Jun 26, 2009

The King Of Pop

Michael Jackson
1958 - 2009
One of the most talented entertainers who ever walked the face of the earth has gone.  Rest in peace, Mr. Jackson, and thank you.

Jun 18, 2009

You Can't Make An Omelet Without Breaking Eggs

Standard Speaker - Hazleton, PA  (June 19, 1989)

Twenty years ago, Juan Samuel was in the lineup and playing center field for the Phillies in a game against the New York Mets.  The two-time All Star drew a bases loaded walk in the bottom of the 1st and came around to score before the inning was over in the Phillies 6-5 victory.  By the end of the day, Samuel was a member of the team he had just faced, and that wasn't the only trade the Phillies made that day.

Standard Speaker - Hazleton, PA  (June 19, 1989)

Although it was reported as a breakup of the team at the time, the two trades on June 18th, 1989 worked out very well for the Phillies.  They acquired center fielder Lenny Dykstra and relief pitcher Roger McDowell from the Mets in exchange for Juan Samuel, and on the same day, they traded 1987 Cy Young Award winner Steve Bedrosian to the San Francisco Giants for left handed starter Terry Mulholland, third baseman Charlie Hayes and pitcher Dennis Cook.

1993 Leaf Studio
left: Lenny Dykstra - Card #101   /   right: Terry Mulholland - Card #10

For the short term, Juan Samuel had a disappointing .228/.299/.300 slash line in 86 games for the Mets, and Roger McDowell turned out to be a more effective closer for the Phillies than Steve Bedrosian was for the Giants.  However, the real victory was bringing Lenny Dykstra and Terry Mulholland to Philadelphia, both of whom helped lead the Phillies to the World Series four years later.

Jun 16, 2009

On The Boardwalk

The Boardwalk
Atlantic City, NJ
These are some of the pictures that we took over the weekend while we were at Atlantic City.

We stayed at Bally's, but we don't spend too much time gambling; just about a half hour or so at the roulette table.  Mostly we spend time on the beach and checking out shops, arcades, and the other things to do on the boardwalk.  There's a lot of good places to eat too, whether you're looking for something quick to eat on the boardwalk or a dinner at one of the casino's restaurants.

There's a nice 18 hole miniature golf course not far from the hotel; very clean and well kept with a lot of flowers, trees and statues throughout the grounds.  I used to play mini golf with my grandfather at Wildwood when I was a kid, so putting with the smell of the ocean in the air brings back happy memories.

...until next time.

Jun 15, 2009

Come On, Get Happ - y

Sunday, June 14, 2009
Boston Red Sox @ Philadelphia Phillies
Citizens Bank Park - Philadelphia, PA

Pitching: Josh Beckett vs. J.A. Happ
Results: Phillies defeated Red Sox, 11-6

The last stop on the way home from our Atlantic City vacation was Citizens Bank Park to see an afternoon interleague game between the Phillies and Red Sox.  I haven't had the chance to see the Red Sox play before today, so with this game, I got to check one more team off of my list.

It was an absolutely beautiful day at the ballpark - bright and sunny and about 75 degrees with a warm breeze.  The place was packed with a paid attendance over 45,000 to see a game between two teams that more than a few publications have predicted to meet in the World SeriesBoston is on top of the AL East and the Phillies have a comfortable lead over the Mets in the NL East, so this may very well end up being a preview of things to come this October.
The matching powder blue was completely by accident.
The Phillies dropped the first two games of the series and we were relying on the newest member of the rotation, J.A. Happ to prevent the sweep.  Happ recently bumped Chan Ho Park to the bullpen to take over at the back end of the rotation.  The left handed rookie has been impressive so far, and this may have been his biggest test at the big league level at this point in his career.

Happ struggled a bit against the Boston lineup.  He went 5 ⅔ and gave up five runs on six hits and six walks and only struck out three.  Three of the runs he gave up were solo homers, including back-to-back homers to Rocco Baldelli and Nick Green to lead off a difficult 2nd inning, and a third solo home run to opposing pitcher Josh Beckett to lead off the top of the 6th.  Giving up a home run to a pitcher is bad enough, but giving one up to an American League pitcher is an especially bitter pill to swallow.

Thankfully for Happ, the Phillies offense kept the pressure on Josh Beckett.  The 2003 World Series MVP gave up the first run of the game in the bottom of the 1st after three straight singles by Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth.

Beckett settled in and held the Phillies hitless over the next three innings, but the Phillies put together a rally in the bottom of the 5th.  Pedro Feliz and Chris Coste led off the inning with back-to-back singles.  Happ laid down a sacrifice bunt to give the Phillies runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out.  Jimmy Rollins grounded out to score Feliz from 3rd and Shane Victorino singled to right filed to allow Coste to score.  Chase Utley singled and the runners advanced to 2nd and 3rd on a throwing error.  Then, Ryan Howard doubled to right field to score two more runs and give the Phillies a 5-4 lead.  The Big Piece followed this up by stealing 3rd base with Jayson Werth at the plate, but Werth lined out to end the inning.

The Phillies broke the game open in the bottom of the 7th.  With the score tied at 5-5, Jimmy Rollins led off the inning with a solo home run to deep right field to give the Phillies a 6-5 lead.  Victorino singled next to knock Beckett out of the game.

He was replaced by Daniel Bard, who walked the first batter he faced (Utley).  Howard hit into a forceout at 2nd base, but Victorino scored from 3rd on a throwing error.  Werth doubled and Greg Dobbs struck out to bring Pedro Feliz to the plate with two outs and runners at the corners.  Feliz doubled to score Howard and WerthBard intentionally walked Chris Coste to load the bases, which was a solid strategy with the pitchers spot in the lineup due up next.  Fortunately for the Phillies, he walked Chan Ho Park too.  Giving up a walk to the opposing pitcher to load the bases might not be as bad as giving up a home run, but I certainly wouldn't call it good.  Terry Francona must not have thought so either, because he pulled Bard and brought in Takashi Saito to try to record the last out of the inning.

Saito didn't have much more success than Bard.  In his second plate appearance of the inning, Jimmy Rollins was plunked by a pitch with the bases loaded to score Feliz from third.  He then walked Victorino to score another run before finally striking out Utley to end the 7th inning with the Phillies up 11-5.

After giving up a home run to Josh Beckett in the top of the 5th, Happ walked Julio Lugo before getting Jacoby Ellsbury to ground into a double play.  With his pitch count already at 108, Charlie pulled Happ for Chan Ho Park, who got Kevin Youkilis to ground out to end the inning.

Park was effective in this outing.  He went 2 ⅓ and gave up one unearned run on two hits and a walk, and he struck out three.  The run came when George Kottaras hit a double to lead off the top of the 8th, and he advanced to third on an Eric Bruntlett error in left field.  David Ortiz came in to pinch hit and walked to put runners on the corners with no outs, and Julio Lugo hit a sac fly to score Kottaras from 3rd.  It was the last run the Red Sox would score in the game. 

Ryan Madson was brought in to close out the game in the 9th.  Mike Lowell and Nick Green singled off of him, but he got Jason Bay, Mark Kotsay and George Kottaras to line out to end the game and give the Phillies an 11-6 victory.

So, the Phillies salvaged the third game of the series with a win over the Red Sox, and the late, great Harry Kalas sent us all off with a song.

This was the perfect end to a great end-of-semester vacation, and now I need a long nap.

Jun 14, 2009

Fluffy At The Jersey Shore

Gabriel Iglesias
The Music Box at The Borgata - Atlantic City, NJ
I've been a fan of Mr. Iglesias since I first saw him on Comedy Central Presents a few years ago, so I was happy for this opportunity to see his show.  He headlined a show at The Borgata that included three other comedians: Alfred Robles, Noe Gonzales, and Martin Moreno.

The show was hysterically funny!  Everyone stuck around after the show to meet fans and sign autographs.  I didn't have any CDs or anything and spending money is a little low as we come to the end of our vacation, but they were kind enough to sign my Borgata Rewards Card.

Jun 13, 2009

Putting All Of Yourself In Your Work

Squadron Supreme
Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum - Atlantic City, NJ
Mark Gruenwald spent most of his life writing for comic books.  On August 12th, 1996, he died unexpectedly at just 46 years old due to a heart attack.  According to his wishes, his body was cremated and his ashes were mixed with the ink that was used to print a comic book.

The book that was printed using ink that was mixed with his ashes was the first edition of the trade paperback compilation of Squadron Supreme volume 1-12.  It's on display at the Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum on the Atlantic City boardwalk.

Picking Apples

Apple Store
The Pier Shops At Caesars - Atlantic City, NJ
The Apple Store has got some pretty cool stuff, but wow are they expensive!  The only thing more massive than the prices at this shop is my nose in this picture.

While we were here, I pulled up the video of my grandfather from Thanksgiving a couple of years ago on the monitors, because I am clearly a mature adult who engages only in mature adult behavior.

Jun 12, 2009

Take A Look, It's On Display For You

Zephyr Gallery
The Quarter at Tropicana - Atlantic City, NJ
As soon as I saw the name of this place, I couldn't get The Zephyr Song by Red Hot Chili Peppers out of my head.  When we stepped inside, the first thing I saw brought another band to mind.

There are pink and blue clouds with faces hanging off of the ceiling that, for some reason, reminded me of a Smashing Pumpkins music video.

There was a lot of other colorful art for sale, including these giant animal heads and a groovy fish.  If I had the spare cash to buy any one thing from this place, it would have been that fish.

There were also a few smaller sculptures of dragons and monsters.  The one on the left reminded me of one of the forms that Madam Mim takes in The Sword In The Stone.

There were a lot of other very cool pieces of artwork on display here, but the last one that really caught my eye was this framed piece featuring Disney characters in their car at a drive-in theater.  I think it would have been better if they settled on a single movie to show on the screen, but it's still pretty awesome!

Darling It's Better Down Where It's Wetter...

Under The Sea 3D
IMAX Theatre At Tropicana - Atlantic City, NJ
I'm a sucker for nature documentaries, especially the ones that aren't dry or get overly preachy.  This film is exactly that.  Under The Sea 3D is narrated by Jim Carrey, who keeps this light hearted and fun from start to finish.  This is a film that I'd strongly recommend to anyone, with or without the 3D or IMAX bells and whistles.

There are no IMAX theaters near to where I live, so this isn't something that we get to do very often.  The only other time I can think of when I got to see a movie in this format was two years ago at the King Tut exhibition at The Franklin Institute.

The 3D glasses at the theater really are something else.  I guess they want to make them as large and inflexible as possible so that no one will want to swipe them.  If that's the case, mission accomplished.  I have no hesitation whatsoever about giving them back!

An Evening At The Quarter

The Quarter At Tropicana
Atlantic City, NJ
For reasons that I can't fully explain, I enjoy spending time at indoor spaces that are designed to make you feel like you're outdoors.  The restaurant area in The Quarter At Tropicana is an excellent example of this.

The Quarter opened in November 2004, and it's the home to dozens of stores, clubs and restaurants in a setting that looks like a town from an old JRPG, with fountains, palm trees and stone archways.

Turning this corner brings you to a two floor restaurant courtyard with dim lighting and a blue ceiling with painted clouds that makes it feel like an outdoor environment.  

The courtyard area is a mixture of stores, restaurants, and an IMAX theater, which is where we were headed.  We had already eaten by the time we made our way to this part of the casino, but I'm definitely going to have to sample some of these restaurants next time we're in town.  The two that I'm the most interested in stopping at are a Cuban themed restaurant and rum bar called Cuba Libre, and a Soviet themed place called Red Square.