Thursday, April 24, 2008

Chalk this loss up to Charlie

Much of the blame for the Phillies' mediocre start to this season can go to their offensive woes.

Reigning MVP Jimmy Rollins has missed 10 games and won't come off the disabled until at least May 4. Cleanup hitter Ryan Howard, hitting just .181 with four home runs, is on pace to strikeout 235 times. Without Chase Utley and Pat Burrell, who lead the league in home runs and runs batted in, respectively, the team would be floundering below .500.

But Wednesday night in Milwaukee, that loss can go squarely on the shoulders of manager Charlie Manuel.

In case you missed it, the Phillies led the Brewers, 4-3, heading into the bottom of the 8th inning, needing only 6 more outs to move to 12-10 on the season. Starter Cole Hamels, who gave up 3 runs in the first inning, had settled down and had 11 strikeouts, but was near 110 pitches entering the frame.

The Phillies bullpen, surprisingly, has pitched well so far this season. Monday night in Colorado, the relievers allowed just 1 hit and 0 runs over four innings, allowing the team to rally for a victory.

Managers should know it's better to take a starter out too early rather than leave him in for a few too many hitters, but Manuel stuck with Hamels. When leadoff hitter Ryan Braun laced a double to start the eighth, Hamels should have been pulled. But Charlie left him in, and Prince Fielder, who homered off Hamels in the first inning, laced a tracer over the fence in right-center field to give Milwaukee a 5-4 lead.

That was it for Hamels, but he shouldn't have started the inning. Manuel should have turned the game over to the bullpen. Closer Brad Lidge was unavailable, but Chad Durbin, J.C. Romero and Tom Gordon should have had a chance to win the game.

Instead, another 'L' was put on the scoreboard.

Monday, April 21, 2008

32nd alumni band spring concert set for Saturday night

Can't get tickets to see the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra for the gala re-opening fundraiser at the Sunnybrook Ballroom on Saturday night, but are looking to hear some good music?

Well, you can head to Boyertown for the 32nd annual spring concert of the Boyertown Alumni Marching Unit.

Among the selections are "Gavorkna Fanfare," "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," "Rock Legends: The Association," "The Fairest of the Fair," "Holiday for Trombones" and "Tijuana Brass in Concert."

The first half of the concert will also include "A Mourning Remembered: Movement 1," a piece written for the 100th anniversary of the 1908 Rhoads Opera House fire in Boyertown in which 171 people were killed.

The second half of the concert will preview the marching unit's trip to Boston on July 3-6.

The concert will be at 7 p.m. at Boyertown Junior High West, 2nd and Madison streets. Tickets are $5 for adults. Children 6-and-under are admitted free.

Bad news for Barack?

Last week, legendary rocker Bruce Springsteen announced on his Web site that he was supporting Barack Obama for the presidency.

While I'm sure Obama supporters are excited to have such a person of The Boss' stature behind their candidate, they might want to look at Springsteen's history of backing presidential losers.

In 1984, President Reagan used Springsteen's anthem "Born In The USA" during his re-election campaign. Springsteen, shown above in an Associated Press photo, asked the president to stop as he was supporting Democratic candidate Walter Mondale. Reagan obliged and in the election, he trounced Mondale in a landslide victory.

In 2004, Springsteen was one of the brains behind MTV's "Rock the Vote" campaign, in which liberals in entertainment tried to use their influence to get younger voters out to support Sen. John Kerry against President Bush. And we all know the kind of success he had there.

So beware, Barack. You might be "Born to Run," but I hope you aren't "Blinded by the Light" of Springsteen's influence.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"Simpsons" off the air on Venezuelan channel

Scrolling through the international wire is something I don't do on a regular basis, so I had missed this story when a colleague pointed it out to me.
It seems the National Telecommunications Commission in Venezuela doesn't like "The Simpsons."
Well, maybe they do like them, but not on television during daytime hours.

Apparently, the channel Televen had the audacity to show Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie at 11 a.m. -- a time slot that the commission said was OK for all viewers. What irked the regulators was that most viewers at that time of day are children -- and by airing "The Simpsons," the channel violated regulations to protect children.

In the Associated Press story, Commission Director Elda Rodriguez said in a statement that the agency had urged Televen in January not to show "The Simpsons" at that time, but the channel did not comply. Rodriguez complained of "inappropriate language" and scenes "that can influence the behavior and education of boys, girls and adolescents."
Because of its indescretion, the station could be fined, kept off the air for 3 days, or have its programs chosen by the commission in place of regular programming.
A spokeswoman for the station said it is still waiting for information from the commission, but will keep "The Simpsons" off the air until a decision is made.
So what, you may wonder, is being broadcast in place of "The Simpsons" at 11 a.m.? "Baywatch Hawaii," featuring scantily clad lifeguards — a program the channel says has not drawn complaints.

This could qualify for Ripley's Believe It or Not?

At least Andrew Dahl wasn't wasting his time playing video games.

Instead, the 13-year-old boy from Blaine, Wash., tried to get into the Guiness World Records by inflating 213 balloons -- with his nose. And he did it one nostril at a time.

Andrew had attempted the same record in February, but his effort of 184 balloons was rejected because his father tied the balloons.

According to the Associated Press, Andrew's father, Doug Dahl, measured the balloons to make sure each was at least 20 centimeters, the minimum diameter, and his mother, Wendy Dahl, kept the tally.

At one point he asked, "Does this count as practicing my trumpet?" His mother replied, "Only if you can play that with your nose."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Can I take credit for Sixers' surge to playoffs?

One of the first blogs I did back in January was on the Philadelphia 76ers. I lamented how awful they had become, and didn't care if I missed a game on TV.

Well, someone within the organization must have read it. Since that time, the Sixers have been one of the hottest teams in the league.

On Feb. 4, the team was 18-30 with little hope of making the post-season. Over the past 9 weeks, the Sixers have posted a 22-8 record and surged into the playoffs. With 4 games left, they currently hold the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. If the season ended today, they would play the Orlando Magic in the first round of the playoffs.

Once again, the team is exciting to watch. The team has played a more up-tempo style since the beginning of the year, and the younger players seem to improve each game. Point guard Andre Miller and small forward Andre Iguodala, shown above in an Associated Press photo dunking in a recent win over the Detroit Pistons, have provided the leadership the younger players needed.

So maybe the future for this team isn't as bad as it looked 2 months ago. No, they won't win the NBA championship, and they likely won't win their playoff series.

But if they can just keep the current roster intact and add an inside offensive presence, the Sixers will again be among the elite in the NBA's Eastern Conference.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Barack's no bowler

Barack Obama showed last week in Altoona, Pa., that bowling isn't his sport. I don't know what is, but it certainly isn't bowling.

The Democratic presidential candidate showed his "skill" at a campaign stop at the Pleasant Valley Lanes on Saturday, shown in the Associated Press photo at right.

You don't even need to be much of an athlete to be able to bowl. Case in point -- me. My high score is 220. I used to average about 160 and that was by only bowling a few times a year.

Even little kids manage to roll the ball down the center of the lane. But as a liberal Democrat, I guess every ball Obama rolled went left -- and into the gutter. His score -- an embarassing 37. And that was just over 7 frames. I'm a lefty like Obama, but I'd be able to double that score using my right hand.

Perhaps Barack should have tried the Fred "Twinkletoes" Flintstone approach.

Sen. Bob Casey, who was campaigning with Obama, didn't fare much better, as he lit up the scoreboard with a whopping 71 pins.

Taking note of Obama's bowling "skills," Democratic opponent Hillary Rodham Clinton showed a rare sense of humor and, according to the Associated Press, offered a challenge to Obama on Tuesday:

"This has been a very hard fought race," she said. "We clearly need to do something so that our party and our people can make the right decision. So, I have a proposal."
The tension grew. Reporters shifted in their seats. Was she dropping out of the race? Offering to join rival Barack Obama as his running mate?
April Fools!
"Today, I am challenging Senator Obama to a bowl-off," Clinton said, provoking relieved laughs from the assembled scribes.
Clinton carried on, making reference to Obama's
disastrous outing at a Pennsylvania bowling alley Saturday.
"A bowling night. Right here in Pennsylvania. The winner take all," she went on. "I'll even spot him two frames.
"It is time for his campaign to get out of the gutter and allow all the pins to be counted. I'm prepared to play this game all the way to the tenth
frame. When this game is over, the American people will know that when that phone rings at 3 a.m., they'll have a president ready to bowl on day one.
"Let's strike a deal and go bowling for delegates. We don't have a moment to spare, because it's already April Fool's Day. Happy April Fool's Day."

Maybe Hillary learned to bowl while ducking sniper fire in Bosnia.