Jul 31, 2018

All The Super Heroes Is Come

Super Heroes Action Figures
Hometown Farmers Market - Tamaqua, PA
My favorite part of this bootleg set is the smug expression on Superman's face.

Jul 30, 2018

Keystone Cannonball

Keystone Kapers 2 prototype
by Garry Kitchen (Activision)
One of my earliest memories from childhood was of a time that I threw a minor temper tantrum in the Boscov's department store at the Laurel Mall.  I couldn't have been older than five years old at the time,  We were shopping and I saw Keysone Kapers on the shelf.  It was one of my favorite games for the 2600, but the one at the store was in a shiny new 5200 box and it showed different graphics that weren't in the game that I had back home.  Dad patiently explained to an inconsolable young gamer that I already had this game, and that we didn't own a 5200.  This may have been the first time I wanted the latest port of one of my favorite games, but it wouldn't be the last.

AtariAge and the National Video Game Museum announced earlier today that the unfinished sequel to Keysone Kapers 2 has been discovered.  Activision programmer Dan Kitchen donated his brother's work to the museum, and some of the footage and facts about this lost game have been shared.  It was to be called Keysone Cannonball, and the video above shows Keystone Kelly presumably chasing Harry Hooligan to prevent a train heist.

If this news isn't cool enough, Dan shared on AtariAge that he is rewriting this game from scratch, and that a physical cartridge of this long lost game will be released by Tiki Vision Games.  He has a long history of fun games dating back to the dawn of the industry, including another of my Activision favorites, Crackpots.  I'm looking forward to playing this!

Jul 29, 2018

Congratulations Jim Thome

Jim Thome Mosaic
This piece of art is hanging near the elevators at Citizen's Bank Park in honor of one of the finest ballplayers to ever put on a Phillies uniform.  Mr. Thome received over 89% of the vote in his first ballot to enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and I can think of no one more deserving.

Jul 28, 2018

Ode To The Fans

Ode To The Fans
Harry Kalas - July 28th, 2002
This is the poem that Harry Kalas wrote and shared with the public during his acceptance speech for the Ford C. Frick Award at the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002.  His words of appreciation and love for the fans hang on the wall at Citizens Bank Park where I have no doubt they'll remain for as long as professional baseball is played in Philadelphia.

Jul 27, 2018

A Little Snack

Chicken Little sandwiches
Kentucky Fried Chicken - Hazleton, PA
My grandfather used to take me up to Kentucky Fried Chicken for Chicken Littles when I was a kid.  Back then, they were 39 cents each, so we could get a big bag of them to bring home.  Today, they're nearly six times as expensive and they come in four flavors: original, Georgia Gold, Smoky Mountain Barbecue and Nashville Hot.  My favorite of the four is the Georgia Gold, which is made with a honey mustard sauce and pickles.  It sounds odd, but it's very good.

This is a concept that could make millions for many years to come if they capitalize on it.  They could come out with dozens of different regional and seasonal flavors to add to the menu.  Some could be available nationwide while others are like the Shamrock Shake and drive traffic into the store for a limited time at a certain time of year.  There's so many different ways to serve chicken that they could keep this going for years if they wanted to, and with a creative ad campaign, it would be almost guaranteed to be a hit.

One last bit of KFC news.  They recently remodeled the dining room at the restaurant in Hazleton.  They played up the red and white color scheme, and they've redone the main lighting fixture on the ceiling.  I'm not sure if they were going for this, but it looks like a UFO is abducting the world's largest bucket of KFC straight off of the dinner table.  Hmm.. I wonder if the Colonel is an alien.

Jul 26, 2018

Statues At The Ballpark

Play At Second Base
Joe Brown (1974)
This sculpture that once stood at Veterans Stadium was created in 1970 by an artist named Joe Brown.  Mr. Brown was a Philadelphia native who had gone to Temple University and had been a professional boxer before starting a seven year apprenticeship to become a sculptor.  He began teaching a sculpting course at Princeton University in 1939 and was a full professor of art at the Ivy League school when he was commissioned to create four sculptures that were placed around The Vet in 1974.  Play At Second Base is one of those sculptures.  It, as well as the other three statues, were removed from the area when Veterans Stadium was demolished in 2004, but they were put back up on the grounds surrounding Citizens Bank Park the following year. 

Joe Brown passed away in 1985 at the age of 75.  Just to be clear, the man in the jean shorts smoking a cigarette in front of the statue is most definitely not Joe Brown... that's my dad.  I didn't take pictures of Mr. Brown's other three sculptures, but I did take a few of some of the other statues in the area that we happened to walk past before the game on Sunday.

This eight foot tall sculpture of Connie Mack was created by Harry Rosin shortly after the legendary Philadelphia Athletics manager passed away.  It was unveiled to the public in a ceremony at the statue's original location in Reyburn Park (just across from Connie Mack Stadium) on Opening Day of the Phillies 1957 season.  It was moved two times since then, first on August 21, 1971 to Broad Street and Pattison Avenue in front of Veteran's Stadium, and finally to its current location on Citizens Bank Way in front of Citizens Bank Park before Opening Day of the Phillies 2004 season.

The base of the statue is engraved with the Code Of Conduct that Connie Mack wrote and shared with his team after the Philadelphia Athletics 1916 season.  It stands the test of time over 100 years later as a solid set of principles.

This statue of the great Smokin' Joe Frazier stands in front of the Xfinity Live building (where those Cheesesteak Egg Rolls came from) across the street from Citizens Bank Park.  Mr. Frazier won the gold medal for the heavyweight boxing division at the 1964 Olympics and was the undisputed heavyweight champion from 1970 to 1973, during which time he became the first man to defeat Muhammad Ali in The Fight Of The Century at Madison Square Garden.

This statue of Bernie Parent and Bobby Clarke is outside of the Broad Street Bullies Pub entrance of the Xfinity Live building.  This commemorates the Flyers back-to-back Stanley Cup championship seasons of  1973-74 and 1974-75.

Finally, this statue of the late, great Harry Kalas stands just a few feet from the entrance of his namesake restaurant in the ballpark, Harry The K's.  It has been standing at this location since August 14th, 2011.  This photo was taken this season at my birthday game.

There are dozens of other statues and sculptures in and around the South Philly Sports Complex, so this is just a small sample.

Jul 25, 2018

Cheesesteak Egg Rolls

Cheesesteak Egg Rolls
NBC Sports Arena at Xfinity Live - Philadelphia, PA
Dad and I stopped across the street from Citizens Bank Park for a few beers and a bite to eat before the game on Sunday.

My only complaint about these is that I couldn't order a giant bucket full of them.  They're made from shaved beef, cheese, onions, and peppers stuffed inside of egg roll wraps before being deep fried and served with a side of sriracha ketchup dipping sauce.  I tried the ketchup and it's pretty good, but it'd be better on a burger because these egg rolls are perfect by themselves.

Jul 24, 2018

Tasty Spicy Chicken

Wasabi Chicken
Top Of The 80's - Hazleton, PA
Served with broccoli, zucchini and a baked potato.  Very tasty!

Jul 23, 2018

A Nightmare In South Philly: Freddy's Revenge

Dad and I had pretty good seats in the fourth row behind the Phillies dugout for Sunday afternoon's game against the Padres.  Not only does this section have a pleasant view of the ballpark from the first base side, but it's also home to a few interesting beer vendors.

My favorite is this guy who comes down with a stuffed parrot on his shoulder and growls like a pirate, but there's also an older man who shouts "ice...  cold... Stellaaaaaaaa!" at the top of his lungs, and the younger who walks looking bored while saying "buy one of these" in a tone that suggests that he was just woken up from a long nap.

First pitch: Nick Pivetta to Travis Jankowski

Nick Pivetta started for the Phillies, and it didn't go well.  Carlos Asuaje was the second batter of the game.  He doubled and Eric Hosmer hit an RBI single with two ours to put the Padres on the board in the top of the 1st.  This was followed by a Hunter Renfroe double, which put runners on second and third to bring our old friend Freddy Galvis up to the plate.

Freddy has been one of my favorite players since he was playing in Reading and I was bummed to see the Phillies trade him over the winter.  If anybody in the Padres lineup had to beat us, at least it was him.  He hit an RBI single that scored Hosmer and Renfroe to put San Diego up 3-0 before the Fightins came up to bat.

This wouldn't be the only damage that Galvis or the Padres did, but it was enough since the Phillies were only able to score two runs in the game.

One of the Phillies two runs came in the bottom of the first.  Rhys Hoskins hit his 15th home run of the season off of Tyson Ross.  Our only other run also involved Hoskins, and it came in the bottom of the 5th.  He doubled to lead off the inning.  Odubel Herrera was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second.  Carlos Santana grounded out to advance Hoskins to third, and he scored on a Nick Williams groundout.

Freddy Galvis and Carlos Santana

Nick Pivetta pitched into the 6th inning and struck out nine batters, but he gave up six runs (four earned) on eight hits.  Edubray Ramos came on in relief in the top of the sixth with runners on first and second with Christian Villanueva at the plate.  The Padres third baseman reached base on an error which scored Eric Hosmer from third.  Ramos managed to record just one out before walking pinch hitter Franmil Reyes, after which he was pulled for Austin Davis.  Unfortunately, he gave up a two run double to Travis Jankowski which put the Phillies down 7-2.

The Phillies has a chance to make this a ballgame in the bottom of the 7th.  Rhys Hoskins reached on an error and Odubel Herrera singled off of Padres reliever Matt StrahmCarlos Santana popped out, but Nick Williams was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out.  Unfortunately, Strahm struck out Aaron Altherr and got Scott Kingery to pop out to end the inning without the Phillies scoring a run.

Phillies reliever Mark Leiter Jr gave up singles to Cory Spangenberg and Travis Jankowski in the top of the 9th.  Carlos Asuaje hit a deep fly ball that scored Spangenberg, followed by a two run homer by Wil Myers that put the Padres up for what would be the final score of 10-2 after Colten Brewer shut us down in the bottom of the 9th.

The Philadelphia Inquirer  (July 23, 2018)

The good news is that this was the first game in a double header, and the Phillies pulled out a victory in the second game on the strength of seven innings of 2-hit shutout baseball by Vince Velasquez.  The bad news is that we only had tickets to the first half of the double header, so we didn't get to see it.  Oh well... we had a 50/50 shot.

Jul 22, 2018

Jurassic Jeff

This giant statue of Jeff Goldblum in his post-dinosaur attack pose from Jurassic Park has popped up near the Tower Bridge in London.  It was put up by Now TV in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the release of the film.

Jul 21, 2018

But I Have My Part In My Hand Now

Harry's U-Pull-It advertisement
Mohegan Sun Arena (2018)
Maybe this isn't the ideal spot to start pulling my part.  Thanks for the etiquette tip, Harry.

Jul 20, 2018

Polish Platter

Polish Platter
Transfiguration Picnic - West Hazleton, PA
You can always count on a church bazaar for the four basic food groups: halushki, halupki, potato pancakes and pierogies.

Jul 19, 2018

Mauna La'i

Mauna La'i
Ocean Spray
I used to love this stuff when I was a kid, but it was pretty expensive so we didn't get it too often.  I can't remember the last time that I saw it in stores.  An article from the New York Times from 2000 says that the product line was sold to Mott's, but their website makes no mention of it.

Jul 18, 2018

I Just Take As Much As You Can Throw

A Letter To Elise

The Cure (1992)
Elise it doesn't matter what you say
I just can't stay here every yesterday
Like keep on acting out the same the way we act out
Every way to smile forget and make-believe
We never needed any more than this
Any more than this

Elise it doesn't matter what you do
I know I'll never really get inside of you
To make your eyes catch fire the way they should
The way the blue could pull me in
If they only would
If they only would
At least I'd lose this sense of sensing
Something else that hides away

From me and you there're worlds to part
With aching looks and breaking hearts
And all the prayers your hands can make
Oh I just take as much as you can throw
And then throw it all away
Oh I throw it all away
Like throwing faces at the sky
Like throwing arms round

Yesterday, I stood and stared wide-eyed in front of you
And the face I saw looked back the way I wanted to
But I just can't hold my tears away the way you do
Elise believe I never wanted this
Thought this time I'd keep all of my promises
Thought you were the girl I always dreamed about
But I let the dream go
And the promises broke
And the make-believe ran out

So Elise it doesn't matter what you say
I just can't stay here every yesterday
Like keep on acting out the same the way we act out
Every way to smile forget and make-believe
We never needed any more than this
Any more than this

And every time I try to pick it up like falling sand
As fast as I pick it up
It runs away through my clutching hands
But there's nothing else I can really do
There's nothing else I can really do
There's nothing else I can really do at all

Jul 17, 2018

A Wilkes-Barre Smackdown

WWE Smackdown Live: July 17, 2018
Mohegan Sun Arena - Wilkes-Barre, PA
This was a pretty good show, but it was unfortunately not one that I was able to relax and enjoy it.  I'm not going to get into it here, but suffice to say that people can be exhausting.

Here are the results of the show:

Dark Match

WWE Smackdown Live
WWE 205 Live Taping
Dark Match

Jul 16, 2018

Sign Of The Times

Hosak Pontiac GMC
Route 309 - Tamaqua, PA
I pass this sign on the way to Reading.  It's across the street from All American Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, but it stands on a small empty lot with no other landmarks to suggest that cars were once sold here.  I'm not sure when it closed or what year the sign is from, but it's pretty old and it's still standing.

Jul 15, 2018

Love Does Not Prevail In Reading

We had a nice Saturday night at the ballpark to watch the Reading Fightin Phils take on the Double A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles: the Bowie Baysox.

One of the specialties at the FirstEnergy Stadium concession stand is The Churger.  It's basically just a double cheeseburger, but one of the patties is a chicken breast instead of a hamburger patty.  The combination doesn't really go together, so I just split it in half and eat the chicken separate from the burger.

The Fightin' Phils hit Bowie Baysox starter Reid Love pretty hard, tagging him for seven runs on six hits, including a second inning solo homer off the bat of Reading third baseman Damek TomschaLove was relieved by Matthew Grimes in the 4th.  Grimes went three innings and gave up one run on an RBI single in the sixth inning to give the Fightin' Phils an 8-0 lead.

Phillies pitching prospect Jojo Romero started the game for Reading and pitched seven shutout innings.  He gave up six hits and two walks and struck out four batters.  Kyle Dohy came in to pitch the 8th and walked three batters, but he got out of the inning without giving up a run.  Luke Leftwich was a little shakier.  He walked two batters and gave up three hits and three runs, but the Fightin' Phils withstood this late game rally to win 8-3.


And if a Fightin' Phils victory wasn't enough to make for a pleasant night, there was a fireworks display after the game.

Jul 13, 2018

Blast Back With Mac

Blast Back With Mac tray liner
McDonalds (1989)
This was a 1950's themed promotion that McDonalds had in the summer of 1989.  Each large soda had a game piece that you could peel off for the chance to instantly win a prize, including "rollback prices" on food, a classic car, a jukebox and and a Walkman with a 50's rock mixtape.

Jul 12, 2018

Chris Has Been Busy

Adopt A Highway Sign
US-53 North - Duluth, MN
Hey there, Chris.  Slow down and tell me what happened in 2017.

Jul 2, 2018

It Started With A Monkee And Ended With Knapp Time

Before I get into the game itself, I have to mention the giant can of Budweiser standing near the first base entrance.  The back of the can commemorates Brad Lidge and the 2008 World Champion Phillies team.  I can't believe it's already been ten years since that happened.

There was also a table set up to vote for your favorite Phillies for the All-Star Game with free gifts being given away by the team.  I don't think that you had to vote to get one of the gifts, but of course everybody is going to.  I picked this Aaron Nola poster, which was a free giveaway at the ballpark from Star Wars Night on May 23rd.

My birthday game started off with Micky Dolenz of The Monkees singing the national anthem.  He was the drummer and the lead vocalist for some of my favorite songs that the band recorded, including Last Train To Clarksville and I'm Not Your Stepping Stone.  He was also one of the co-stars of The Monkees television series.  I used to listen to their records when I was a kid, so this was a pleasant surprise.

Left hander Gio Gonzalez started the game for the Nationals.  We had cheesesteaks before the game and managed to find a couple of seats near the bullpen so that we could watch him warm up before the game.

Most of the time, I buy my tickets for the games I'm going to before the season starts, so I have no idea who the starting pitchers are going to be.  It's a pleasant surprise when I get to see a former member of the Phillies pitching against us.  While this game doesn't technically qualify, it comes pretty close.  Gio Gonzalez was one of the prospects that the Phillies received from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Jim Thome in the winter before the 2006 season.  He quickly established himself as one of the best pitching prospects in the Phillies system, but he was traded back to the Chicago after the 2006 season before he could make his Major League debut.  That was the deal that brought Freddy Garcia to Philadelphia in exchange for Gonzalez and fellow pitching prospect Gavin FloydGarcia was a 17 game winner in 2006 so it looked like we were getting an ace at the time, but he injured his shoulder in Philadelphia and only managed to earn a single win in 11 career starts as a Phillie.  Meanwhile, Gonzalez went on to become a two time All-Star who won 21 games for the Nationals in 2012.  He's leveled off a bit since then, but I still wish that the Phillies would have kept him.
The Philadelphia Inquirer  (July 2, 2018)

Former Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta started the game for the Philadelphia.  I was pretty happy when the Phillies managed to swoop in and sign him to a three year deal just before the start of the season.  He's only two years removed from one of the most dominant stretches that any pitcher has ever had in the history of baseball.  From June 21st 2015 to May 20th 2016, Arrieta had an unbelievable run of 29 starts in which he went 24-1 with two no-hitters and an ERA of 0.99.  His only loss during that span of time came against Cole Hamels when he no-hit the Chicago Cubs in his last start as a member of the Phillies.

Arrieta has gotten off to a slow but respectable start after missing pretty much all of Spring Training, and I don't expect him to recapture the magic of his 2015-2016 run, but he's only 32 years old and there's reason to believe that he can be the anchor of this rotation over the next three years.

I was happy to get to see a match-up between a former Phillies prospect going up against the veteran ace that had just joined the team a few months ago.  When the opening pitch was thrown, I had no idea that the starters would be just two of 18 pitchers that would take the mound that day.

Second Inning: Jake Arrieta pitching to Bryce Harper

Jake Arrieta had a good start overall, especially when you consider how deep the Nationals lineup is.  He allowed a bunt single to Adam Eaton to lead off the first inning, but he retired the next three batters in order to get out of the inning on 11 pitches.  He walked Byrce Harper to lead off the second inning, but then immediately got Daniel Murphy to ground into a double play before striking out Mark Reynolds to end the inning, and he got out of the third inning without allowing a baserunner at all, so things were looking pretty good.  Unfortunately, Gio Gonzalez was just as effective for the Nationals by allowing only one Phillies baserunner in the first three innings, which was a single in the third inning by Jake Arrieta.

The Nationals scratched out the first run of the game in the top of the 4th inning.  Trea Turner led off the inning with a bunt single down the first base line, and he advanced to second on Jorge Alfaro's throwing error on the play.  Juan Soto grounded out to advance Turner to third, and Anthony Rendon hit a sacrifice fly to right field that scored Turner to put the Nationals up 1-0.

Washington struck again in the top of the 5th.  Daniel Murphy led off with a walk, followed by a Mark Reynolds single, and his advance to second base on a wild pitch.  Arrieta retired the next two batters, but then gave up an RBI single to Adam Eaton that put the Nationals up 3-0.

Fifth Inning: Gio Gonzalez pitching to Odubel Herrera

The Phillies struck back in the bottom half of the inning.  Jesmuel Valentin walked to lead off the bottom of the fifth.  Valentin, by the way, is the son of infielder Jose Valentin who played 15 seasons for the Brewers, White Sox, Dodgers and Mets before injuries led to his retirement after the 2008 season.  Jesmuel was a first round supplemental draft pick by the Dodgers in 2012 and was traded to the Phillies along with Victor Arano for pitcher Roberto Hernandez (aka Fausto Carmona) in August 2014.

Nick Williams hit a single with one out, and Carlos Santana was brought in to pinch hit for Jake Arrieta.  He drew a walk to load the bases for Cesar Hernandez, who walked with the bases loaded to score the Phillies first run.  Rhys Hoskins hit a sac fly to score the Phillies second run, and Odubel Herrera hit an RBI single to right field to tie the game at 3-3.

The 3-3 tie held for quite a while as both the Phillies and Nationals relief pitchers worked over seven innings of shutout baseball.  Both teams also burned through practically their entire bullpen.

Thirteenth Inning: Nick Pivetta pitching to Bryce Harper

The Phillies brought in Austin Davis to pitch the sixth inning, followed by Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter, Mark Leiter Jr, Adam Morgan, Jake Thompson and Victor Arano before finally bringing in starting pitcher Nick Pivetta, who ended up being the winning pitcher after working a scoreless 13th inning.  

On the other side, the Nationals brought in Brandon Kintzler, Matt Grace, Ryan Madson, Kelvin Herrera, Tim Collins, Sean Dolittle, Shawn Kelley, and finally Justin Miller who took the loss.

Before I get into the way that the game ended, I'd like to acknowledge the fact that we got to see a member of the Phillies 2008 World Championship team, and the 8th inning setup man in the "Bridge To Lidge", Ryan Madson.  He pitched for the Phillies from 2004 to 2011.  He was negotiating to stay with the Phillies after he hit free agency in the winter before the 2012 season, but the team went with Jonathan Papelbon instead, and Madson ended up signing a one year deal with the Cincinnati Reds.  Unfortunately, he tore a ligament in his right elbow during Spring Training and missed the entire 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery.  He attempted to return the following year with the Los Angeles Angels, but his recovery didn't go as planned and he retired at the end of the 2013 season after not having appeared in any regular season games with either the Reds or the Angels.

Madson came out of retirement in 2015 and had an incredible comeback season with the Kansas City Royals, finishing the season with a 2.13 ERA in over 63 innings of work.  The Royals finished the season as the AL Central Division Champions and went on to win the 2015 World Series, earning Madson his second ring.  He appeared in each round of the playoffs and was credited with a win in Game 4 of the ALDS against the Houston Astros, and Game 4 of the World Series against the New York Mets.  He signed a three year deal with the Oakland Athletics before the start of the 2016 season, but he was traded to the Nationals last July.

Ryan Madson only faced one batter yesterday.  The Nationals brought him in with two outs in the bottom of the 7th to face Rhys Hoskins, who he struck out to end the inning.  Now, don't get me wrong... nothing would have made me happier than to see Hoskins deposit one of his fastballs over the wall, but it was pretty cool to see Madson pitch effectively again at Citizens Bank Park.  I wouldn't have been feeling quite as nostalgic if his success cost the Phillies a win, but thanks to Andrew Knapp, that's a moot point.
Thirteenth Inning: Justin Miller pitching to Andrew Knapp

Justin Miller was the Nationals ninth pitcher of the game.  He was brought in to start the 12th inning and he gave up a hard hit single to Carlos Santana and walked Caesar Hernandez, but he managed to get out of the inning.  He wasn't so lucky in the 13th inning.  After he retired Odubel Herrera, Andrew Knapp was brought in to pinch hit for Nick Pivetta, and our backup catcher hit a walk-off home run to mercifully end a game that lasted for nearly four and a half hours with a Phillies victory.

With this win, the Phillies extended their lead over the Nationals in the NL East with a record of 45-37.  They remain three games behind the Atlanta Braves.  I wouldn't call us the favorites in the division, but this is the best that the Phillies have looked in a long time and I don't think that the wild card is out of the question.