Jul 31, 2015

Say Goodbye To Hollywood

In his last start six days ago, Cole Hamels threw a no-hitter against the Chicago Cubs.  Sadly, it will end up being his final start in a Phillies uniform as he was traded to the Texas Rangers earlier today.

The Phillies ended up getting a pretty decent haul in return, including three of the Rangers top 10 prospects and a veteran starter who may take Hamels place in the rotation when he comes off of the disabled list.  I hate to see Hamels go, but there's reason to be optimistic for the future.

Jul 27, 2015

It's Hip To Be Square

South Main Street from Public Square (1975)
Wilkes-Barre, PA
The building on the left is now Dunkin Donuts.  The Woolworth's is now a Barnes & Noble that also has the Wilkes University and King's College campus bookstore.  To the left of Woolworth's is Boscov's.  The Kresge store has been a bunch of different things over the years.  I believe it's a bar today.

Jul 26, 2015

Congratulations, Pedro Martinez

Earlier today, the 2015 class of the Baseball Hall of Fame were inducted in Cooperstown.  Among them was my favorite pitcher, Pedro Martinez.

Although he'll always be associated in the eyes of fans in a Red Sox uniform, Pedro ended his career in a Phillies uniform in 2009.  He pitched well in the half-season he spent in Philadelphia, going 5 - 1 and pitching well in the playoffs, including 7 scoreless innings against the Dodgers in Game 2 of the NLCS.

The photo above was taken on September 13th, 2009.  We went to a day / night double header at Citizen's Bank Park against the Mets, and Pedro was the starting pitcher in the night game.  It was a memorable evening.  Tony Danza sang the National Anthem, and my favorite pitcher took the mound against our most hated rivals and his former team.

As excited as I was to get to see Pedro pitch in person, I never could have predicted how dominant he would be.  Pedro threw 130 pitches, struck out 7, and shut down the Mets over 8 scoreless innings.  Ryan Madson came in for the save in the 9th inning and locked down the game for the Phillies.  This was Pedro's fifth win of the season, and the 219th win of his career.  Although I didn't know it at the time, this would be the final win of his career.

Congratulations, Mr. Pedro Martinez - one of the most dominant pitchers in the history of the game.  Thank you for your contribution to this game, and for your short, but memorable time in Philadelphia - especially that one September night.

Jul 25, 2015

Closing The Boardwalk

Boardwalk Boulevard
Laurel Mall - Hazleton, PA
For over a quarter century, the corner of the Laurel Mall next to one of its anchor stores was occupied by Boardwalk Blvd.  It was an arcade that opened in 1989, giving the Hazleton mall two arcades for a very brief period of time before the older Aladdin's Castle closed up shop.

Even the shoppers who didn't play games couldn't escape the presence of the arcade as it serenaded everyone within 20 feet with "Daaaytooooooona, let's go away!" from the Daytona USA machine that was once parked near the entrance to the arcade.  When I was a teenager, there was a Mortal Kombat 2, and later a Mortal Kombat 3 machine where I spent plenty of tokens.  Unfortunately, as the 90's drew to a close, the arcade began to get filled with more ticket-based games and fewer video games, but there were still enough traditional arcade games to make me stop in when I went to the mall.

Now, for the first time since Aladdin's Castle opened in 1976, the Laurel Mall does not have an arcade.

This is what remains of Boardwalk Blvd today - just a few areas that still have the carpeting.  I'm not sure what the mall has planned for this location, but it's a safe bet that it won't be as much fun as the little arcade that opened at the tail end of the 80's and thrived through the 90's, the 2000's and the first half of the 2010's before succumbing to the same fate as nearly every other mall arcade.

Thanks for the memories, Boardwalk Blvd.

Jul 19, 2015

The Best Garbage A Quarter Could Buy

Garbage Pail Kids
Topps (1985)
Photos taken in and around Hazleton, PA (1987)
I still remember where I was when I got my first Garbage Pail Kid.  I was five years old and my parents friends came over to visit, bringing their two children with them - a girl who was a year older than me, and a boy who was a year younger.  I don't remember the names of the kids, but the girl giving me my first Garbage Pail Kids sticker somehow burned itself into my memory.  It was card #41b - Joltin' Joe.  It was the start of an obsession that lasted throughout my elementary school years.

A pack of stickers was only a quarter, so I ended up getting some any time we went to the grocery store or stopped at Pantry Quik.  The Bloomsburg Fair was where I really hit the jackpot and scored a few rack packs.  I saved the cards in a shoebox and I used the doubles as stickers that I put everywhere and anywhere, including the pole of the swing set at my grandparents house.  I had the Series 1 poster hanging on my bedroom wall.  I even wore a yellow Live Mike t-shirt.  My grandmother bought it for me from Boscov's, but it took some convincing.  She didn't have a problem with Garbage Pail Kids or with getting a shirt for me, but she couldn't get past the idea that the shirt was intended for a kid named Mike.

Looking back on it, it felt like Garbage Pail Kids were huge throughout the decade, but they were only around for a short period of time, making their debut in the summer of 1985 and fading away before the end of 1988.  Although my family was never bothered by them, parents and religious groups practiced their favorite sport of complaining until they were banned by schools across the country.  The protests were effective enough to cause the cancellation of a cartoon series before it even aired.  It was scheduled to be a part of the CBS Saturday morning cartoon lineup for the Fall of 1987.

They made a comeback in 2003 and have been around ever since, but they haven't hit the cultural mainstream in the same way that they did when I was a kid.  This year is the 30th anniversary, and Topps is releasing a special series of cards that will include characters created by the artists back in the 80's that were never published.

Jul 13, 2015

The Neon Baker

Stroehmann Bakery Outlet Store
Broad Street - West Hazleton, PA
This store is right down the street from where my grandparents lived when they were still with us.  It's a very small store - not much larger than my living room, but it's a great place to go to pick up a loaf of bread or a bag of croutons because they sold day-old merchandise at ridiculously low prices.  I'm talking a dime or a quarter for a loaf of rye bread.  I used to run down here to pick up some bread for my grandmother and for about two bucks, I'd have enough for the bread, a strawberry milk and a bag of snack pies.

Jul 9, 2015

The House That Burger Becky Built

National Space Invaders Superbowl
Warner Building - New York, NY (1980)
This photo was taken at the New York regional competition for the Atari 2600 Space Invaders national championship tournament.  It has been recognized as the first large scale video game competition.  Frank Tetro won this regional match, but was defeated by Rebecca Heineman in the finals.

Burger Becky would go on to become a game developer with a very impressive resume that includes one of my favorite vintage game collections: Activision Anthology.

Jul 5, 2015

Hats Off To A Good Toad

Nintendo Greeting Card
Nextoft Corporation (1989)
I found a pack of greeting cards at the Hometown Farmers Market from 1989 that were made using artwork from Super Mario Bros 2.  I always thought that the mushroom was just part of Toad's head, but it turns out that it was a cap all along.

The cards were produced by the Nexoft Corporation, who published several NES and Famicom games when these cards were on store shelves, including Castlequest, Wizardry, and Faria.  In 1991, the company changed their name to the ASCII Corporation.  They continued to publish games under that name for the rest of the decade and into the 2000's until they merged with MediaWorks in 2008.

Jul 4, 2015

The Punch That Pops

Cherry Cracker
Kool-Aid (1991)
During the summer of 1991, Kool-Aid produced a flavor that crackled like Pop Rocks when you added water to the powder.

Jul 2, 2015

Stainless Steel Thighs

Hillary Clinton Nutcracker
Hometown Farmers Market - Tamaqua, PA