Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- April 30

The Daily Numbers: 1 more penny we’re paying for gas today, according to AAA. Prices in the Philly area went up again overnight. Average price of regular unleaded now stands at $3.63; diesel is at $4.52

168,718 children in the 5-county Philadelphia region who are now listed as living in poverty in 2006. That’s up from 142,702 in 2002.

18 teachers honored with the first annual Excellence in Teaching Awards last night by the Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union at a dinner at the Drexelbrook. Bravo!

22 month old girl who remains in the hospital after a hit-run incident in Upper Darby last weekend. Police continue to hunt for the SUV – and its driver – they believe struck her on Marlborough Road and then sped off.

550,000 dollars believed ripped off from the trust fund accounts of two children in Bethel Township. The father and stepmom are charged with theft.

68 year-old handyman who is subject of a competency hearing to determine if he can stand trial for the murders of an elderly Chadds Ford attorney and his wife back in 2002.

3 floors, what a sexual assault victim had to jump to the street to flee her attacker. She recounted her ordeal in a Philadelphia courtroom as the suspect was held for trial.

8 million dollar price tag for a solar power plant that will be built by Exelon and an outfit called Epuron LLC in South Philadelphia.

250,000 retired Pa. government and school employees who would be in line for a pension increase under a plan being reviewed by the Legislature. The cost? About $10 billion over 20 years.

16 businesses that have been hit in Philadelphia and Bucks County by a man who has gone on a robbery spree. The man is packing two guns and is now hitting several stores a week.

2 great names in local horseracing that will be added to the carousel at Philadelphia Liberty Park in Franklin Square. Replicas of Smarty Jones and Afleet Alex will be added to the merry-go-round.

83,000 bucks, what SEPTA is getting from the ad deal that will see the video game “Grand Theft Auto IV” plastered all over their buses.

1 woman’s body found floating in Pennsauken Creek in Cinnaminson, N.J., yesterday.

9 year-old boy mauled by a pit bull in Camden, N.J. He needed hundreds of stitches to close his wounds.

2 year-old child whose remains were found stuffed in a suitcase in a home in South Philadelphia.

22 age of man now in custody in the hit-run death of a 58-year-old mother of three in Reading.

30 percent decline in foreclosures in the Philly region. That bucks a national trend where filings equaled 1 for every 194 households.

9,300 people now incarcerated in Philly jails. A new lawsuit to halt overcrowding has been filed in federal court.

3 to 2 hole the Sixers are now sitting in after they were drubbed again last night by the Pistons, 98-81.

21 points for Andre Iguodala to lead the Sixers in a losing cause.

2 to 1 lead the Flyers will carry into their game against the Canadiens at the Wachova Center tonight.

7 strong innings last night for Cole Hamels, who shut down the Padres as the Phils posted a 7-4 win.

349 wins and holding for Greg Maddux, who took the loss last night as he was gunning for win No. 350.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
The refs have it in for the Flyers? Haven’t we heard that old saw before. Play the game, fellas.

I Don’t Get It: Can someone explain to me what it is the Rev. Jeremiah Wright is trying to accomplish by again going public with his differences with Sen. Barack Obama?


Today’s Upper: Beats us. Gas, food, everything is going up. Hey, the sun’s out, even if it is cool. We’ve got that going for us.

Quote Box: “We can tell you that these flares are saving American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

-- John Fleitz, manger of business development at Alloy Surfaces in Chester Township, talking about the decoys that the military is buying from the Delco firm. Come to think of it, that just might qualify as Today’s Upper as well.

Obama on the rocks

Don’t look now, but Barack Obama is in trouble.

For a long time there, it seemed like the Illinois senator and his message of hope and change were a sure thing to take the Democratic presidential nomination.

There was just one problem. Nobody bothered to tell Sen. Hillary Clinton. She’s not going away. She continues to win the big states, and make a legitimate claim that she – not Obama – is best situated to tangle with Republican Sen. John McCain in November in the general election.

Now a new poll just might agree with her.

The poll shows Hillary with a 9-point lead over McCain in a head-to-head match. Clinton leads 50-41 percent. In the meantime, Obama is in what amounts to a dead heat with the presumed GOP standard-bearer. He holds a thin two-point margin, 46-44 percent.

The next two contests are in North Carolina and Indiana. Obama was expected to win both handily. Then his margin started to shrink. Now it’s believed he’s squeaking by in North Carolina while Indiana is a toss-up. North Carolina’s governor endorsed Clinton yesterday.

Obama clings to his lead in the popular vote and delegates, but his argument seems to ring a bit more hollow each day. He has not seemed his normal, confident self since his disastrous showing in the debate in Philly at the National Constitution Center.

Then there is the wild card in all this. We refer, of course, to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Just when the brush fire from his controversial comments and sermons was dying down, Wright resurfaced this week, poured gasoline on the smoldering embers, and threw a match on a conflagration that Obama can’t escape.

For some reason, in two appearances this week Wright has decided to confront Obama. Why remains a mystery. Maybe he’s feeling scorned because of Obama’s speech on race and his move to distance himself from his former pastor.

The ties are severed now. Yesterday Obama firmly disavowed any ties to Wright.

Getting those thoughts out of the heads of voters won’t be as easy.

Can you say superdelegates?

A little good economic news

The economic gloom is everywhere.

People approach gas stations with terror as prices soar over $3.60 a gallon. And the summer driving season still awaits.

It doesn’t get any better at the grocery store. The ripple effects of high fuel costs are taking a double-dip on family finances, sending the cost of many basic staples into the stratosphere.

Foreclosures are up; home prices are down.

Bad news is everywhere.

Which is why it was nice to see two positive economic stories in the county displayed in the newspaper on Tuesday.

Down at the Folcroft Industrial Park, they are celebrating at LithChem Energy. The tiny firm makes high-power lithium batteries that are used in military vehicles such as the Multiple Kill Vehicle. The batteries power the MKV, which can launch a cluster of pellet missiles to intercept incoming enemy missiles.

Currently the vehicles are using thermal reserve batteries. Those are due to be replaced with LithChem’s lithium batteries.

The firm got a $2.48 million dollar deal from the Department of Defense’s Small Business Innovation Research Phase III program.

Currently the firm has 5 employees. They’re looking to hire 25 new workers over the next two years.

Out at Alloy Surfaces in Chester Township, the news is even better.

We’ve detailed their work before. The company makes infrared decoys that also are used to defend military aircraft from incoming missiles.

They’re getting ready to deliver their first batch of decoys, worth $16 million. And they’re in line for a huge boost in orders from the Department of Defense. They received a five-year deal that could be worth as much as $347.9 million.

They now operate two facilities in the I-95 Industrial Park in Chester Township and a 67,000-square-foot plant in Bethel. They started in 1998 with 79 employees. Not they’re just above 600.

Want to really feel good about what is going on at businesses like Alloy Surfaces?

Listen to John Fleitz. He’s manager of business development fo the firm.

“We can tell you that these flares are saving American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Fleitz told our Tim Logue. “We’ve had many reports from the battlefield that these decoys are saving men, women and aircraft in the theater of operations.”

Good for them. Any chance they can develop a gas-free car?

Sixers suddenly are flat-lining

Break out the paddles.


The Sixers suddenly need to be revived.

Their fairy tale ride into the playoffs and surprising early play against the Detroit Pistons has hit a major pothole.

For the second straight night, the Sixers were manhandled by Detroit, getting blown out last night in Motown, 98-81.

It’s as if the Pistons simply flipped a switch, and are now flicking away the pesky Sixers as if they’re a gnat buzzing around them.

Since halftime of Sunday night’s game, this series, which was surprisingly tied 1-1, has not been a contest. The Pistons came out and exerted their will on the Sixers in the second half Sunday night, and their domination continued last night.

The Sixers now need to win Thursday night back at the Wachovia Center to stave off elimination.

Keep those paddles handy.

In the meantime, tonight at the Wachovia, the Flyers will clash again with the Canadiens.

Whether they will clash with the referees remains to be seen.

There is a theory making the rounds that the refs have it in for the Flyers, trying to prop up the pride of Canada in their national sport.

Our beat writer, Anthony SanFilippo, has some of the players talking about it here.

I’m not buying. This is the old mentality of us vs. them that the Flyers have employed since their Broad Street Bullies glory days.

The game has changed. Today it’s more about speed and finesse than the sheer brute will exerted by those old Flyers such as Dave Schultz and Bob Kelly. This team is better than that.

They don’t need to whine about the refs to get the better of the Canadiens.

And they can prove it tonight on their home ice by beating the Habs to take a commanding 3-1 lead.

The game will be decided on the ice. By the players. Not the refs.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- April 29

The Daily Numbers: 2.48 million dollar contract going to LithChem Energy in Folcroft. They make high-power lithium batteries for the Defense Department.

347 million dollar deal for Alloy Surfaces in Chester Township. They make infrared decoys that help military aircraft fend off incoming missiles. The company is getting ready to deliver its first batch.

15,000 dollars believed scammed from a Collingdale couple by a Bucks County man who offered to help them refinance their home.

140,000 dollars annual salary for Alexis McGloin, who has been reappointed assistant superintendent in Penn-Delco Schools.

4.2 million dollar jackpot won by a retired man from Temple, Pa., while playing a slots machine at Resorts Atlantic City Sunday. Guess he’s not worried about filling up the car for the ride home.

14,000 dollars in cash found on the road by a man in Schwenksville, Berks County. It had apparently come from an armored car. Tom Nesspor turned it in, every last dollar of it. Who says there are no more honest men in the world?

1 cent hike in the price of gas overnight, according to the latest numbers from AAA.

3.62 the average price for unleaded regular in the Philly region. Diesel is going for a cool $4.53.

200 people injured when a streak of nasty spring storms blew through Virginia yesterday afternoon. Three tornadoes destroyed homes and tossed cars like matchsticks.

63 percent jump in profits in the first quarter for BP.

4 students from Benjamin Franklin High School being honored for their actions in saving a drowning man from the Schuylkill River back in February. The students are all members of the Junior ROTC.

24 age of woman who faces homicide and DUI charges after a fatal crash in which she plowed into 5 cars stopped at a red light on North Broad Street in Philly. A 58-year-old mother as killed.

130 incidents of graffiti believed solved in Wilmington with the arrest of a 19-year-old graffiti artist. He faces 32 felony charges.

500 feet, how far a man fell into a strip mine near Allentown. Now they say it was no accident. They’ve charged his buddy with pushing him into the hole. The man survived the terrifying plunge into the Springdale Pit.

19 age of man whose body was discovered under the boardwalk in Atlantic City. The case is being ruled “suspicious.”

135 more cops who have been dispatched to street duty in Philadelphia. After what went on in the city last weekend, it can’t come fast enough.

9,300 people now incarcerated in Philly jails. A new lawsuit to halt overcrowding has been filed in federal court.

150 room hotel that will be built along the waterfront in Wilmington by a Concordville company.

9 points, the lead for Hillary Clinton over John McCain, in a new poll. She holds a decisive 50-41 edge. Her rival, Barack Obama, leads McCain by just 2 points, 46-44 percent.

30 million “Forever” stamps being sold every day. Don’t look now, but the price of a stamp is about to go up again. That will include the price of the Forever stamps. All stamps will go to 42 cents on May 1. But if you have Forever stamps they will remaind good whatever the price is.

32 of 34 shots turned away by Flyers netminder Martin Biron last night in the huge 3-2 win over the Canadiens. He’s been the difference.

3 goal lead the Flyers almost frittered away after Derian Hatcher was whistled for a five-minute major for boarding in the third period. The Habs scored twice.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
How would you like to be counting the money down at the Wachovia Center these days? Last spring the joint was dark. Neither the Sixers nor the Flyers made the playoffs. This year it seems like there is a playoff game at the Center every night.

I Don’t Get It: Ashley Dupree, the 22-year-old call girl who took down former New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer, is now suing the founder of the “Girls Gone Wild” series for using her image without her consent. She says she was only 17 and drunk on spring break in 2003 when she agreed to be filmed. Oh, that explains it.


Today’s Upper: Check those bank statements, folks. Yes, the federal rebate checks are in the mail, and may already be in your account.

Quote Box: “This is a great example of the community and first responders working together, and in particular a neighbor being aware of her neighbor.”

-- Upper Darby police superintendent Mike Chitwood, on the efforts of Eastlyn Macintosh to alert authorities to her belief that her neighbor was in trouble after she could not reach her.

Good news vs. bad news

One of the things I am constantly struggling with in this job is the notion of “good news” vs. “bad news.”

People often call to complain that there is nothing but “bad news” in the newspaper. Sometimes they have a legitimate point. A lot of what we report as news involves some most unpleasant topics.

But not all of it.

This past Sunday this newspaper, in conjunction with the Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union and the county Intermediate Unit, presented the first winners of the 2008 Excellence in Teaching Awards.

Eighteen educators were honored for their work in the classroom. Among them was Patricia Georges. She teaches sixth, seventh and eighth-graders at Northley Middle School. That would be in the Penn-Delco School District.

You might have noticed that Penn-Delco has found itself in the pages of this newspaper quite often in the last year. Much of what has gone on there has not exactly painted a particularly nice picture of what goes on in the district.

But that’s the point. It’s easy to focus on what is going wrong. We report it because it’s news. But what about the work Georges and countless others do every day? That too often does not get noticed in the newspaper.

We took the opportunity on Sunday to honor Georges and the other unsung educators, whose day-in and day-out activities usually fly under the radar. They don’t make the newspaper. That does not make them any less important.

Twyla Simpkins teaches 11th and 12th-graders. At Chester High School. Yes, the city – and its high school – often find itself splashed across the pages of this newspaper. Very often those stories tend to show the high school in a negative manner.

This is not the first time Simpkins has been featured in the newspaper, however. A month ago we zeroed in on her efforts to create a mobile Black History Museum.

My struggle with “good news” and “bad news” is not going to go away. I know that. It’s something I deal with every day.

Yes, I will admit that many days the “bad news” dominates the headlines. But there are days, Sunday being one of them, when that’s not the case.

I guess you could legitimately ask if I think the story on the teaching awards was the most important story we could feature on our front page on Sunday. The answer is very likely no. But we did it anyhow.

Because every once in awhile, we need to take time to notice those doing good things every day. And put their stories in the newspaper.

Butt out, folks

The state Legislature today is expected to once again start debating the idea of a statewide smoking ban.

That would include places like the floors of the insanely popular new slots casinos in the state.

Doing so would put us on par with our neighbors in Delaware and New Jersey, which have banned smoking in most public places. New Jersey last week expanded their ban to include casino floors.

It is expected that Pennsylvania’s casinos are expected to fight any such move here. I guess they like the idea of being something of a final holdout in the smoking wars. Maybe they are marketing themselves as “smokder-friendly.”

As someone who recently had the opportunity to stroll through the casino floor at Harrah’s Chester Casino & Racetrack, I can tell you the ban can’t come soon enough. You can cut the smoke with a knife in the place.

Of course, I’m not a smoker. Nor am I much of a gambler. The casino holds no real allure for me. Just the sound of it turns me off. The smoke simply seals the deal.

But Pennsylvania should move forward with debating and voting on such a ban anyway. Some people don’t have a choice when it comes to these conditions. They actually work in the casino, and they suck in that smoke all day and night, regardless of whether they smoke or not.

That’s what you would call a losing bet.

It's all about the goaltending

The Flyers have won two Stanley Cups in their storied franchise.

They have done so because of one man. His name is Bernie Parent. So glorious was Parent’s work in the net, it became local lore that “only the Lord saves more than Bernie Parent.”

The Flyers last night beat the Montreal Canadiens to take a 2-1 lead in their series.

Playoff hockey is a little bit like playoff baseball. In the post-season, baseball is usually decided by pitching. In hockey, it’s goaltending.

The Flyers have had some very good teams since they won back-to-back Cups in ‘73-’74 and ‘74-’75. But they have not had another Bernie Parent. It’s no surprise they have not sipped from Lord Stanley’s hardware since then.

Instead they have too often been stymied by the likes of guys named Pete Peeters, Chico Resch, John Vanbiesbrouck and even the legendary Ron Hextall.

The Flyers now lead the Canadiens because Martin Biron is basically playing out of his mind. You can almost see it in the Habs’ eyes. Biron has gotten in their heads. They are now wondering just what they have to do to beat this guy.

That bodes well for the Flyers. They just may go as far as Biron’s incredible hot streak carries them.

One more step on the road to the end of the LCB

Slowly but surely, Pennsylvania is crawling out of the Dark Ages in terms of how it handles the sale of alcohol.

State stores are no longer the cold, uninviting retail establishments they once were, when you literally had to walk up to the counter and tell the clerk what it is you wanted.

Looking for advice? You were in the wrong place. “What do I look like, the phone book,” is a reply you might have gotten.

Times have changed. State stores are much more inviting places. You can now browse the aisles. Clerks are much more knowledgeable, the state is developing specialty wine stores, hours have been expanded, including Sunday hours. The state has even dabbled with putting stores in some supermarkets.

Now there’s a new wrinkle. The state is mulling the idea of free-standing kiosks that would sell wine. Think of it as an ATM machine that would dispense bottles of your favorite wine. The state is considering as many as 100, mostly in supermarkets.

Again, not a bad idea.

I have a better one. Push the plunger. Yep, blow up the LCB and this archaic system of selling alcohol. I have said it before, and I haven’t changed my mind.

I’m tired of going one place for beer, somewhere else if I only want a six-pack, and still another for wine or liquor.

I want to be able to grab a six-pack while I run into the Wawa. I want to be able to buy a case of beer, along with a bottle of wine, in the supermarket.

I know the LCB means revenue for the state. It also means jobs, which I no doubt will be reminded of by the United Food and Commercial Workers union.

It’s time. Go ahead. Push the plunger. Blow up this anachronism and turn the whole process over to private industry.

Now there’s an idea worthy of a toast. I’ll drink to that.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- April 28

The Daily Numbers: 22 months, age of little girl in Upper Darby who was the victim of a hit-run driver Friday night. Police are still looking for the driver of the SUV that struck her. The girl is in serious conditions at Children’s Hospital.

65 students from the 7th Congressional District who were honored yesterday for combining prowess on the athletic field as well as in the classroom.

5 dead and another 8 wounded in another weekend of violence on the streets of Philadelphia. And the weather is just starting to warm up. Looks like another “Wild, Wild West” summer looms.

6 cent hike in the price of gasoline over the weekend in the region. Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.

3.61 average price for a gallon of unleaded regular in the Philly region. That is a new all-time high, which we seem to set every morning these days. The price of diesel did likewise, now going for 4.53 a gallon.

120 dollars a barrel for oil prices over the weekend, spurred by a refinery strike that closed a pipeline that delivers crude from Britain’s North Sea refineries.

100 wine kiosks that the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board wants to operate in the state. They’d be like a temperature-controlled vending machine for wine. They’ll be placed in grocery stores and other places. With the cost of gas, we’re going to need all the wine we can get. Better yet, why not develop a car that runs on wine. Might be cheaper.

7 to 10 shots fired after a car chase in Bristol, Bucks County.

200 underage drinkers busted when police raided a social club in Overbrook Park Friday night. Many of those imbibing are believed to be Saint Joseph’s University students.

400 acres singed by a raging wildfire outside Los Angeles over the weekend.

2 wins and 2 losses for the Sixers and Pistons, who stand all even after the Pistons won Game 4 last night at the Wachovia Center.

10 point Sixers lead at the half that disappeared in a big run by the Pistons to start the third quarter.

4 for 16 shooting from the floor and just 12 points for Andre Iguodala, who continues to struggle against the Pistons’ defense.

0 picks used in the first round of the NFL Draft for the second straight year by the Eagles. Andy Reid again traded down, sending the Birds’ No. 19 pick in the first round to Carolina for a slew of picks this year and next.

0 trades for Lito Sheppard, who is still an Eagle after several attempts to move him during the draft apparently fizzled.

74 as in the 74th pick in the draft, which those same Carolina Panthers used to snatch Strath Haven and Penn State linebacker Dan Connor.

5 wins and 2 losses on their road trip for the Phils, who completed their travel on a down note, losing to the Bucs Sunday, 5-1.

5 innings pitched for Brett Myers, who gave up 4 runs on 8 hits.

3 as in Game 3 of their Stanley Cup series between the Flyers and Canadiens, at the Wachovia Center.

2.73 goals against average for Flyers’ netminder Martin Biron, who has been stellar between the pipes for the Flyers.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
It’s bad enough they try to make out the NFL Draft into some kind of Academy Awards production. Then the Eagles insist on taking the little sizzle out of the affair each year by trading out of the first round. What, are they still sore about the greeting received by Donovan McNabb when they took him in the first round?

I Don’t Get It: Miley Cyrus is apologizing for a racy picture shoot that will appear in Vanity Fair magazine. She appears without a top on, while still covering up. Cyrus is 15. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: The Pennsylvania Legislature once again this week will take up the idea of a public smoking ban in the state. The sooner the better, folks.

Quote Box: “There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing a child smile and sense of accomplishment they feel. It’s rewarding to know I’ve been a part of that.”

-- Marion Bailey, second-grade teacher at Leedom Elementary in Ridley, and one of the 18 winners of the 2008 Excellence in Teaching Awards.

Where's the brotherly love?

Not a good weekend for the new Michael Nutter Administration in Philadelphia.

There’s no questioning the fact that there’s a new face and new attitude leading the city.

Unfortunately, the same old problems continue to plauge those trying to make a difference, as well as those simply trying to live in the city.

In less than 24 hours over the weekend, five people were killed and eight others wounded in a series of violent confrontations. The homicide rate for the year also went over the 100 mark.

Two teens were shot in the city’s Frankford section. One died. Sunday afternoon a 50-year-old man was shot in the back in his apartment. He was declared dead at the hospital. Late Saturday night a man was shot in the head in a bar in Logan. And a man in his 60s was beaten to death outside a gas station.

The good news? I’m not sure there is any at this point, but at this time last year the murder rate stood at 130.

Nutter and his new police commissioner, Charles Ramsey, have made it clear they want to make a difference.

Nutter went so far as to sign into law several gun control measures that were passed by City Council. Of course, they were immediately challenged by the National Rifle Association, which reminded Nutter and council that the authority to regulate guns in this state lies solely with the Legislature.

But something needs to be done. The weather is changing. It’s getting warmer. Things on the street no doubt will be heating up as well.

Reid it and weep

The weather pretty much matches the mood of Philly sports fans today.

Where should we start? How about the Eagles and Andy Reid. Any time they want to start their draft would be nice.

OK, I exaggerate. I think.

Once again Andy Reid traded down out of the first round. Am I mistaken or was this team 8-8 last year, and that only because they won several meaningless games at the end of the season? You’d think the way Reid approaches the draft this squad was coming off another Super Bowl appearance.

Are you trying to tell me this team doesn’t have any pressing needs for this year? To be honest with you, I’m not real interested in next season as yet. Sure, it looks like the Eagles did pretty well in getting a boatload of picks from the Panthers for that No. 19 pick in the first round, but that doesn’t do a thing for me for this year.

Finally, in the second round, the Eagles picked up another defensive tackle from Notre Dame, and a wide receiver who looks like he might be able to answer some of their punt and kickoff return questions. Oh, and that blockbuster trade involving Lito Sheppard? Never happened. He’s still on the team and now the brass is talking about a rotation in the defensive backfield.

There’s really very little fans can do. Reid isn’t going anywhere. Except for this. This team better be good, and come out of the gates smoking. Reid’s philosophy is that with a healthy McNabb the Eagles will return to supremacy in the NFC East.

He better be right. His moves to always go down in the draft, and not select a player in the first round, tell fans this is a playoff team. I have my doubts.

Speaking of playoff teams, the Sixers played another game in their playoff matchup with the Pistons at the Wachovia Center last night.

I’d like to know what Flip Saunders told his team at halftime. After the Sixers dominated them in the first half, the Pistons “flipped” a switch in the locker room, came out and blew away the Sixers in the third quarter, coasting to an easy win. A 10-point Sixers lead turned into a 15-point deficit faster than you can say Andre Iquodala. The series is now tied 2-2.

One other thing I’d like to know. Now that the teams have played four games, any time Sixers star Iguodala wants to show up would be just dandy. Iguodala’s struggles continued last night, shooting 4 of 16 and scoring just 12 points.

Bottom line is this: The Sixers won’t win this series unless Iguodala starts playing to his potential.

Speaking of not showing up, Brett Myers continues to be a no-show so far this season for the Phillies. Myers put a few clouds on a sterling road trip for the Phils. He struggled again yesterday against the lowly Pirates.

He went 5 innings, gave up 4 runs on 8 hits. He’s now 2-2 on the season. Not good enough.

Myers is supposed to be one of two studs at the top of the Phils’ rotation. That’s why he was given the honor of opening day starter as he moved from his closer role last year back into the rotation.

The Phils need him to start pitching like one.

Anything else? Oh, the Flyers and Canadiens tee it up again tonight at the Wachovia Center.

Is this a great time of year or what?

The print column: Teach your children well

Here's a copy of today's print column, about the value of teachers and the effect they have on our lives.

There are a couple of questions I know I can count on every time I am out speaking to groups about what I do for a living.
That’s especially true when I talk to students. I love getting out of the office and engaging readers, especially young readers. That’s in part because of the fact that this newspaper – and in fact the entire industry – could use a lot more of them.
So before my young inquisitors get a chance to ask me a question, I usually have one for them. For the most part, the groups I speak to are high school and college kids with an interest in journalism and writing. I know, you’re wondering if the two are somehow related. Very funny.
My questions for them are simple: Have they read a newspaper yet today, and since they have shown an interest in writing for a living, exactly what have they written yet today?
I’m usually dismayed by the answers. Precious few have read the newspaper, even fewer write every day.
I’m not surprised. The fact that young people are not reading newspapers is not exactly “news” anymore. Which doesn’t make it any less worrisome for a person in my line of work. Nor any less true. Young people are not reading newspapers, at least not in the numbers my generation and my parents’ generation did.
My parents would not even think of starting a day without first consuming a newspaper. I didn’t get the sports section until my dad had read it from one end to the other. The page in the sports section with the day’s entries and results from the horse tracks was usually smeared with jelly, a sure sign my father had been there.
I inherited the newspaper habit from my parents. It’s one of those questions I know I am always going to get from young people. They want to know why I do what I do for a living.
It’s a good question. Thankfully, I think I have a good answer. My parents are certainly a part of it. But there’s another one as well.
For the first eight years of my education, I toiled at the firm right hand of the sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. That’s right, I went to a parochial elementary school. In short, I can diagram a sentence like nobody’s business. I know my subjects, objects and predicates. I gained a love for language and words. And I gained an appreciation for their power.
Now I might add that, in addition to my command of the Baltimore Catechism (Who made me? God made me. Simple, right?), those tend to be the highlights of my education. The truth is, I’m not much when it comes to math and science. Take away my calculator and I’m nothing. My guess is that this is as much my fault as the nuns. I never had a ton of interest in math and science.
There is no doubt I am who I am, and do what I do, in large part because of those eight years I spent under the sisters’ tutelage.
All of this is my way of saying how important teachers are in the development of kids into adults. They aren’t the highest-paying jobs in the world (that’s something else we have in common), but they just might be the most important.
That’s why this newspaper took the opportunity on Sunday to honor 18 of the best teachers in Delaware County.
In conjunction with the Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union and the Delaware County Intermediate Unit, we unveiled the first Excellence in Teaching Awards to recognize outstanding educators.
These awards follow on the heels of our annual All-Delco Hi-Q team, honoring one team member from each of the 21 schools taking part in the annual scholastic quiz competition.
It has been one of my goals in my term as editor of the Daily Times to increase the focus on the academic achievements of students and our local schools. My guess is we’ll never match what we offer young people involved in high school sports (they don’t call us “Delaware County’s Sports Authority” for nothing), but I do believe it is important for kids and teachers to know that we value the often untold stories of excellence from the education side of the equation.
The winning teachers come from a wide spectrum of middle and high schools, and dot the entire county. There are high school teachers from Chester and Haverford high schools, as well as middle school educators from Penn-Delco and Upper Darby, and elementary school teachers from a couple of archdiocesan elementary schools.
They will be honored at a banquet Tuesday night. It will be my pleasure to attend. I hope someone asks me why I do what I do for a living. It’s a good question; I think I have a pretty good answer.
Thanks, mom and dad. Thanks, sisters.

Philip E. Heron is editor of the Daily Times. Call him at (610) 622-8818. E-mail him at To visit his daily blog, the Heron’s Nest, go to

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- April 25

The Daily Numbers: 34 suspects charged in a major drug bust in Chester dubbed ‘Operation Bankshot.’

2 million dollars worth of cocaine seized in the operation.

3 murders authorities say were being planned by the gang’s kingpins to protect their drug empire.

1 million dollars bail for the suspect charged with shooting a constable and apartment manager who were trying to evict him from his apartment in Yeadon for failure to pay the rent.

2 cents more, what we’re paying for gasoline today. Average price in the region is now $3.55. Diesel is through the roof at $4.52. Forget water torture that everyone is so concerned with. This is gas torture, a few pennies more squeezed out of us every day.

22 cent hike in the price of gas along the Garden State Parkway overnight. They only change their price once a week. Last night it was going for $3.17. This morning it’s $3.39.

76 cents a gallon, what gas will sell for at the Lukoil station at Delaware Avenue and Spring Garden for 76 minutes starting at noon. Yeah, it’s a gimmick tied into the Sixers’ playoff run.

8 separate cancer clusters identified by a new report in the state of Delaware. The report says 4 in 10 residents in the state live in these clusters.

76 age of woman in Manayunk charged with attacking a dog with a hatchet.

3 guilty pleas now set with the infamous NBA betting ring that was centered around ex-referee Tim Donaghy. James Battista, of Phoenixville, a high school pal of Donaghy and Thomas Martino of Marcus Hook, pleaded guilty this week to making bets based on info Donaghy was giving them.

3,000 new jobs and a 40 percent increase in revenues that the state Gaming Control Board is predicting for the casino biz in Pa.

35 million dollar fire that destroyed 15 businesses in the Continental Business Center in Montgomery County in 2001. A $1 million settlement has been reached in a suit sparked by the fire.

8 people held hostage inside a bank in McKeesport yesterday when a man with a device strapped to his chest held up the joint. He was taken into custody. There were no injuries. The ordeal lasted about 2 hours.

5 people killed when a tractor-trailer slammed into a van carrying a group of mentally disabled residents in Eighty-Four, Pa.

750 dollar cuts in grants to Pa. students announced by the state’s student-loan agency yesterday. PHEAA also is seeking buyouts from employees, all fallout from strained credit markets.

29 seconds away from a win in Game 1 for the Flyers in their series with the Canadiens. Instead the Habs scored to tie the game and then won it in OT.

48 seconds into the extra stanza before the Canadiens sent their fans home early, and the Flyers fuming about a couple of calls that did not go their way.

25 RBI for Pat Burrell, including 2 more yesterday, setting a new team mark for April for the Phillies. That’s a pretty impressive month, and we have still have 5 games left in the month.

2 as in Day 2 today for the legendary Penn Relays at Franklin Field, where the Chester girls 4x400-meter relay team took a first.

3 fouls for state champ Karen Shump, who came in second in the shot put at the Relays for the 2nd straight year.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Yeah, those two questionable calls certainly did not help the Flyers chances last night. Neither did the fact that they once again coughed up a two-goal lead.

I Don’t Get It: A former teacher of the year in Lumberton, N.J., has been charged with possession of child pornography. The man taught sixth-graders. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: SEPTA is going to try a novel concept – better customer service. Yesterday they named longtime employee Kim Heinle as their new assistant general manager for customer service. With the price of gas, she could have her hands full as more and more people turn to mass transit.


Quote Box: “I didn’t know he was reaching for a gun. But when I saw it, I knew I lost and that was it.”

-- Constable Carmen ‘Skip’ Damiani, describing his confrontation with a man who shot him in the head as he served an eviction notice at a Yeadon apartment complex.

Some final thoughts on the Pa. race

Some final thoughts on the tumultuous Pennsylvania Primary.

Anyone else notice anything odd about the results, especially in Philadelphia and the suburban counties?

On the way to posting a 10-point win in the state, Sen. Hillary Clinton took 60 of 67 counties.

But she lost the city of Philadelphia, where Sen. Barack Obama ran strong. But according to the experts, he didn’t run strong enough. His margin of victory was not enough to stem the tide of the rest of the state going against him.

Ironically, two of Clinton’s biggest supporters were Gov. Ed Rendell, a former Philadelphia mayor, and current Mayor Michael Nutter. Both were early – and strident – Clinton backers.

Out in the ’burbs, first-term Democratic congressman Patrick Murphy was leading the charge for Obama in Bucks County. So of course that county went 2-1 for Clinton.

Here in Delaware County, retired admiral and former Clinton Administration adviser U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, the political neophyte who took down Curt Weldon in a memorable 7th District battle, led the parade in Delco for the spouse of his former boss. Didn’t matter. Obama won the county by 10 points.

So much for endorsements.

There is likely one other interested observer in those Obama numbers in the county. That would be Craig Williams. He’s the Republican who will run against Sestak in the fall 7th District race.

It took the GOP a while before they could find someone who wanted to enter the ring with Sestak, and his formidable campaign war chest.

Don’t look now, but that race just might be more interesting than we first thought.

No doubt we’ll be hearing a lot from both Williams and Sestak. I am guessing that, just like the last time around, this one will go all summer, not bothering to wait for the traditional post-Labor Day starting point.

Catch your breath. We’re about to dive right into the fall race.

It's a dangerous job every day

Wednesday afternoon Skip Damiani was doing something he’s done more times that he can remember. No doubt he’ll remember this one for a long time.

Damiani is a constable. One of the things he does is serve eviction notices. It’s not a fun job, as you can imagine. Nobody likes to be told they’re being booted out of their home.

That’s what Damiani was doing Wednesday, along with the manager of the Parkview Court apartments in Yeadon. He was there to tell a tennant in a third-floor unit to gather his things and vacate the premises.

Tamarr Minor, 21, apparently had other ideas. Police say he went to a sofa in the apartment, reached between the cushions, pulled out a handgun and started blasting.

He shot Damiani in the head and apartment manager Ted Hicks in the chest, according to the affidavit issued for his arrest. Police believe he likely would have shot a third person at the scene except the gun jammed.

Our Upper Darby correspondent, Linda Reilly, caught up with Damiani in his hospital room. You can read her interview with Damiani here.

You have to like Damiani. He snapped off a great line when asked how he was doing.

“I’m talking to you, aren’t I,” he quipped. “I’m good.”

Damiani goes on to offer a fairly harrowing account of what happened inside that apartment.

He also gave us something else. He once again offered proof of something that law enforcement personnel know all too well.

They never know what’s going to happen when they leave the house every day. They hope they return home safe and sound. The bottom line is they just don’t know.

It’s part of the job. One that too often goes unsaid. One most of us probably don’t appreciate nearly enough.

Get well soon, Skip.

All together now: We wuz robbed

The Flyers were 28 seconds away from stealing Game 1 of their Stanley Cup playoff series with the Canadiens.

Less than a full minute of action later, they were skating off the ice with the weight of a crushing loss on their shoulders.

In the process they managed to once again cough up a two-goal lead. And no doubt two key calls that went against them are likely to be debated until the puck drops for Game 2 Saturday night.

You can read Anthony SanFilippo’s game story here.

I’ll give you the short version.

The Flyers, coming off their dramatic OT win in Game 7 against the Caps, get out to a two-goal early lead, stunning the Canadiens and the faithful in the Bell Centre.

But the Habs scratched their way back to a 2-2 tie at the end of the second period.

This is where the controversy starts. The Canadiens’ tying goal looked for all the world as if it had been batted behind Marty Biron with a high stick by Alex Kovalev. The refs reviewed the video and ruled it a goal. Many curse words muttered by Flyers fans across the Delaware Valley.

The Flyers then come out in the third and take a 3-2 lead. Time for more controversy. With less than two minutes to play, Mike Richards appears to put a shoulder into Kovalev, upending him. Up goes the right hand of referee Mike Hasenfratz. Apparently he saw it as more of a knee, and called it as a tripping penalty.

Montreal pulled their goalie for a two-man advantage, and it paid off. This time there was no debate about it. Kovalev took the puck off a faceoff and fired a laser over Biron’s shoulder. Tie game. Just 28 seconds away from the thrill of victory, the Flyers and their fans instead were left to deal with the agony of a tie, a blown lead, and an OT stanza.

Just 48 seconds into the extra period, the Canadiens sealed the deal for a 4-3 win.

Flyers’ faithful no doubt will say they got jobbed. They might even have a point. But it’s not going to change what happened. The Flyers are down 1-0 in the series.

Next time maybe they shouldn’t take their foot off the neck of a team whey they’re up 2-0.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- April 24

The Daily Numbers: 60 percent turnout in Delaware County for the Democratic Primary on Tuesday. That compares with 17 percent in 2004 and 14 percent in 2000.

51.6 of the 434,000 votes in the Philly suburbs that were cast for Hillary Clinton.

9 of 10 black voters in the ’burbs who backed Obama.

2 people, including a Delco constable, shot while attempting to serve an eviction notice to a tenant at a Yeadon apartment complex Wednesday.

20 days, how long a Delco judge now has to decide whether or not a 14-year-old defendant in a murder case for stabbing his brother over a video game should be tried as an adult or juvenile.

5 million dollars being pledged by a business group to help Drexel Neumann Academy, the last Catholic elementary school in the city of Chester.

100,000 dollars believed missing from a student activities fund at Germantown High School. Police are investigating.

14 years in jail for a former cop in Pennsauken, N.J., for e-mailing more than thousand images of kids involved in sexual acts.

15 age of girl police say an illegal immigrant from Costa Rica was having sex with in Horsham. He’s now in jail.

100 years of the U.S. Army Reserve, which was celebrated on Wednesday. With what is going on in the world, we are acutely aware of the value of these troops.

3 cent increase in price of gasoline overnight. This tune is getting old. Average price in the Philly area is now $3.53. Diesel stands at $4.51.

100 foot fall down a cliff suffered by a rock climber yesterday in Ralph Stover State Park in Bucks County. The climber was hospitalized, but the injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.

2,400 dollar reward posted for information in the case of a cat that was fatally hanged in Fayette County.

38,000 dollars, amount stolen during a bank heist in Doylestown. Now the bank is suing the suspected robber.

1 win each between the Sixers and Pistons after Detroit thumped the locals in Game 2 of the series, which now moves to the Wachovia Center on Friday night.

1 for 9 shooting for Andre Iguadola last night. That’s not going to get it done.

1 as in Game 1 tonight for the Flyers against the Canadiens in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

110 pitches, what Phils starter Cole Hamels had thrown before he headed out to the mound for the eighth inning last night.

11 strikeouts for the Phils’ ace, who at one point retired 10 straight and 18 of 21.

2 hits he surrendered in the eighth, including a two-run homer to Prine Fielder. That was the difference in the 5-4 Brewers’ win.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Did anyone not expect the Pistons not to rally last night and throttle the Sixers. With the series now tied 1-1 and moving to Philly, it’s time for the Sixers to make a stand.

I Don’t Get It: While Atlantic City is now banning smoking on the floors of its casinos, matching the rest of the state, as well as Delaware, Pennsylvania remains a haven for smokers. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: Kudos to the person who phoned Darby police with information on the whereabouts of the suspect in a shooting of a Delco constable and an apartment manager in Yeadon.


Quote Box: “He is so lucky. He’s got nine lives. He’s in good shape. Don’t ask me how.”

-- George Whartnaby, partner of wounded constable Carmen ‘Skip’ Damiani, who was shot while serving an eviction notice at a Yeadon apartment yesterday.

The clear winner? Pennsylvania

There is a clear winner in the Pennsylvania Primary.

And it was not Hillary Clinton. Yes, the senator from New York had a pretty good night. She posted a 10-point victory over Sen. Barack Obama, and in the process kept her uphill battle for the Democratic nomination alive.

But the real winner was, in fact, Pennsylvania.

The state spent six weeks in the national spotlight, the zenith of presidential politics. And we rose to the challenge.

We played “hardball” with Chris Matthews; we hosted the hordes of national media; and we got used to the site of satellite trucks in our neighborhoods.

But we did much more than that. We got involved. We got engaged. We put a surge of electricity into the process.

People who were not registered to vote got back into the process. Young people, often pegged as too aloof and disconnected, became engaged. Record numbers of first-time voters were enrolled.

We got involved in the process, discussed the issues, and pushed the candidates to one of the truly memorable presidential primary experiences.

Then we turned out in record numbers.

Now it’s time to see what was accomplished.

Here are a couple of thoughts. There is now another ‘D’ involved in this epic battle. It does not stand for Day of Decision, nor Democrats.

It stands for doubt, and it is now hung around the neck of Obama. The whispers are getting louder, many of them being voiced by Clinton and her supporters. Obama can’t seal the deal. He can’t – and hasn’t – won in any of the big industrial states that the party will need to topple Republican Sen. John McCain in the November general election.

And if Obama is looking for whose fingerprints are on the dagger, he need look no further than Philadelphia and the four suburban counties.

Yes, he took Philadelphia. But he didn’t win it by enough to offset the tidal wave of support for Clinton elsewhere in the state. Same goes for Delaware County, which also went for Obama, but by a slim margin.

More surprising are the results from Bucks and Montgomery County, which ended up in the Hillary camp. She put a 2-1 whipping on Obama in Bucks County and eked out a win in Montco.

Obama took Delco and Chester County. Someone will have to explain the latter one to me. This is a county that continues to be solidly Republican, backing President Bush and sending Jim Gerlach back to Congress when other Republicans in the region were being shown the door.

Then there’s this oddity. Two of Clinton’s biggest backers were Gov. Ed Rendell and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. Both obviously have big voices in the city, which went solidly for Clinton.

In Delaware County, Clinton had the backing of rookie Congressman Rep. Joe Sestak. So of course the county went for Obama.

Obama’s challenge was to win big in the suburbs to offset the near domination of Clinton everywhere else in the state. If you look at a map of Pa. it’s stunning to see a solid sea of “Clinton Country” counties, with a small island of Centre County in the middle of the state. Can you say State College and tons of young collegiate voters?

Bottom line? Obama didn’t get it done.

And that ‘D’ hanging around his neck will continue to loom large until he wins somewhere he’s not supposed to.

That D isn’t for Democrat. It’s for doubt. And it’s getting bigger every day.

Butt out? Not in Pa.

Do you like to light up while you’re trying your luck in casinos? If so, your luck is about to run out in Atlantic City.

The city council in the shore gambling mecca has moved to ban smoking in its casinos. The floors of the gambling halls were the last place in the state where you could still light up. They now join Delaware in banning the butts.

Never fear, smokers, Pennsylvania is here. If you just can’t fathom the idea of gambling without gambling on your health, you can smoke all you want in Pennsylvania’s new slots casinos, including Harrah’s Chester.

The ban in Atlantic City goes into effect on Oct. 15. After that, smoking gamblers will have to roll the dice in Pa.

Come on in, folks, the water’s fine. The air might be a tad smoky, but the water is excellent.

Sorry, Charlie

Here’s the morning sports report: A hint, it’s not good.

Charlie Manuel is constantly being second-guessed for pulling his pitchers too soon.

This morning he no doubt is going to get heat for going the other way.

Manuel, with currently the best bullpen in the league at his disposal, instead sent his ace, Cole Hamels, back out to the hill in the eighth inning last night in Milwaukee. At the time Hamels was sitting on 110 pitches. He’s also clearly the horse of this staff.

This time the horse drove the fans buggy.

Hamels, who had been sparkling after getting touched for three runs in the first inning, was mowing down the Brewers. He had retired 10 straight and 18 of 21, striking out 11 along the way.

The Phils were clinging to a 4-3 lead at the time.

Enter Prince Fielder. The Milwaukee slugger singed a wicked line drive over the fence in right-center, after Hamels surrendered a leadoff double. Make it 5-4 Brewers. That’s the way it ended.

Charlie no doubt will be second-guessed. But raise your hand if you would have done the same had Hamels been pulled and the bullpen imploded?

Yep, thought so. That’s the plight of a major league manager.

So let’s move on to the Sixers. Uh, on second thought, let’s not. You could sort of see this one coming. The Sixers got hammered in Game 2 of their series with the Pistons.

Andre Iguodala didn’t exactly sparkle, shooting just 1 for 9. That makes him 5 for 24 in the series. That won’t get it done.

Enough about that. Time to get Flyered up. The Flyers are in Montreal tonight to open their series with the Canadiens.

It says here they win Game 1, but lose the series.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- April 23

The Daily Numbers: 10 point win in Pennsylvania for Hillary Clinton, who topped Barack Obama by a 55-45 margin

50 percent turnout in many areas of the state, and even as high as 60 percent in Allegheny County. Those are unheard of numbers.

58 percent turnout among Democrats here in Delaware County.

25.6 percent turnout among Republicans in the county, who have basically already selected their nominee, Sen. John McCain.

10,000 vote win for Obama over Clinton here in Delaware County.

100 to 1, the margin of victory for Obama in Chester.

33 percent of Philadelphia Democrats who supported Obama.

2 of the four suburban counties for each candidate. Bucks and Montco went with Clinton; Delco and Chesco with Obama.

53 to 46 lead for Clinton among women in the state, according to CNN exit polls.

53 to 46 for Clinton among men.

62 to 38, margin of victory for Obama among those voters under the age of 30.

56 to 44 edge for Clinton among those voters who say they go to church on a weekly basis.

55 percent of those in a Survey USA poll who responded that Clinton should not get out of the race even if she did not win Pennsylvania.

1 in 5 voters who said that race was a deciding factor in their decision.

42 percent of Pennsylvania in exit polls who said the nation is in a serious recession.

43 to 38 percent win for upstart Larry Farnese in a stunning win over labor boss John Dougherty in the Democratic race to replace Sen. Vince Fumo in Philly’s 1st District.

7 games was not enough for the Flyers and Caps to decide their series. The Flyers won a classic in overtime, 3-2.

39 saves for Martin Biron as he repeatedly bailed out the Flyers in the third period last night.

1 day off before the Flyers get right back on the ice Thursday night in Montreal against the Canadiens.

3 straight wins for the Phils, who took a typical wild one last night in Denver, 8-6.

7 rocky innings for starter Brett Myers, who gave up 11 hits and six runs, all earned.

2 as in Game 2, as the upstart Sixers look to take two straight from the Pistons on their home court in Detroit.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
All the credit to the Flyers. No one expected them to win last night in D.C. Except them. And that’s all that really mattered.

I Don’t Get It: Chalk up another 2-cent hike in the price of gasoline overnight. Average price in Philly is now $3.50, an all-time high, as is the price of diesel, now an average of $4.51.


Today’s Upper: Kudos to Pennsylvania Democrats for turning out en masse for yesterday’s primary. Good show.


Quote Box: “I think the big story in Delaware County is the positive benefits of this contested primary.”

-- State Rep. Bryan Lentz, D-161, as he watched returns Tuesday night. Lentz backed Sen. Barack Obama, who won Delaware County, but lost the state.

What did Pa. actually decide?

Now what?

For seven weeks Pennsylvania has been in the national spotlight, Ground Zero in a heavyweight title bout between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton.

The dynamic duo are staging an old-fashioned, bare-knuckles brawl for the Democratic nomination for president.

The conventional wisdom was that lowly Pennsylvania, usually an afterthought in the nominating process, would, via some fortuitous timing, be the deciding factor in the race.

Many were looking for a knockout blow, for Obama’s to win and have his hand raised in victory over a vanquished foe, claiming both the state and the Democratic nomination.

Uh, not exactly.

The race electrified the state, sparking huge surges in registration. Those voters showed up at the polls in record numbers all across the state.

So what have they decided?

Very little, actually.

Hillary Clinton won the state, taking a solid 10-point win over Obama, even while getting shellacked in Philadelphia and also losing a tight battle in Delaware County. It means she’s not going anywhere.

She will undoubtedly will remain in the race, at least until May 6, when primaries are held in Indiana and North Carolina. It’s more likely now that this fight will go to the convention and involve some serious wooing of the so-called superdelegates.

For Obama, who clearly saw the writing on the wall and had already started campaigning in Indiana before the polls closed in Pa., the spin is that he cut into what had once been a huge Clinton advantage in the state.

It’s not playing. The whispers continue to hound Obama, that despite his lead in both the popular vote, he can’t finish the deal by winning in the big key states that Democrats will need to take to secure the White House in November.

It’s been a wild 7-week ride. The state certainly was energized. The process has been validated, and even resuscitated with a huge influx of new, engaged, young voters.

But the question remains: Clinton or Obama?

This one is no closer to being decided, despite the Battle for Pennsylvania.

Now it’s someone else’s turn in the spotlight. The national media will move on, following the candidates to Indiana and North Carolina.

Pennsylvania will soon be forgotten. But not what happened in the past six weeks.

It’s been one to remember. And will pay dividends in a reinvigorated state for years to come.

More questions in Penn-Delco

I’m still trying to understand exactly what happened in the Penn-Delco School District in terms of that $100,000 grant from the state that was misspent by the Penn-Delco Education and Cultural Foundation.

I suppose one way to look at is that the district has dodged a bullet. A fairly expensive one at that.

You may recall that the district recently received a letter from the state Department of Community and Economic Development stating in fairly stark terms that the district had misspent a $100,000 grant.

The money was supposed to be used for technology services in district classrooms. Instead it wound up being spent for a sculpture of the Griffin, the Sun Valley High mascot, landscaping, and ceremonial bricks on a walkway outside the school.

The state agency was not amused. They wanted their money back – with interest.

The money was acquired for the district by the Penn-Delco Educational and Cultural Foundation. The boss of the foundation at the time was former school board President Keith Crego. Enough has been written about him and the events that landed him in jail.

The fear was that the district – and beleaguered taxpayers -- were going to be on the hook for the $100,000.

Apparently not.

At a packed school board meeting Monday night, board President Anthony Ruggieri indicated that not only was the district not going to have to fork over the money, they likely were going to be able to use the money the way it was originally intended, technology.

They are being reimbursed by their insurance carrier.

Everything’s hunky-dory, right? Maybe. Left unsaid is whether this arrangement will fly with the state. They still seem to be out the original $100,000 that was misspent. Maybe they’ll be satisfied that the district is going to eventually use the money as intended.

The board also shed little light on just what went wrong with the Foundation, how the money was received, and how it was misspent. Instead they seem to be taking the angle that the Foundation was a separate entity from the district. And leaving it at that, washing their hands of the actions that led them down to this point.

The state also indicated in their letter that they intended to cut off the district from any further grants, but district Solicitor Michael Levin seems to have his doubts as to whether they can do that.

Hey, don’t get me wrong. I’m glad the district is not on the hook for the $100,000. Taxpayers in Aston, Brookhaven and Parkside have seen more than their share of shenanigans with the district stemming from Crego’s bizarre reign.

But there still seems to be some unanswered questions about all this, how this first came about in the actions of those connected to the Foundation, and how it is now being resolved.

Then again, this is Penn-Delco. Nothing should surprise us at this point.

The Flyers and Hillary -- still alive!

Everybody who expected the Flyers to win Game 7 in Washington, D.C., raise your hands? Thought so.

And the confidence level when the game rumbled into overtime? Pretty much the same.

Give the Flyers credit. They easily could have folded their tent when the Caps took an early 1-0 led in the first period. They didn’t. Instead they made like Hillary Clinton, performing a little “Comeback Kid” routine of their own.

OK, they probably got a break on their second goal to tie the game, when Flyer Patrick Thoresen shoved a Capital into goalie Cristobal Huet. Sammy Kapanen was left staring at a vacant net and promptly deposited the puck to tie the score at 2.

The third period belonged to the goaltenders. Martin Biron answered all the critics who doubted he was a big-time netminder. Biron put the Flyers on his back in the third stanza, making one bell-ringing save after another.

You also have to feel a bit for Huet, who was equal to Biron the entire game, then simply looked the wrong way for an instant in overtime, only to see the puck deposited behind him by Joffrey Lupul.

The Flyers share something else with Hillary Clinton this morning. They’re both still alive.

For their reward the orange and black get a date with the No. 1 seed Montreal Canadiens. And they don’t get much in the way of rest. The series opens Thursday night north of the border.

Regardless, the Flyers showed what they were made of last night.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- April 22

The Daily Numbers: 13 hours for Democrats to cast their votes in Pennsylvania. Polls are open from 7 a.m.-8 p.m..
51 to 44 percent margin for Hillary Clinton, according to the last Quinnipiac poll before today’s vote.

52 to 41 percent for Clinton in a poll done by Suffolk University.

300,000 newly registered Democrats in Pennsylvania who will head to the polls today, many for the first time.

14 percent of Pa. Democrats who are undecided, according to a Franklin and Marshall poll.

11 million dollars in TV ads spent by the two campaigns in Pennsylvania.

187 delegates up for grabs in Pennsylvania. Of those 158 will be selected today. The rest are superdelegates who are not bound by the popular vote.

30 people homeless after a massive fire rocked an old industrial plant in the Juniata Park section of Philadelephia yesterday.

14 age of Lansdowne teen charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of his brother in a fight over a video game. Lawyers are still arguing over whether he should be tried as an adult or in the juvenile system.

18 age of Norristown teen charged in the fatal hit-run death of a 3-year-old boy. Police say the driver had only a learner’s permit and was not properly insured.

41 hours trapped in an elevator for a man in an office building in New York City back in 1999. A surveillance video of the man’s ordeal has not become an Internet sensation.

3.50 a gallon, where the price of gasoline likely is going to wind up before the week is over. The question now is exactly how high will it go this summer?

43 age of substitute teacher in Ocean County, New Jersey, who is now charged with torching several homes in her neighborhood.

10 percent drop in earnings in the first quarter for regional chemicals maker Rohm and Haas.

4.9 percent unemployment rate in Pa. in March. That’s down from 5 percent in February.

7 as in Game 7, exactly what the Flyers did not want as they face a deciding game in D.C. tonight against the Caps.

2 goal lead blown by the Flyers in their meltdown at the Wachovia Center last night.

0 wins and 5 losses this year for Flyers’ goalie Martin Biron in back-to-back games he played this year.

5 straight games in which Chase Utley has homered, including last night vs. the Rockies. He now has 9 for the season.

2 straight wins for the Phils, as they rallied to beat the Rockies, 9-5.

8 wins and no losses for the Soul, who remained unbeaten by beating the Columbus Destroyers last night in a Arena Football League affair. Does anyone care?

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Channeling Terry Murray. Yes, the Flyers once again find themselves in “a choking situation.” They must win tonight or forever be remembered as one more team that blew a 3-1 lead.

I Don’t Get It: Sen. Barack Obama said yesterday he expects Sen. Hillary Clinton to win Pennsylvania, although he is expecting to keep it close.


Today’s Upper: Just think, tomorrow you will awake to TV and radio that is not cluttered with ads for Clinton and Obama.


Quote Box: “We made this task much more difficult. Now it’s up for grabs.”

-- Flyers coach John Stevens, after his team lost to the Caps last night to set up a deciding Game 7 tonight in D.C.

Day of Decision for Democrats

Time to decide. Or, as we simply stated on the front page of the print edition, it’s D-Day.

That D stands for Democrats, specifically Pennsylvania Democrats.

They will go to the polls today in record numbers to vote for either Sen. Hillary Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama as the party’s nominee for president.

Pennsylvania has spent the last six weeks in the national spotlight, an unlikely position for the Keystone State, which has become accustomed to not having much of a say in this presidential nominating process.

Not this year. Things broke perfectly for Pennsylvania to become Ground Zero for politics after Clinton rallied for wins in Ohio and Texas.

Nothing else has been normal about this election, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear Obama say something yesterday I’m not sure I’ve heard come from a major candidate.

He said he expects Clinton to win. But he also thinks he will manage to keep it close.

I don’t know whether he’s running for president or playing horseshoes.

But he has a point. He doesn’t have to win. In fact, no one expects him to win. All he has to do is keep it close, not get blown out.

Most polls have Clinton’s once huge lead down to single digits. That’s what the kind of money Obama has poured into this race will do for you.

So here’s the call: I think Clinton will win, but not by as much as she needs to silence her critics. I say the margin of victory will be about five points. Obama will win big in Philly. I think he’ll also win Delaware County. Clinton will pull her numbers from the ‘T’ in the middle of the state as well as her family’s home turf in Scranton.

But her slim win will only ratchet up the heat on her within the party to get out and allow Democrats to unite behind Obama. Those people don’t know the Clintons very well. They aren’t going anywhere. Neither is the party.

I say it goes to the convention and the superdelegates. And in the process opens the door to a win by the presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain, in November.

Gunning for a fight in Lower Chi

They apparently are having some second thoughts in Lower Chichester.

As first reported by our columnist Gil Spencer last week, the township was considering a proposal to require a registry of weapons in homes.

Basically what the proposed ordinance would do is require a buyer, tenant or seller to disclose if there would be any firearms in a residence prior to the sale or lease of the property.

Lower Chi officials simply indicated they were looking out for the safety of township residents.

The gun rights folks saw it another way, saying the move would be illegal, a violation of the state law that cedes all gun legislation to the state government.

The NRA took the city of Philadelphia to court on the same grounds after city council passed a series of gun control measures that were promptly signed into law by Mayor Michael Nutter. A judge issued a preliminary injunction to block the new laws until a full hearing can be held.

Things didn’t get that far in Lower Chi. Commissioners pulled the measure before a packed house last night for more study.

Commissioners President Rocco Gaspari Jr. wasn’t thrilled with some of the depictions of his family and the township in Gil’s column harpooning the measure.

I talked to his father, longtime Lower Chi figure Rocco Gaspari Sr. He believes some of the newspaper’s coverage of things down there in Lower Chi border on being anti-Italian, or at least anti-Gaspari.

I assured him that our coverage of the family was because of their unique stature in the township, not because of their ethnic heritage. I couldn’t be more Irish, nor more proud of it. I’m sure they feel the same way about their ethnicity.

I’ll be honest. I’m not a gun guy. I wouldn’t have a problem with what the township is proposing. If feel the same way about an earlier measure passed by the township to battle the problem of people talking on hand-held cell phones while driving. Whether or not the township has the authority to enact such laws, and whether they’re constitutional, is another matter. I guess that’s why lawyers exist.

On the plus side, the township last night did pass an ordinance to crack down on pedestrians walking in the street when there is a sidewalk available nearby.

Don’t think anybody can find anything unconstitutional about that one.

Capital punishment?

It’s the Day of Decision. And for the Flyers and their fans, it might be a Day of Infamy as well.

The orange and black did the unthinkable Monday night. Not only did they not seal the deal by eliminating the Washington Capitals in a crucial Game 6, they first teased their fans with a taste of victory by taking a 2-0 lead.

Unfortunately, they then proceeded to have what could best be described as a “Terry Murray moment.”

You might remember the famous words of the former Flyers coach, who intimated that his team’s play in another crucial playoff series they were about to gag up amounted to “a choking situation.”

The Flyers turned last night’s early 2-0 lead over the Caps into a devastating 4-2 loss. They then boarded a train and headed back to Washington for Game 7. There’s no rest for the Flyers’ weary legs. They’ll be back on the ice tonight in back-to-back games, which does not exactly work in favor of many of their older players, who appeared out of gas in the third period last night.

There is little in sports that can match the excitement of a Game 7 in a playoff series. You’ll excuse us if we’ll tell you we could have done without this latest bit of sports drama.

Here are some other sobering numbers for Flyers fans to mull over as they stand in line waiting to vote in the Pennsylvania Primary.

Goalie Martin Biron has not exactly stood on his head this year in back-to-back games. He’s 0-5 when playing on consecutive nights.

The team has won exactly one Game 7 in their history.

Much as they did several years ago against the Devils, this Flyers team might rue the day they failed to give their best effort Saturday in D.C. No problem, they said after the game. We still have two more chances to win.

Not anymore. It’s either win tonight, or head home for the summer stewing in what could have – and likely should have – been.

For the Flyers and their fans, tonight could be a form of Capital punishment.

And they're off!

On your mark, get set, vote!

It's 7 a.m., and the Pennsylvania polls are now open.

The talk is over. Now it's time for action. Democrats are expected to turn out in record numbers for the choice between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

More to come throughout the day on this historic primary. Stay tuned.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- April 21

The Daily Numbers: 1 more day before Pennsylvania Democrats go to the polls.
2 more members of the Clinton family stumping in Delco on Sunday. Both former President Bill and daughter Chelsea were on our turf.

4 Democrats toiling in anonymity as they seek the nomination for the state treasurer post.

7 alarm spectacular fire that consumed a building in the Juniata Park section of Philadelphia early this morning.

1,500 people without power in the area of the fire.

8 cent hike in price of gasoline over the weekend in the Philly area. That’s a 16-cent hike in the past week alone.

3.46 a gallon, the average price for regular unleaded. And of course we are now in all-time record high territory every time the price goes up.

4.49 a gallon, what truckers are paying for diesel fuel.

26.9 million hotel rooms booked in Pennsylvania in 2007, a record high. Tourism officials are keeping a wary eye on gas prices as they fear people will stop traveling.

117 dollars a barrel, what the price of a barrel of crude shot over this morning in early trading.

2 people dead in an bizarre incident yesterday in Bethel Township in which a man is believed to have attacked his estranged wife in the driveway of her home. He was then shot by a neighbor before turning a knife on himself.

6 dead in 11 shootings over the weekend on the streets of Philadelphia.

800 people due out on the street in Philly as volunteers tomorrow working with the watchdog group Committee of Seventy to ward off any problems at the polls.

7 members of the radical group MOVE convicted of killing Philadelphia Police Officer James Ramp who are now up for parole.

2 Good Samaritans who dove into a murky Schuylkill River after a car with a child inside rolled into the water. The boy was rescued and is in critical condition in the hospital.

60,000 people who gathered in Yankee Stadium yesterday for a Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI.

11 points for Reggie Evans as the Sixers stunned the Pistons in Game 1 of their NBA opening playoff series.

2 home runs and 4 RBI for Chase Utley to lead the Phils in salvaging one game from the weekend set with the Mets. The Phils won, 5-4.

15 day disabled list for Jimmy Rollins, who continues to struggle with a sprained ankle.

3 games to 2 lead for Flyers over the Caps with a crucial Game 6 on tap tonight at the Wachovia Center.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
What exactly the Phils were thinking about by using Jimmy Rollins as a pinch hitter and not telling him to get off that ankle I’m not sure. Now they’ve lost him for 2 weeks on the DL, which can’t be back-dated because they used him as a pinch-hitter.

I Don’t Get It: The good always die too young. John Marzano was a South Philly guy, who always touted his roots no matter where he went. He starred at Temple and then played 10 years in the majors as a catcher. He was dynamite as a color analyst and was working for online. But he died over the weekend at his South Philly home. He was 45. Just a shame.


Today’s Upper: If you can’t get into something in sports this week, you’re just not trying. You’ve got Phillies, Sixers and Flyers action. Plus the NFL draft is this coming weekend.


Quote Box: “It was an unbelievable and humbling experience. It was beautiful.”

-- The Rev. Joseph McLoone, pastor of St. Katharine Drexel parish in Chester, who attended the papal Mass in Yankee Stadium on Sunday.

Don't forget your ID

One more key thing for all those who will be voting for the first time tomorrow.

If that’s the case, you MUST have a valid ID when you show up at the polls. If not you will have to cast a provisional ballot.

A lot of new voters will be going to the polls for the first time tomorrrow, spurred by the tidal wave of interest in this Democratic race.

Make sure you take your driver’s license or other ID with you!

24 hours and counting

We are at T-minus-1. One more day before Democrats in Delaware County and Pennsylvania decide between Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Actually the polls will be open in less than 24 hours.

It’s been a wild six weeks. My guess is that it will get wilder still tomorrow.

The Clinton clan again had a big showing in Delaware County Sunday, with Chelsea doing an event in Lansdowne, and “Barnstorming” Bill, the former president, seemingly criss-crossing the state, ending his day with a rally at the Tinicum fire house. Hillary Clinton was in West Chester on Saturday.

For his part Barack Obama was all over the region on Saturday with several stops on the R5 Paoli line as he did an old-fashioned whistlestop tour in Wynnewood, Paoli, Downingtown, Lancaster and Harrisburg.

Both camps will be out in force today. Hillary Clinton will be in Scranton, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg before ending the day at 10 o’clock with one final rally with her husband and daughter at the Palestra on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.

Obama will do events in Blue Bell and McKeesport. He will end his day on the other side of the state, in Pittsburgh.

One more day. It’s been a great ride.

Now it’s time to decide.

About that Page One

Confession time. The front page of the print edition, as well as the lead item on the Webs site, is not what I had originally planned.

That’s the thing about news. It is constantly changing.

Our original plan was to lead the paper this morning with the pope’s Mass in Yankee Stadium, including out interviews with several people from Delaware County who made the pilgrimmage to see and hear the pontiff in person.

That was before something almost surreal took place right here in Delaware County.

As reported by our police reporter Rose Quinn, it’s hard to fathom exactly the kind of violence that took place on a quiet street out in Bethel Township.

You can read Rose’s account here.

It boils down to this: Police believe a man showed up at a house on Warner Place armed with a knife and a machete. The man fatally stabbed his estranged wife. The couple’s 11-year-old son saw what was going on and called police.

Authorities say a Good Samaritan neighbor then arrived on the scene and shot the man in the shoulder. The suspected stabber then turned his knife on himself as lay on the ground. He died later at Crozer-Chester Medical Center.

I know there will be those who believe that in the grand scheme of things, the story on the papal Mass is more important. I won’t argue with them. It is.

That was our plan. And we did not abandon it. We covered the pope’s trip all week, emphasizing the local connections and those who were taking in the various events.

But the truth is the pope’s Mass was taking place in New York City. The bizarre fatal attack occurred right here on a quiet street in a neighborhood in Delaware County.

I think we made the right call. I know others will disagree. Feel free to offer a comment if you think we made the right call.

A wild sports weekend

Somebody break up the Sixers. Almost no one gave them a chance in their return to the playoffs, on the road against a powerful Detroit team that won 59 regular season games.

I’ll admit I was one of them. So of course, the Sixers fell behind by 15 early in the third quarter Sunday and it appeared everybody was right.

Not so fast. It looked like the Pistons packed it in at that point, too. So the scrappy Sixers scratched back and stunned Motown by posting a 90-86 win. The look on Coach Maurice Cheeks’ face at the end of the game was priceless. If he’s not coach of the year, I’m not real sure who is.

One caution here: I distinctly remember a few years ago when Allen Iverson led the Sixers to a first-game win over the Lakers in the NBA Finals. The Lakers were heavily favored. They then won four straight to take the title.

But enjoy the Sixers’ run. No one expected them to make the playoffs. And certainly no one expected them to take Game 1 in Detroit.

Then there’s the Flyers, who got outhit and outplayed in Washington Saturday as the Caps staved off elimination.

Here’s a tip for the orange and black. Don’t even think about losing tonight’s Game 6 at the Wachovia Center. The last thing this team wants to do is travel back to D.C. for a deciding Game 7.

Again a glance at the past. A few years ago the Flyers took a 3-1 lead over the Devils. They basically mailed it in for Game 5, thinking they still had two chances to finish them off. Didn’t work out that way. The Devils took Game 6, then stuck a dagger in the Flyers – and star Eric Lindros who returned from a concussion only to be leveled by Scott Stevens – in Game 7.

If the Flyers lose tonight, anyone give them a chance to win Game 7 in Washington? And they will face the Caps without Mike Knuble, who blew out a hamstring Saturday.

Finally, there are the Phillies. Hate to say I told you so, but I told you so. Yesterday the team placed Jimmy Rollins on the 15-day disabled list.

It can’t be retroactive because Rollins was used as a pinch-hitter. Someone wasn’t totally on the up and up on this injury. Either Rollins was not truthful with the team about the extent of his injury, or the team was hoping it was not as bad as it now appears to be and rolled the dice on getting him back early.

They lost big time. Ankle sprains aren’t something to mess around with. And they aren’t something to play on, either. Now Rollins is gone for another two weeks. He should have been placed on the DL immediately.

The only hope now is that this is not something that lingers through the summer.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- April 18

The Daily Numbers: 3.38 a gallon for unleaded regular in the Philly area. That is an all-time high, topping the mark we set in September 2005 shortly after Hurricane Katrina.
3 cent spike in prices overnight. Gas has shot up 9 cents in just the last week.

4.46 a gallon for diesel fuel. That’s also an all-time high.

5.4 magnitude earthquake that rocked southern Illinois early this morning. It could be felt throughout the Chicago area, and as far away as Indiana.

113 guns seized by Philadelphia police in two different raids. No, there aren’t too many guns on city streets.

1 dead, 1 in very critical condition after a shooting on an Upper Darby street. Also 1 innocent bystander who just missed being injured when a bullet whistled through her front window.

2 teen juveniles charged with putting makeshift bombs into mailboxes in Horsham.

4 more teens charged with stealing 40 laptop computers from North Penn High School.

78 robberies reported on the SEPTA system last year. That’s up 81 percent from 2004. City Council heard from witnesses, including several groups of schoolkids, who indicated they now fear for their safety when using the system.

678 million dollars in unpaid hospital bills in Pennsylvania in the last fiscal year, according to a new report released yesterday.

23 months in jail for a woman in Westmoreland County for hosting a teen birthday party where a 16-year-old drank herself to death.

10.7 million people who tuned into ABC for the debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama Wednesday night.

15,600 complaints about the questions of moderators Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos lodged on the ABC Web site.

2 OT periods last night before Mike Knuble scored the game winner for the Flyers.

3 games to 1 lead for the Flyers over the Caps. They can seal the deal Saturday in D.C.

2 goals and an assist on the game-winner for Jeff Carter.

4 hits yesterday for Chris Coste, who was on base all 5 times, to lead the Phils’ offensive explosion over the Astros, 10-2. Bring on the Mets.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Yes, Philly fans have a certain reputation. We call it passion. Other places it’s called something else. Washington Post reporter Mike Wise took issue with Flyers’ fans, and said so rather stridently in print. The Flyers took exception and decided to hand out copies of his column to all 20,000 folks entering the building last night. The move was blocked by the Post’s lawyers. Maybe everybody should just lighten up a tad. This is a sport after all. Oh, I almost forgot the Flyers’ playoff mantra: Vengeance now. Never mind.

I Don’t Get It: C. Scott Shields is mayor of Rutledge. He’s also a lawyer. He’s representing the NRA in their efforts to have new gun control laws signed by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter blocked. Yesterday a judge agreed with him and issued a temporary injunction until a full hearing can be held. But Shields is not done. He wants criminal charges filed against Nutter for “official oppression.” I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: Let’s hear it for Bethel Township Police Officer Brian Rowe, who helped grant the wish of 3-year-old Evan Nickle. The youth is battling cancer. He wants to be a cop and has always wanted to visit a jail. Rowe, with an assist from some colleagues in Upper Chichester, made it happen. It appeared on a local TV station. Right after it appeared in our Cop Shop column, which appears every Thursday. Nice job, officer.


Quote Box: “I’d advise every resident of Philadelphia to go out and buy their guns now.”

-- C. Scott Shields, a Delaware County lawyer who is representing the NRA, on the fight over new gun control laws in the city.

The final weekend

Here’s your Friday morning update on the road to the Pennsylvania Primary:

* 4 days until Pennsylvania goes to the polls on April 22. We are careening into the final weekend.

Apparently Hillary Clinton has developed quite an appetite for Delco. After waiting until the last week of the campaign to show up on our turf, she’s been hanging out in these environs regularly this week.

She hoofed it around Drexel Hill on Sunday. Yesterday she was at Haverford College with daughter Chelsea and her mother.

Today she is planning a town hall meeting at Radnor High School with Congressman Joe Sestak. The event is scheduled for 11 a.m.

Husband Bill will be criss-crossing the state today and tomorrow, starting this morning in Moon Township, and then on to Connelsville, Somerset, Upper Dublin High School in Fort Washington, Lansdale and finally in Philly. He’s right back out on the road tomorrow, with events in Wilkes-Barre, Meadville, Hermitage, Beaver Falls and Waynesburg.

Barack Obama will be in Erie and Williamsport today, followed by a rally at 6 p.m. on Independence Mall in Philly.

Then tomorrow he’s planning a train tour on the R5 Paoli line, with stops in Wynnewood, Paoli, Downingtown, Lancaster and finally Harrisburg.

Missing the message

For the third straight day today we are featuring a story about the pope’s visit to the United States on the front page of our print edition.

It’s an important story. A visit by the pope always is. But I hope that you notice the way we are approaching this story.

We are trying to tell much of the story through the eyes of Delaware County residents who are attending the events. Yesterday we talked to several local folks lucky enough to be attending the Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI in Washington, D.C. We will do the same on Sunday with the Mass at Yankee Stadium.

That did not stop one reader from calling to complain yesterday that we were giving the pope’s message short shrift. He believed we were missing the pope’s message while telling the story of the local flavor to his visit. He might have had a point. We have focused on the local angle.

But then he went over the line. He believes we did so on purpose, that we were willfully downplaying the pope’s message of hope and especially his thoughts on healing the pain caused by the church’s sex abuse scandal.

“If it’s a priest being arrested for abuse, it’s all over the front page,” he pointed out. “You’re missing his message.”

We are delivering a message. We are striving to deliver how the visit has affected people from Delaware County who are in attendance.

Obviously that’s not the message this gentleman wanted to hear.

The OT dilemma

There is almost nothing in sports that is better than overtime playoff NHL hockey.

Unless you happen to be a newspaper editor.

OT is great for fans. And for TV stations. But when you’re staring down the barrel of a firm deadline for a print edition, it creates no small amount of angst.

Yes, I’m as happy as anyone that the Flyers won last night. The fan in me admits that the longer they play, the more interesting it gets. Last night they rolled through one overtime and were rolling through OT period No. 2 when Mike Knuble finally lit the lamp to give the Flyers a commanding 3-1 lead over the Caps.

Me? I was long gone at that point. The truth is I’m lucky most nights now to make it to the 10 o’clock news. But it doesn’t change the challenge facing our writers and desk personnel. They are sitting here on pins and needles, with production people glaring at them wanting to know where the rest of those pages are?

Luckily, the game ended about 11 p.m. That left us 40 minutes to deadline for our first edition. We obviously got the game in for the full run.

I still remember a few years back when the Flyers and Penguins played almost to the next morning. This is the playoffs, remember. There’s no shootout. They play until someone scores.

Or until the editor passes out.

The best thing about the Internet

I admit to being something of a dinosaur. By that I mean I’m not the most technologically advanced homo sapiens. What can I say, I’m a print guy.

And yet I am fascinated by the burgeoning technology we are using more and more every day in the newspaper business.

If you’re ogling this, you know that I write a daily online blog. I also love the fact that, while our print edition edition comes with some built-in handicaps, those are obliterated when we move into the cyber world.

We can only get so much information into the print edition each day. It’s a finite product. Some of the toughest decisions I make really and truly are not what is going to make it into print each day, but all the stuff that is not. That becomes a non-issue online. The only thing limiting us is how fast we can shovel the information out there.

There is also the matter of time. We print our newspaper once each day and deliver in the early a.m. hours. But news does not stop. Now, neither do we. We can publish information 24 hours a day on our Web site. We can break news immediately, then update it constantly throughout the day.

But the truth is there is one simple thing that is my favorite aspect of the Internet. I was reminded of it again yesterday.

We had posted an early item yesterday morning with some of the initial details concerning a deadly shooting in Upper Darby. But in doing so we listed the incident as occurring on Hampton Road. Which would be fine except for the fact that (as we all know) it is actually spelled Hampden Road.

An online reader called to bring this to my attention. And with a combination of keystrokes, Voila!, it never happened. Hampton magically became Hampden.

That’s as opposed to print, which as I stress to my staff every day, is FOREVER! Once it leaves our plant, there is nothing I can do to retrieve it. I can assure you there have been mornings when I would like nothing more than to visit every house in Delaware County and politely ask them, “Uh, would you mind if I take that paper back.”

As I told another group of students I was speaking with this week, your teachers have not been entirely truthful with you. They teach that the dinosaurs are extinct. I am proof standing in front of you that that is not the case.

Bring in some more technology. Who says you can’t teach an old dinosaur new tricks?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- April 17

The Daily Numbers: 45 minutes at the beginning of last night’s debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama which managed to go over the same old, tired subjects. A flag lapel pin? Give me a break.

2,000 people, activists and protesters, who jammed the area outside the National Constitution Center last night for the debate hoopla.

81 that’s the age of Pope Benedict XVI, who celebrated his birthday yesterday spending his first full day in the U.S. He will celebrate Mass this morning.

46,000 people expected to jam into new Nationals Park in Washington for the Mass celebrated by the pontiff. There’s several contingents from Delaware County who are making the trip.

4, age of boy who was struck and killed by a hit-run driver last night in Norristown.

4, age of child killed when flames roared through a house in the East Falls section of Philadelphia yesterday.

12 to 18 months in the slammer, what’s facing Thomas Martino of Marcus Hook. He’s the buddy of former NBA ref Tim Donaghy. Both are Delco guys who went to Cardinal O’Hara High School together. Martino admitted he paid Donaghy for information on NBA basketball games in the betting scandal that rocked the league.

4 women who were indecently assaulted by a medical technician at Temple University Hospital and Temple Children’s Medical Center.

105 million bucks, what the Powerball jackpot will be worth Saturday night. No one hit all the correct numbers in last night’s drawing.

29,962 number of bankruptcy filings reported in Pennsylvania in 2007. That’s up 25 percent from 2006.

82, age of man brutally beaten, allegedly by a woman who cared for her, in Delaware. The man died. The suspect is 46.

75, age of blind man assaulted at 69th Street Terminal.

5 to 30 bucks, what US Airlines wants to charge passengers in coach sections for seats either by the window or on the aisle.

2 cent hike in the prices of gas overnight. Average price in the Philly area is now $3.35. Price for diesel is a staggering $4.43, all-time high.

0 members of the Daily Times staff allowed in to press conference at which American Christian hoops star Tyreke Evans announced he would attend Memphis.

1 pinch hit for Jimmy Rollins last night, but it didn’t help the Phils win. It did snap an 0-for-9 skid for Rollins as a pinch-hitter.

7 strong innings for Phils starter Kyle Kendrick, who gave up 2 runs on 4 hits. All he has to show for it is a loss.

4 straight losses to end the season for the Sixers. They seemed to pull the plug after clinching a playoff spot. They need to turn it on again Sunday when the open the playoffs in Detroit.

2 games to 1 lead for Flyers, who host the Caps in Game 4 of their series tonight.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Let’s get this over with. Put Jimmy Rollins on the DL and let that cranky ankle heal. The last thing this team needs is an extended situation in which the MVP battles an ouchy ankle all summer.

I Don’t Get It: Since when did national media start covering the announcement of high school athletes as to which college they will attend. When’s the last time they showed up to hear what school the valedictorian will choose?


Today’s Upper: Looking for a winner from last night’s debate? How about the city of Philadelphia. The National Constitution Center never looked better, as did the city. Plus apparently you couldn’t find a hotel room in Center City.


Quote Box: “They both handled themselves well, as they have done in these debates, and I think that’s why we have this very strong race.”

-- Delco Democratic Party boss Cliff Wilson, after last night’s presidential debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

When does the change start?

For the past 15 months, we have heard one constant drumbeat from the Democratic campaigns: Change.

So why is it during last night’s televised debate we got a lot of the same old stuff.

We learned that Sen. Hillary Clinton is somewhat memory-challenged when it comes to her arrival in Bosnia a few years back. To her credit, Clinton didn’t even bother trying to explain it. She simply said she botched it.

We learned that Sen. Barack Obama managed to offend a lot of Pennsylvanians by referring to some residents of small towns as being “bitter” and “clinging to guns and religion.” Obama spent a lot of time explaining just what he really meant to say, along the way admitting he “mangled” the reference.

And so it went for much of the first hour of the debate, picking open the scabs that have not yet had a chance to heal, the belief that Clinton cannot be trusted, or that Obama did not properly disassociate himself from the controversial comments of his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

But we really didn’t learn much that is new, unless you also got the impression that we should not hold our breath waiting for either of these folks to volunteer to serve as the other’s vice president. Or that either of them, if victorious, would agree to select the other in the first place.

But for the most part, the debate took entirely too long to get to the key issues. Both candidates stood firm on their belief that they would immediately begin to withdraw our troops from Iraq, regardless of the recommendations of the military.

We did not hear enough about gas prices and the economy, which seem to be going to hell in a gas-soaked coffin.

We got only a few snippets on what appears to be one of the few areas these two Democrats actually differ, on taxes.

We have five days left before the state goes to the polls on Tuesday. Maybe we should spend that time talking about the issues.

On the campaign trail

Here’s your Thursday morning update on the road to the Pennsylvania Primary:

* 5 days until Pennsylvania goes to the polls on April 22.

Fresh off her appearance in last night’s nationally televised debate, Hillary Clinton has decided to stick around for awhile. She has two appearances slated in Delco today.

She’ll join daughter Chelsea this afternoon for a “Conversation With Families” at Haverford College. Chelsea will also visit the Swarthmore campus this morning.

Meanwhile hubby and ex-president Bill will be criss-crossing Pennsylvania, with stops in Erie, Warren, Clearfield and then winding up tonight at Lock Haven University.

Sen. Clinton will end her day tonight at the Mayfair Diner in Philly.

Sen. Obama also will be a familiar presence over the weekend. He’s going to kick off another tour of the state on Friday. He’ll be in Erie and Williamsport before going back to Philly for a 6 p.m. rally on Independence Mall. No word yet on whether he’ll hit Delco along the way.

The Tyreke Show

By almost any measure, Tyreke Evans is one of the best high school basketball players in the country.

There are no shortage of experts who will tell you he is THE best player.

And he has the numbers to prove it, including being named best player in Pennsylvania by the Associated Press.

The 6-6 guard from American Christian has racked up some gaudy numbers in his impressive career. He averaged 29 points per game, and has become a familiar figure in the post-season All-Star games, including the McDonald’s Classic, which draws the cream of the high school crop from all across the country. Evans was named the game’s MVP. He was prominently featured on the Parade Magazine All-America team.

So it was only natural there has been great interest in where Evans will attend school. He was believed to be considering Villanova, Memphis and Texas, among others.

Such is Evans’ stature that several national media outlets beat a path to the small school in Aston where Evans announced he would join John Calipari’s Memphis program. ESPNU carried the press conference live.

Of course, the Daily Times also made the trip out to Aston to cover the press conference. It was a big story. We had every intention of giving it big coverage.

We reported about Evans’ choice in today’s print edition. We’re fairly confident in our reporting of Evans’ decision. But we didn’t hear it from his own mouth. That’s because we weren’t allowed in.

A decision was made by the school and family to deny us admission to the press conference. They apparently are upset by some of our coverage of the program, some off-the-court issues in which Tyreke has been involved, and the fact that Evans was not selected as the Daily Times Player of the Year. He was named to the All-Delco team. The Player of the Year honor went to Karon Burton, who led the Chester Clippers to the state title.

I don’t take part in the selection process of our All-Delco teams. I leave that to the more knowledgeable folks who work in our sports deparments. I can tell you this, however. There is rarely an All-Delco team selected that I do not receive phone calls complaining about our choices.

I wish Tyreke Evans nothing but the best in his college career. I have no doubt that one day we will be seeing him flash his brilliant talent in the NBA.

I just wish we could have seen him taking one of his last actions as a high schooler.

A good time to be a fan

For sports junkies, it doesn’t get much better than this.

I proudly plead guilty to being about as big a sports fan – in particular Philly sports fan – as you will find. So, yes, I am happier than a pig in slop.

Why? This afternoon, on what has every indication of being a glorious spring afternoon, the Phils will take on the Astros in the finale of their series at Citizens Bank Park. The Phils – and their fans -- will then gird themselves for an invasion.

Yes, the Mets come to town tomorrow.

A few hours after this afternoon’s game, the Flyers will play Game 4 of their Stanley Cup playoff series against the Caps. The Flyers lead 2-1 and will look to put a strangle hold – literally – on the Caps and their superstar Alex Ovechkin.

Apparently some folks in D.C. are a bit taken aback at the behavior of some fans in the Wachovia Center. Welcome to Philly, folks.

On Sunday the Sixers will mark a return to the playoffs when they tangle with the Pistons.

Now then, about those Phils. Did anyone else notice anything troubling about Jimmy Rollins’ pinch-hit single in 9th inning of last night’s loss to Houston? The Phils trailed 2-1 with 2 outs. Charlie Manuel decided to send Rollins up to pinch-hit for catcher Carlos Ruiz.

Rollins promptly drilled a single to right-center. So what’s the problem? Do you watch Rollins, who is nursing a twisted ankle, jog back to the dugout after being replaced with a pinch-runner?

Maybe it’s me, but that looked decidedly like a limp. And that looks like big trouble for this team if this ankle turns into a lingering problem for the reigning MVP.

And one other thing. Anyone else wonder how good Michael Bourn might look right now in centerfield for the Phils. He was dealt to the Astros in the Brad Lidge trade. Then the Phils allowed Aaron Rowand to leave, signing with the Giants. The new centerfielder, Shane Victorino, is on the disabled list. Last night Bourn was crucial in both the Astros’ runs, including the difference with a homer.

Nothing like a dark lining on a glorious sports weekend.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- April 16

The Daily Numbers: 90 minutes, length of tonight’s crucial debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

6 point lead for Clinton, who leads Obama 46-40 percent in the latest Keystone Poll of likely Democratic voters.

51 to 38 percent for Obama, however, among southeastern Pennsylvania voters, according to the same poll.

50 to 41 percent statewide for Clinton, acccording to still another poll, this one from the Rasumssen group.

200 voters who will gather to watch the debate at an event sponsored by AARP tonight on Independence Mall West.

30 minutes, amount of time the debate will overlap with tonight’s finals for “American Idol” on Fox.

10 percent, the expected cut in property taxes coming from slot machine money in Pennsylvania.

169 bucks per household, the average help on those same taxes.

2 teens arrested in the $30,000 vandalism spree that trashed Edison High School in Philadelphia.

8 children left behind by the murder of a gas station attendant clerk in Burlington County, N.J. Abdur Rahman, 50, was gunned down during a robbery attempt.

633 times, number of incidents police allege a Delaware man pulled off in driving through tollbooths without paying. He owes $4,478 in unpaid tolls.

600 million dollar SugarHouse Casino, which continues to be on hold amid more legal wrangling in Philadelphia. The state Supreme Court is now hearing arguments on whether developers can proceed with their plans for the waterfront project.

20 percent jump in mortgage foreclosures reported in Pennsylvania in March. That’s 2,900 properties. But the numbers continue to be in line with those of last year.

4 run rally in the 9th inning by the Phillies to overcome a 3-0 deficit and beat the Astros, 4-3.

5 home runs for Pat Burrell, whose 2-run shot in the 9th tied the score.

2 games to 1 lead for the Flyers, who beat the Caps last night, 6-3. They play again Thursday night.

2 goals and an assist for Danny Briere to lead the Flyers. He’s making fans forget a mediocre regular season by outshining Caps’ superstar Alex Ovechkin.

5 prime time games for the Eagles this week, including a Thanksgiving night encounter with the Cardinals at the Linc.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
If ever there was reason to say that the regular season means very little in the NHL, I now present Exhibit A: Danny Briere. It’s money time. And Briere is proving worth every penny of the huge contract the Flyers gave him.

I Don’t Get It: Tom Capano is still looking to get a new trial for the murder of Anne Marie Fahey. And he’s still getting turned down. Sit tight there, Tom. He is expected to file another apeal. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: The national spotlight will never burn brighter on the region than tonight, when all eyes will be fixed on the National Constitution Center for the debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.


Quote Box: “The present strategy is succeeding in Iraq and I respect the view of those who don’t agree.”

-- Republican Sen. John McCain, on an appearance on “Hardball with Chris Matthews” taped yesterday at Villanova University.

The Main Event

In the six-week rumble that we have termed “The Battle for Pennsylvania,” clearly this is the main event.

Tonight, live from the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, it will be Clinton vs. Obama, 15 rounds (actually 90 minutes) for the heavyweight (at least for Democrats) title.

And there is some sobering news for the Clinton camp this morning. The race is getting tighter. Especially here in the Philadelphia surburbs.

According to the latest Keystone Poll, Obama is closing the gap on Clinton, and he’s doing it by winning support in the five-county Philadelphia area.

Overall, Clinton is still up by six points. 46-40, among likely Democratic voters.

She continues to win by big numbers in the western part of the state. But that’s no longer the case in the southeast, where she now trails the senator from Illinois. The poll shows Obama ahead, 51-38 percent, in southeastern Pennsylvania. The gap is even wider in Philadelphia.

Pollster G. Terry Madonna noted the huge shift to Obama in the Southeast.

“Obama is also winning the Philadelphia suburbs and it is there where he has shown his biggest gain from March to April. If Obama has any chance to defeat Clinton, the Philadelphia suburbs are key to accomplishing that.”

The poll does come with one huge asterisk. It was taken before the full effect of Obama’s comments about “bitter” small-town Pennsylvania voters really ignited.

What this likely will come down to is the same thing almost any election comes down to: turnout.

Obama will need huge numbers in the southeast and Philly to offset Clinton’s advantage in the rest of the state.

Six days to go. Tonight all eyes will be on Philly.

Next Tuesday, it’s likely all eyes will be on Delaware County and the rest of the Philly suburbs.

The 'Idol' of our eyes

Here’s an interesting question about tonight’s much-anticipated debate between Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama.

Much of the debate, televised on ABC, will go head to head with the monster of reality TV programming, “American Idol” on Fox.

Which do you think will get more viewers?

Another battle for Specter

Sen. Arlen Specter has a book out titled “Never Give In: Battling Cancer in the Senate.”

The Republican has a new fight on his hands.

The cancer is back.

Specter’s doctors yesterday announced he has suffered a recurrence of Hodgin’s disease, which affects the lymph system. Specter successfully battled the disease three years ago.

Specter is 78. He has beaten cancer once. He wasn’t stopped by removal of a benign brain tumor in 1993, which recurred in 1996. He also underwent coronary bypass surgery in 1998.

He is vowing to keep working while he undergoes chemotherapy for the latest cancer occurrence.

He is amazingly active, and plays squash every day.

Don’t bet against him. Our thoughts are with you, senator.

Nirvana in South Philly

Does it get better for Philly sports fans than what went down around 9:30 last night at the sports complex?

In the Wachovia Center, The Flyers were dispatching the Caps to go up 2-1 in the opening Stanley Cup playoff series.

About the same time, across the street, the Phillies were just about given up for dead, trailing the Astros 3-0 going into the bottom of the 9th.

Rally cap time.

The Phils, spurred by a two-run homer by Pat Burrell, tied the game, then decided to win it in rather unusual fashion.

Geoff Jenkins struck out. But he still reached first on a passed ball. What happened next is a little hard to believe.

First off, for some reason the Astros were not guarding the line, in the 9th inning of a tie game. So of course Pedro Feliz slaps a ball right down the line and into the left-field corner.

Jenkins will never be mistaken for Leroy Burrell on the bases. So it was not a surprise to see third-base coach Steve Smith put up the “stop” sign. Which Jenkins promptly blew right through and chugged toward the plate.

It was close, but Jenkins scored. Phils put up 4 in the ninth to win it.

All’s right with the world.

Next you’ll be telling me the Sixers made the NBA playoffs.

For Eagles' fans, a turkey of a matchup

And now to the big story of the day.

The Eagles 2008 schedule is out. That, of course, means all talk of other sports ceases, Stanley Cup or no Stanley Cup.

One glance at the Birds’ schedule makes one thing pretty clear: The grand poobahs who run the NFL expect this team to be pretty good.

The Birds will have five prime-time appearances, as well as several 4 o’clock Sunday national TV games.

Easily the most intriguing game comes on Thanksgiving, when the Eagles have been tapped to host the Arizona Cardinals in a prime-time game at the Linc, with kickoff at 8 p.m. The game is scheduled for the NFL Network, but it likely also will be offered to a local station.

But it does pose problems for many families’ holiday traditions. Of course, it’s likely a lot of fans – properly stuffed with turkey – will be in their tryptophan-induced coma on the sofa by the time kickoff rolls around.

Then again, how about starting a new family tradition? Why not pack the kids and the grandparents into the mini-van and move the Thanksgiving feast to the Linc parking lot for a tailgating extravaganza. Do the turkey right there in the deep-fryer.

And one final thought. Consider the other advantages to this holiday treat. You can go straight from the stadium to the parking lots of the big box stores to start your Black Friday shopping spree.

I can just see the marketing campaign now. Are you ready for some shopping?

Here’s the full schedule:

* Sunday, Sept. 7, St. Louis, 1 p.m. FOX
* Monday, Sept. 15, at Dallas, 8:30 p.m. ESPN
* Sunday, Sept. 21, Pittsburgh, 4:15 p.m. CBS
* Sunday, Sept. 28, at Chicago, 8:15 p.m. NBC
* Sunday, Oct. 5, Washington, 1 p.m. FOX
* Sunday, Oct. 12, at San Francisco, 4:15 p.m. FOX
* Sunday, Oct. 19, BYE
* Sunday, Oct. 26, Atlanta, 1 p.m. FOX
* Sunday, Nov. 2, at Seattle, 4:15 p.m. FOX
* Sunday, Nov. 9, NY Giants, 8:15 p.m. NBC
* Sunday, Nov. 16, at Cincinnati, 1 p.m. FOX
* Sunday, Nov. 23, at Baltimore, 1 p.m. FOX
* Thursday, Nov. 27 Arizona, 8 p.m. NFLN
* Sunday, Dec. 7 at NY Giants, 1 p.m. FOX
* Monday, Dec. 15 Cleveland, 8:30 p.m. ESPN
* Sunday, Dec. 21 at Washington, 1 p.m. FOX
* Sunday, Dec. 28 Dallas, 1 p.m. FOX

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- April 15

The Daily Numbers: 5 days, length of visit by Pope Benedict XVI, which starts with his arrival in Washington this afternoon. He’ll offer special Masses in both D.C. Thursday and Sunday at Yankee Stadium in New York.

4,000 tickets snapped up for this afternoon’s sesssion of ‘Hardball With Chris Matthews’ at Villanova University.

205 acres that make up the Ellis Preserve in Newtown Township. Whether and how to develop the tract has caused bitter dissension in the township.

1 day left to file your taxes. Deadline is midnight tonight.

1 cent hike overnight in the price of regular unleaded gas in the Philadelphia region. It’s now selling for $3.31 a gallon, the high for the year. Diesel fuel is now at $4.40, an all-time high price.

10 billion dollar contract for a military helicopter that Boeing thought it was getting that is now being delayed once again.

83 homicides so far this year in Philadelphia. That’s down from 110 at the same time last year. Mayor Michael Nutter made the homicide rate one of the key parts of his campaign.

100 days in office for the new mayor. He will hold a press conference this morning to talk about how things are going.

1 gas station clerk gunned down during an apparent holdup attempt last night in Westampton Township, N.J. That’s near Mount Holly.

72, age of woman found beaten to death inside her home in Pennsauken, N.J.

3 alarm blaze that destroyed what used to be the home of the Kahunaville restaurant and nightspot on the Wilmington waterfront yesterday. The joint’s been closed for a couple of years and was supposed to be turned into a children’s museum.

7 members of the Narberth Police Department who could be on the chopping block in a budget crunch. Officials are considering eliminating local police and contracting instead with nearby Lower Merion for patrols.

38, age of Moorestown, N.J., police officer who has been charged in the sexual assault of three young girls. His 32-year-old girlfriend also faces charges.

30,000 dollars in jewelry swiped by thieves who broke into a store on Jewelers’ Row on Chestnut Street in Philly.

30,000 dollars in damages done by vandals who trashed the inside of Edison High School over the weekend.

150 pound cougar shot and killed as it prowled around a neighborhood in Chicago.

393 million dollar loss posted by Wachovia Bank in the first quarter.

0.2 seconds, how much time was left on the clock when an official called a foul at the end of last night’s Sixers game. Of course Devin Brown hit both free throws as the Sixers snatched a loss from the jaws of victory.

3, as in Game 3 of the Flyers first round playoff series against the Caps, which picks up tonight at the Wachovia Center.

0 hits surrendered by Marple Newtown softball pitcher Julie Sebastian yesterday in a win over Haverford.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Two days, two losses. One caused because Major League Baseball does not use replay, the other because the NBA does. They’re right. We are cursed.

I Don’t Get It: Yes, Barack Obama probably did “misspeak” in his comments about Pennsylvanians being “bitter” and clinging to guns and religion. Hillary Clinton should understand something about misspeaking. Of course, she simply turns on the attack button and uses the comments to her advantage. I guess that’s politics.


Today’s Upper: We’re back in the political spotlight today, with a visit by Obama’s wife, Michelle, to Haverford College and a taping of “Hardball with Chris Matthews” featuring Republican John McCain at Villanova this afternoon.


Quote Box: “You can use any word you want. Some days I am bitter. I’m scared, that goes to terrified.”

-- JoAnne Bower of Prospect Park, at an event in Delco yesterday to note job losses in the wake of comments by Barack Obama about how voters in Pennsylvania are “bitter.”

Down to the 'bitter' end

No one can say the “Battle for Pennsylvania” is not going down to the “bitter” end.

Everywhere you turned yesterday, the conversation was about Sen. Barack Obama’s comments about small-town Pennsylvanians.

Here’s what Obama said. The Illinois senator characterized many Pennsylvanians as being “bitter” about their plight, and in the process “clinging to guns or religion.”

I grew up in a small town. Oxford, Pa., is about as small as it gets. Religion is pretty important to me. I’m Roman Catholic. That doesn’t mean I agree with everything the church does or believes. Far from it.

I don’t own a gun. Never have, unless you count a Daisy BB-gun that is about the best Christmas present I ever received. I haven’t fired a gun since.

Am I bitter? Not really. I have it pretty good.

But does it aggravate me to no end every time I fill up my gas tank? Sure. Does it boggle my mind now that I am about to have a second child walk onto the campus of one of our local universities just how outrageous the price tag that accompanies that trip has become? Absolutely. The truth is what they charge for those first two years of college is almost like stealing. I don’t know how they justify it.

I believe Sen. Obama got it half right. Yes, I think there are a lot of bitter people around, but I don’t think it has anything to do with clinging to guns or religion.

I think people are worried about their jobs. They’re worried about how they’re going to pay for their kids’ college. They’re trying to figure out how to make ends meet, when the cost of gas is going through the roof, driving the cost of everything else sky-high as well, except your paycheck. People are desperately trying to stay healthy, fearing what would happen to them – and their shaky health care – should they get seriously sick. People are worrying about how they are going to retire, and what kind of life they can expect when they get there. If they get there.

Yesterday Obama seemed to agree that he botched his “bitter” reference. Not helping matters is the fact that he made it not in Scranton, or Pittsburgh, or Erie, or Allentown, or Marcus Hook, or Philly. He made it in San Francisco.

Immediately he was branded as an elitist, looking down his nose at us poor, backward Pennsylvanians. It’s not the first time he’s been branded a snob.

Obama met with the editorial boards of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News yesterday and admitted he botched the reference by linking those “bitter” feelings with those about guns and religion.

Pennsylvania goes to the polls one week from today. Sen. Obama might learn just how bitter we really are. Then again, maybe voters will back his comments, and excoriate Sen. Clinton for trying to use them to her advantage.

The two have been battling for the heart and soul of blue-collar workers. You don’t think that visit by Clinton to Drexel Hill was just a spur-of-the-moment thing, do you?

The best guess here is that “bitter” does not begin to describe the hand-to-hand fighting we’ll see over the next seven days.

Here’s your Tuesday morning update on the road to the Pennsylvania Primary:

* 7 days until Pennsylvania goes to the polls on April 22.

* Both Chelsea and Bill Clinton will be all over the state today stumping for their mom/spouse. Chelsea has events at Waynesburg University, then an event in Johnstown and winds up tonight in Mechanicsburg. The ex-president will be in Chester County, with events in Coatesville, Phoenixville, then Quakertown and Easton.

* Two former governors will be in the state for Barack Obama today. Ray Mabus and Jim Hodges headed Mississippi and South Carolina respectively. Obama’s wife Michelle will hold a rally this afternoon at Haverford College.

* All this leads to a crucial debate in Philadelphia tomorrow night.

* Hey, let’s not forget John McCain. The presumptive GOP nominee will be in Delco this afternoon, taping an episode of MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” at Villanova University.

An unpopular opinion

I had a great conversation with Rocco Gaspari Sr. yesterday.

Actually I had called the Lower Chichester Township building looking for his son. That would be Rocco Gaspari Jr. He’s the president of the Lower Chi commissioners.

The Gaspari family is not happy with us right now. In particular they’re ticked at our columnist, Gil Spencer, and the piece he did in the Sunday paper.

Rocco Jr. called and left me a voice-mail Monday morning. He wasn’t around when I called back, but they did put hook me up with Rocco Sr., who served the township for decades as both a commissioner, head of the local GOP, and a longtime magisterial district judge. Another son, Thomas, is the police chief.

In his voice-mail, Rocco Jr. took issue with Gil’s Sunday column, in which he criticized a proposal by the Lower Chi commissioners to enact an ordinance that would require residents to divulge the firearms in their homes.

A couple of things here: This is only a proposal. The board hasn’t voted on it yet.

Gil does not think much of the ordinance, much as he was not a terribly big fan of two previous issues that have popped up in Lower Chi, that being settting the speed limit on some roads, and whether they can make using a hand-held cell phone while driving illegal.

Me? I don’t have a problem with any of these issues. I try not to speed. It aggravates me to no end the number of drivers I have to avoid as they wander all over the road while chatting on cell phones, and I don’t own any guns.

Gil doesn’t see it quite that way. And he’s not alone. In particular, as you might have guessed, the National Rifle Association is not looking especially kindly on the latest Lower Chi initiative.

Gil made that pretty clear in his column.

But that’s not really what seems to have ticked off the Gasparis. Both junior and senior said they objected to the tone of some of Gil’s depictions of their family, to the point where they believe there is an anti-Italian bias at work. Or at the very least an anti-Gaspari sentiment.

I had a good conversation with Rocco Sr. I assured him we have no Italian bias. And that the criticism the family gets is because of the nature of the positions they hold in the township. I think he believed me. We agreed to talk about it some more.

I still don’t think he cares much for Gil, or for what he wrote.

He’s not the first to hold that opinion. Notice that word there. Opinion. That’s what Gil’s job is. He’s not supposed to straddle the line, as a reporter would do. In fact I want him to do just the opposite, to tell us exactly what he thinks of local issues.

That’s what he did on the latest initiative in Lower Chi.

The Gasparis didn’t much care for it. They aren’t the first to feel that way. No doubt they won’t be the last.

Curse-ing the replay gods

Only in Philadelphia could down-trodden fans suffer the indignity of getting hosed by two controversial calls in a span of a little more than 24 hours.

Both scenarios cement our belief that the sporting gods have it in for us because of the fact that one occurred because there was no replay; the other because there was.

Let’s start with the Phils, who lost a game Sunday in part because an umpire ruled a long home run by the Cubs Mark DeRosa in the sixth inning was a fair ball, when TV replays seemed to show the ball clearing going to the left of the foul pole.

Take that run away and the Phils win in regulation. Turns out they fell in 10 innings. Charlie Manuel argued the call and got ejected for his efforts.

Somehow I think we are going to remember that call come the last week of September.

A little more than 24 hours later, the Sixers won a game in dramatic fashion against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Or so it seemed.

After Lebron James was denied in his last-second drive to the basket and a desperation shot on the rebound by Devin Brown clanged off the rim, the joyous Sixers celebrated and headed to the locker room.

Unfortunately, the game was not over. In the cacophony of the Wachovia Center, no one heard the referee blow his whistle to signal a foul call with 0.2 seconds left on the clock.

But the Cavs’ coach did, and he confronted the referees and demanded a replay review. Five minutes later, it turns out the Sixers had not won. At least not yet.

Give Devin Brown credit. He calmly walked to the line and hit nothing but net on his two free throws.

Cavs 91, Sixers 90.


There you have it. Two excruciating losses made all the more “bitter” (I’m sure Sen. Obama would agree) by the fact that replay factored in both of them.

One of these days a replay will go our way. I wouldn’t hold my breath.

By the way, it’s also Tax Day. What else can go wrong? Only a cynic would say it’s time for the Flyers to see a crucial call go against them tonight.

Maybe we are cursed.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- April 14

The Daily Numbers: 1 visit to Delaware County by each major candidate so far. Sen. Hillary Clinton arrived yesterday, touring a Drexel Hill neighborhood.

1 person killed in a horrific 1-car crash in Collingdale over the weekend.

8, age of student police say brought a gun to Ardmore Avenue Elementary School in Lansdowne.

200 years of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia celebrated with the final event in a year-long series Sunday with a special Mass at Villanova University celebrated by Cardinal Justin Rigali and several cardinals and bishops

3,000 people from the Philadelphia area who will make the trek to Yankee Stadium this week for a Mass to be celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI. The Mass in part will celebrate the Philly archdiocese bicentennial.

6 people slain on the streets of Philadelphia over the weekend. No, they didn’t need any new gun measures.

1 man shot to death outside a mosque in North Philadelphia. His body was found on the steps. On one wall of the mosque is a mural dubbed “Doorways to Peace.”

1 day left to send off your annual love note to the IRS, to file your federal and state tax returns. Deadline is midnight Tuesday night.

3,700 people who use the 46th Street Station in West Philadelphia every day. The newly refurbished station is now back in business after a long, expensive reconstruction project.

30 more transit officers on patrol in the SEPTA subways. This week Philadelphia City Council will hold hearings on safety in the subway system.

2 people busted in Delaware in connection with a brutal carjacking after a woman was accosted as she left a 7-11 store in Newark. She was abducted and forced to withdraw money from an ATM machine.

12, age of girl reported raped in Kensington. She was walking to her sister’s house when she was accosted at 1:30 a.m.

20,000 dollars worth of prescription drugs stolen by two men who apparently kicked a hole in the wall of a South Jersey Rite Aid store in order to get in.

4 airlines that have now gone belly-up in the past couple of weeks. The list now includes Aloa Airlines, ATA, Skybus and the latest, Frontier.

2 age of toddler in the arms of a 25-year-old woman in Easton who police say chased down and then fatally shot her boyfriend.

10 innings for the Phils yesterday, who lost another extra-innings affair, this time 6-5 to the Cubs.

2 more errors for the Phils, whose defense has been anything but stellar. That’s now 15 errors for the Phils in 13 games.

1 and 1 for the Flyers and Caps, who are now deadlocked heading back for Game 3 Tuesday night at the Wachovia Center.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
What exactly do baseball players do that month they’re in Florida? Do any of them take infield practice? Also, what kind of workouts do they undergo? Anyone else notice how many big names are suffering from various muscle pulls, hamstring problems and groin issues so far in the early going?

I Don’t Get It: I’m not buying the mini-flap over Sen. Barack Obama’s description of some Pennsylvanians as “bitter” about their plight and the economy. Anyone fill up their gas tank lately? Anyone else have kids in college, or about to send child No. 2 off to another outrageously expensive campus? Bitter? Yeah, I think you can call me that.


Today’s Upper: Don’t be fooled by that sun out there. It’s chilly this morning, and we could dip close to freezing overnight. But the extended forecast finally shows a streak of warm days headed for us later this week and into the weekend. Summer is almost here. Or at least some serious spring.


Quote Box: “I never cared too much for her when Bill Clinton was in office, but I like her much better right now.”

-- Drexel Hill resident Carol O’Neill, after getting a visit from Hillary Clinton Sunday afternoon at her home.

Hillary hits bricks in Drexel HIll

Here’s your Monday morning update on the road to the Pennsylvania Primary:

* 8 days until Pennsylvania goes to the polls on April 22.
* Both Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will be in Philly tonight to speak to the city Democratic Committee. That happens at 6 at the Sheet Metal Local 19 hall in South Philly.
* Hillary will go from there to a rally in Bristol, Bucks County.
* Obama is starting his day in Pittsburgh. Sen. Edward Kennedy will do several events for Obama today, holding a couple of rallies in Erie.

Both Republican Sen. John McCain and Obama have done some face time here in Delco.

Yesterday it was Clinton’s turn. Not Bill. Not Chelsea. They’ve both been here. But Hillary had not. Until yesterday.

She decided to get up close and personal with the good folks in Drexel Hill. Clinton was out pounding the sidewalks and pressing the flesh. She was escorted around what is traditionally the heart of the Upper Darby GOP by Congressman Joe Sestak, D-7.

Francis Street was jumping as Clinton made her way to several homes, chatting with folks on the street along the way, and then winding up at the local fire house.

It’s pretty clear what Clinton was doing. The big push between the New York senator and her counterpart from Illinois has been blue-collar workers.

Adding a little gasoline to the fire was the mini-flap over Obama’s description of some Pennsylvanians as “bitter” and it’s not hard to see what Clinton was doing hitting the bricks in Drexel Hill.

Quote of the day goes to resident Dennis O’Neill, who also got a visit from the candidate.

“Last time we shook a candidate’s hand, he won. And his name was John F. Kennedy.”

Eight days to go. This one just gets more interesting every day.

Sports heaven on the tube

My thumb is sore this morning from all that channel clicking. What a day for sports.

You start with the Phils, who were playing the finale in their season with the Cubbies at Citizens Bank Park. Then mix in the Flyers-Caps in Game Two of their Stanley Cup playoff series, and Sunday at the Masters, and you have some serious channel-clicking.

Two early observations about the Phils: Do they ever get a call that goes their way? All third base umpire Adrian Johnson had to do yesterday was join the thousands of people screaming at their TVs after seeing a replay that clearly showed Mark DeRosa’s blast went on the foul side of the left-field foul pole. Take that away and the Phils win this one in regulation, not even needing extra innings.

As it is, the game went 10, with the Phils literally throwing away another one, losing 6-5.

My other thought? Anyone else worried about this team’s defense? The Phils committed two more errors. That’s 15 errors in 13 games. Yesterday’s miscue was crucial, with Chase Utley uncorking a wild relay trying to turn a double-play in the 10th.

Just as important was the play by Ryan Howard. At that point he has to forget about the double-play, get off the bag and block that errant throw. Instead he tried to make a back-handed stab, the ball bounded past him, and the go-ahead run trotted home.

With the pitching this team is going to get all year, they can’t afford to give team’s extra outs, let alone extra runs.

So far this team has been playing in the field like Roberto Duran, Mr. Manos de Piedra. That’s hands of stone.

The day was salvaged by the Flyers, who dominated the Capitals, getting a big performance from Martin Biron, who shut them out on their home ice. The Flyers scored two early goals and then simply clamped down on the Caps and their superstar, Alex Ovechkin.

Biron made the goals stand up, the Flyers won 2-0, and the series is now deadlocked at 1 heading back up I-95 to the Wachovia Center, where they go at it again Tuesday night.

Mastering Tiger

You have to love the expression on Tiger Woods’ face as he stood on the 18th green at Augusta National yesterday.

Woods had just drained a 15 footer for birdie. Most players would be ecstatic. Not Woods. He simply waved at the cup, as if to say, “Oh, sure, now you go in.”

It was too little, too late, and no one knew it more than Woods.

I waited all afternoon for Tiger to make his move. I’m still waiting. The Great One basically was treading water all day in the final round of the first Major of the year. He wound up the day right where he started, at 5 under.

Just as I expected, everybody moved backward during the day, battling gusty winds that dried out the legendary course and made club selection an adventure.

That is everybody but the leader, South African Trevor Immelman. But even he had to offer just a dash of mystery. Immelman shot 3-over 75, including a late bogey that must have had Woods kicking himself over what could have been. He finished at 8 under, three shots better than Woods. It was Immelman donning the famous green jacket, not the player everyone was picking at the beginning of the week.

If there’s going to be a grand slam this year, it will be done by Trevor Immelman. I wouldn’t bet the house on it.

Yesterday’s Masters final also confirms something else. For all his greatness, Woods has never won a Major by coming from behind on the last day. He had a chance yesterday, but he never made a move.

Now it’s on to the U.S. Open, played this year at Torrey Pines outside San Diego, one of Woods’ favorite tracks.

I suggest he get the lead before Sunday. Taming Tiger is best done when he starts on Sunday somewhere other than first place.

Once he has the lead, Tiger usually seals the deal.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sunday at the Masters

Cut the soothing music. Yes, it's once again time for some of the best theater of the sports year.

Which is my way of saying it's Sunday at the Masters.

I'm not exactly sure why this tournament holds such an allure. Of course there is the pristine grounds of Augusta National Golf Course, in full bloom. It also is the only major tournament contested on the same turf each year. There's a familiarity to the place, even on TV.

But I think it's more because of what happens there every Sunday. They don't say "the Masters doesn't begin until the back nine on Sunday" for nothing.

There is almost nothing in sports that every year procudes the kind of drama as the trip through Amen Corner and the rest of the back 9 at Augusta.

For three days Trevor Immelman has mastered the Masters and Augusta National. Don't look for the same to hold true this afternon. The suffocating tension of Sunday at the Masters has a funny way of torturing those who hold the lead who don't happen to be named Tiger.

Think Greg Norman.

As for Woods, he's lurking in the rear-view mirror at 5 under, 6 off the lead.

I say he gets closer today, I'm just not sure he can roar all the way back for another green jacket.

But I do know this: It will be among the most compelling sports events of the year. It always is.

Look for Tiger to get close, but he won't win. No grand slam again this year.

But if he somehow does -- and only a fool would rule it out -- it would not surprise me.

This is, after all, Sunday at the Masters.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- April 11

The Daily Numbers: 3.33 a gallon for unleaded regular gas in Pennsylvania. That’s an all-time high.

3.28 a gallon in the Philadelphia area, a new high for 2008. The all-time high is $3.36 a gallon, set back in 2005.

4.31 a gallon for diesel in Philly, also an all-time high.

4 counts of animal cruelty that were upheld in court yesterday against the owner of a malnourished pony, Tiny Bubbles. Four other citations were dismissed.

10 neglected puppies found wandering in the street in Vineland, N.J., which led to the discovery of other animals in deplorable conditions in a house nearby.

40,000 dollars, the life savings of an Upper Darby woman, which police now say was ripped off by a disbarred attorney from Villanova.

5 new gun control measures passed by Philadelphia City Council yesterday and signed by Mayor Michael Nutter, setting up a court battle over whether the city has the legal right to enact such laws.

74 homicides in the city so far this year, 56 of those committed with handguns.

12 homicides recorded so far this year in Delaware County, 5 of them in the city of Chester.

50 percent cut in homicides, what Hillary Clinton says the anti-crime plan she will unveil today in Philadelphia will do.

24 people indicted in multimillion-dollar sports betting ring that authorities say was being operated out of a room at the Borgata Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City.

1.2 million dollar budget hole at Cheyney University. School officials are hoping to climb out of the red by next year.

8, age of youth with a heart defect who died after some horseplay on a playground in Upper Dublin Township, Bucks County.

2 people who pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct charges stemming from a probe of suspected prostitution at an Exton spa. A third is expected to plea guilty today.

960.4 million dollar loss reported by Rite Aid Corp, the nation’s third-biggest drugstore chain based here in Pa.

9 months on house arrest served by Pier 34 owner Eli Karetny. He now wants to be let off the rest of his sentence of 9-18 months in connection with the pier collapse that killed three young women. It’s being opposed by the D.A. and the women’s families.

570 more flights scrapped already for today by troubled American Airlines. That’s more than 3,000 grounded for the week, and the loss of millions for the airline.

12 innings for the Phils and Mets last night, with the game ending on a controversial call on a play at the plate that went the Mets’ way.

6 decent innings out of starter Adam Eaton, who gave up 3 runs on 5 hits.

4 shots behind the leaders for Tiger Woods, who shot even par in the first round of the Masters yesterday.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Time to get Flyered up, folks. The Flyers return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs tonight in Washington against the Caps. So why is R.J. Umberger griping about being dropped to the fourth line? Nice timing.

I Don’t Get It: A teen in Cambria County, Pa., will serve one year for the death of his dog, which he decided to put in the washing machine.


Today’s Upper: Now if we could just bottle a day like yesterday and save it for the weekend. Of course, it’s supposed to rain on Saturday and be chilly on Sunday. Naturally.


Quote Box: “People come here to work, they don’t come here to leave their families.”

-- Chelsea Clinton, talking about the immigration problem, at Villanova yesterday.

More gas pains

This just in from AAA, the price of gasoline in Pennsylvania hit an all-time high yesterday.

Average price of regular unleaded in Pennsylvania stands at $3.33 a gallon. That’s a penny higher than yesterday. It’s also the all-time high, shattering the mark set after 9/11.

The pain at the pump is not quite as bad in the Philadelphia region, where prices now stand at $3.28, still a new high for 2008.

Of course, if you drive a big rig, you’re not lucky at all. Diesel fuel prices in the Philly region also set an all-time high of $4.31 today.

Just in case you’re wondering, the all-time high price for unleaded regular in the Philly region is $3.36, set back on Sept. 7, 2005.

It’s going to be a long summer. Bike riding could hit new peaks of popularity.

Another shootout in Philly

This one might make the shootout at the OK Corral look like a video game.

On one side you have Philadelphia City Council and Mayor Michael Nutter.

On the other you have the powerful National Rifle Association, backed up by a lot of state officials.

They should just cut to the chase, stand back-to-back, take 20 paces, and come out firing.

Actually the Philly faction got off the first shot yesterday, when City Council passed five new gun control laws. Mayor Michael Nutter immediately signed them into law and told his top cop to start enforcing them. Apparently no one bothered to tell them that they may not have the power to actually enact such legislation.

They very likely will be reminded of that belief today by the National Rifle Association, which has vowed to go to court to have the new laws shot down.

Here’s what the new laws would do: Require people to report lost or stolen guns. This is a way to fight “straw” purchases of weapons that wind up in the hands of criminals. A bill to do this was rejected in the state House last week. This week they OK’d a somewhat watered down version. The city also wants to limit handgun purchases to one a month; allow the cops to seize handguns from people deemed a danger to themselves or others; and ban some types of semiautomatic weapons.

In a city that is fighting a life-or-death battle with gun violence, they seem like fairly common-sense measures. Except for one thing: A law passed in 1974 gives sole power to regulate gun sales in Pennsylvania to the state Legislature.

A cynic would mock the city effort to curb the number of guns on their streets as something that itself breaks the law.

Or at least is deemed constitutional.

You can pretty much bet this thing is going to wind up in court. Very likely sooner rather than later.

11 days and counting

Here’s your Friday morning update on the road to the Pennsylvania Primary:

* 11 days until Pennsylvania goes to the polls on April 22.

* Chelsea Clinton was in town yesterday, stumping for mom at both Villanova and Saint Joe’s campuses. Today she will continue her college tour at Slippery Rock and Edinboro out in the hinterlands.

* Sen. Hillary Clinton will be in Philadelphia today to talk about crime and urban violence. She says she has a plan to cut homicides in half.

All of which should be fairly interesting in light of what happened yesterday in the city. The Philadelphia City Council passed five new gun control measures, which Mayor Michael Nutter promptly signed and told his new police commander to start enforcing.

* For the Sen. Barack Obama camp, Caroline Kennedy will be back in the area, campaigning in King of Prussia with an event at 2:30 at the Bear Rock Café. Then she’ll do an event in Germantown with undecided voters at 3:30.

* Obama will attend a forum on faith and public life Sunday night at Messiah College.

The road to progress

Driving on Baltimore Pike can be a challenge any time.

It just got a lot worse. Been on the Pike in Clifton Heights or Springfield lately? Do yourself a favor. If you can avoid it, do it.

A repaving project is going on from Burmont Avenue in Clifton to Route 420 in Springfield. The road has been milled. When you drive on it now, it’s like being on one of those old exercise machines. You kind of shake, shimmy and roll. And of course there are all those raised manhole covers to knock your alignment out of whack, and loosen your fillings.

If that’s not enough, you’re also driving through a dust storm that would choke those folks in covered wagons back in the Old West.

Such is the cost of progress. Indeed the road to ruin is paved with good intentions.

The key is patience. As detailed by our traffic reporter John Roman earlier this week, PennDOT is planning to repave 60 miles of roads in the county. In other words, it’s going to be some very tough sledding out there.

It’s one of the annual rites of spring. If possible, leave the car home and hoof it. Think of all the money you’ll save on gas.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- April 10

The Daily Numbers: 2 homicides, the ruling in the deaths of a mother and her 3-year-old son in a Chester apartment.

2 drug overdoses believed responsible for the deaths of two other adults found inside that apartment.

0 rulings in terms of who strangled Lindsay Cassidy and her little boy, Kolby O’Brien.

3,500 dollar raise for former Chester Police Chief John Finnegan, who was demoted last year.

1,044 dollars stolen from a scholarship fund run by Lesley Lane at Andrea’s Attic in Marcus Hook. Police have now charged 1 person in the heist, another is being sought.

201,190 dollars a year, what Linda Grobman will be making as the new superintendent of Radnor School District.

30 million dollar loan approved by County Council for various capital projects.

3 state chase from Delaware to Chester and into New Jersey involving a stolen U-Haul truck. One man was charged.

0 free rides for the Guardian Angels. They asked SEPTA officials if they could ride the subway lines for free as they patrol in the wake of a rash of attacks on riders. Their request was rejected. SEPTA says its charter prevents such a program for any community-based group.

600 pounds of cocaine and $1 million in cash seized by the feds and resulting in the indictment of two Philly men.

20, age of woman who reported being raped on a SEPTA subway platform under City Hall yesterday. She recanted the claim several hours later.

50 years of Crayola crayons celebrated Wednesday, in particular the firm’s signature 64-crayon box.

2 donkeys fatally mauled by pit bulls in South Jersey.

54 large homes that have had their values reassessed in Philadelphia. That includes the mansion of Sen. Vince Fumo, which is being quadrupled. It used to be assessed at $250,000. Fumo tried to sell it for $7 million.

5 alarm fire that roared through a former factory building in North Philadelphia early this morning.

100 sexual encounters believed taped on hidden cameras inside his home by a former commissioner in Cumberland County, Pa. He’s resigned his post.

3.26 a gallon for unleaded regular gas in the region. That’s up a penny. And it’s another new high for 2008. Diesel stands at $4.28.

2 errors for Eric Bruntlett filling in for Jimmy Rollins last night.

4 errors overall for the Phils as they kicked one away to the Mets at Shea, 8-2.

6 walks in a 2 and a third innings for Phils starter Kyle Kendrick. Not good. And it won’t ease concerns about the back end of the rotation. Adam Eaton takes the hill tonight.

230 game streak snapped when Jimmy Rollins was scratched last night with the tender ankle.

10 wins in their last 12 games for the Washington Capitals, who open the Stanley Cup playoffs Friday night against the Flyers.

25 points for Andre Iguodala as the Sixers continue to roll, beating the Pistons last night 101-94.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Here’s a question that never came up last year: Who’s Jimmy Rollins’ backup? Whoever it was never got on the field. Rollins played in all 162 games. The value of the MVP was clear in his absence last night, when his replacement, newcomer Eric Bruntlett, had a brutal night in the field with two errors.

I Don’t Get It: A mural at a Philadelphia elementary school was painted over after vandals defaced it with racist graffiti. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: The Masters golf tournament starts today. It’s about as close to perfection as sports gets. You’ll find me in front of the TV most of the weekend.


Quote Box: “It is unlikely any individual, beyond this group of four, played any role in the homicides.”

-- Delco D.A. Mike Green, in announcing findings concerning the bodies found in a Chester apartment.

2 homicides, 4 mysteries

We now know some of what happened inside a Chester apartment where four people died. Some, but not nearly all.

And that’s what is proving so frustrating about this case. I can only imagine what the family members of those who died inside that apartment on Keystone Road must be dealing with.

The truth is we may never just what happened.

After a press conference held yesterday by Delaware County District Attorney G. Michael Green and Medical Examiner Dr. Fredric Hellman, here’s what we know.

Lindsay Cassidy, 23, and her 3-year-old son Kolby O’Brien, were strangled. Cause of death is listed as asphyxia by strangulation. Hellman ruled them both homicides.

All four people are believed to have died March 28. Concerned relatives who had not heard from loved ones alerted police, who found the four bodies in four different rooms inside.

The deaths of the other two people found in the apartment, Michelle Fynes, 22, and John Michael Bryant, 28, are listed as drug overdoses. Hellman indicated both had fatal levels of cocaine and PCP in their blood. Drugs also were found in the system of Cassidy.

Hellman made no ruling in the two drug deaths, as to whether they were accidental overdoses or a possible suicide.

That joins a list of the things we still don’t know about this case, other than the fact that four lives were lost inside that apartment.

We don’t know who killed Cassidy, or who snuffed out the angelic little face of 3-year-old O’Brien. A ligature mark was found on the toddler’s neck. And we don’t know the precise circumstances that led to the fatal ODs involving Fynes and Bryant.

One thing was stressed by Green. He does not believe there is a killer on the loose. He believes whatever happened inside that apartment involved the four people inside.

The investigation is continuing. That’s good. Because there’s still a lot we don’t know about this baffling case.

A stunning political development

Here’s your Thursday morning update on the road to the Pennsylvania Primary:

* 12 days until Pennsylvania goes to the polls on April 22.

* Chelsea Clinton comes back to Delaware County today. She’ll do an event at Villanova at the Connelly Center at 9:30. Then it’s on the Saint Joseph’s for another gig at 11:45 at the Hawk Rock in Campion Student Center. Be nice kids. No silly questions about her mom’s credibility in light of L’Affaire Lewinsky.

Actually, it reminds me of how impressed I was with Chelsea’s response when that question was posed on a college campus a few weeks back. She indicated that of the dozens of campuses she has visited, she’d never been asked that question. Then she offered the following response:

“I don’t think that’s any of your business.”

Perfect. Of course there’s a part of me who is not sure that is the case, that there is anything out of bounds when you put yourself in the public purview of a campaign, but I still love her response. Because it was human, something all of us can identify with. As it turns out, the young questioner was actually a big Hillary backer, but the question still seemed to go over the “wince” factor.

In the meantime, there is much bigger political news rattling around here in Delaware County, something that might have slipped through the cracks amid all the focus on the Democratic presidential race.

For as long as anyone can remember, Delaware County has leaned heavily to the Republican side of the ledger. The local GOP is the stuff of legend, the definition of powerful local politics.

They enjoyed that lofty position because they consistently dominated the voter rolls, for years routinely holding as much as a 3-1 voter registration edge.

Not anymore.

According to the latest figures released by the county Election Bureau, for the first time in county history the GOP no longer holds a majority in voter registrations.

Of course, neither do the Democrats.

But all those registered outside the purview of the GOP now outnumber their Republican brethren. In fact the totals now show the “others” weighing in at 193,858, with the Republicans showing 189,386.

Much of this is being seen as part of the spike in interest generated by those who want to take part in the hotly contested Democratic Primary being waged by Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. When it comes to new registrations, Delco Dems are kicking the GOP’s tail. According to the new figures, the Dems added 7,381 new voters to just 2,815 for the GOP. People switching their designation also lean heavily to the Democratic side of the ledgeer, 14,288 to the Republicans 1,044.

Does this mean the Courthouse is about to fall? Uh, no. Anyone remember last November, when the GOP swept the county council and judicial elections?

What it does mean, however, is likely more of a level playing field. In doing so, Delco joins trends being seen elsewhere in the region. Both Bucks and Montco have seen the Dems become the majority party. That’s not yet the case in Delco and Chester County, but the trends are heading that way.

Of course, all those people who switched registration to take part in the Democratic primary might simply switch right back in the fall.

That’s what the GOP is banking on. Yesterday they announced a statewide plan to push their voter registration efforts.

There was a time, especially here in Delaware County, when that was simply a given.

Not anymore. Amazing.

Sports meets perfection

Sports is not a game of perfect. Except for today, and the three days that follow.

We tend to dwell on the negative, the foibles, the blemishes.

We realize the value of Jimmy Rollins when someone named Eric Bruntlett gets a rare start and kicks balls all over the Shea Stadium infield.

We remember the ball dribbling through Bill Buckner’s legs, Chris Webber calling a timeout, Andy Reid not utilizing a hurry-up offense as time wasted away in the Super Bowl, and that he decided to punt at the end of a playoff loss to the Saints.

But today we brush all that aside and see perfection, something God created and man polished into maybe the single greatest event in sports.

This perfection comes not because of the humans contesting their athletic endeavor, but rather the venue upon which they toil.

I speak of Augusta National Golf Club, and the Masters Tournament, which starts today.

I have never stepped foot on the grounds of the place that Bobby Jones built. It’s very unlikely that I ever will. I have seen the brilliance of all those azaleas and rhododendrons, which stand out on a perfectly manicured piece of real estate, only as they appear on a 27-inch TV.

But I still know perfection when I see it. And Augusta National is it.

I am a golfer, although the truth is I spend a lot more time watching it on TV than I do playing.

You can bet again this year I will spend a large part of this weekend parked in front of the TV, reveling in the vagaries of “Amen Corner.”

Are there social issues involving Augusta National? Sure. But for this weekend, I will set all that aside and look instead at perfection.

What is to be decided this weekend as well is whether one man will again raise his game to the level of the course on which it will be played.

Tiger Woods is the overwhelming favorite to win The Masters again this year. Just as he is every year. There is talk of Tiger on the prowl for a grand slam, winning all four of golf’s majors in the same year.

And it all starts this morning in Augusta, Ga.

About as close to perfect as sports gets.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- April 9

The Daily Numbers: 2 suspects who targeted a young mom as she walked to a trolley near 69th Street. She fought back and eventually led cops to the house they entered. Her last name? Peace. Good for her.

900,000 dollars spent on the alert system now in place to let residents know of emergency situations via text messaging or e-mails. It was officially rolled out at County Council Tuesday.

29 miles of state roads being targeted for repair and resurfacing by PennDOT. Bottom line, it’s going to be tough to drive on a lot of roads in the coming weeks. Patience, folks.

200 years of the Philadelphia Archdiocese celebrated with bell-ringing at both Monsignor Bonner and Archbiship Prendergast high schools yesterday.

189,386 registered Republicans in Delaware County, according to updated figures released by the county Tuesday. For the first time in history that does not make them the majority party.

193,858 voters whose registration is something other than Republican. Of those there are 154,707 Democrats, which means they still trail the GOP, but are gaining. The numbers have spiked because of interest in the Democratic primary race between Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

6 point lead for Clinton among Pennsylvania Democrats, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll. She leads 50-44 percent.

64 dead animals -- cats, dogs, guinea pigs, ferrets and turtles -- found in a home in Barnegat, N.J. The couple who lived in the house now face charges.

203 misdemeanor counts, and 371 summary counts of animal cruelty filed against a woman who runs a cat sanctuary where hundreds of sick and dying cats were found last week in Gibsonia, Pa. What is it with people and animals all of a sudden?

180,000 barrels of oil a day that is idled with the shutdown of the Sunoco refinery in Marcus Hook. An electrical problem is believed to be the problem.

81, age of woman beaten up in her Kensington home last week. Police this week arrested a suspect. He’s 24. Nice.

2 people busted in Ardmore in what the feds are saying is a plot to smuggle aliens into the country and then imprison them until they repaid their “debt.”

2.5 million pounds of trash now off the streets of Philadelphia after last weekend’s city-wide cleanup effort.

58 age of substitute teacher in Delaware who is charged with choking a 12-year-old boy in class last week.

500 flights canceled yesterday by American Airlines, creating serious problems for travelers. More of the same is expected today. The airline is trying to comply with federal regulations on wiring.

11, grade of student that authorities at Pennsauken High School in Jersey say was compiling a hit list of other students.

41, age of woman charged with DUI after she arrived at school in Richland, Bucks County, to pick up her sick child. At the time she had 4 other kids in the car, police say.

9 straight wins for the Phillies over the Mets. Ya gotta love it.

3 times Chase Utley was hit by a pitch in yesterday’s 5-2 win over the Mets.

1 more national title for Tennessee women’s hoops coach Pat Summitt. The Vols topped Stanford last night, 64-48.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
The Phils are becoming the itch the Mets can’t satisfy. The Phillies ruined the Mets home opener – the last ever for Shea Stadium – yesterday by rallying for a 5-2 win. Very simply put, they have the Mets number.

I Don’t Get It: A man in York, Pa., has been charged with homicide in the vicious beating death of his girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter. He apparently beat the toddler with his video game controller. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: Leave it to Upper Darby top cop Mike Chitwood to cut to the chase. As usual, he fairly aptly described the two suspects charged with attacking a young mom on a township street. Chitwood believes they’re “bums” and “scumbags.” Anyone want to argue?


Quote Box: “I feel lucky. I just thought they were young boys. It’s scary.”

-- Samara Peace, 19, on her ordeal after she was attacked by two young toughs on an Upper Darby street.

A tale of two strong women

Two days. Two women. Two compelling tales.

I hope I’m not the only one who sees a common thread between the sagas of Sharon Conroy and Samara Peace.

Conroy is the mother of Sean Patrick Conroy, the man who was attacked in a Center City subway and died. It was the first – and deadliest – in a recent rash of attacks on transit riders.

The Lansdowne mom is pushing for more security on the lines, including bringing back the undercover “granny squads” to target hoodlums.

She also wonders what’s happened to young people, and if they’ve lost their sense of decency and respect for human life in the wake of the attack on her son.

Conroy is not a big woman. But she has a big voice, and she’s using it to draw attention to the problem.

Likewise, Peace also is a slight woman. The 18-year-old new mom from Sharon Hill was walking to catch a SEPTA trolley Monday night when she was confronted by two thugs.

She tried to give them what they wanted – her purse, but she had a slight problem. She was carrying her 7-month-old daughter, Samya, close to her chest at the time and was struggling with her pocketbook.

When her attackers got violent, she returned in kind. When the two thugs finally fled with her purse, she still didn’t shrink away. Instead, she led police to the house where she believed the two suspects entered.

Police quickly corralled two suspects.

It’s ironic that a woman named Peace would become the latest victim of street violence.

Peace did something else that was unusual. Yesterday she came forward at a press conference held by Upper Darby Police to talk about her ordeal.

Like Conroy, she is using her plight to shed light on the situation, to make us aware of the problems and dangers seemingly confronting us around every corner, and to be sure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.

For that she earned the salute of Upper Darby police, including Superintendent Mike Chitwood.

We’ll endorse that idea. You might say we all should do as Peace did.

Give Peace a chance, you might say.

D.A. to address case of four bodies found in Chester

The mystery over those four bodies found in an apartment in Chester should get a little clearer today.

Delaware County District Attorney G. Michael Green will hold a press conference at the Courthouse at 2 p.m. to discuss the case.

He likely will release the findings of the Medical Examiner’s Office concerning the bodies found in the apartment on Keystone Road on March 29.

Lindsay Cassidy, 23, and her 3-year-old son Kolby O’Brien, along with two other people, Michelle Fynes, 22, and John Michael Bryant, 28, were all found dead in different rooms inside the apartment.

Firefighters who arrived on the scene quickly ruled out carbon monoxide poisoning, often looked at in such cases.

Little has been said by officials since. That should change this afternoon. Which will come as some comfort to the family of Cassidy, who have been baffled about what could have happened to her and the little boy they all seemed to adore.

Obama comes back to the region

Here’s your Wednesday morning update on the road to the Pennsylvania Primary:

* 13 days until Pennsylvania goes to the polls on April 22. That’s exactly two weeks from yesterday.

Sen. Barack Obama will be back in the area today, and he’ll be buoyed by some new poll numbers that show he continues to cut into Sen. Hillary Clinton’s once gaping lead in the state.

Obama will be at Great Valley High School this morning for a town hall rally similar to the one he held last week at Strath Haven. He’ll do a double-header, with a similar event this afternoon at Truman High School in Levittown.

Clinton has no appearances in the state set today, but former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will do several events for Clinton, in Philly, and three different colleges, Kutztown, Lehigh and Bryn Mawr.

In the meantime, the latest Quinnipiac Poll shows Clinton’s lead now at just six points. She holds a 50-44 edge over the Illinois senator among state Democrats. That means he’s sliced 3 points off her lead since the last poll came out a week ago.

Another poll, the Rasmussen poll, has Clinton holding a 48-43 lead.

It’s going to be a very interesting two weeks.

Mets fans: Shea it ain't so

Maybe we should just start calling them the “Shea Hey” kids.

I’m talking about the Phillies. And the Mets. And what has happened the last nine times the two have played.

That’s right, the Phils made it nine straight over the Metropolitans with yesterday’s come-from-behind 5-2 win.

In the process the Phils ruined the Mets’ home opener and put a stain on the last opener ever to be held in decrepit old Shea Stadium.

You have to believe this is now getting into the Mets’ heads. They were looking to clear all the cobwebs from last year’s monumental collapse that resulted in them ceding the NL East to the Phils on the last day of the season.

That’s not exactly the way it turned out. The Mets bolted to a 2-0 lead, then watched as the Phils crawled back, went ahead, then put the game away.

As usual, the Mets’ bullpen had more leaks than the Titanic. If you don’t think this is starting to get to the Mets, just take a listen to former Phil Billy Wagner: “They (the Phillies) go out there and expect to win.”

Not said? That the Mets now expect to lose when they hook up with the Phils. They’re not sure how it’s going to happen, they just know it will in fact happen.

One dark cloud on yesterday’s game. Jimmy Rollins left the game after twisting an ankle. He says it’s no big deal. He’s listed as day to day. Speaking of day to day, Rollins has played in something like 230 games in a row.

Also something else to look for tonight. Chase Utley was hit by a pitch three times yesterday. Actually “brushed” might be more accurate. Utley did not exactly exert himself trying to get out of the way. Look for the Mets maybe to let him know they don’t appreciate it.

Then again, maybe they’ll be more concerned with just trying to rid themselves of what is quickly becoming a Philly jinx.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- April 8

The Daily Numbers: 30 more officers being deployed by SEPTA officials to patrol the subways in the wake of 3 attacks on riders.

90 officers who will be out in force, that’s up from 60.

17,000 dollars in OT that the transit giant will pay for the increased patrols.

2 to 5 p.m., the key time being targeted in the move. That’s the after-school hours when groups of kids are causing problems.

81 percent hike in serious crime reported on SEPTA property from 2004 to 2007.

200 to 0, the unanimous vote by which the Pa. House yesterday backed a gun-control measure, as well as 4 prison reform bills. They now go to the Senate.

352,000 federal dollars being delivered to Upper Darby’s Weed and Seed program to set up a Center for Family Safety.

2 gunshot wounds that proved fatal to man whose body was found in a Marcus Hook park Friday. It’s been ruled a homicide.

3 candidates running in a special election in the April 22 primary for a seat on the Middletown council.

6 new dorms being built at West Chester University. The 160 beds will come at a cost of $300 million.

200 years for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which will wind up its bicentennial anniversary with a gathering of students, a special bell-ringing and a cake.

50 to 100 dead animals, including dogs and cats, found inside a home in Barnegat, N.J.

3 University of Delaware students who say they were savagely beaten in a Miami Beach nightclub during their spring break.

25 cents more a gallon, the prediction for gas prices before summer, according to AAA.

3.25 a gallon, what we’re now paying for regular unleaded in the Philly area. That’s the highest price so far in 2008. Diesel is going for $4.25 a gallon.

4 home runs hit yesterday by the Phils in their win over the Reds. Jimmy Rollins led off the game with a dinger, Pat Burrell hit 2, and Geoff Jenkins hit his 1st as a Phil.

7 solid innings for Cole Hamels, who scattered 5 hits, 2 runs, to get the win.

3 more days for the Flyers to rest up before they kick off their opening playoff series against the Caps Friday night.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Is it just me, or does Pat Burrell, .435 batting average and 3 home runs, have the classic look of a guy playing in the last year of his contract. Hey, I’m not complaining. I’m just wondering where it’s been.

I Don’t Get It: A warning for people in the Horsham area. Some knuckleheads are making home-made explosive devices and sticking them in mail boxes. Some fun, eh?


Today’s Upper: Kudos to Cathy Rush, who led Immaculata to women’s hoops glory, she is being added to the Basketball Hall of Fame. Here, here!


Quote Box: “I would hope that this younger generation would take a look around and value life.”

-- Sharon M. Childs Conroy, mother of Sean Patrick Conroy, victim of fatal beating on a SEPTA platform.

Sharon Conroy's plea: Never again

Sharon Childs Conroy is a slight, frail-looking woman. No doubt her burden is that much heavier these days, knowing what happened to her son.

I had the chance to meet her yesterday when she stopped by the office to deliver a photo of Sean Patrick Conroy.

If the name’s familiar, it should be. He’s the Starbucks manager who was confronted by a group of teen thugs on a SEPTA subway platform. Conroy was stricken and died.

So far five teens have been charged in his death.

Conroy had a lot of ties to Delaware County. He lived for a time in Upper Darby and attended Upper Darby High School. His mother still lives in Lansdowne.

Conroy was buried last week from St. Cyril of Alexandria Church in East Lansdowne.

His mother decided to talk to us because she wanted people to know what happened to her son. In particular she never wants anyone to forget. And most importantly, she wants to be sure nothing like what happened to her son ever happens to anyone else.

Since the fatal attack on Sean Conroy, two other people, a man and a woman, have been assaulted in the underground maze that makes up the SEPTA system.

Ironically, just hours after we talked to Conroy’s mother, we heard from SEPTA officials.

They are beefing up security on subway platforms, in particular during the 2-5 p.m. after-school hours during which problems with gangs of youths have been reported.

They will put 30 more officers on the subway platforms, going from 60 to 90 uniforms during those critical hours. It’s going to cost about $17,000 in overtime.

If it saves one life, if it prevents what happened to Sean Patrick Conroy from ever happening again, it will be well worth it.

And it will provide some relief, some closure, to the nightmare that has shattered the life of his mother.

Gunning for the criminals

Maybe the state House is catching on.

Just a week after shooting down a gun control amendment looking to rein in illegal “straw” purchases of guns, the chamber turned around yesterday and unanimously passed another gun control measure.

Last week we chided House Speaker Dennis O’Brien, R-Phila., for his vote against the measure, seemingly unthinkable for someone who represents a city being savaged by illegal guns.

To his credit, O’Brien was back leading the charge yesterday.

O’Brien insisted he had opposed last week’s measure because of his belief that it could lead to criminal charges being filed against innocent gun owners.

To find out the specific proposals in the bill, you can Click Here.

Kudos to the House. It’s about time. Every poll we’ve seen shows overwhelming support for these kind of common sense gun proposals.

We’re not interested in limiting anyone’s gun rights. We just want to make our streets a little safe. And save lives.

This measure will help that process.

Gee, imagine that, an OT thriller

Naturally, the NCAA title game went to overtime. Why didn’t I guess.

We were holding our press run for the print edition so we could get the game in. With a 9:05 start, I was hoping for the game to end sometime between 11:30 and midnight.

Naturally, the teams had other ideas. The game went to overtime before Kansas, which had rallied from a 9-point deficit in regulation and tied the game on one of the all-time 3-point shots you will ever see by Mario Chalmers, then prevailed in the extra period, 75-68.

Of course it never would have gone to OT if Memphis had been able to sink a few foul shots in regulation.

The look on those Memphis kids’ faces I believe tells you everything you need to know about the “agony of defeat.”

You can read all about it, both in print and online.

O Shea can you see ... the first huge series of season

The Phillies season starts today. Yes, I know they stand 3-4 after the first week of the season.

But it gets serious this afternoon.

That’s because the Phils are in Shea Stadium. Yep, the NL East Champions will be on the docket as the Mets finally hold their home opener – the last one in Shea Stadium history. They’ll move to a new stadium next year.

But the move likely will not erase the memory of the New Yorkers’ epic collapse last year, coughing up a gaping lead over the Phils, who took the crown on the last day of the season.

This is the date the Mets have had circled on their calendar. They will be looking to erase a memory that has hung over them like a shroud since that fateful October Sunday.

Game time is 1:10. Jamie Moyer on the mound for the Phils. Trash talking likely to start several hours before the first pitch is thrown.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Another hit for Hillary

Here’s your Monday morning update on the road to the Pennsylvania Primary:

* 15 days until Pennsylvania goes to the polls on April 22. That’s exactly two weeks from tomorrow.

Neither candidate has much in the way of appearances today. Which could be good news for Hillary Clinton, who finds herself putting out another brush fire in her own camp.

This is not what she needs right now, with polls showing her once sizeable lead over Barack Obama getting perilously thin.

On Sunday her senior strategist left the campaign, on the heels of word that one of his firm’s PR clients included Colombia. Mark Penn was working with the South American country on a free trade deal, even as Clinton was railing on the campaign trail against NAFTA and just such trade pacts.

That makes two top aides who have hit the exits on Hillary in just the past month.

Not what she needed two weeks before the crucial Pennsylvania vote. Don’t think Obama has not noticed. He will roll out a new series of TV commercials in the state this week, one targeting Clinton’s lead among blue-collar workers.

15 days … and counting.

A forum for all ideas, not just ones I agree with

C. Scott Shields is mayor of Rutledge. He’s also a frequent letter writer to this newspaper.

He had another offering in the Sunday paper. Shields has problems with Sen. Barack Obama, specifically his middle name. For those of you who don’t know, that name is Hussein.

Shields spent much of his op-ed piece offering his thoughts on Obama’s middle name. It smacked of the same kind of thought process as a talk show host who was introducing Republican candidate Sen. John McCain a few weeks back. The man went out of his way to emphasize the “Hussein” part of Obama’s middle name. Now Shields has done the same.

To his credit, McCain immediately repudiated the move and said he wanted no part of such a dialog. Now I get to do the same.

I don’t agree with what Shields wrote. I don’t know what Obama’s middle name has to do with the relevant issues in this campaign. For some reason, Shields and some others are for some reason threatened by that name, which of course is the same as that of the Iraqi strongman this country went to war with to remove from power.

It seems almost as if the belief is that if they say it enough times, this kind of fear-mongering will seep through to the voting public. It’s just one more sign of how much effort we are willing to expend on things that are not really important in this race.

Interestingly enough, I received a voice-mail from a woman in Media on Sunday who was livid about the Shields’ piece. But her anger was directed at the newspaper, not the writer.

She was assuming that since it appeared on our Opinion page, that it was our opinion. Not so. I could not disagree more. But that does not mean I won’t run the piece. I’m not big on censorship. I believe our Opinion section should be a forum for all ideas, including those I would vehemently disagree with.

I’m not buying into any of the venom dripping from Shields’ piece. But I am willing to offer a forum for him to make it. I suppose some people would rather I did not. That is a very dangerous slope, one that can come dangerously close to censorship.

I assure you C. Scott Shields does not represent the Daily Times. He did, however, appear on our Opinion pages. If you don’t like what he had to say, I suggest you join in the discussion.

Write a response, and I will make sure it hits print. That’s the whole idea. More ideas, more thought, more opposing views.

Not less.

Not exactly coming up aces

Somehow I don’t think this is what the Phils had in mind when they moved Brett Myers back into the starting rotation.

That image of a joyous Myers tossing his glove into the air on the last day of the regular season as he closed out the deal and the Phils clinched the NL East is becoming a distant memory.

On Sunday Myers strode to the mound for his second start of the season. And again he was ineffective. Ken Griffey Jr. crushed a monster home run off Myers, who was generally outdueled by Reds rookie Edinson Volquez.

Not good. Myers was sharp in spring training. The Phils were counting on him, so much so they moved him to the top of the rotation as their opening day starter. It hasn’t worked out as the Phils planned.

Myers and Cole Hamels, who takes the hill today, have yet to win a game, although Hamels was gangbusters in his only start. Meanwhile, lowly Adam Eaton and Kyle Kendrick, who had everybody holding their breath on each pitch in Florida, have offered solid starts.

Myers needs to become the ace for the Phils to break out of their annual spring doldrums.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Hi-Q Heaven

Last night was one of my favorite nights of the year.

That's because I got to sit in a packed ballroom at the Drexelbrook and hear lots of people say nice things about the newspaper.

The occasion was the annual Partners in Education dinner put on by the Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union and the Foundation of the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce.

The dinner fetes those kids who participate in the annual Hi-Q scholastic quiz competition. It also includes the introduction of the All-Delco Hi-Q team. It's patterned after the Daily Times' All-Delco athletic teams. Each team nominates one member as their "All-Delco" candidate.

It gives the newspaper the opportunity to balance the playing field a bit between how we cover student athletes and those whose accomplishments focus more on the classroom.

It also affords me the opportunity to bask in some well-wishes. That's why I never turn down the invitation.

Last Sunday we featured the All-Delco Hi-Q members on our front page. I explained to the packed ballroom the decision-making process that goes into that, of our struggle in how we often portray kids, and how it's important to offer another image of young people than the one that so often graces the pages of the newspaper: Kids getting in trouble.

I referred to it as my own version of "Jeopardy."

That's because the guest speaker for the evening was none other than Ken Jennings, the guy who captured the imagination of the nation -- and admittedly make geekdom cool -- by running off a streak of 50-some wins on the popular quiz show.

Jennings was among kindred spirits, and he assured the kids there was nothing trivial about their pursuit of knowledge.

He didn't say it, but he probably could have added that there's nothing trivial about the way their accomplishments should be noted in their local newspaper.

In fact, I'll say it for him.

Well done, kids.

Put one in the win column for the Phightin' Phils

Hey, at least they aren't going to go 0-162.

Thanks largely to their reigning MVP, the Phils broke into the win column yesterday, snapping a two-game skid to kick off the season.

Last year Jimmy Rollins talked big, infamously labeling the Phils "the team to beat" in the NL East. Then he backed up the talk on the field.

Yesterday, he did it again, using his legs to go from first to third on a sacrifice bunt by Shane Victorino. It set up the game-winning walk -- on four pitches.

It carried the Phils to a marvelous come-from-behind 8-7 win.

That sound you heard emanating from the Phils' locker room was a giant sigh of relief. The sound you did not hear was Rollins talking to reporters about his heroics after the game. He decided not to chat with the most of the media.

Yes, the reaction to the Phils start likely was a bit over the top. Panic did seem to set in a little early. But I doubt that Jamie Moyer's rough outing soothed many concerns about the Phillies' pitching.

That's what we'd be talking about this morning had Rollins not intervened. That's what MVPs do.

Unfortunately, what Rollins did after the game -- or more specificaly did not do -- is not.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- April 3

The Daily Numbers: 1 of the three major presidential candidates who has yet to do Delco. What are you waiting for, Hillary?

2 Delco reps who voted against an amendment that would require people to report lost or stolen guns. But Rep. Nick Micozzie actually supports the measure. He said his voting mechanism was stuck in the “no” position. Rep. Steve Barrar also voted against.

2 different crashes that snarled Delco roads yesterday. A dump truck lost part of its load on the Blue Route overpass, sending debris down on Darby Road. And some power lines were knocked down in Brookhaven.

1,700 kids who got a jolt of reality yesterday at Cardinal O’Hara High School, where police recreated an accident to remind them of the dangers of drinking and driving. Just in time for prom and graduation season.

4 more teens charged in the fatal subway attack in Philadelphia. That’s 5 in total, with 1 more being sought.

2,200 dollar mink coat apparently bought on a shopping spree by suspects who now face charges of ID theft. They bought the goods with credit cards that belonged to the wife of an Aston police officer.

274 kilos of cocaine seized during a huge drug bust in Philly. The street value of the coke weighs in at a cool $28 million.

124 churches in Camden County that likely will be drastically altered today as the archdiocese reshapes its parishes, in part because of financial struggles, and in part because of a shortage or priests.

40 year-old woman, an employee of Curran Fromhold Prison, who is now charged with the hit-and-run death of 15-year-old Mary Lee Otto in Philadelphia.

2 officers in New Castle County, Del., who were struck by a man fleeing when he was spotted as a wanted fugitive. He’s still on the loose.

16 year-old who is now charged with critically shooting his 14-year-old brother during gunplay in their Philadelphia home Wednesday night.

81 age of woman who was brutally beaten during a home invasion in Kensington.

6,400 high-tech jobs added in Pennsylvania in 2006. That puts the state in 7th place nationally. New Jersey did better, adding 8,500 such jobs.

8 people injured in a three-car crash in Bear, Del., Wednesday night. That includes 3 children.

150 dollars a month, the fee for a new high-speed Internet service being rolled out by Comcast in Chicago.

6 to 0, the vote by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court clearing the way for construction of the Foxwoods Casino on the Philadelphia waterfront.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Show of hands now: Who would have thought back at Christmas that the Sixers had the best outlook of our four pro sports teams? Thought so.

I Don’t Get It: What exactly is the attraction of going to a ball game and acting like a neanderthal. Once again fan behavior at Citizens Bank Park will go under the microscope after what ensued after last night’s “Dollar Dog” night.


Today’s Upper: It’s good that Philadelphia police have made arrests in the attack on Sean Patrick Conroy on the Center City subway platform. Now if only they could tell us why.


Quote Box: “I’m not running because of some lofty ambitions or because I think it’s somehow owed to me. I’m running because of what Dr. King called, ‘The fierce urgency of now.’”

-- Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama, to crowd at Strath Haven High Wednesday.

Obama does Strath Haven

Barack Obama did something Wednesday that I have almost never seen a candidate do.

He was early.

The advance press material we received indicated the senator was going to kick off his town hall meeting at 12:20 p.m. It was the latest stop on his “Road to Change” bus tour. Obama had already appeared before the AFL-CIO Convention in Philly, just as his Democratic opponent, Sen. Hillary Clinton, had done the day before.

That was followed by a quick tour of the Italian Market, and then it was off to Delco.

So I was amazed as I sat in my office watching the noon news on TV when they threw it to the reporter at Strath Haven. At 10 after. I was expecting a piece advancing Obama’s arrival. Not exactly. As the reporter spoke, there in the background on the stage speaking to the packed gymnasium was Obama, already addressing the crowd. And 10 minutes early.

It was another moment in the sun for Delaware County, as both candidates make their push for votes in the crucial Philadelphia suburbs, all of which is backdrop to the April 22 primary.

The best part of Obama’s stop at Strath Haven wasn’t his stump speech, which wasn’t bad. But it was when he opened things up to questions from the audience, including the senior class at Strath Haven, kids who will be eligible to vote in this election, that things got interesting.

One middle school student had a great question. He wondered what it must be like to have your father running for president and asked Obama what his kids, 6 and 9, thought of it.

Obama’s response was perfect. “I don’t think they’re all that impressed,” he said.

Then it was off to West Chester University for a taping of “Hardball” with Chris Matthews on MSNBC. The talk host is doing a tour of Pennsylvania colleges with the candidates. In two weeks he’ll do a session with Republican Sen. John McCain at Villanova.

Both Obama and McCain now have made stops in Delco. That leaves only one candidate yet to do some face time here.

Yes, former President Bill Clinton did a rally at Penn State Brandywine a few weeks back, but his wife has not found her way here.

No doubt that likely will change before we head to the polls on April 22.

It’s now 19 days and counting. Having fun yet?

The murder of Sean Patrick Conroy

Philadelphia police have made four more arrests in the death of Sean Patrick Conroy on a Center City subway platform.

That’s the good news.

Conroy has strong connections to Delaware County. He spent much of his youth in Upper Darby and attended Upper Darby High. His mom still lives in Lansdowne. On Tuesday 200 people packed St. Cyril’s Church in East Lansdowne for his funeral.

The bad news is that despite the arrests, police still have no inkling as to what was the motivation behind the attack on Conroy. Five young men are now in custody. Police are looking to arrest one more youth. The teens are all students at Simon Gratz High School. That’s where they were supposed to be when instead they confronted Conway on the El platform at 13th and Market streets in the middle of the afternoon. This is just blocks from City Hall.

Conway was the manager of the Starbucks at the nearby Marriott Hotel.

The 36-year-old didn’t actually suffer any big injuries during the confrontation, but it apparently threw him into respiratory distress.

Homicide Detective Mike Costello probably speaks for all of us.

“Quite frankly, it’s senseless,” Costello said. “It defies any meaning. We have no meaning why this occurred. We don’t believe it was a robbery. Despite the speculation there’s absolutely no indication it’s any kind of hate crime.”

Just a random killing by a group of teenagers in the middle of the afternoon in a crowded subway station.

This is what we’ve come to. Just flat-out chilling.

The Phils by the numbers

Baseball is a game of numbers. Here’s the number you need to remember from last night’s Phils’ game: 44,986.

That was last night’s attendance. Yes, the Phils sold out the second game of the season, just as they had the opening day affair with the Nationals. And this on a night when temperatures hovered in the mid-40s.

The weather is cold, but the Phils are red-hot. Game Two of the season is classically a let-down day. Attendance often falls by half. Not this year. This team, and this stadium, is what they call “happening.”

All of which makes the fact that the Phils lost to start their season 0-2 that much more disappointing.

Here’s last night’s game by the numbers:

* 1 hit for the Phils.
* 1 run for the Nationals, enough to win the game.
* 8 strong innings for Cole Hamels, who looked every bit the “ace” of the staff. And another reason the loss is such a bitter disappointment.
* 5 hits given up by Hamels. Unfortunately, one of them was a classic Citizens Bank Park fly ball turned home run tucked into the right field corner.
* 0 wins and 2 losses for the Phils.
* 2.5 games back in NL East. Yes, even though they’ve only played 2 games, the Phils are 2.5 behind the 3-0 Nationals.
* 5 straight years the Phils have failed to win their opening series.

Not good. They play a Business Person’s Special at 1 this afternoon.

And one other thing. College Nights are out at the Park. Dollar Dog Nights remain.

What happened after last night’s game, with debris, including a lot of those hot dogs showering the field, means the Phils still have work to do in the area of fan behavior.

Of course, that’s nothing a few wins won’t cure.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- April 2

The Daily Numbers: 4 people whose deaths inside a Chester apartment remain a mystery. The investigative trail now awaits results of toxicological and other tests on the victims.

7 “flashing” incidents on the Villanova campus, all believed linked to one man. You can see a surveillance pic of the suspect both in the newspaper and on our Web site today.

2 hours, how long it took authorities to coax a man from his Primos home after a standoff with police early Tuesday morning.

200 people who gathered Tuesday at St. Cyril’s Church in Lansdowne for the funeral of Sean Patrick Conroy, the man who died after a scuffle with a group of teens on a Center City subway platform.

80 people chased from their homes Tuesday night when flames roared through several units at the William Henry Apartments in Malvern.

3 people being sought for stealing the ID of a woman from Aston and then going on a shopping spree, including buying a $2,200 mink coat.

25 to 65 bucks, the cost of catalytic converters that are increasingly being stolen from cars. Thieves are targeting them so they can resell the valuable metals inside.

1 million dollar bail set for man charged with the murder of his girlfriend, a Rutgers senior and mother of a 2-year-old son, who was discovered sitting next to his mom’s lifeless body.

1 dollar, the discounted price being touted by still another bus company for a ride from Philly to New York City.

2 hours, time that the campus of Millersville University in Lancaster County was locked down yesterday after a student reported a threat.

65, age of woman charged with killing another woman in a Bucks County church. Police now say the case seems to be rooted in jealousy. The suspect was ticked by the amount of attention and aid her victim, 42, was receiving from the pastor.

14 community colleges in the state that were in Harrisburg Tuesday pushing for an increase in funding.

391 point surge on Wall Street yesterday, first day of the second quarter. Investors might be ready to get past the credit crunch and jump back into the market.

3 huge buckets in the final two minutes by Lou Williams last night to propel the Sixers to a 108-99 win over the Nets. Call him Sweet Lou.

44 degrees, temperature tonight for the Phillies-Nats game, as the locals try to break into the win column at Citizens Bank Park.

3.79 ERA last year for journeyman pitcher Rudy Seanez, signed by the Phils to shore up their bullpen. He went 6-3 for the Dodgers last year before being released in spring training.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Let’s start the chant now, Phillies fans. “Ru-dy! Ru-dy! Ru-dy!”

I Don’t Get It: The weather will match the fans’ mood if the Phils fall behind tonight. Can you say chilly?


Today’s Upper: Our local hero Jack Whelan got a standing ovation from his peers at yesterday’s County Council meeting for his efforts in intervening in the life-and-death tussle between a CVS worker and a suspected shoplifter. We concur.


Quote Box: “He’ll be buried in mother’s arms. She loved that baby.”

-- A sobbing Karen Saunders, mother of Lindsay Cassidy and grandmother of Kolby O’Brien, on funerals for the two, who were found dead in a Chester apartment Sunday.

Delco's dynamic duo

As a former assistant district attorney, Jack Whelan no doubt many times heard police warn citizens about getting personally involved in fighting crime. The mantra usually is not to take physical action to intervene, to alert authorities and let them do their job.

It’s advice Whelan and another citizen ignored last Sunday. Good for them.

The vice chairman of County Council, and a former Ridley commissioner, was simply running an errand when he stopped at the CVS store on MacDade Boulevard in the Woodlyn section of the township.

What happened next put Whelan in the middle of a life-and-death struggle.

Police say the store manager became embroiled in a dispute with a suspected shoplifter. The suspect took out a box cutter and began flailing away. He sliced open the worker’s arm and came dangerously close to his carotid artery in his neck.

The scene was a bloody mess. Enter Jack Whelan, and fellow citizen Gene Whelan. Yes, they have the last name. Luckily for the store manager, they also share the same kind of intestinal fortitude.

Jack Whelan jumped into the fray to subdue the suspect. Gene Whelan eventually gave him a hand.

The experts likely would say this is exactly what you should not do.

But it’s incredibly satisfying to see anyone – let alone a public official in Jack Whelan’s case – to do just the opposite, to get involved.

Simply put, Jack Whelan saw a person in dire need of help. He never hesitated, putting his own life on the line to help someone he did not know.

The scene was a bloody mess. It would have been easy for the Whelan guys to simply call police and keep their distance from a very dangerous situation.

We hear a lot these days about the war on crime, about how police need the public’s help, need people to come forward with information.

The dynamic duo of Whelans on Sunday put their bodies where everyone’s mouth is.

They got involved. Good for them.

Well done, gentlemen.

Obama does Delco

Here’s your Wednesday morning update on the road to the Pennsylvania Primary:

* 20 days until Pennsylvania goes to the polls on April 22.

* The big news today is that Sen. Barack Obama brings his “Road to Change” bus tour to Delaware County.

After an address before the AFL-CIO Convention in Philadelphia, Obama will hold a rally at Strath Haven High School in Wallingford. He’ll be there around noon. Later this afternoon the candidate will film a session of “Hardball with Chris Matthews” at West Chester University.

But first things first. Obama will start his day at 7 a.m. with an encore performance on WIP sports talk radio, again chatting with host Angelo Cataldi and the Morning Crew. Hopefully this time he will avoid any references to a “typical white person” that fanned such controversy the last time he was on.

* In the meantime, the campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton will be in the western part of the state, with a full slate of appearances in the Pittsburgh area. Her daughter Chelsea also will keep pressing the flesh with appearances in York and Harrisburg.

* There was some sobering news for team Clinton yesterday. A new Rasmussen poll showed that her lead in Pennsylvania, which was double digits just last week, has dwindled to a slim 5 points. Clinton now leads Obama, 47-42.

The key to Clinton’s decline is apparently disenchantment with her description of a trip to Bosnia during her time as first lady in which she described her arrival as coming amid sniper fire, but later admitting she misspoke.

Shot down in Harrisburg

It was another banner day in Harrisburg yesterday.

Appropriately enough, it also was April Fool’s Day. Only no one is laughing.

The state House rejected a move that would require people to report lost or stolen handguns within three days of discovering that they were missing.

The target here is to give law enforcement a new weapon in the war on guns that are all too often used to commit crimes in many urban areas. Specifically it would have gone a long way to address the problem of straw buyers, that being the use of someone without a criminal record to legally buy a gun, then illegally turn it over to some who does, who in turn often sells it on the street.

Opponents, including the powerful National Rifle Association, railed against the legislation, maintaining the problem is the people who commit crime, not gun control.

The House rejected the measure 128-75. It was backed by Gov. Ed Rendell and the legislative black caucus, including its leader, Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland, D-159, of Chester. It received broad support from Philadelphia and the suburbs. Not surprisingly those also are the places, such as Philly and Chester, battling rampant street crime often fueled by the number of guns on the streets.

Just this past week in Chester, police and officials were mystified at the kind of gun violence the city is dealing with, after a shootout erupted after a dance in the city that some described as something out of the “OK Corral.”

Hey, look on the bright side. Just getting such a measure to the House floor for a vote is being considered something of a victory.

It’s the first time in memory the debate on gun violence made it to the floor and members were forced to put their votes on public display.

Proponents vow they will come back with another version of the legislation.

Just in case that wasn’t enough for our lawmakers to tackle in one day, they also failed to move on a proposal to limit public smoking.

A House-Senate conference committee could not reach an agreement on a compromise measure. The move is now off for at least another month.

Just another day in the state Capitol.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- April 1

The Daily Numbers: 500,000 dollar cash bail for the suspect in an attack on a CVS store employee in Ridley.

2 guys named Whelan who came to the store worker’s rescue, including County Councilman Jack Whelan.

7 incidents in which a man has “flashed” students at Villanova University that are under investigation by Radnor police.

65,000 dollars believed ripped off from a 92-year-old Upper Darby man by a waitress who police say had befriended him.

3 members of the public who offered their comments at a public hearing on the SEPTA budget Monday at the Media Courthouse.

11 percent rate hike being sought by Philadelphia Electric Co. to offset the cost of delivering natural gas to customers.

13 bucks more a month, what that rate hike likely would mean to the average PECO gas customer.

5 arrests that police hope will bust up a burglary ring that has been preying on people in the Fairmount Park area.

60,000 dollars, amount of reward now being posted for info in the murder of supermarket executive Gary Redner in Berks County. He was found beaten to death outside his home.

13 million dollars in heating aid in the popular LIHEAP fund that will not be given out this year. The program was shut down for the season on March 21.

3 percent dip in tax revenues collected by Pennsylvania in March, a sign state officials warn is more evidence of an economic downturn.

100 people who rallied along with truckers outside the Capitol in Harrisburg yesterday to protest outrageous diesel fuel costs.

3.23 a gallon, average price of regular unleaded gasoline in the region. That’s unchanged. Same for diesel fuel at $4.28 a gallon.

135 the earned run average of Tom “Flash Gordon, who got lit up in the Phils’ opener yesterday.

5 runs on 4 hits surrendered by Gordon, who recorded just one out in the 9th inning.

3 straight opening day losses for the Phillies.

44,553 soggy fans who turned out for the opener at Citizens Bank Park.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Yes, we’ve seen this before. The Phils will be “phun” to watch with that offense, but they will go only as far as their arms take them. Right now that looks like about a dollar cab ride.

I Don’t Get It: Everybody who’s surprised that the Phillies were let down by their pitching in the opener raise your hands. Thought so.


Today’s Upper: Some serious kudos for County Councilman Jack Whelan and Ridley resident Gene Whelan (no relation) as they came to the aid of a store manager who was being attacked by an alleged shoplifter. Bravo!


Quote Box: “Everything is pending further studies and investigation. The bottom line is we wish to proceed as methodically and responsibly as possible.”

-- County Medical Examiner Dr. Fredric Hellman, on the investigation into four bodies found in a Chester apartment Saturday night.

Opening Day Blues


Stop me if you’ve heard this before. That’s right, it was another less than satisfying Opening Day for the Phillies.

Raise your hand if you saw this one coming? Thought so.

The Phils lost to the Nationals, 11-6. It was a game that saw a lot of offense by the Phils, and a lot of bad pitching. Get used to it. The Phils are going to play a lot of games like this year. Just as they did last year.

Brett Myers got the start and, by his own admission, did not “have it.” He surrendered a two-run lead, eventually giving up 4 runs on five hits.

Things went downhill after he left. First up was Ryan Madson, who promptly surrendered a bomb. Then things eased a bit with Chad Durbin and J.C. Romero, who held off the Nats with a scoreless inning each.

But skipper Charlie Manuel decided to lift Romero and bring in substitute closer Tom Gordon in a tie game in the 9th. There’s been concern about Gordon all spring. Yesterday’s performance won’t help in that area.

“Flash” turned into a flash fire. He surrendered four hits and five runs while getting all of one out. He now sports a healthy ERA of 135.00.

Gordon has been forced back into the closer role because the team’s big off-season acquisition, Brad Lidge, is starting the season on the DL. He won’t be available until the weekend.

Not that Gordon likely would have been any better in the set-up role. Yesterday he got torched, in the process igniting the annual drumbeat of second-guessing of Manager Manuel, and belittling the off-season moves of G.M. Pat Gillick.

The worst thing is that the Phils have an off-day built into the schedule. That’s just in case the weather was even worse than it was yesterday. The game was played in a cold, miserable drizzle. Which matched the mood of the faithful leaving Citizens Bank Park.

Today the temperature is expected to approach the 70s, with showers.

Tomorrow it’s going to be chilly again. Which is what Manuel and the Phils can expect if they don’t find a solution to their pitching woes.

No doubt the Phils will be a very entertaining team this year. If you find losing games, 11-6, especially entertaining.

Sorry, Charlie, but we’ve seen this act before. A bad opening day, leading to a slow start, giving way to a miserable record in April.

Maybe Cole Hamels can head all this off at the pass. Hate to see the reaction should the “ace” get lit up and the Phils fall to 0-2.

Just to rub salt in the wound, it will not go unnoticed that Johan Santana recorded 8 strikeouts while leading the Mets to a win on opening day.

We’re already chasing them again. Last year it took us to the last day of the season to overtake them.

Please tell me we’re not looking at an instant replay.

Mystery continues on Chester

It’s now been three days since the grisly discovery of four bodies in an apartment in Chester.

And what we don’t know still outweighs what we do.

We now know the names of the four victims, two women in their early 20s, a 3 year-old child, and a 28-year-old man.

But we still have no inkling of what happened in the tidy apartment on Keystone Road. We don’t know how those four people died, or why.

We don’t know who or what circumstances led to the death of Lindsay Cassidy, 23, and her 3-year-old son Kolby O’Brien, along with Cassidy’s friend Michelle Fynes, 22, and Fynes’ boyfriend, John Michael Bryant, 28.

Autopsies on the bodies were performed by the Delaware County Medical Examiner’s office. But M.E. Dr. Fredric Hellman has indicated the manner and cause of death remains pending. He says he wants to do more testing, including awaiting the findings of outside lab work. That would include toxicology tests, which often can take weeks to come back.

This is not unusual, especially when it comes to Hellman. His reputation is someone who is thorough, meticulous, but not necessarily speedy.

We’ve been accustomed to reporting manner and cause of death as “pending” as Hellman goes about his work.

The one thing family members likely do not want to hear is that the investigation has not yet reached a conclusion in terms of how their loved ones died.

Likewise investigators now must await a ruling from Hellman as they go about trying to decipher the mystery of what happened inside that apartment.

But that’s the way it is. Four people are dead. Hellman will meticulously go about putting together his findings.

The only thing everyone else can do at this point is wait on his findings.

3 weeks and counting in Pennsylvania

Here’s your Tuesday morning update on the road to the Pennsylvania Primary:

* 21 days until Pennsylvania goes to the polls on April 22. Exactly three weeks from today.

* Both candidates will continue to work the Keystone State today. Sen. Hillary Clinton will be in Philadelphia this morning, where she will address the AFL-CIO Convention. This afternoon she’ll hold a town hall meeting at Wilkes College in Wilkes-Barre, followed by a rally tonight in Erie.

* Sen. Barack Obama continues his “Road to Change” bus tour. He’ll be in front of the AFL-CIO convention in Philly tomorrow. Also on Wednesday the candidate will film a session of “Hardball with Chris Matthews” at West Chester University.

* Don’t think all this hoopla has struck a nerve in Pennsylvania? Last Monday, which was the last day for would-be voters to register or change their registration, saw 33,000 first-time voters sign up as Democrats and another 46,000 voters change their designation to Democrat.

And those numbers likely will increase. County leaders are still processing voter applications that were mailed in by the March 24 deadline.