Friday, December 30, 2011

The legend of Roy Halladay grows

Since being traded to the Phillies in December 2009, Roy Halladay has become a folk hero.

In his first season with the team in 2010, he won 21 games -- including a perfect game against the Marlins -- and won the National League Cy Young Award. And, oh yeah, he threw a no-hitter against Cincinnati in his first post-season start.

This past season, he won 19 games and finished second for the Cy Young Award. His final game was a 1-0 loss to St. Louis in Game 5 of the National League Division Series.

So Halladay's been a larger-than-life figure for Phillies fans. That legend may grow after something that happened before Christmas.

According to the blog Zoo with Roy, Halladay, while on a fishing trip in the Amazon with professional angler Skeet Reese and others, saved a native boy from an anaconda attack.

Also on the trip was Halladay's best friend, St. Louis pitcher Chris Carpenter, who was the winning pitcher in Game 5.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

UPDATE: Accounts question claim of chimp's owner

According to an Associated Press story, some accounts from Hollywood are questioning if the chimpanzee that died in Florida on Christmas Eve was indeed Cheetah, who was a sidekick to Tarazan in some movies in the 1930s.

Here is the new story:

A Florida animal sanctuary says Cheetah, the chimpanzee sidekick in the Tarzan movies of the early 1930s, has died at 80. But other accounts call that claim into question.

Debbie Cobb, outreach director at the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary along Florida's Gulf Coast, said Wednesday that her grandparents acquired Cheetah around 1960 from "Tarzan" star Johnny Weissmuller and that the chimp appeared in Tarzan films between 1932 and 1934. During that period, Weissmuller made "Tarzan the Ape Man" and "Tarzan and His Mate."

But Cobb offered no documentation, saying it was destroyed in a 1995 fire.

Also, some Hollywood accounts indicate a chimpanzee by the name of Jiggs or Mr. Jiggs played Cheetah alongside Weissmuller early on and died in 1938.

In addition, an 80-year-old chimpanzee would be extraordinarily old, perhaps the oldest ever known. 

According to many experts and Save the Chimps, another Florida sanctuary, chimpanzees in captivity live to between 40 and 60. Lion Country Safari in Loxahatchee, Fla., has a chimp it says is around 73.

A similar claim about another chimpanzee that supposedly played Weissmuller's second banana was debunked in 2008 in a Washington Post story. Writer R.D. Rosen discovered that the primate, which lived in Palm Springs, Calif., was born around 1960, meaning it wasn't oldest enough to have been in the Tarzan movies of Hollywood's Golden Age.

Cobb said Cheetah died Dec. 24 of kidney failure and was cremated.

"Unfortunately, there was a fire in '95 in which a lot of that documentation burned up," Cobb said. "I'm 51 and I've known him for 51 years. My first remembrance of him coming here was when I was actually 5, and I've known him since then, and he was a full-grown chimp then."

More than one chimpanzee appeared as Cheetah in the Tarzan movies of the 1930s and '40s.

Film historian and Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osbourne said the Cheetah character "was one of the things people loved about the Tarzan movies because he made people laugh. He was always a regular fun part of the movies."

In his time, the Cheetah character was as popular as Rin Tin Tin or Asta, the dog from the "Thin Man" movies, Osbourne said.

"He was a major star," he said.

At the animal sanctuary, Cheetah was outgoing, loved finger painting and liked to see people laugh, Cobb said. But he could also be ill-tempered. Cobb said that when the chimp didn't like what was going on, he would fling feces and other objects.

Chimp from 'Tarzan' movies in 1930s dies

I should know that primates live long lives, but I was still surprised to read this morning that Cheetah, the chimpanzee sidekick from the Johnny Weismuller "Tarzan" movies from the 1930s, died recently at the age of 80. That's a long life, even for a chimp!

AP Photo
Cheetah, with Maureen O'Sullivan as Jane and
Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan.
Cheetah died on Christmas Eve of kidney failure, the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbor, Fla., announced.

Here's the rest of the Associated Press story:

Sanctuary outreach director Debbie Cobb on Wednesday told The Tampa Tribune ( ) that Cheetah was outgoing, loved finger painting and liked to see people laugh. She says he seemed to be tuned into human feelings.

Based on the works of author Edgar Rice Burroughs, the Tarzan stories, which have spawned scores of books and films over the years, chronicle the adventures of a man who was raised by apes in Africa.

Cheetah was the comic relief in the Tarzan films that starred American Olympic gold medal swimmer Johnny Weissmuller. Cobb says Cheetah came to the sanctuary from Weissmuller's estate sometime around 1960.

Cobb says Cheetah wasn't a troublemaker. Still, sanctuary volunteer Ron Priest says that when the chimp didn't like what was going on, he would throw feces.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Animals make news at live Nativity scenes

A couple of interesting news items happened over the Christmas weekend involving live Nativity scenes.

First, a goat in Minnesota fled the scene from a Nativity at Bethlehem Church in Fergus Falls, Minn. The 3-year-old Angora goat escaped its leash on Christmas Eve afternoon and remained on the lam on Monday.

The goat's owner said he tried to chase the animal for two hours, but a lack of snow made tracking it difficult.

There was some happier news Christmas Eve involving a Nativity display at The Krohn Conservatory in Cincinnati.

There, the conservatory reports, a night watchman oversaw the delivery for a sheep that was part of the live animal display. Officials say the birthing went well and the mother and lamb were doing fine.

 Officials said they may name the female lamb "Merry."

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hard to keep a good Lab down

My black Labrador Disney -- wearing a cone
because of her knee surgery -- lays in the yard.
Disney poses for a photo after getting a bath
months before her knee surgery.

For the past eight weeks, my wife Sharon and I have been health care workers. But we weren’t providing care to an ill child, or comfort to a relative. No, our patient has been our 10-year-old black Labrador, Disney.

In early October, Sharon and I were walking our two dogs when Disney lunged toward a pack of dogs that was being walked on the other side of the street and suddenly started limping on her right rear leg. Naturally, we were at the farthest point from our house, so I walked back home with the other dog to get the car to return and pick up Sharon and Disney.

The next day I took Disney to the vet. The diagnosis was a cruciate ligament tear. I was surprised, but apparently this injury is very common among Labradors, especially aging ones.

A few days later Disney had an appointment with an orthopedic specialist, who confirmed the diagnosis and set up a time for surgery to fix “the football injury,” as he called it. The surgery went well, but the doctor also found severe arthritis in the knee. I felt a little sad when Disney was brought out wearing a plastic cone around her head to keep her from picking at her sutures and with her right hind quarter shaved.

We received a long list of discharge instructions to help Disney in her recovery, among them changing her diet, limiting walks to “elimination” only, and keeping her confined — for 8 weeks!!!

That last one was going to be a little difficult for a dog that has had the run of the house for the past 10 years. The surgeon wanted us to keep Disney in a room about the size of a doctor’s examination room. But living in a two-story townhome, there are no small rooms on the first floor.

So we had to make do. We have some paneling in the basement, so we used a piece or two as a divider between the living and dining rooms. And to aid the “elimination” process, my dad built a ramp out of plywood to put on the deck so Disney could avoid using the steps.

For the first week of Disney’s recovery, I slept on a couch in the living room. No, I wasn’t in the dog house. But Sharon and I agreed that was probably best to keep Disney from whimpering. The patient also needed pain medication three times a day, and one of those times was usually around 2 a.m. — or whenever I woke up in the middle of the night.

But after that first week we needed another confinement plan. Disney learned that by using her cone, she could move the paneling and walk around downstairs. So we borrowed some baby fencing from our oldest daughter and set up a small pen for Disney in the dining room.

Her recovery was going well. Two weeks after the procedure, she returned to the surgeon to get the sutures out and lose the “cone of shame.”

But free of the cone, Disney was again using her ingenuity to get out of her confinement. She realized that if she put her nose on the floor, she could lift the pen and crawl underneath. It was a bit surprising to come home from work some nights and see that Disney had escaped. This happened so many times, we called her “HouDisney.”

I know she didn’t understand why she had to be confined, and probably thought she was being punished. But it’s not like I could talk to the patient and tell her about the recovery process.

Another two weeks passed quietly and a first set of X-rays on the repaired knee showed good progress. But then the surgeon said something that caused me a lot of angst: because her knee was healing, Disney would want to be more active and therefore her confinement had to be more strict.
He wasn’t kidding. The past four weeks have not been easy.

We used dining room chairs as clamps to keep Disney from getting out of the makeshift pen, but that didn’t stop her. She still managed to escape a few times. The issue was especially bad when we went to bed and Disney had to stay downstairs. For a couple nights in a row, we could hear the rustling of Disney trying to get out.

In one instance, Sharon went downstairs to scold Disney and saw her trying to CLIMB out of the pen. That was the last straw. So at 10:30 on this particular night, we were at Walmart buying a crate for our ornery patient. Disney didn’t like being crated, but we had to keep her as confined as possible. So close to the end of her recovery, we didn’t want her to screw up the surgery.

Being the stubborn old lady that she is, Disney hasn’t gone in the crate willingly. We’ve had to put a leash on her, then walk her into the crate. But she gets something out of it, because the only way Sharon or I could get her to move was when we said “treat.”

Disney’s final X-rays were scheduled for Saturday. To be honest, when we’ve been home we haven’t kept her totally confined. On Thanksgiving, she was walking around a lot as we entertained a house full of people, and she’s also climbed the stairs once or twice over the past 10 days.

She seems to be recovering nicely. Disney’s moving around about as well as she did before her injury — with a slight limp — so I expect the X-rays to show she is nearly healed. And based on inquiries from our neighbors, Disney’s been missed my many.

Our work isn’t done, however. Next are weeks of rehabilitation as we have to build up the strength in Disney’s injured leg. I only hope the rehab process is a little less aggravating than her recovery.

Mike Spohn is The Mercury’s Sunday editor. You can e-mail him at, or follow him on Twitter @Merc_Mike.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

If the Bradys used Twitter

I'm a fan of "The Brady Bunch," so I had to open an e-mail I received recently.

The e-mail was for an article from another blog titled "5 Ways the Brady Bunch Could Have Used Twitter".

When "The Brady Bunch" debuted in 1969, there were no personal computers, no e-mail, no smart phones. Only letters, snail mail and land lines. As the article states," there was no 'virtual' reality, just 'real' reality." This article looks out how some of the situations the Bradys got into would be different today.

One example was the episode where Mr. Brady installed a pay phone in an effort to keep the telephone bill lower. Today, Mike would be upset over the kids' cell phone use, complaining that they weren't using unlimited texting or tweeting their friends.

The article gave four other examples, but here are some of my own:
  • After Marcia was hit in the face by an errant photo, she would have been tweeting "oh my #nose, oh my #nose."
  • When Peter knocked out the neighborhood bully, his tweet could have been "take that #Buddy #Hinton."
  • While Greg and Bobby were locked in the freezer at Sam's Butcher Shop, Greg could have asked for help: "Locked in #freezer @SamsButcherShop. Please #help."
Well, you get the point. "The Brady Bunch" in 2011 would be a lot different than it was 40 years ago.

Can you think of other examples? Leave a comment or e-mail me at

Friday, October 21, 2011

Eating while driving

Oak Park, Ill., is trying to crack down on distracted drivers.

A story came out recently that lawmakers in the community outside of Chicago want to create a comprehensive bill banning all distractions while driving. That means talking, texting, grooming and yes, apparently, even eating.

According to this story from the Chicago Tribune, if Oak Park ultimately passes an outright ban on eating while driving, it might become one of the first in the nation to do so.

Oak Park Village Trustee Colette Lueck, who is initiating the push against distracted driving, said she would like to ban applying make-up or drinking, in addition to eating and cell phone use.

“To me, this is an issue of public safety,” she said. “This isn’t government overreach; this is the government protecting people. Distracted driving puts everyone on the road in danger.”

Almost anything could be considered a distraction while driving: fiddling with a car radio or CD player; scratching an itch or blowing your nose. More and more, municipalities are allowing digital billboards along their roads and highways. Who's paying attention to the road when their watching the signs change?

Eating while driving a distraction? Yeah, probably. And if it is, I'm guilty.

It's almost a pre-requisite as a journalist to master the art of eating while driving.

In my former journalistic life as a high school sports writer for a weekly newspaper, eating in my car was essential. There were many Fridays or Saturdays in the fall where I would cover a football game in the afternoon, then another that night. The only way to find time to eat was to go through a fast-food drive-thru and scarf down a burger and fries on my way to the next event.

I wrote a column in the late 90s on the best fast food to eat while driving. (Unfortunately, that column is unavailable on The Mercury's website.) At the time, my unscientific study revealed that is was a McDonald's quarter-pounder with cheese. Now, it would be anything off a fast-food restaurant's value menu.
I don't eat as much in my car as I once did, but when I do, it's usually a breakfast sandwich or pastry instead of a burger and fries. And I don't believe it's ever been a distraction.

If you can't master the art of eating while driving, you mustn't be much of a driver!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Are "The Simpsons" nearing an end?

I"ve been a fan of "The Simpsons" since it first started on FOX in 1989 and for years it was the best show on television. But now, the longest-running animated TV show in history may not make it much further.

"The Simpsons" producer said Tuesday that the show's current financial model may keep it from continuing. A report said that producers are demanding a 45 percent pay cut from the six voice actors, who reportedly make nearly $8 million each for a season. The website said the voice actors have offered to take a 30 percent pay cut in return for a portion of the show's syndication and merchandise revenue.

According to the Associated Press, the Fox network reportedly loses money each year on new episodes, even as all the old episodes run in perpetuity in reruns and are a cash cow for producers and creators.

"The Simpsons" is averaging 7.1 million viewers for its new episodes this fall, down 14 percent from last year. Back in the 1991-92 season, an average of 21.7 million people watched it every week, Nielsen said.

For more, go here.

Friday, September 30, 2011

World Series or bust

Manager Charlie Manuel watches the Phillies
work out Friday at Citizens Bank Park. AP Photo

When the Phillies signed free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee in the offseason, they instantly become the favorites to win the World Series this year.
With a club-record 102 wins and a fifth straight National League East crown on their resume, the favored Phils begin their quest for a 3rd World Series title on Saturday against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Expectations are high, but there's a lot to be concerned about:
  • The offense: Sure, this team stuggled A LOT to score runs. But I believe that with the regular lineup on the field since the acquisition of Hunter Pence, the team is undefeated. Yes, it's only a handful of games, but you get the point. Manager Charlie Manuel's late-season change to put Chase Utley in the No. 2 spot, Pence third and Shane Victorino fifth seems to be the best use of his personnel this postseason. The key will be leadoff man Jimmy Rollins. If he gets on base, it will have a trickle effect down the lineup and guys on base for cleanup hitter Ryan Howard, who knocked in 116 runs. As Rollins and Howard go, so go the Phillies.
  • The bullpen: During the final month of the season, Antonio Bastardo, who dominated the first 5 months, struggled to get hitters out. As the lone lefty in the bullpen, his resurgence is crucial to postseason success. As is Brad Lidge. The former closer missed the first 3 months of the season with arm troubles, but was solid in the 2nd half of the year. He'll likely pitch in the 8th inning with the game on the line.
  • Health: The Phillies struggled with injuries all season and they are the oldest team in the National League. Howard has a sore left ankle/heel that he will play through, but who knows how it will affect him at the plate. Third baseman Placido Polanco has had problems with an elbow and a sports hernia. Utley missed the first 2 months of the season with a knee issue, but seems healthy now. Rollins was on the disabled list recently with an injured calf. Ironically, left fielder Raul Ibanez, the oldest player on the team at 39, was one of the few regulars not to spend time on the disabled list.
Phillies players celebrate their fifth straight
National League East title. AP Photo.
But one thing not to be concerned about is the starting pitching. Roy Halladay, Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt are all playoff tested. Oswalt missed two months with a back issue, but based off his performance in September, he's healthy. Halladay threw a no-hitter in his first postseason start last year. Cliff Lee is 7-2 in the postseason, his only losses coming in last year's World Series when he pitched for Texas. He was 4-0 with the Phillies in 2009. And Cole Hamels was the NLCS and World Series MVP in 2008.

The Cardinals, who ralled from an 8 1/2-game deficit to claim the Wild Card berth thanks to the Phillies' 3-game sweep of Atlanta in the season's final series, led the league in hitting and have future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols anchoring the lineup. But last year, the Reds led the league in hitting and the Phillies disposed of them in 3 games, including Halladay's no-hitter and a shutout from Hamels in Game 3.

This series will come down to the Phils' offense. If they can score 4 runs a game, they should have no problem with Halladay, Lee and Hamels lined up. They looked ready to go during their sweep of the Braves.

The Phillies are expected to get to -- if not win -- the World Series. Not winning the World Series will be a disappointment. Not getting there would be considered a failure. The Cardinals won the season series from the Phillies, 6 games to 3, which may cause some anxiety. But the Phillies are the better team, and they take their first step to the World Series against the Caridnals.

Phillies in 4.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Man gets 2 DUIs in 1 night

So much for learning a lesson.
Police in western Pennsylvania have charged a man with driving drunk twice in the same night.
According to the Associated Press, Robert Brodnick, 58, of Washington, was arrested twice by state police for DUI -- the second time about 15 minutes after they released him into the custody of a friend.
 Brodnick's blood-alcohol limit was at least double what the law allows when he was arrested, police charge. Trooper Joseph Christy says troopers released Brodnick to the custody of a "responsible party" but say that person must have dropped of Brodnick at his vehicle because the same trooper who arrested Brodnick saw him driving again.
Brodnick tells WPXI-TV that he had two or three beers and just wanted to drive his new car home.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Father, son die 67 minutes apart

Saturday was a very difficult day for a family from Irwin, Pa., which is mourning the deaths of a father and son who suffered fatal heart attacks 67 minutes apart.

According to the Associated Press, Charles McCauley Jr. was rushing to his father's home Saturday after learning of the older man's death when the younger McCauley began suffering from chest pains. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Charles McCauley Sr., 83, had been watching the Pittsburgh Steelers preseason game on television at his Irwin home when he suffered a heart attack. His 54-year-old son was at the game and was stricken after being called by paramedics and walking out of the game to his car.

Family friends called the double tragedy difficult to grasp.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Abercrombie no fan of "Jersey Shore"

Apparently, I"m not the only one who despises MTV's reality show "Jersey Shore." So does Abercrombie & Fitch.
AP Photo
Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino

On Tuesday, the Ohio-based clothing retail giant released a statement saying that it is concerned that having cast memeber Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino wear its clothing could cause "significant damage" to the company's image.

The company is so adamant about the situation (no pun intended) that it has offered what it says is a "substantial payment" to Sorrentino and the show's producers so he'll wear something else. The company says the offer will be extended to other members of the cast.

MTV, however, isn't buying A&F's stance.

"It's a clever PR stunt and we'd love to work with them on other ways they can leverage 'Jersey Shore' to reach the largest youth audience on television," MTV said in a statement.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

That's gotta hurt

I don't know how much pain this guy was in, but it had to be pretty bad to consider self-surgery.

According to the Associated Press, a Glendale, Calif., man was in such pain from a hernia that he stuck a butter knife in his belly in an attempt at self-surgery.
After 911 was called, the man was placed on psychiatric hold in a hospital.

Here is the AP story:
GLENDALE, Calif. (AP) — A Southern California man stuck a butter knife into his belly in a failed bid at self-surgery to remove a painful hernia, police said Tuesday.
The wife of the 63-year-old Glendale man called 911 on Sunday night and told the emergency operator her husband was using a knife to remove a protruding hernia, Sgt. Tom Lorenz said.
"She said he had impaled himself with a knife," Lorenz said.
Officers found the man naked on a patio lounge chair outside his apartment with a 6-inch butter knife sticking out of his stomach.
The man's wife told officers that her husband was upset about the hernia and wanted to take it out.
While waiting for paramedics, the sergeant said, the man pulled out the knife and stuffed a cigarette he was smoking into the bleeding, open wound.
"What he was thinking, I don't know. I don't know if he was cauterizing it (the wound)," Lorenz said.
The man wasn't screaming or showing any signs of pain, the sergeant said.
Based on his actions and statements from the wife, Lorenz said the man was placed on psychiatric hold and taken to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center.
Because he's on psychiatric hold for up to 72 hours under the state Welfare and Institutions Code, Lorenz said the man's name and condition cannot be released.
"You just never know what to expect," said Lorenz, who has been on the police force for 29 years. "I've seen self-mutilation, but not a maneuver like this."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sherwood Schwartz, R.I.P.

Yes, I'll admit it, I am a fan of "The Brady Bunch" and "Gilligan's Island." So it was sad to hear Tuesday about the passing of Sherwood Schwartz, who created both of the classic TV shows.

Florence Henderson, left, and Dawn Wells, who starred in
"The Brady Bunch" and "Gilligan's Island" respectively, kiss
show creator Sherwood Schwartz when he received a star on
the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2008.
AP Photo

Yeah, the shows are corny and yes, I still laugh at every episode. And I think I  watched every re-incarnation of "The Brady Bunch" that came along since the initial show ended in 1974.

Not only did Schwartz create and produce the two shows, but he also wrote the theme songs that are hard to get out of anyone's head.

In an Associated Press story on his death, here's what Schwartz said about his shows relying on cheap laughs:

"I think writers have become hypnotized by the number of jokes on the page at the expense of character," Schwartz said in a 2000 Associated Press interview.

"When you say the name Gilligan, you know who that is. If a show is good, if it's written well, you should be able to erase the names of the characters saying the lines and still be able to know who said it. If you can't do that, the show will fail."

Thanks, Sherwood, for giving us TV fans years of laughter that will live on forever.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Kruk going into Phillies Hall of Fame

The Phillies announced after the first game of  today's doubleheader with Florida that former first baseman/outfielder John Kruk will be inducted into the team's Wall of Fame in August.

Kruk played for the Phillies from June 1989, when he was acquired from San Diego, through 1994. In 1993, when the team went to the World Series, Kruk hit .316 with 14 HRs, 85 RBI and 100 runs scored.

He played 744 games with the Phillies and had a .309 batting average, 62 HRs and 390 RBI, and 403 runs scored. Kruk was an All-Star from 1991-1993.

Kruk is now an analyst on ESPN.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Overzealous dad banned from Little League field

Here's another lousy example of parental sportsmanship that I discovered on the Associated Press wire today:

A father in Michigan became irate at a Saginaw-area Little League game last week after finding out his son didn't make the league's all-star team. According to the report, the man got angry with a coach and was using the F-word. Police said the dad was involved in a minor assault with another parent before they arrived.

No arrests were made, but the irate dad was issued a trespass warning by police and told he'd be arrested if he returned to the Little League fields.

The league is for 7- and 8-year-olds.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

That's what's great about baseball

AP Photo
Phillies infielder Wilson Valdez was the winning pitcher
in Wednesday night's 19-inning marathon win over
the Cincinnati Reds.

I stayed awake Wednesday night/Thursday morning to watch the Phillies' 5-4, 19-inning victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

While I'm feeling the effects of that decision today, it was worth it. It's games like that one that make baseball the great sport that it is.

First, there's no time limit. In basketball, if your team is down 5 points with 10 seconds left, the clock will tick to 0:00 and you lose. In baseball, your team could be trailing by runs with 2 outs in the bottom of the last inning, but your chance to win doesn't end with the sound of a buzzer.

And when baseball games last as long as that Phillies game did, you never know what you might see. Last year, Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt ended up in left field for a few innings in a 16-inning lost to Houston. On Wednesday night, playing 3rd base in the 19th inning was starting catcher Carlos Ruiz. The winning pitcher in the 19-inning marathon? None other than Phillies infielder Wilson Valdez, who started the game at second base.

Valdez became the first position player to start a game in the field and be the winning pitcher since 1921, when a guy named Babe Ruth did it. And that's probably the only time you'll see Wilson Valdez and Babe Ruth mentioned in the same sentence.

Unfortunately for the players, today's game was scheduled for 1 p.m., less than 12 hours after Wednesday's game ended. Phillies' shortstop Jimmy Rollins, third baseman Placido Polanco and Ruiz were not in the starting lineup for Thursday's game. And manager Charlie Manuel has to be hoping that starting pitcher Cliff Lee can pitch deep into the game, since the bullpen is wore out from the 19-inning marathon.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Randy "Macho Man" Savage dies

Randy "Macho Man" Savage.
Back in the mid-1980s, I followed pro wrestling. I was in my early 20s, so I guess that's an excuse.
One of the more popular wrestlers back in the day was Randy "Macho Man" Savage. Well, the Macho Man died this morning in a car accident in Florida. He was 58.
His real name was Randy Poffo, and in the early 1970s, he played minor league baseball in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. You can check out his stats here.
Here is the story from The Associated Press:
Randy "Macho Man" Savage, the professional wrestler known for his raspy voice, the sunglasses and bandanas he wore in the ring and the young woman named Miss Elizabeth who often accompanied him, died in a car crash Friday in Florida. He was 58.
 A Florida Highway Patrol crash report said the former wrestler — whose legal name was Randy Mario Poffo — was driving a Jeep Wrangler when he lost control in Pinellas County around 9:25 a.m. The Jeep veered over the raised concrete median divider, crossed over the eastbound lanes and collided head-on with a tree.
Police said he may have suffered a "medical event" before the accident, but the report did not elaborate, and it said officials would need to perform an autopsy to know for sure.
The report said a woman in the vehicle, identified as Barbara Poffo, suffered minor injuries. A statement from Stamford, Conn.-based World Wrestling Entertainment said the passenger was the wrestler's wife.
"Poffo will be greatly missed by WWE and his fans," the statement said.
Savage was a charismatic wrestler made famous for his "Macho Man" nickname and his "Oooh Yeah!" catchphrase. He was a champion in Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation, and later Ted Turner's now-defunct World Championship Wrestling.
Poffo was under contract with WWE from 1985 to 1993 and held both the WWE and Intercontinental Championships.
"Our sincerest condolences go out to his family and friends. We wish a speedy recovery to his wife Lynn," WWE said.
Savage defined the larger-than-life personalities of the 1980s World Wrestling Federation (now WWE). He wore sequined robes bejeweled with "Macho Man" on the back, rainbow colored cowboy hats and oversized sunglasses, part of a unique look that helped build the WWF into a mainstream phenomenon.
For most of his career, his valet, Miss Elizabeth, was by his side. Elizabeth Hulette was his real-life wife. They later divorced, and Hulette died in 2003 — one of the many performers in the sport to die young.
The WWF made Savage their champion after a win over Ted DiBiase in the main event at WrestleMania in 1988.
Savage had not appeared for a major wrestling organization since 2004 when he performed for Total Nonstop Action.
He was both at times the most popular and most hated wrestler in entertainment. His flying elbow off the top rope was mimicked by basement and backyard wrestlers everywhere. Savage made good use of his deep, raspy voice as a corporate pitchman as well, for years ordering Slim Jim fans to "Snap into it!"
He's most known his legendary rivalries with Hulk Hogan, Ricky Steamboat and Ric Flair. Wrestlers took to Twitter to let fans know Savage won't be forgotten.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson hailed Savage as one of his childhood inspirations and heroes, while Mick "Cactus Jack" Foley called Savage "one of my favorite performers."
Hogan said he and Savage had just started talking again after 10 years.
"He had so much life in his eyes & in his spirit, I just pray that he's happy and in a better place and we miss him," Hogan wrote.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Ryan Howard engaged to Eagles cheerleader

Photo courtesy of
Eagles cheerleader Krystle Campbell is engaged to
Phillies slugger Ryan Howard.
It's been a good start to 2011 for Phillies slugger Ryan Howard.

First, the first baseman has slugged 2 homers and knocked in 8 runs in leading the Phils' offense to a 5-1 record in the first week of the season. Now comes word that Howard is engaged to Eagles' cheerleader Krystle Campbell, at right.
Howard made the announcement prior to the Phillies' 11-0 win over the Mets on Thursday.
The pair are planning to tie the knot in 2012.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Music education is a lifelong experience

Music filled the air of Berks County venues last week with the annual Berks Jazz Fest.
I attended one of the events, a night headlined by the U.S. Air Force Rhythm and Blues Jazz Ensemble — with guest soloist, trumpeter Randy Brecker — in front of a near capacity crowd at Boyertown Junior High West. Also performing that night were the Boyertown Directors Big Band, and the Berks County All-Star High School Jazz Band.
It was an awesome night of music. As I reflected on the event on my ride home, I realized how moved I was by the performance of the high school musicians. Then it occurred to me that in light of the economic tsunami area school district’s are facing thanks to dwindling revenues, ever-increasing expenses and state budget cuts, 10 years from now there may not be a high school all-star jazz band.
Yes, that’s probably an exaggeration, but because of budget deficits of millions of dollars, administrators and school boards have put a bull’s-eye on their music departments.
Several school districts — including Daniel Boone and Boyertown — have proposed eliminating music in the elementary schools, following the lead of the Governor Mifflin School District in Berks County, which axed its elementary music program last May. Some districts have considered extending the cuts into their middle schools as well.
Youth involved in music are some of the most well-rounded students in a school. The same student who is the lead player in their section of the band likely has a prominent role in the annual musical. Former Pottstown High School band director Chuck Dressler led the Berks all-star musicians. As he finished introducing the band members, he said, “This is what’s good in the world.”
Education isn’t just about reading, writing and arithmetic. When a child gets involved in music, it opens doors that can influence them the rest of their life. I started playing trombone in elementary school. Much to my surprise, 30 years after graduating from high school, I’m still playing — and loving it.
Music has allowed me to do things I otherwise never would have done: visit and perform in a solemn ceremony at Normandy Beach — site of the D-Day invasion — and play a concert while on a boat riding on the Seine River in Paris on a high school trip. As an adult, I marched down Main Street in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, played in a concert in front of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., and participated in the Fourth of July midnight parade in Gatlinburg, Tenn.
These experiences have stayed with me. Had instrumental music not been offered in elementary school, I doubt if I would have picked it up as a seventh-grader.
In a recent discussion about possible cuts to the music program in Boyertown, one friend shared a story about his musical roots.
At the same time he started playing an instrument in fifth grade, he joined the Boyertown Midget-Mite football program. When he discovered the elementary school band would be playing at the annual Piggy Bowl, he shed the pads and helmet and traded one mouthpiece for another to sit with his fellow musicians in the stands.
He, too, wonders if he would have picked up the trumpet in 7th grade.
These are not easy times for school administrations or school boards. Revenues are low, expenses are high, and homeowners are taxed to the max. It’s not like the districts can make up these deficits from the change they find under the cushions of the couch in the faculty lounge.
In 2010, the Boyertown Area School District’s music department was rated as one of the top 174 in the nation by the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation ( in its “Best Communities for Music Education” survey. The survey, according to NAMM, which is based in Carlsbad, Calif., “acknowledges schools and districts across the U.S. for their commitment to and support of music education in schools.”
Whether that same support will continue in 2011 has yet to be determined.

Mike Spohn is The Mercury Sunday editor. E-mail him at

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Another 'honor' for Philly sports fans

GQ magazine came out with its list of the Worst Sports Fans in America, and guess which fan base holds the top TWO spots on the list? Yep, Philadelphia sports fans.

The magazine tabbed Philadelphia Eagles fans and Philadelphia Phillies fans as Nos. 1 and 2 on the list and dubbed them "The Meanest Fans in America."

Here's the excerpt from the magazine. And of course, it brings up the whole booing of Santa Clause issue from more than 40 years ago!!!:

 Over the years, Philadelphia fans have booed Santa Claus as well as their own star players. They've even booed a guy who just helped the city win a friggin' World Series title—while he was getting his ring. Boooo! Admittedly, there are some things fans have cheered. Like Michael Irvin's career-ending neck injury and a fan being tased on the outfield grass. Things reached their nadir last season, when Citizens Bank Park played host to arguably the most heinous incident in the history of sports: A drunken fan intentionally vomited on an 11-year-old girl. The truth is this: All told, Philadelphia stadiums house the most monstrous collection of humanity outside of the federal penal system. "Some of these people would boo the crack in the Liberty Bell," baseball legend Pete Rose once said. More likely, these savages would have thrown the battery that cracked it.

On the flip side, Brand Keys Inc. recently released its 19th annual Sports Loyalty Index and Phillies fans were ranked as the most loyal in Major League Baseball. Rounding out the top five were fans of the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers.
According to the group, the only other fan base to make the top 5 in its sport were Flyers fans, who came in second behind the Detroit Red Wings among NHL fans.
Surprisingly, Eagles fans did not make the top 5.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Spring is in the air

After this nasty winter of seemingly endless snow and ice and colder-than-normal

AP Photo
Phillies starting pitcher delivers a
pitch during a workout
Monday in Clearwater, Fla.
 temperatures, any thoughts of spring are welcome.

This week, there are three.

First, there's the weather, which later this week will see forecast highs near 60 or above.

AP Photo
Russian model Irina Shayk
graces the cover of the
2011 Sports Illustrated
swimsuit edition.
On Monday, the Phillies pitchers and catchers held their first workout of spring traning in Clearwater, Fla.

Then on Tuesday, Sports Illustrated released its annual swimsuit edition. The coveted spot on the cover went to Russian model Irina Shayk, girlfriend of soccer star Ronaldo.

Who cares what that groundhog thinks? Every year, these are the signs that spring is in the air.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Law firm has beef with Taco Bell meat

A law firm in Alabama is suing Taco Bell, claming the fast-food restaurant is falsely advertising when it refers to "seasoned ground beef" or "seasoned beef" in its products.

The lawsuit states the meat mixture fails to reach the minimum standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be labeled as "beef."

The class-action lawsuit was filed Friday in federal court in the Central District of California by the Montgomery law firm Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles.

Attorney Dee Miles said attorneys had Taco Bell's "meat mixture" tested and found it contained less that 35 percent beef.

Go here for more.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow in 49 states

AP Photo
49 of 50 states have snow on the ground today.
As we dig out from another winter snowstorm, you should know that you aren't alone today.

According to the National Weather Service, there is snow on the ground in 49 of 50 states -- including Hawaii, which has 7 inches of snow atop the dormant volcano Mauna Kea on the island of  Hawaii.

The NWS estimates that more than 70 percent of the country is covered in snow. The only state that is snow free is Florida, the Sunshine State.

Click here for more.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Eagles prediction

AP Photo
Eagles QB Michael Vick tries to elude a Green Bay
defender during their game in week 1 of the NFL season.
The Packers won that game, 27-20.
I don't have a good feeling about this game.

In the previous two games that meant anything -- against the Giants and Vikings -- the Eagles played lousy football for 112 of the 120 minutes. Except for those 8 minutes against the Giants, the Birds haven't been able to move the ball, and their offensive line has been a revolving door for opposing defenses as they continue to beat up on QB Michael Vick.

The Packers are playing great defense. I heard this morning that they've allowed only 104 points in this last 9 games, which amounts to a little more than 11 points per game.

Green Bay has a pretty good offense, too. QB Aaron Rodgers is better than anyone the Eagles have faced since Peyton Manning on Nov. 7. The Packers running attack isn't much, but they should be able to throw the ball against a depleted Eagles defense that is having trouble rushing the passer and has depth problems in the secondary. And the Eagles have the worst red-zone defense in recent NFL history.

To win, the Eagles will have to score at least 30 points. I don't see that happening. I hope I'm wrong, but here's the pick:

Green Bay 34, Eagles 24.