Oct 31, 2015

Oct 22, 2015

What's My Specialty

Specialty Sandwiches
Burger King (1979)
In the late 70's and early 80's, Burger King began marketing a line of specialty sandwiches to sell alongside the traditional burgers and fries on the menu.  Only the chicken sandwich remains available to this day, but there was a wide variety of sandwiches sold over the years on the long, sub-style sesame seed bun.

This is just a small sample of the different sandwiches Burger King released throughout the 80's and 90's on their long sub-bun.  I worked at Burger King when I was a teenager in 1995-96.  At the time, we sold three different International Chicken Sandwiches.  They were the American (with lettuce, tomato, mayo and American cheese), French (with ham and Swiss cheese) and Italian (with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese).

In 1980, the fast food chain ran their What's My Specialty promotion.  Guests of the restaurant would receive a game card like this one, and they would win free food by first scratching off the name of a famous person on the top.  Below this was a multiple choice of four potential answers to match the famous person to their occupation.  Winners would scratch off the box below the famous person's specialty.  The quiz game was very easy and was designed to give everyone who played a small food prize to help promote the new line of Burger King Specialty Sandwiches.

Oct 21, 2015

Video Games in Back To The Future

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The Decade That Could Have Been

Thirty-five years ago today, the Phillies won their first World Series Championship.  It was the beginning of a strange decade for the team.  Throughout the 80's, the team had one championship, two World Series appearances (1980 and 1983), three National League MVPs (Mike Schmidt in '80, '81 and '86) and four Cy Young Awards (Steve Carlton in '80 and '82, John Denny in '83 and Steve Bedrosian in '87).  Looking at these facts in isolation, it seems as if the '80s were a successful decade for the franchise, but the dropoff after 1983 and the losing seasons that followed have defined the era.  The 1980 Champions seem more like the end of the era that began in the mid '70s than the start of a successful decade.

Eight transactions took place in the 1980's that took the Phillies from a championship team to the cellar dwellers of the NL East.  Had the following events never taken place, it's likely that the team that began the decade as champions would have found prolonged success.

The purpose of this exercise is to examine those transactions and the Phillies lineup that would have been had those transactions not taken place.  It's not without a leap of faith.  There's no way to know that the players that the Phillies lost in the 80's would have performed equally well had they remained with the Phillies, but using that same logic, there's no way to know that they wouldn't have performed better in Philadelphia.  For this reason, I'm just looking at their performance as it played out in the real world and changing only the player's uniform.

Additionally, I'm not going to examine any hypothetical trades or missed opportunities with players that could have been signed.  A good example of this is Vince Coleman, who was taken by the Phillies in the 20th round of the 1981 draft, but didn't sign (he signed a year later when he was taken in the 10th round by the Cardinals).  All of the players that will be discussed in this entry were members of the Phillies organization and under team control, but were surrendered to other clubs.

So, flawed though it may be, here are eight transactions that the Phillies could have avoided to be a dominant club throughout the 1980s.


The Phillies have had a number of great Rule 5 pickups, but this is one that burned them.  Had the team protected George Bell, they would have a left field bat that hit for average and power throughout the decade.  Bell hit over 20 homers in six seasons in the 80's, including his 1987 MVP season in which he bat .308 with 47 home runs and 134 RBI.


Giving Boone to the Angels and getting nothing of value in return was a petty move by the Phillies front office.  Boone was a key negotiator for the players union during the 1981 strike and it is thought that the team dumped their World Series Champion catcher in retaliation.  He went on to have seven productive seasons with the Angels and played a key role in the Angels winning the division in '82.


Any time you come across a list of the most lopsided trades in the history of the game, this deal is part of the discussion.  In his time with the Phillies, manager Dallas Green led the franchise to their first World Championship.  He was also instrumental in the team drafting several key players, including Sandberg.  The Phillies front office wanted DeJesús for some reason, and Green took the opportunity to demand that they include the minor leaguer in the deal.  DeJesús was anemic at the plate in three seasons with the Phillies and was out of baseball before 1989, while Sandberg would go on to have a Hall of Fame career and would go down as one of the greatest second basemen of all time.


The infamous "5 for 1" trade is one of the most debated transactions in franchise history.  It would have been an incredible deal for the Phillies had they not included Julio Franco.  The trade was focused around Trillo and Vukovich, and the Indians insisted on getting Jay Baller, who they viewed as the next Goose Gossage.  Had they known the type of player that Franco would have developed into, they probably could have gotten away with including someone else in the deal (maybe even Larry Bowa). But the point of this exercise isn't to hypothesize about trades that could have happened, but to imagine the team we could have had if they didn't make the trade at all.

It has been argued that the Phillies still got the better end of this deal, but Franco delivered production from the middle infield at a time when that wasn't as common as it is today.  He stayed healthy, he hit for a high average (over .300 for half of the decade and never below .273), and Vukovich was effective over the next two seasons - particularly in 1984.


This was a deal that helped the Phillies in the short term, but burned them in the long term.  Joe Morgan was a piece of the 70's Big Red Machine that reunited in Philadelphia, but he didn't do a lot in the Phillies 1983 NL Championship season.  Al Holland was an effective closer for the '83 and '84 seasons before drugs derailed his career.

Mike Krukow would go on to be an effective starter for the Giants for the rest of the decade, including a 1987 20 win season in which he finished third for the NL Cy Young Award.  Davis would go on a career rejuvenation out of the bullpen, and he capped off the decade with a 44 save season and a Cy Young Award in 1989.


Let's pause here for a moment.  Had the Phillies avoided the four transactions above, the 1983 team would have included the following players at the major league level. 
1B - Pete Rose
2B - Ryne Sandberg
SS - Julio Franco
3B - Mike Schmidt
C - Bob Boone / Bo Diaz
LF - Gary Matthews
CF - Garry Maddox / Bob Dernier
RF - George Vukovich / Joe Lefebvre
Starting Pitchers - Steve Carlton, John Denny, Charles Hudson, Mike Krukow, Marty Bystrom, Mark Davis
Bullpen - Tug McGraw, Willie Hernández, Ron Reed, Porfirio Altamirano, Larry Andersen, Jay Baller 
In the real world, the 1983 Phillies would be known as the "Wheeze Kids" with a lineup that included 39 year old Joe Morgan and 40 year old Tony Perez.  The would go on to reach the World Series and lose to the Baltimore Orioles in five games, after which the team began a ten year downward spiral. 
In this parallel world in which the five transactions above never happened, we begin to see the rise of 23 year old Ryne Sandberg and 24 year old Julio Franco when he first entered the majors as a shortstop.  Both played a full season in 1983 and hit over .260 with glimpses of the brilliant careers they would go on to have.  George Bell (23) and Juan Samuel (22) would be late season call ups getting their first experience in the major leagues.  Following the 1983 season, Bell would go on to take Lefebvre's role in right field, while Franco would replace Pete Rose who had moved on to the Expos in 1984.  This would allow Samuel to move into shortstop.
On the pitching side, Mark Davis was the fifth starter for the Giants in 1983, but with a Phillies rotation that includes Steve Carlton and the eventual 1983 Cy Young winner John Denny, I can't say if he would have won a rotation job or if he could have pitched out of the bullpen (replacing the innings that Al Holland provided).  I think it's a safe bet that this team would have had a better chance against the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series.

Although Glenn Wilson was a good hitting outfielder who made the All-Star Team in 1985, the Phillies traded Willie Hernández at exactly the wrong time.  The left handed closer would go on to have a phenomenal season for the Tigers in 1984, going 9-4 with a 1.93 ERA and 32 saves in 33 chances.  He won the AL MVP and Cy Young Award, and helped lead the Tigers to the 1984 World Championship.


The Cubs really knew how to screw the Phillies in the 80's.  Philadelphia was the second stop in the Soup Farewell Tour in which he pitched for five teams in five seasons, none of whom had many reasons to miss him when he was gone.  The Phillies shipped their bountiful return from the Cubs to the Cardinals when they flipped Campbell and Iván DeJesús for three seasons of middle reliever Dave Rucker, who was released after the 1986 season.  I didn't mention Mike Diaz because he never played a single game in Philadelphia.  He was traded to the Pirates on April 27th, 1985 for minor league catcher Steve Herz, who also did not reach the major leagues.

In exchange for this domino effect of baseball stardom, the Phillies gave up Gary Matthews.  Sarge went on to have an excellent year for the Cubs, batting .291 and leading the league in walks and OPS and finishing fifth in the NL MVP vote (the year that Sandberg won).  He wasn't able to replicate that same level of success in his remaining three years with the Cubs, but he was serviceable, and a damn sight more valuable than either Bill Campbell or Mike Diaz.  Meanwhile, Bob Dernier was a quality center fielder for the Cubs for the next four years, winning a Gold Glove in 1984.  The Phillies brought him back when they signed him as a free agent after the 1987 season.


The descent into mediocrity began for the Phillies in the 1984 season as they went from National League Champions to 4th place in the NL East with a .500 record.  Had the Phillies not participated in the seven transactions above, their 1984 lineup may have looked something like this: 
1B - Julio Franco
2B - Ryne Sandberg
SS - Juan Samuel
3B - Mike Schmidt
C - Bob Boone / Bo Diaz
LF - Gary Matthews
CF - Garry Maddox / Bob Dernier
RF - George Bell 
Starting Pitchers - Steve Carlton, John Denny, Shane Rawley, Charles Hudson, Mike Krukow
Bullpen - Willie Hernández, Tug McGraw, Porfirio Altamirano, Larry Andersen, Mark Davis 
This is where it gets really interesting, at least from an offensive perspective.  In 1984, Ryne Sandberg was the NL MVP who batted .314 with an .887 OPS.  He also won his second of nine consecutive gold gloves.  Gary Matthews finished fifth in the NL MVP voting after having one of the best seasons of his career, hitting .291 with 82 RBI and a career high 103 walks. 
In his first full season, George Bell hit .292 with 26 home runs and 87 RBI, while Julio Franco continued to develop, batting .286 with 79 RBI.  Add this production to the numbers put up by Mike Schmidt and Juan Samuel in 1984 and you have one of the best offensive lineups in franchise history. 
Pitching is another story.  Steve Carlton was serviceable, but this should have been his last season.  John Denny was also alright, but he wasn't able to replicate his success from the previous season, but Shane Rawley (acquired from the Yankees for Marty Bystrom and Keith Hughes) had a decent season and would steadily improve.  Having Mike Krukow in this rotation definitely would have helped, and with the potential of this offense, the 1984 season of Willie Hernandez would have locked down a lot of games.  I don't doubt that this incarnation of the 1984 Phillies would have been a playoff team, and their bats would have kept them in contention throughout the decade.

  • May 9, 1986
    The Philadelphia Phillies released Dave Stewart.
The last transaction on this list is the icing on the cake.  Dave Stewart had a pretty rough start to his career.  He made his major league debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers and had moments where he looked to be a promising young pitcher.  He was traded to the Texas Rangers in 1983 and had some troubles on and off the field.  The Rangers then traded him to the Phillies on September 13, 1985 at which point he was a reclamation project on a sub .500 team.  He would appear in a dozen games with the Phillies over the '85 and '86 seasons before being released just over a month into the 1986 season.

Had the Phillies remained patient, their faith would have been rewarded.  Stewart had one of the most impressive career resurgences in modern baseball history after being picked up by the Oakland Athletics on May 23, 1986.  He would finish the season with a 9-5 record and then go on to perfect his forkball and have four consecutive 20 win seasons.  He helped lead the A's to a World Championship in 1989 and was the World Series MVP.


To wrap this up, let's look at our fantasy lineup for the 1987 season: 
1B - Julio Franco
2B - Ryne Sandberg
SS - Juan Samuel
3B - Mike Schmidt
C - Lance Parrish / Bob Boone
LF - Gary Matthews
CF - Milt Thompson
RF - George Bell
Starting Pitchers - Dave Stewart, Shane Rawley, Bruce Ruffin, Don Carman, Kevin Gross
Bullpen - Steve Bedrosian, Kent Tekulve, Willie Hernández, Mark Davis
This version of the 1987 Phillies would have been an absolute beast.  Having 20 game winner Dave Stewart and 17 game winner Shane Rawley anchoring a rotation with NL Cy Young Award winner Steve Bedrosian locking down 40 saves would have been an incredible experience. 
As good as the pitching would have been, the '87 Phillies offense would have been epic.  Let's just look at a few stats and imagine how they would have worked on the same ballclub, starting with the 1987 NL MVP:
  • George Bell: .308 average - 32 doubles - 47 HR - 134 RBI
  • Mike Schmidt: .293 average - 28 doubles - 35 HR - 113 RBI
  • Juan Samuel: .272 average - 37 doubles - 15 triples - 28 HR - 100 RBI - 35 SB 
  • Ryne Sandberg: .294 average - 29 doubles - 16 HR - 21 SB
  • Julio Franco: .319 average - 24 doubles - 32 SB
  • Milt Thompson: .302 average - 26 doubles - 46 SB 
  • Lance Parish: .245 average - 21 doubles - 17 HR - 67 RBI 
That combination of consistency, speed and power throughout the lineup is more than enough to knock out the Cardinals in the NLCS and take the World Series trophy away from the '87 Twins.

Granted, this analysis is certainly not an expert account of what would have been, but it's fun to imagine what might have been had the Phillies avoided eight transactions in the 80's.

Oct 17, 2015

The Higher Truth

Hemming - Chris Cornell
The Higher Truth Acoustic Tour
FM Kirby Center - Wilkes-Barre, PA
When I was in middle school and high school in the 90's, I had a Soundgarden Superunknown blacklight poster hanging on my bedroom wall.  I can't even begin to count the number of hours I laid back in my bedroom with my CD boombox and a pile of albums and listened to music while I stared at that poster with the lights off and the blacklight bar shining down on it from above.  It helped me to forget about the everyday stress of life so that I could relax and get out of my own head for a little while.  Soundgarden and Temple Of The Dog were always in the rotation of music that I would play on those nights.  Chris Cornell was my favorite singer then, and he's still my favorite singer today.

This tour was advertised a one-man acoustic performance of Chris Cornell playing guitar and singing hits that he recorded with Soundgarden, Temple Of The Dog, Audioslave and his solo work, including his most recent album, Higher Truth, which was released last month.  It wasn't a strictly solo performance though, as Mr. Cornell was joined by Bryan Gibson who backed him on cello and mandolin.  He also sang a few songs with a vinyl record providing the instrumentals, Andy Kaufman-style, which was very cool.

However, before I get into the main show, I don't want to forget about the opening performer: Hemming.

Hemming is a young woman from Philadelphia who the music contest show Make Or Break on VH1 not long ago.  I haven't heard of her before tonight, but I was blown away.  Her voice reminded me of Dolores O'Riordan without the Irish accent, and her songs have a lot of the same qualities that Chris Cornell brings to his music; a haunting, raw and beautiful sound.  Between the end of her set and the start of Cornell's, I stopped by the merchandise booth in the lobby to pick up album, which came out earlier this year.  She was there too, meeting fans and signing autographs.  I asked her to sign the cover of the liner notes, and she couldn't have been a nicer person.  I hope she goes on to great success because she most certainly deserves to.

The show was as close to perfect as any concert I've ever been fortunate enough to attend.  He performed twenty-three songs from the Temple Of The Dog album that was released over twenty years ago to Higher Truth, which came out just last month.  There were also five brilliant covers, including The Times They Are A-Changin' (Bob Dylan), Thank You (Led Zeppelin), River Of Deceit (Mad Season), Nothing Compares 2 U (Sinéad O'Connor) and Billie Jean (Michael Jackson).  The latter also appeared on Cornell's second solo album, Carry On, from 2007.

The songs off of the new album were all incredible, but my favorite two were Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart, and the song he closed the show with: Higher Truth.  It was the most powerfully moving end to a concert I've ever been to.  I had shivers go up my spine as his voice echoed through the building at the end.

In total, he performed 28 songs, and I swear it felt like it went by in the blink of an eye.  I could have stayed there all night listening to him sing and tell stories.  It was absolutely wonderful.

Here is the breakdown of his songs that were performed than night, and the albums that they're from:

Singles soundtrack (1992)

Great Expectations soundtrack (1998)

Euphoria Morning (solo album - 1999)

Carry On (solo album - 2007)
You Know My Name (this was also the theme song to to Casino Royale)

Scream (solo album - 2009)
As Hope & Promise Fade (this was a hidden track that went by the title "Two Drink Minimum".  It was re-released on his 2011 live acoustic album - Songbook)

Higher Truth (solo album - 2015)

The only thing that kept this show from being absolutely perfect was the audience, who were absolutely obnoxious throughout Mr. Cornell's performance.  The show had a relaxed, chill tone, with Chris talking about the music and telling stories between songs.  It was a truly awesome experience to sit back and listen to the artist who I've listened to and admired since I was 14 years old talk as if he was sitting in my living room with his guitar, but it would have been much better if not for the jackasses in the crowd shouting out the names of songs they wanted him to perform.  I swear, I must have heard some idiot drunkenly screaming "Sunshower" while Chris was speaking at least 50 times during the show.  By the halfway point, it became pretty obvious from his change in tone that Chris was getting even more annoyed by that crap than I was.  He handled it with more grace that I would have.  If it were me, I would have refused to play Sunshower purely out of spite.  Thankfully, he is a more patient man than I am or else I would have missed hearing one of my favorite songs, but I wouldn't have blamed him for a second if he would have made an executive decision to cut it from the setlist then and there.

Oct 15, 2015

Every Sign Has A Story

We take our toast very seriously 'round these parts.

Oct 14, 2015

Bake McBride Comes Through

1980 World Series: Game One
Kansas City Royals @ Philadelphia Phillies
Veteran's Stadium
October 14, 1980
The first game of the 1980 World Series took place 35 years ago today.  The Phillies held off a 9th inning rally by Kansas City to win 7 - 6.  This win was largely due to Bake McBride.  In the third inning, with Pete Rose and Mike Schmidt on base, Shake N' Bake hit a three run homer off of Dennis Leonard to give the Phillies the lead.

Oct 9, 2015

Zombie Meat Sticks

Slim Jim
ConAgra Foods (2015)

Oct 8, 2015

A Night Of Firsts

1915 World Series Game One
Boston Red Sox at Philadelphia Phillies
Baker Bowl - Philadelphia, PA
October 8, 1915
One hundred years ago today, the Boston Red Sox faced the Philadelphia Phillies in Game One of the World Series.  Phillies ace Grover Cleveland Alexander wasn't his dominant self, but he and the Phillies held the Sox scoreless through 7 innings and went on to win the game 3 - 1.

The Phillies were founded in 1883, and this was their very first appearance in the World Series.  It was also their first victory in a World Series game in franchise history.  It was the only game they would win in the 1915 Fall Classic.  They wouldn't make it to the World Series again for another 35 years, and they wouldn't win another World Series game until 1980 - 75 years and a few days after this night.

Although the Phillies first ever win in a World Series game is a huge part of the history of my favorite team, this game was memorable for another reason, although I doubt anyone watching the game knew it at the time.  A 20 year old rookie came into the game for the Red Sox as a pinch hitter in the top of the 9th.  It was a slightly odd move because the kid was a pitcher, but he was known to be a reliable bat.  He hit a sacrifice fly to advance the runner, and the next batter flied out to end the game.  It would be his only appearance in the 1915 World Series, but it was the first of many for a young kid who would go on to become perhaps the most known and beloved athlete in the history of the world.  This was the first World Series appearance of Babe Ruth.

Oct 7, 2015

Strong Like Bull

1980 National League Championship Series: Game One
Houston Astros @ Philadelphia Phillies
Veteran's Stadium
October 7, 1980
Game One of the 1980 NLCS was played in Philadelphia 35 years ago.  The Phillies were down 1 - 0 until the bottom of the 6th when Greg "The Bull" Luzinski hit a two run homer off of Ken Forsch, scoring he and Pete Rose.  The Phillies would go on to win the game; their first victory in a post-season game since 1915.

Oct 6, 2015

This Time It's Really Really Personal

Jaws 19 Trailer
Universal Pictures (2015)
Directed by Max Spielberg and coming to a Holomax near you!

If they actually ever do come up with a Jaws hologram movie, I'll be first in line... well... behind Marty McFly.

Oct 4, 2015

A Legend Takes The Mound

Ichiro Suzuki
In the eighth inning of the final game of the 2015 season, Ichiro Suzuki made his MLB pitching debut in a relief appearance against the Phillies.  He gave up a run on two doubles by Odubel Herrera and Darnell Sweeney in a game that the Phillies won 7-2.

Oct 3, 2015

The Panana

The Panana
Bloomsburg Fair, PA
The Bloomsburg Fair is the best place to delight your taste buds while shortening your life expectancy with culinary oddities.  This tasty treat was invented by Phil Delzeit.  It's made up of a peanut butter and banana sandwich that has been deep-fried in funnel cake batter and topped with powdered sugar.  The little white cup is filled with a raspberry chocolate sauce that you dip your Panana into as you eat it.  This was the first thing I ate at the Fair this year and it turned out to be an excellent choice!