princess Bride.  It's a shame he didn't get to do more acting prior to his death in January 1993.

Click the image above to watch the commercial
Although Andre was never pictured on the actual box of Honeycomb Cereal, he was one of eight posters that you could find as the prize in box back in 1989.  The asking price on eBay for the posters range between $10 and $50 with the Andre one tending to be the most expensive of the series.

The ad to the left was shared by The Collectorate.  The poster on the right is from MugsFrank who is selling it on eBay.

Nov 25, 2019

Cheez Pizza


Stuffed Cheez-It Pizza
Pizza Hut (2019)
These were a little overpriced for four squares that weren't much bigger than a deck of cards each, but they were tasty.  The outer shell has the flavor of a Cheez-It cracker, but it's got a firm, cake-like texture.  The inside is stuffed with mozzarella cheese, and it's served with a marinara dipping sauce.  If they lowered the price or made these available in the grocery store, I'd get them again.

Nov 24, 2019

Cherry Pie For Thanksgiving


Warrant - Firehouse
Dirty 30 Tour and 27th Anniversary Tour
Penn's Peak - Jim Thorpe, PA
This is a nice venue with great acoustics that gets at least a few 80's bands every year.  This show was a co-headliner of two late 80's glam metal bands


Firehouse hit it big a little bit too late for their own good.  Their debut album was released in September, 1990.  It was a massive success that went double platinum with hits like Don't Treat Me Bad, All She Wrote, and a song that became the wedding song for a countless number of couples in the 90's, Love Of A Lifetime.  Unfortunately for the band, that album came out exactly one year before Nirvana's Nevermind changed rock music forever.  By the time Firehouse released their follow up album in 1992, their style of rock and roll had become overshadowed by grunge and mid-90's punk resurgence.

The band performed an excellent set.  C.J. Snare sounds exactly the same as he did when I was in middle school, but perhaps more shocking, he looks almost the same too.  It's hard to believe that guy is going to be 60 years old in less than a month.


Warrant was touring for the 30th anniversary of their debut album, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich.  All of the songs from that album were written by Warrant's original lead singer Jani Lane, but the band parted ways with him in the 2000's.  He was replaced by current lead singer, Robert Mason (from Lynch Mob) in 2008.  Sadly, Lane passed away in 2011, but Mason is a fantastic performer whose vocals and style blend excellently with the band.

The band ran through the majority of Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich in the order that the songs appeared on the album, including Sometimes She Cries and Heaven.  The only exceptions were the omission of In The Sticks and swapping the order of tracks 9 and 10 (Ridin' High and Cold Sweat).  The rest of the set was a selection of songs from Cherry Pie (1990), Dog Eat Dog (1992) and Louder Harder Faster (2017).  Included is this mix was I Saw Red, a ballad that I had on countless mix tapes that my sister made for me when we were in middle school.  Firehouse joined Warrant on the stage for the closer, Cherry Pie, with Robert Mason singing with C.J. Snare throughout.

It was a great show.  The only thing that I wish I could have heard that they didn't play was my favorite Warrant song - April 2031.  It's a nightmare vision of a world in which the damage to the environment has reached such a level that it has led to world peace, but only because there's nothing left worth fighting for.  It was off of their third album from 1992 and was never a single (despite the fact that it could have had an incredible music video), so I didn't expect that it would be part of this setlist.  Maybe it will be if they do a 30th anniversary tour for Dog Eat Dog in 2022, I'll get to see them perform it live.  If that happens, we'll be only 9 years away from the year described in the song.  Crazy!

I didn't get a t-shirt at this show, but I didn't go home empty handed thanks to a guitar pick that was thrown into the crowd by Warrant.  I'm not sure which of them tossed it. I didn't even know it was thrown until it hit my hair, but I'm thankful to have it as a memory of a very fun show.

Nov 23, 2019

The Natural Disaster


Thirty years ago today, John Tenta made his pay-per-view debut as The Canadian Earthquake - a member of The King's Court team at WWF Survivor Series.  His name would be shortened to Earthquake by Wrestlemania VI, and he would go on to enter a feud with Hulk Hogan throughout the summer of 1990.

This photo was taken in the fall of 1990 and was shared by John Tenta's son on Reddit.  Earthquake is lounging back on the sofa with two of his kids playing Tetris on Game Boy.

Nov 22, 2019

Someone Won Ecto-1


Ghostbusters 2 was released on home video 30 years ago today.  During the year, one of their cross-promotional partners was Fuji Film.  If you bought a special three pack of film, you got a free die cast toy of Ectomobile.  You could also enter the contest to win the actual Ectomobile from the film, which was said to be worth $40,000.

Nov 21, 2019

The Night Has Fallen. I'm Lying Awake.


Tonight, two former Phillies managers will be sleeping on the streets of Philadelphia.  Larry Bowa (2001-2004) and Charlie Manuel (2005-2013) are working with Covenant House and their Sleep Out movement to raise money and awareness to give homeless youth a warm meal and a safe place to sleep at night.

You can donate to their cause by visiting SleepOut.org.

Nov 20, 2019

South Dakota Is On Meth


I thought this was a joke, but it's not.  This is actually the anti-drug slogan and campaign that the government of South Dakota has just rolled out... at a cost of $450,000.

Nov 19, 2019

The Big Piece Turns 40

Ryan Howard at the 2008 World Series Championship parade in Philadelphia.

Happy 40th birthday to one of the greatest Phillies of all time.

Nov 18, 2019

You Put The Milk In The Coconut


Toasted Coconut Cheerios
General Mills (2019)
This is the best cereal I've had in a long time.

Nov 17, 2019

The Return Of The Christmas Catalog


One of the most exciting things to come in the mail when I was growing up was the Sears Wishbook.  I suppose that might be hard to understand for people who grew up with the internet, but the ability to look through a catalog that had a huge section dedicated to toys, video games and other awesome goodies that you didn't even know existed was an incredible experience.  My grandmother would give me the catalog when I was a little kid and told me to circle anything that I liked so that Santa would know what to keep his eye on. Sure enough, on Christmas morning, at least one or two things that I had circled was waiting for me to open.

Now, in 2019, not only have catalogs become largely obsolete, but so have the brick and mortar stores that those catalogs represented.  All of the Sears and J.C. Penney stores in my area have closed.  Toys R Us has closed.  These days in Northeast PA, you're pretty much limited to Wal-Mart, Target and a series of dollar stores, none of whom have a catalog.

Amazon was the last company I ever expected to receive a catalog from, but not long ago, this was waiting for me in my mailbox.  It's not even close to being the same size as the Sears Wishbook, but it was still a pleasant surprise to see a paper catalog filled with different toys that are available this season, complete with a page of stickers to use as gift tags.  Very cool, Amazon!

On a side note, if you want to see some of the old catalogs of the past, there is an incredible archive online called WishbookWeb where you can leaf through high quality scans of many different catalogs that were sent out in the 20th century.

Nov 16, 2019

Brawl In The Motor City


Dick The Bruiser vs The Sheik
Olympia Stadium - Detroit, MI
This awesome marquee photo was recently shared on Twitter by Pro Wrestling Stories.  On the night of August 31st, 1974, Dick The Bruiser faced The Sheik in a match that resulted in a brawl on the floor and a double disqualification.  According to the write up from the Detroit Free Press on September 2nd of that year, the card also featured Bobo Brazil, Abdullah The Butcher, George "The Animal" Steele and a 19 year old Raymond Rougeau who was already a three year veteran by this point in his career.

Not long after this show, Dick The Bruiser and The Sheik would return to Detroit to face off in a Death Strap Match, but not before Olympic Stadium hosted Evel Knievel, Marvin Gaye and Elvis Presley.  That's a pretty impressive lineup.  You've got to love the 70's.

Nov 15, 2019

The Veggies Are Just For Show


Arby's
Pittston, PA
These were both very good, but I liked the Garlic Butter Steak sandwich best.  The lettuce and tomato are a nice touch.  They make me look like I'm trying to eat something healthy while I stuff my face with butter garlic covered meat.