Jul 31, 2020

Fruit Pizza and Self-Reflection

Fruit Roll Ups - Peel 'N Build
General Mills (2020)
I wish the Fruit Roll Ups were as thick as the picture on the box, and that the shapes popped out more easily.  I had to cut these out with a plastic knife that I had left over from a fast food restaurant.

On second thought, I've realized that at 40 years of age, I should probably be spending my time doing something other than cutting out Fruit Roll Up pizza shapes with a plastic knife and taking pictures of them to post on a blog with remarks about their thickness and ease of use as it compares to the box art.  But, the damage is done and it's too late to do anything about it now.  I mean, I suppose I could delete this, but that would involve all sorts of tedious pointing and clicking, not to mention the wear and tear on the backspace key, and we can't have that.

Jul 30, 2020

Turn And Face The Strange

If you're playing 2020 Bingo, check to see if you have "coin shortage" on your card.  Ahhh, there it is, right between "murder hornets" and "grocery store fistfights over face masks".

Jul 29, 2020

Liberty Is Crumbling

Liberty Is Crumbling
Texas Sandfest (2019)
This incredible work of art was created by Canadian artist Damon Langlois.  It was the award winning sand sculpture at the 2019 Texas Sandfest in Port Arkansas, TX.  It's not hard to understand why it's been making the rounds on Twitter recently.  The meaning behind this image of an exasperated President Lincoln is sadly more relevant in 2020 than it was last year (photo source: Kastle Kelley).

Jul 28, 2020

Honky On A Half Shell

Friday Night Videos
NBC (1990)
This photo of The Honky Tonk Man being assaulted by two of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was published in the January 1991 issue of WWF Magazine.  I'm not positive, but I think this photo was taken on the episode of NBC Friday Night Videos that aired on July 27th, 1990.  The costumes are from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Coming Out Of Their Shells concert tour that began later that summer.

Jul 27, 2020

Well, That Didn't Take Long

Three games.  That's all it took before the Phillies were forced to cancel a game due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

We began to receive a trickle of information about members of the Miami Marlins testing positive before the start of their series with the Phillies.  Former Phillies catcher Jorge Alfaro, who was traded to Miami in the deal that brought J.T. Realmuto to Philadelphia, was mysteriously put on the IL without a reason given.  In 2020, that has become code for a positive Covid-19 test, since the teams aren't allowed to announce who has tested positive without the players giving their consent.

Former Phils Jonathan Villar and Jorge Alfaro during a July 21st exhibition in Atlanta
(photo: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

Not long afterward, we learned that Alfaro was not alone.  It was reported that first baseman Garrett Cooper, outfielder Harold Ramirez, and pitcher Jose Urena had each tested positive.  Urena was scheduled to be the starting pitcher for the Marlins for the game on Sunday, and he wasn't scratched from that start until 90 minutes before the start of the game.

The situation became worse today.  Seven additional players and two coaches for the Marlins have tested positive for Covid-19, and the team is now quarantined at their hotel in Philadelphia while the rest of the players await their results.  Infectious disease specialists told The Athletic that this represents a "clear outbreak", and it's leaving fans and the media to ask why Sunday's game was played when it was known that a number of players were infected.

Instead of shaking hands when exchanging the lineup card, Joe Girardi and Don Mattingly strike The Hurricane pose.

If proper protocols from earlier this year are being followed, they should remain under quarantine for two weeks, since health experts have learned the virus has a two week incubation period before a person who has become infected to begin to show symptoms or to test positive for the virus.  However, as we have all seen, good judgment and common sense have been abandoned in the United States.  As a country, our method of dealing with a global pandemic has been to allow each community to make up their own rules as they go, then break those rules and re-write them, then break the re-written rules and write them again.  We've seen it with bars, restaurants, theme parks, and other businesses.  We're seeing it now with Major League Baseball.  I have no doubt that we'll see it a few weeks into the 2020-21 school year.

The Phillies vs Yankees and Marlins vs Orioles games that were scheduled to be played on Monday, July 27th have been cancelled.  The league is using the word "postponed", but that's just plain absurd.  They've scheduled a 60 game season to be played in 66 days.  I don't know how they can say with a straight face that they plan to re-schedule these games.  For god's sake, we're only three games into the season.  Do they honestly expect this to be the only team outbreaks that will occur?

What we know right now is that the Marlins, Phillies and Yankees are all sequestered in their hotels in Philadelphia.  A total of 11 (out of 33) of the Marlins traveling players are currently infected with Covid-19.  The players are all being tested, and the league is trying to come up with a plan of how to move forward.

This hung on my bedroom wall when I was 12 years old.  I'm pretty sure they didn't have Covid-19 in mind.

The bottom line that everyone is going to be forced to accept is that this virus isn't going anywhere... not for a long time.  I know we're all hoping for a vaccine, but it's highly unlikely that it will come as quickly as everyone hopes.  The medical community have spent countless hours and dollars working toward a vaccine for HIV for almost 40 years with minimal success, and that's a virus for which we have decades worth of data.

I said it before and I'll say it again.  This isn't worth the risk.  The league should cancel the 2020 season and dedicate all of their time and attention to preparing for a safe start to the 2021 season next April.  If they start now, they could potentially have a workable plan in place.  We have bigger things to worry about right now than whether or not we can watch baseball on television.  Enough is enough.  Cancel the season.

Jul 26, 2020

A Bizarre Start To A Bizarre Season

We're not even finished with Opening Weekend and the 2020 Season is shaping up to be one of the strangest in the history of baseball.  It started before Dr. Fauci's ceremonial first pitch in Washington that was juuuuust a bit outside.  MLB announced that there will be a total of sixteen teams that will reach the playoffs in 2020 - the first and second place teams in each division, as well as two wild card teams in each league.  I'm thinking this is going to be an absolute fiasco, especially if multiple teams fighting for a wild card spot finish the 60 game regular season with the same record.

It was also announced prior to the first game that the Toronto Blue Jays will play their 2020 home games at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, New York.  The Canadian government won't let them play in Toronto due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which means that this will be the first time since 1968 that every game in the regular season will be played in the United States.  The Blue Jays opened the season playing the Rays in Tampa, so they haven't had their first game in Buffalo yet.  However, the team still made history on Opening Day by fielding a team whose infield was comprised entirely of the sons of former All-Stars.

And then there's the story of Rockies relief pitcher Daniel Bard, who just made the back of his baseball card pretty interesting with his appearance in Saturday's game against the Rangers.  Bard is a former first round draft pick who found success pitching out of the bullpen for the Red Sox from 2009 - 2011.  Things started going downhill when Boston attempted to convert him to a starting pitcher in 2012.  He suddenly lost his control and was sent down to the minors.  He had a brief appearance in the major leagues in 2013, but his troubles continued and he was released before the end of the season.  Bard spent the next four years bouncing around the minor leagues without success before retiring at the end of the 2017 season.

This February, as the pandemic was just beginning to get a foothold in the United States, Bard announced that he was attempting a return to baseball.  After watching him throw, the Rockies signed him to a minor league contract, and he pitched well enough in Spring Training and Summer Camp to earn a spot on the roster.  In the fifth inning of the second game of the season, Bard came on in relief and pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings and got the win.  It had been 2,646 days since he last pitched in a Major League game, and his first win in MLB in over eight years - since May 29th, 2012.

Then, there are my beloved Philadelphia PhilliesBryce Harper came to Citizens Bank Park on Opening Day decked out in a custom green suit with Phillie Phanatic lining.  This dude has done everything short of having the Liberty Bell tattooed on his ass to endear himself to the city, and it has certainly worked.  I look forward to the day that Bryce rides down Broad Street at the head of our World Series parade.

The Phillies lost on Opening Day to the Marlins, but won last night in large part to a backup infielder who has been hitting everything he seen for the past week in Summer Camp.  Phil Gosselin went 3-3 with two home runs.  I was disappointed when the Phillies released Josh Harrison and decided to go with Goose for the last spot on the bench, but if he keeps this up, he may end up being the most valuable bat off the bench that this team has had in many years.

Didi Gregorius and Andrew McCutchen

Gosselin joined our new shortstop, Didi Gregorius, at the co-team leaders for home runs this season with two each.  On Opening Day, he became the first player to hit a home run in a Major League game while wearing a protective face mask, and he followed it up with a blast to the second deck in yesterday's game.  Meanwhile in left field, Uncle Larry made a phenomenal play and followed it up with the most awesome cheesy pose you've ever seen in a ballgame.  Now, if only they could win a series against a last place team that's missing half of its starters due to suspected Covid-19 infection.

Overall, I think the 2020 season could best be summed up by this tweet:

Jul 25, 2020

You'll Turn 40 And Like It

Orion Pictures (1980)
The greatest comedy ever filmed made its debut in theaters 40 years ago today.  One of the copies I have of it an airing of the CBS Tuesday Night Movie from February 8th, 1983, which includes a scene that was deleted from the theatrical cut of the movie.  I've watched it so many times that I know every word of the film and the commercials that were broadcast during the film, which includes no fewer than two ads that were blatantly racist toward the Japanese.  That's how they sold cars and televisions in the 80's.

Jul 24, 2020

The Ken Pollock Special

The Ken Pollock Special
Top Of The 80's - Hazleton, PA
A buttery colossal crab cake, a filet mignon steak and a potato pancake make a pretty awesome combination to have for dinner while enjoying a sunset over the valley.

Booed Out Of Philadelphia

Dave Hollins
Philadelphia Phillies (1990-1995, 2002)
Twenty-five years ago, Phillies slugger Dave Hollins was traded to the Boston Red Sox for outfielder Mark Whiten.  According to the Miami Herald, the switch hitter was literally booed out of town after injuries derailed his career following the 1993 NL Championship season.

In his debut with the Red Sox, Hollins filled in at DH for an injured Jose Canseco and hit a bases loaded single in the 6th inning to score Willie McGee from third and give Boston the lead in their victory over the White Sox.  Unfortunately, this was the lone highlight of his career as a member of the Red Sox.  He would play only four more games in Boston before being placed on the 60 day DL with a fractured right wrist.  The next six years of his career was spent bouncing around the American League with the Twins, Angels, Blue Jays, White Sox, Devil Rays, Orioles and Indians.  He found some success in 1996-1998, but he was never able to bounce back to the player he was in Philadelphia from 1992-1993.  Hollins returned to Philadelphia in 2002 where he played the final season of his major league career.  He remains with the Phillies organization to this day as a scout.

The Hollins-Whiten trade didn't work out much better for the Phillies than it did for the Red Sox.  In just his second game as a member of the Phillies, "Hard Hittin" Mark Whiten strained his right hamstring running out a ground ball in extra innings.  He would go on to bat .254 in 120 games for the Phillies from 1995-1996 before the team released him in June '96.

Whiten was the second Phillies outfielder acquired in a trade during the 1995 season to suffer an injury in his second game with the team.  On June 18th, the Phillies acquired center fielder Andy Van Slyke in a trade with the Orioles.  He suffered a bruised rib cage in his second game which kept him out of the lineup for several weeks.  Van Slyke returned to action for the snakebit Phillies and retired after the 1995 season.

Jul 23, 2020

Pepsi Spirit > Corona

Pepsi (1980)
In honor of the start of the 2020 baseball season, here is a Pepsi ad from the year that the Phillies won their first World Series.  With any luck, the players will make it through the season without catching anything more dangerous than the Pepsi Spirit.

Jul 22, 2020

If There's Something Strange On The Freezer Shelf...

Ecto Cooler
Hi-C (2016)
I recently had to clean out my freezer and I discovered this juice box hiding in the back.  Ecto Cooler is my all-time favorite sugary drink.  I drank gallons of this stuff when I was a kid, and when they bought it back as a limited edition flavor in the summer of 2016, I bought it buy the caseload.

I don't remember if I tossed this into the freezer to get cold and just forgot about it, or if I made a conscious choice to store it in there, but I'm very glad to have found it.  Had I known that it would keep this well, I would have put more of them in the freezer.  This box went past its best by date over three years ago, and after it was defrosted and given a good shake, it tasted exactly the same as it did in 2016.

Jul 21, 2020

The Dawn Of The Franchise Wars

Taco Bell
Demolition Man (1993)
According to an interview of celebrity chef Ming Tsai by Yahoo Finance, the Covid-19 pandemic is putting the future of restaurants at risk.

He makes a convincing argument that without a federal stimulus package to help keep them afloat, independent restaurants may soon be a thing of the past, and they will be replaced by chain restaurants, such as Taco Bell and McDonald's.  In other words, we are well on our way to the 2032 envisioned in Demolition Man, in which Taco Bell won the franchise wars and is the country's only surviving restaurant.

If you play piano, you might want to start practicing the Jolly Green Giant song now.  You may have a new career option available to you in a dozen years.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of items on the Taco Bell menu that aren't making the transition to the brave new world envisioned by Marco Brambilla.  According to a press release, the fast food chain is streamlining its menu, which is code for discontinuing less profitable items.

Taco Bell is notorious for discontinuing products that people enjoy.  I ranted about this last year after I tried the Toasted Cheddar Chalupa.  It was delicious, and sure enough it has disappeared from their menu less than a year later.  With that in mind, here's are eleven more items that will be missing from Taco Bell's menu in 23 days.  Get 'em while you can.

Jul 20, 2020

Expensive Bricks or Affordable Bytes

Nintendo Entertainment System
Lego (2020)
On one hand, I think this upcoming set from Lego is awesome.  It's made up of 2,646 bricks which can be used to build a NES console, full size controller and a Super Mario Bros. cartridge, as well as a small television with a scene from the game.  What makes it even cooler is the fact that the television has a crank that allows you to scroll through the on-screen Mario scene as if you're guiding the plumber through Stage 1-1.

The product itself looks great.  The price tag... not so much.

I grew up in a lower middle-class neighborhood in the 1980's.  At least half of the kids in my class at elementary school qualified for free or reduced lunch.  Back then, the teacher literally just called their names out to pick up their lunch ticket at the desk.  It was a different time, and I had no idea that this had anything to do with how much money the families of these children had.  In fact, after my parents got divorced and I suddenly became one of the names who got called up to the desk to pick up my free-or-reduced lunch ticket, I remember thinking that it must be a perk that they give to kids after their parents split up.  Sorry about the loss of your two parent household kid, but have a free slice of pizza on us.  However, every kid I knew, whether they paid the full price for their school lunch or not, had a bucket of Lego bricks to play with.  They were fun, and they were affordable.  I even had a set that came free with a Happy Meal.

I was also fortunate enough to have a Nintendo Entertainment System in the late 80's.  To this day, it's probably my favorite present that I had ever been given for Christmas.  I played that thing for hundreds, if not thousands of hours throughout my life.  I had such fond memories of it that I ran right out and bought a NES Classic Edition plug-and-play console when it hit store shelves.  It's pretty awesome.  It has 30 vintage NES games built-in, and you can plug it into the television and play them til your heart's content.  No fuss, no muss.  It cost $59.99 when it was first released in 2016, and you can still find them for sale today.  There are over 1,800 listings for them on eBay right now, and the prices range between $50 - $100 for most of them.

With that being said, I have to ask a question.  Why is a box full of plastic bricks that can be used to build a Nintendo model to pretend to play Super Mario Bros. nearly four times more expensive than a real Nintendo which plays the real Super Mario Bros. along with 29 other games?  In fact, for $229, a parent could buy their child a NES Classic Mini and a 32" HDTV with Roku built in, and still have money left over from what they would have spent on toy blocks.

Don't get me wrong, I love Lego, but it's just a model that you build with plastic bricks.  I don't doubt that it took effort and creativity to manufacture a set like this, but it pales in comparison to the money, effort and creativity it took programmers to design the Nintendo Entertainment System and 30 of it's most beloved games, each of which have provided me with entertainment for over three decades of my time on this earth.  I could understand this Lego set being priced at around $50 or $60, but $229 is absolutely ridiculous.

There was a time when Lego was an inexpensive toy that any parent could afford to give to their child.  Those days seem to be gone for good as they continue to price themselves out of relevance for working class families.  Maybe they'll go back to being a toy company one day, but in recent years, they seem to have decided to become Mini-Disney, complete with movies, theme parks, and hundreds of products with a price point geared toward adult collectors and the children of parents who are wealthy enough to spend hundreds of dollars on a plastic model that is forgotten the day after it's built.

Jul 19, 2020

The Dishes Are Done, Man

Actor Keith Coogan, who played Kenny Crandell in the 1991 film "Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead", is selling autographed dinner plates on BigCartel.  In the film, the stoner little brother of Christina Applegate does the dishes by shooting them like clay pigeons in the back yard.  The character has recently had a bit of a revival after Coogan's appearance in the Jay & Silent Bob Reboot.

Jul 18, 2020

Didn't Catch Trout This Summer

One of the games I had tickets to this summer was scheduled to be played today.  I never got to see Mike Trout play in person, so I was very much looking forward to the game.  The chance to see him in Philly doesn't come around very often.  Since Trout made his major league debut on July 8th, 2011, he's only ever played two games at Citizens Bank Park, and both of those took place during the 2014 season on May 13th and May 14th.

Tonight's game was originally scheduled to be the second game in the first series after the All-Star Break. with the Angels coming to Philadelphia for the first time in over six years.  Not only is this series not going to happen in 2020, but it may not happen at any point in the near future.  The schedule for the 2021 MLB season has been published, and each team's Interleague games will be based on geography.  In other words, NL East teams will only face AL East teams in interleague play, which means a game against the Angels won't happen unless it's in the World Series.  Another thing to consider is the fact that the center fielder signed a 12 year extension with the Angels last year.  If the shift towards geographic interleague play becomes permanent, it is possible that those two games in 2014 may be the only time Mike Trout ends up taking the field in Philadelphia in his career.

So, how does a middle-aged baseball nerd spend a beautiful summer night during the pandemic with all of the games cancelled?  By turning the back yard into a drive-in movie, of course.  With any luck, I'll get to see Mike Trout play in Philadelphia at some point in my life, but tonight is all about Indiana Jones and his quest for the Holy Grail.

Jul 17, 2020

Strange Laundry: Reggie Jackson

1979 American League All-Star Team
Many of the players who suited up for the 1979 All-Star Game are now enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, including Rod Carew, George Brett, Nolan Ryan and Reggie Jackson.  However, fans would be forgiven for taking a few extra moments to spot Mr. October in this team photo of the American League All-Stars.

Reggie bounced around the American League throughout his career.  He is best known for his time with the Athletics and Yankees.  The five years he spent as a member of the California Angels are well known to fans of The Naked Gun, in which the right fielder is hypnotized into an attempted assassination of Queen Elizabeth.  He also spent a single year with the Baltimore Orioles after a salary dispute caused Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley to trade him before the start of the 1976 season.  Following that season, Reggie signed a five year deal with the Yankees, and was in his third season in New York when the 1979 All-Star Game was played, but you will not find him in pinstripes anywhere in this team photo that was taken 41 years ago.

Look closely at the second row.

There's Reggie.

The Hall of Famer, who bears a striking resemblance to my Uncle Tony, realized on his flight from Oakland that he had forgotten his uniform at home.  He frantically made phone calls from the airplane, which cost $5.00 per minute back in 1979, and made arrangements for someone to deliver his uniform to the Kingdome in Seattle where the All-Star Game was held.  Team photos were taken about two hours prior to the start of the game and Reggie was still without a uniform, so he borrowed one from the home team.  Thankfully, the Yankees uniform arrived before the start of the game, but this team photo lives on as a reminder of Reggie's very brief association with the Seattle Mariners.

Source: Rapid City Journal / Associated Press (7/18/1978)

Jul 16, 2020

Thank You, Tony

Tony Taylor
Philadelphia Phillies (2B)
One of the greatest infielders in franchise history passed away earlier today at age 84.  Tony Taylor played second base for the Phillies from 1960-1971, and again from 1974-1976, ending his career as a member of the '76 NL East Championship team.  He was the last player in the National League to bat without a helmet, and was inducted to the Wall Of Fame in 2002.

Tony retired from the game before I was born.  Over the years, I've heard plenty of stories from my dad who followed his career when he was a child and through high school in the mid 70's.  I never got to see him play other than on videotape, but I did once get to see him take the field for Alumni Day in 2017.  He suffered a series of mild strokes last year after Alumni Day, but he recovered and was released from the hospital.

The photo above was shared on Twitter by @mleif earlier today, along with a story that gives some background to what you're seeing.  Tony is in the foreground playing catch with fellow Phillies legend and close friend, Dick Allen.  At 41 years old, Tony was in the twilight of his playing career and appeared in only 26 games during the 1976 season.  When he learned that Tony Taylor was left off of the post-season roster, Dick stood up for his friend and threatened to sit out of the playoffs in protest.  The front office came around and added Tony to the post-season roster as a coach.  This photo of Dick Allen warming up with his friend, teammate and coach was taken on the field prior to the 1976 NLCS.  Tony remained the Phillies infield coach for several seasons and went on to manage the next generation of Phillies in the minor leagues for five seasons in the 1980's.

He will always be remembered as one of the most beloved players to ever wear a Phillies uniform.  He was an All-Star in 1960, and a decade later, he became the first player in franchise history to hit a walk-off grand slam.

Thank you, Mr. Taylor, for playing the game with guts and heart, and for being a Philadelphia Phillie.

Jul 15, 2020

The Legend Of Uncle Larry

Andrew McCutchen
Left Field - Philadelphia Phillies
I defy anyone to watch this man play baseball and not become a fan.  It doesn't even matter if you like the sport.  The five time All Star and 2013 NL MVP plays the game with passion, and he makes everything fun.

Take, for example, a simple error in a tweet from a sportswriter.

Phillies fans had some fun with Howard Eskin over this tweet, who took the feedback in his typical douchebag manner.  Even the Phillies got in on the act with this response later in the day.

If this had taken place with any other athlete, or even any other celebrity from any walk of life, that would have been the end of the story.  A member of the media gets a guy's last name wrong, it becomes a meme for a few days, and we all move on with out lives and forget it ever happened.  However, for #22, it was the birth of a new persona and an instant legend in Philadelphia sports.  It was when we were all first introduced to Uncle Larry.

Throughout the pandemic, Cutch has kept busy making videos as his alter-ego, Uncle Larry, and it's pretty much the greatest thing to happen in Philadelphia since Jason Kelce's Super Bowl Parade speech.

The best way I can describe Uncle Larry is to say that he reminds me of what you might get if you somehow managed to combine Frank Costanza, Willie Jones (the dad from Friday, not Puddin' Head), and the Macho Man Randy Savage and give him a baseball bat.  Even that doesn't do him justice.  Just watch...

I was extremely happy the day that the Phillies announced the signing of McCutchen back in December 2018, and I'm even happier today.  The dude has truly become one of my favorite players to ever wear a Phillies uniform.

Speaking of Phillies uniforms, Topps has commemorated the night he rocked the Saturday Night Specials with a Series Two card.  Naturally, it's a short print variation that's going for an obscene amount of money on eBay, so unless I get very lucky at a flea market, this one probably won't be finding its way into my collection.  Still, it's got to be one of the greatest cards I've ever seen, and I'm glad it exists.

Thankfully, I was able to afford the latest Uncle Larry merch.  It's a t-shirt from BreakingT.com that I got as a birthday present to myself.  How could anyone pass this up.  Even if you haven't heard of baseball, this fine piece of cloth belongs in the wardrobe of every man, woman and child on the planet.

Even though it looks like one of the bootleg shirts you find outside of the ballpark next to the pretzels, the bottled water, and the dude playing the trumpet, it's fully licensed by the Major League Baseball Player's Association.  Frankly, with how the owners have been screwing with the players during the pandemic, I'd much rather buy something that goes to benefit the players instead of the billionaires behind the scenes.

Thank you Uncle Larry, for giving Phillies fans something to smile about when skies are grey.  You're a legend, Mr. McCutchen.  I'm glad as hell that you're a Phillie.