Monday, June 30, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- June 30

The Daily Numbers: 28.2 billion dollar spending plan agreed to in principle by Gov. Rendell and the state Legislature early this morning.

3.8 percent increase in state spending over last year’s fiscal plan.

550 million dollars in one-time funds that will be used to fill a hole in state revenues.

350 million dolalrs that will be earmarked to fix about 400 of the state’s most dangerous bridges.

32.8 billion dollar spending plan that will be signed by New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine this afternoon.

133 dollar tax hike looming in the Penn-Delco School District after board members OK’d a $48.8 million spending plan.

16 year difference between Ralph Archbold, who plays Ben Franklin, and Linda Wilde of Nether Providence, who does the same for Betsy Ross. They will tie the knot in real life on Thursday night.

9 hours locked in a mini-van on a Philadelphia street for a little girl whose family was visiting relatives on the 4200 block of Derrien Street.

4:30 a.m., when flames were discovered at the Sweetwater Casino Restaurant & Bar, in Hammonton, N.J. It appears to be a total loss.

9 out of 10 people in a new nationwide poll who say they are being affected by rising gasoline prices. Wonder who that 10th person is?

2 people slain on the streets of Philadelphia over the weekend.

2 people in custody after gunshots rang out in the parking lot of the Haverford Train Station Friday night. One man was wounded.

5 employees of a Boston Chicken outlet in Philadelphia who were herded into a freezer during a robbery early this morning.

6 series in a row that the Phils have lost. They dropped the rubber match of their contest with the Rangers in Texas Sunday.

4 wins and 11 losses for the Phils in this year’s interleague play. Not good.

1 game lead over the Marlins, what the Phils are clinging to as they head into Atlanta for a series with the Braves.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
For a place that will soon call a Major League Soccer franchise home, there didn’t see to be all that much buzz locally over the European soccer championship Sunday. Or did I just miss it?
I Don’t Get It: After the tragedy in Marple, it’s hard to believe authorities in Philadelphia could come upon still another child screaming hysterically after being accidentally left in the back of a hot mini-van. I don’t get it.

Today’s Upper: State workers can breathe a sigh of relief this morning. The budget accord in Harrisburg makes it very unlikely that state employees will be furloughed, even if the spending plan is nor formally approved by tonight’s deadline.

Quote Box: “Betsy Ross would be 246 years old now and Ben would be 302 and if I can get another 30 years out of him, that would be good.”

-- Linda Wilde of Nether Providence, who portrays Betsy Ross, on her soon-to-be husband, Ralph Archbold, who portrays Ben Franklin.

A short-lived reunion

For father and son, it was a short-lived reunion.

On Wednesday Sean O’Neill Jr. was allowed to return to his family’s home – just over the county line in Willistown – after spending nine months at the George Junior juvenile detention facility in Grove City.

O’Neill was a guest there for his role in the shooting death of his Cardinal O’Hara High School classmate, Scott Sheridan.

O’Neill shot and killed Sheridan, his best friend, back on Sept. 1, 2006, after a night of unsupervised partying at the sprawling home. He was 17 at the time. At one point in the night, O’Neill and some friends cruised around western Delaware County, shooting up at least one car.

When they returned to the O’Neill home, Sean O’Neill Jr. is believed to have pointed a gun at Sheridan. The weapon went off. Sheridan died in O’Neill’s arms.

Last Wednesday a Chester County judge allowed him to return home under some strict some strict conditions.

Friday morning there were more visitors to the O’Neill home. Sean O’Neill Sr., 48, was arrested by a phalanx of federal authorities on immigration and weapons charges.

O’Neill Sr. is the former owner of Maggie O’Neill’s Irish Pub and Restaurant in Drexel Hill.

The federal indictment paints a far different picture of O’Neill Sr. than that of the popular restaurateur.

The feds say O’Neill has ties to Irish groups, including one-time membership in Fianna na h’Eirann, the youth group of the Irish Republican Army.

The feds allege O’Neill Sr. consistently misrepresented about his Irish connections and also provided false information in attempting to receive a green card. They also charged him with illegal possession of a silencer.

He faces a bail hearing on Wednesday.

I consider myself a proud Irishman. I am told that I have relatives in Ireland. One family legend actually claims that our family dropped the ‘o’ in O’Heron when they came to this country. I’m not sure if that’s actually true, or is just part of my family’s Irish lore.

But I have to admit the charges against the elder O’Neill are fairly stunning. This is a guy who stood by his son at every court hearing.

Now their situations are reversed. O’Neill Jr. is now home. His father sits behind bars.

Several people have responded to the Web site and the story on O’Neill Sr.’s arrest to question the feds’ motivation and if they don’t have anything better to do than to hassle a law-abiding citizen. It’s also clear they believe O’Neill was targeted because of his ethnicity. You might say the move by the feds against O’Neill got their Irish up.

I’ll be very interested to see how this case pans out. We’ll keep you updated.

A good day for education

Janis Risch should be smiling today.

She was the focus of my Monday print column.

Risch is executive director of Good Schools Pennsylvania. They are pushing for increased spending for education in Pennsylvania as well as a new funding formula that would go a long way toward evening the playing field among schools districts, especially those right here in Delaware County.

So why would they be smiling today?

Because in the early-morning hours this morning out in Harrisburg, Gov. Ed Rendell and members of the Legislature cut a deal on a new state budget.

And the $28.2 million spending deal appears to include a huge boost in education funding. In Rendell’s original plan, he called for a 6 percent boost in money for education. That’s a healthy 6 percent boost. But it clearly was a little too rich for some Republicans in the state Senate, who were leery of that kind of spending increase amid some serious economic doldrums. There also was some serious bickering about who was in line to get the most money, specifically the amount of money earmarked for Philadelphia schools.

Just exactly how much money will go to education is not clear under this deal, but Rendell said early this morning that it is “basically the same.”

If that’s the case, Risch and education proponents all across the state should be smiling broadly.

But their work likely is not done. They still are looking to fix the riddle of education funding in the state.

But at least for one day, and one state budget, they look like they have won a battle.

The war goes on.

Phils' mantra? Good riddance, AL

The Phils entered inter-league play as the class of the National League East and one of the best teams in the senior circuit.

But all they managed to prove was the gulf that exists between the two leagues. The Phils managed to win just four games against the American League’s Red Sox, Angels, A’s and Rangers. Along the way they got tattooed for 11 losses.

Yesterday their struggling bats went silent once again, scratching out just five hits and 1 run against the Rangers.

And, incredible as it may sound, that’s not even their biggest problem. That would result in the bedraggled right arm of Brett Myers.

The team has a decision to make with the guy who was their stud closer last year and was supposed to be the ace of the rotation with his return as a starter this year. Hasn’t worked out that way. Myers has been awful. Now he’s due to start Thursday night’s game in Atlanta. He might not make it.

More importantly, just what his role is going to be is still to be decided by the Phils’ brass.

Hey, look on the bright side. The Phils are done with the National League. Unless you happen to believe this pitching staff is going to get them deep into October.

Bring on the Braves. And thank God for the National League.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- June 27

The Daily Numbers: 9 people slain on the streets of Chester so far this year, 2 in just the past 6 days.

21 people killed so far this year in Delaware County.

0 injuries when flames roared through a home in Aston yesterday afternoon. 9 different volunteer fire companies responded to the blaze.

6 town hall meetings being proposed by Republican 7th District challenger Craig Williams. So far incumbent Democrat Joe Sestak does not seem all that inclined to engage his foe.

14 age of girl police say a Sharon Hill man was videotaping as she got off an amusement ride upstate. Police say the man was trying to tape up the girl’s skirt.

4.15 a gallon, average price for gas in the Philadelphia region. That's back up a penny after being down a cent yesterday. Diesel is a penny to $4.99.a gallon.

40.4 million people who the folks at AAA say will be hitting the roads for the July 4 holiday. That’s down 1.3 percent from last year. High gas prices are believed to be keeping people off the roads for the 2nd straight holiday this year.

344 DUI arrests made by state police last July 4 holiday. They remind motorists not to drink and drive and that troopers will be out in force to rein those who ignore that advice.

4.50 a gallon, what home heating oil is going for right now. Industry experts say homeowners will be socked with next winter’s heating costs.

141 dollars a barrel, where crude oil prices were hovering this morning. That’s record territory.

9 armed holdups believed to be the work of two gunmen who are targeting Sunoco A-plus mini-markets in Philadelphia.

57,000 pounds of chicken that will have to thrown away, instead of going to help feed the needy. It was in 2 tractor-trailers stolen from the Food Bank of Delaware. It’s now spoiled and will be tossed.

75 year lease to turn over the Pennsylvania Turnpike to a private entity that is being debated in Harrisburg. Opposition to the deal is running high.

7,500 jobs being slashed by Bank of America in its deal to acquire troubled Countrywide Financial Corp.

42 to 36 point lead for Barack Obama over John McCain in a new poll done by Franklin & Marshall College.

44 to 34 for Obama among women. It’s 40-38 Obama among men. Among blacks it’s 91-3 for Obama.

0 runs for the Phils as their bats went silent again in a 5-0 loss to the A’s.

11 strikeouts for A’s hurler Rich Harden as he mowed down the moribund Phillies.

2 game lead in NL East for the Phils, who now have 3 this weekend in Texas.

14.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game for Marreese Speights, a forward from Florida who the Sixers took with the No. 16 pick in last night’s NBA Draft.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
This inter-league stuff is taking a toll on the Phils. So far they’ve been blown away by the Red Sox, Angels and A’s. Kind of tells you which is the superior league right now.
I Don’t Get It: With the city’s still recovering from the devastating loss of several police officers slain in the line of duty, how bright is it to do a YouTube video saying how much you enjoy seeing police shot? That’s what a Philadelphia man is charged with doing. He got an up-close look at police for his efforts when they arrested him for making threats against officers.

Today’s Upper: Kudos to Craig Williams. If you don’t know him, he’s the Republican candidate challenging first-term Congressman Joe Sestak in the 7th District race. Republicans were having trouble finding someone willing to tangle with Sestak, who is sporting a healthy war chest. They even at one point approached TV anchor Larry Mendte, who turned them down. Might have been the best thing that ever happened to the local GOP. But Williams is intent on taking what many thought would be a snooze of a race and turning it into one to watch. Good for him.

Quote Box: “It’s a landmark decision that once and for all clarifies that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual issue.”

-- Delco attorney C. Scott Shields, on yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling knocking down a gun ban in Washington, D.C.

Gunning for some debate

It strikes me as more than a bit ironic that on the day that the U.S. Supreme Court issues a historic ruling on the rights of Americans to own guns, the front page of this newspaper is again dominated by a story involving the use of a gun to snuff out another life in the city of Chester.

I know, I know, it wasn’t the gun that really killed 30-year-old Khali Henson. It was the person who pulled the trigger.

But I remain convinced that we have far too many guns in the hands of far too many people who have no business possessing them, and who think nothing of using them to settle their differences.

The question now seems to be where do we go from here. The high court’s ruling for the first time clearly espouses an interpretation of the Second Amendment to mean that individuals have the right to own a gun or guns for their personal use, including defending their home.

In the process they knocked down a three-decades-old ban on handguns in Washington, D.C.

The court’s ruling also is a setback for those who would argue that gun rights should be viewed only as part of the so-called “well-regulated militia” mentioned in the Second Amendment.

It will not, however, end the battle over handguns, and those seeking to rein in their use and availability. For instance, officials in Philadelphia, which recently passed a series of ordinances to beef up gun controls, appear optimistic that the high court is not ruling against all such measures.

They continue to joust with the NRA and Delco lawyer C. Scott Shields, who were successful in having several key elements of the Philly laws tossed, even while several others were left intact. Among them are a 48-hour deadline to report lost or stolen guns, the right of police to seize guns from someone considered a danger to themselves or others, and a ban on guns for anyone subject to a protection from abuse order.

The court tossed provisions limiting gun purchases to one a month.

Still to be decided is whether the city even has the legal ability to create such laws. Shields and the NRA argue that lies solely with the state Legislature.

The debate will continue. We are a society awash in guns. I don’t want to see anyone’s Second Amendment rights violated. I also think there are too many guns in the hands of people who should not have them.

Will the laws currently on the books resolve this situation, even if they were vigorously enforced.

I’m not sure.

What I am sure about is that we’re no closer to solving this riddle, even with the ruling from the high court.

If you have ideas, offer your response. Go ahead. Take your best “shot.”

More on babies in back seats

I was a bit surprised by how many people reacted to yesterday’s item on the tragedy of little Nicholas McCorkle, the 14-month-old who died after being left in the back of his grandfather’s SUV for hours.

Edward Kanterman faces a felony charge of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the case. Whether or not Kanterman should have been charged has sparked a lot of debate.

But I’m also hoping that something good can come out of this horrific incident, specifically a way to ensure this kind of tragedy does not happen again.

Kanterman has indicated that he simply forgot that the child was in the back seat of his car.

Yesterday I offered an idea from a reader involving placing a medium-sized teddy bear in the empty car seat, then placing the stuffed animal next to you in the front seat when the child is put in the car. Hopefully when the driver gets out, he or she will notice the teddy bear, in the process ensuring they do not forget the precious cargo in the back.

I got several other good suggestions from readers yesterday.

Pete Snow is a former Delco resident who now catches up with all the news from his old stomping grounds by checking out every day. He now lives in New Castle, Del.

Snow credits his son Dan with the idea. This is how it would work: It’s patterned on the bell that goes off to alert the driver that someone in the car does not have their seat belt fastened.

Snow suggests using the technology in reverse. When a driver turns off the ignition, if any seat belt remains fastened, a similar alarm would go off. Since the seat belt is used to secure the baby in the back, the alarm would go off if the belt was not undone to get the baby out.

If we can utilize this technology to ensure that we don’t leave the lights on in cars, don’t you think we might consider it to protect babies?

Cori Stauffer also checked in. She’s a mother of three and a former nanny, so she knows a little something about transporting kids.

Stauffer suggests anyone who is carrying such precious passengers purchase a child safety mirror. It attaches to the rear-view mirror and gives a bird’s eye view of the back seat.

Another good idea.

I’m still haunted by a single question from this sad story. I continue to ask myself if I could see a situation where this could have happened to me. And I continue to sweat a bit as I ponder the answer.

I know what I’d like it to be; but I also fear for what it could be.

Let’s take every measure we possibly can to make sure something like this never happens again.

Manuel's juggling act

Charlie Manuel must feel a little like the Flying Wallendas right now. Manuel is walking a high-wire as he tries to juggle things and kick-start the moribund Phillies’ offense.

Some days it works; some days you drop everything and fall off the wire.

On Wednesday Manuel juggled his lineup and it worked to perfection. The Phils, led by four hits from Chase Utley, snapped out of their funk and in the process snapped a six-game losing streak.

Manuel continued to tinker with Thursday’s lineup for the finale against the A’s.

It didn’t work out quite as well.

The Phils’ bats went back to sleep. They got two hits – both of them by Shane Victorino – on the way to being shut out by Rich Harden.

Now it’s on to Texas for the weekend. The good news is that the Texas park is generally considered a hitter’s paradise. Maybe that will spark the Phils’ slumbering lumber.

The bad news is that Brett Myers is on the hill for the Phils. He has been struggling, proving especially vulnerable to the long ball.

Hope they’re giving out helmets in the bleachers.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- June 26

The Daily Numbers: 1.4 million dollars that the NBA wants disgraced former ref Tim Donaghy, a Delco native, to pay in restitution.

2 people, a father and his 16-year-old son, charged in Upper Darby with threatening to kill two people at knifepoint after a neighborhood altercation.

43 years on the job at SEPTA for Collingdale resident Allen Sims, who was honored along with 173 other workers who are hanging up their uniforms after long careers with the transit giant.

3.39 percent tax hike in the William Penn school budget, although residents likely will see their bills go down because of the state’s homestead relief program.

100,000 dollars in “fluff” that board member Diane Leahan of Darby Borough recommended be cut out of the spending plan.

1 in 6 Pennsylvania residents who have taken advantage of the new gambling laws in the state to play our new-fangled slot machines, according to a new study.

7 Delco residents who face charges in a $2.5 million dollar sports betting ring based in Philadelphia.

2 soldiers from New Jersey, including a decorated state trooper, killed in action in Iraq this week.

3 more Wawa stores in the region where it has been discovered that con men using “skimmers” are stealing customer info of those who use credit cards at the gas pumps.

57,000 pounds of chicken, and 2 tractor-trailers, recovered that had been stolen from the Delaware Food Bank, which helps feed needy residents. Authorities believe most of the chicken is still edible.

3 more cases of salmonella poisoning discovered in New Jersey tied to tainted tomatoes.

17 to 12, margin by which a state House committee approved a measure that would put new restrictions on state dog kennels and breeders.

24 hours a day, what the beach at Ocean City, N.J., would be open for if a proposal is approved tonight. Right now the pubic is barred from the beach 10 p.m.-6 a.m.

4,716 motorcyclists involved in crashes last year. Of those, 57 percent were wearing helmets.

4 hits for Chase Utley last night as he went 4-for-5 to lead the Phils.

6 game losing skid that the Phils snapped with their 4-0 win over the A’s.

8 shutout innings for Kyle Kendrick to get the win. It’s his longest outing as a pro.

16 where the Sixers will pick in the first round of tonight’s NBA Draft.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Charlie Manuel simply continues to push the right buttons with this Phils’ club. The team needed a shakeup, and Manuel gave them one, seriously juggling his lineup. That, plus a superb start from Kyle Kendrick, snapped the Phils out of their funk.
I Don’t Get It: I still can’t believe someone would get on a motorcycle, head out onto the open road, and do so without a helmet. Hell, I’m loathe to even get on a bike without a helmet.

Today’s Upper: Kudos to the lifeguards at the Nile Swim Club in Yeadon, whose quick action saved a youth who was having some difficulty in the pool.

Quote Box: “It has truly been a unique experience for me, with all the people who have passed through our doors.”

-- Dolores Freeman, talking about her Freeman Cultural Arts Gallery in Chester, which will close its doors permanently next week.

The baby in the back seat, and a possible solution

I don’t believe anyone believes there was any intent on the part of Edward Kanterman to deliberately harm his 14-month-old grandson.

In fact, you could argue quite the contrary. Kanterman was by all accounts a doting grandfather, who reveled in the time he spent with little Nicholas McCorkle.

That did not change on June 10. But something did.

On that day, the hottest day of the year as we sweltered in a late-spring heat wave, Kanterman arrived at his daughter’s house as he routinely did to pick up his grandson and drop him off at his day care center.

But Kanterman did not do that. Instead, he drove to work, cracked the windows and sunroof on his SUV, and went inside. Left behind was little Nicholas, still strapped in his car seat, where he would remain for hours as temperatures outside hit the high 90s. Police believe the temperature inside the car zoomed to 120 degrees.

Nicholas was not discovered for hours, when Kanterman returned to his car after lunch and realized what happened.

The tot was rushed to the hospital. But it was too late. He lingered on life support for several days. The inevitable, crushing, unbelievably sad saga concluded when little Nicholas passed away after being removed from life support.

Nicholas’ life was over; but the investigation into his death was not.

Left to be sorted out was what – if indeed any – charges would be filed against the grandfather. Members of the family made it clear they did not want charges pressed in the case. They felt it would only add to Kanterman’s grief. Some believe he already is serving something of a jail sentence, living the rest of his days with the knowledge of what happened as a result of his actions.

But District Attorney G. Michael Green clearly viewed the case differently. He was not alone.

All across the region, the question was the same. How could this have happened? How could Kanterman not have realized he had left the tot behind in the sweltering car? And, in our most private moments, all of us asked if we could ever imagine ourselves doing something similar. I know I did.

Now we have answers to some questions, and yet no real knowledge of what happened that fateful morning.

The answer from Kanterman is that he simply forgot. That answer comes in the affidavit issued for his arrest.

Green, while acknowledging the incredible pain and suffering heaped on the family, clearly took a different view of the legal aspects of the case.

He charged Kanterman with a felony count of involuntary manslaughter in the death of little Nicholas.

Much of what has been discussed concerning this case revolves around what exactly is criminal intent. At the minimum, I would think the case clearly reaches the level of reckless endangerment. That probably kicked in as soon as Kanterman closed the door of the SUV, leaving the child behind.

I don’t envy Green in making this decision. I also don’t think Kanterman should go to jail.

I would still like to know just how something like this could happen. And how we could prevent it from happening again.

To that end I got a call yesterday from a reader, George Wood, of Marcus Hook. He has an idea I think could work in preventing just this kind of tragedy.

One thing some experts believe might be at work here is the fact that most people now are placing car seats in the back seat, so as to keep them away from any possible injury should the front air bags be deployed. Once tucked away in the back, some people believe it is easier to forget that precious cargo. Out of sight, out of mind, I suppose.

Here’s Wood’s idea. Place a medium-size teddy bear in your empty car seat. When you take the teddy bear out and put your loved one in the car seat, put the teddy bear next to you in the front seat. That way when you get out, you’re much more likely to see the bear, and thus remember who’s still sitting in the back seat.

If it prevents even one such case, it will be well worth it.

Stories don’t get much more sad and tragic than this one. I would be hard-pressed to find a positive angle from anything that happened since Nicholas McCorkle was left in the back seat of that SUV.

Wood just might have provided one. Thanks, George.

Bring back the helmet law

You can file this one under the “no-brainer” category. Literally.

A new legislative study came out Wednesday that indicates serious head injuries have become more common among Pennsylvania motorcycle riders in the five years since legislators repealed a law mandating helmets.

Oddly enough, the same study indicates that overall motorcycle crash and injury rates have fallen. The mortality rate involved in fatal accidents has pretty much stayed the same.

Let me see if I have this right. We constantly remind our kids – as well as adults – to wear helmets when they are riding our bikes.

Then we say to those who climb on board motorcycles, capable of speeds up to 100 mph and more, that it’s up to them if they want to wear a helmet.

Hey, look, I’m all for personal liberty. But I’m also for common sense. It seems pretty apparent to me that being involved in a motorcycle crash, at those speeds, while not wearing a helmet, is just inviting disaster.

Riders who oppose helmets like to stand by the motto, “Let those that ride decide.”

Unfortunately, in some of those instances, we all end up paying for it in the form of higher insurance and health care costs.

The helmet law should be put back in place. The sooner the better.

The Charlie Shuffle: Winning Manuel for Phils

So, is Charlie Manuel a genius, or what?

The Phils’ skipper juggles his lineup, and the team responds by snapping out of its doldrums – and ending a six-game losing skid.

Or was it the fact that Chase Utley’s bat came alive again, getting four hits to lead the Phils.

Or was it simply a matter of starter Kyle Kendrick taking the bull by the horns, throwing eight strong innings and shutting out the A’s.

Maybe it’s all of the above. But Manuel continues to push the right buttons with this group of players. The team needed a change, a bit of a shakeup. Manuel certainly supplied that with the lineup he rolled out in Oakland last night.

Jayson Werth was in the leadoff spot. Jimmy Rollins was tucked in at No. 3. Utley was bumped up to the No. 2 spot. Pat Burrell was hitting cleanup, with Ryan Howard hitting fifth as the DH. Eric Bruntlett batted ninth in the pitcher’s spot and played first base. Shane Victorino was dropped to the 7 spot.

It worked. Utley went 4-for-5 after gathering just one hit in his last 29 at-bats.

Then there was Kendrick, who was in control the whole way, allowing just four hits and no runs in eight innings, his longest outing as a pro.

Most important. The Phils snapped a six-game losing streak that saw their lead in the NL East shrink to a single game.

They’ll play an afternoon game in Oakland before moving on to Texas for the weekend.

Ed Wade mixes it up

Who knew Ed Wade was such a feisty guy?

You remember Wade, served as general manager during some pretty miserable Phillies seasons before Pat Gillick came on board. Hired – and fired – Larry Bowa. Also traded Curt Schilling.

Wade was not exactly what you would call an electric guy. He was pretty laid-back. Your basic mild-mannered accountant type.

Well, he’s spicing things up a bit with the Astros. He landed there this year as their GM. Things aren’t going all that well. The team had lost nine of 10 before rallying to win their last two.

Now Wade has some signs of a revolt on his hands. And it’s getting physical.

The GM mixed it up with one of his pitchers. Apparently Wade wanted a private meeting with starter Shane Chacon to discuss his demotion to the bullpen. Chacon didn’t want to hear it. He wound up grabbing Wade by the neck and tossing him to the ground.

Chacon is now suspended indefinitely for insubordination.

Oh, and the Rangers also lost later that night, 3-2, to the Rangers. That’s adding insult to injury.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- June 25

The Daily Numbers: 2 suspects charged in a fatal shooting that occurred in the parking lot of a Concord nightspot back in February.

199,981 dollars in federal grant money that will be used to set up a new Mental Health Treatment Court in the county.

227 fugitives rounded up on a variety of charges during what has been dubbed Operation Falcon by the feds. Of those more than 80 were caught in Delco.

80,000 dollars, what a Clamont woman is charged with embezzling from the company where she worked in Upper Chichester.

254 dollar tax hike that will greet property owners in Springfield with adoption of a new school budget.

17 million bucks, what Haverford Township received in the sale of the former Haverford State Hospital property. The township has spent about half of the money so far, mostly on items related to the sale.

2 teens killed in West Whiteland, Chester County, when a pickup truck went out of control and slammed into a utility pole. The 16-year-old driver had just gotten his driver’s license last week.

50 years, how long Delco resident Ray Fiedler spent working at WCAU-TV. He’s now heading off into retirement.

3 different fast-food joints in Brookhaven that have been hit by robbers who are ripping off valuable piping from the restrooms.

4 million dollar gap in the transportation budget for Philadelphia schools. The solution? Eliminate transit passes a lot of kids use to get to school.

150 bucks, what it will now cost if your car is towed under the “Live Stop” program in Philly. That’s a $15 increase.

52 age of Philly officer who was shot by a suspect yesterday morning. That didn’t stop Officer Mark Uffelman from tracking the suspect down and arresting him.

75,000 dollars, what a missing painting by John Woodside called “Fairmount Water Works” is believed to be worth. It’s gone from a city park office.

320,000 cribs sold at Toys R Us and Babies R Us that are being recalled after 4 children became trapped in them.

4.15 a gallon and holding for the price of regular in the Philly area. That was supposed to be the high point for the summer.

6 straight losses now for the Phils, who fell in the first game of their series in Oakland last night, 5-2.

13 in a row retired at one point by Phils starter Jamie Moyer, who struck out 9 and gave up just 5 hits.

1 game lead for the Phils over the Marlins. All NL East teams lost last night.

500 people and change who jammed the Springfield Country Club last night for our annual All-Delco Sports Banquet.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
We spend a lot of time in this region lamenting our lack of winners and championships. I wish all those people could have been at Springfield Country Club last night for our annual All-Delco Banquet. I’ve never seen that many winners gathered in one place.
I Don’t Get It: Let’s hope the cops flush out these bandits who are ripping off piping from fast-food joint rest rooms. We have a major beef with that.

Today’s Upper: Kudos to all the student athletes and parents honored last night at our annual All-Delco Sports Banquet. Well done.

Quote Box: “It’s a hard job and even though they don’t thank you, you are the heart and soul of everything they do.”

-- Retiring Chester High hoops coach Fred Pickett, in accepting the Good Guy at our All-Delco Sports Banquet last night in lauding all those parents gathered.

Becht & Pickett: Special night, special men

In this business you get used to hearing people complain. The fact is we do things every do that tick people off. They’re often upset by the way we cover stories, and sometimes they’re irate because we failed to cover something. And they’re not bashful about letting us know about it.

Which is one of the reasons I could not wait to get to the Springfield Country Club last night. You see, it’s not often I get to sit in a banquet room jammed with more than 500 people, all of whom have nothing but nice things to say about the newspaper.

I don’t have all that much to do with it, but our sports department does.

The occasion was our annual All-Delco Banquet at which we honor the best high school athletes in Delaware County. With a huge boost from the people at the Delco Athletes Hall of Fame, and Exelon, it’s the 22nd consecutive year we’ve been able to gather our All-Delco athletes for a very special evening.

Last night’s affair was remarkable for a couple of reasons. It really is stunning to see the kind of talent this county routinely produces all gathered in one room

I also manage to wangle a seat at the table where our featured speaker is sitting. Maybe you’ve heard of him. Anthony Becht has crafted a nine-year NFL career as a tight end with the Jets and Buccaneers. This year he has signed on with the St. Louis Rams. I reminded him that means he has another Philly date on Sept. 7, when the Eagles and Rams kick off the regular season at Lincoln Financial Field.

But last night Becht wasn’t really at our banquet as an NFL veteran. Or even as a Mountaineer of West Virginia.

Becht was there as the pride of Drexel Hill, and Monsignor Bonner High School. Becht did not regale those gathered with tales from the NFL. Instead, he chose to talk about growing up in Drexel Hill, playing for St. Bernadette’s, and how he struggled to get into the lineup at Bonner. His dream was to be a running back. When that didn’t work out, he tried wide receiver. Eventually, he grew into a tight end.

He joked that unlike many of those in the audience last night, he was not voted All-Delco at his position.

It was part of his message, urging the young people gathered to keep striving to reach their goals, to be prepared for when the window of opportunity presents itself, and to bank on their family for support in both good times and bad.

He warned the kids, many of whom are about to head off to entirely different worlds at college, of the dangers – and challenges -- that lurk out there.

They would do well to emulate Becht, who is back in the area to run his annual summer camp for high school athletes at Bonner.

It’s clear Becht has not forgotten where he came from. Kids today would be well served with him as a role model.

It was an evening for kids, and their parents, and their mentors.

It was also a very special night for one other gentleman. It was our great pleasure to bestow our annual Good Guy Award on Fred Pickett.

I can’t think of anyone who those words better describe than the legendary coach of the Chester High School basketball team.

But saying Fred Pickett was a basketball coach is a little like saying Little Big Horn did not go particularly well for General Custer.

If he were to be judged only by what his teams did on the basketball court, Pickett would still stand alone at the pinnacle of his profession. His Chester High teams have established an unparalleled tradition of excellence.

Pickett’s teams racked up 331 wins and three state titles, including this year’s champs. His Clippers made a habit of playing for the state title, and literally made the District 1 crown their own.

But despite all the success, all the wins, and all those titles, it’s what Pickett did off the court that likely matters most. Pickett molded young lives.

In what could often be a very tough environment, he mentored, cajoled, reminded and probably sometimes scolded his young charges. The result was a tradition of excellence, both on and off the court.

In his usual manner, Pickett last night looked to deflect the spotlight. Then he did something that, frankly, took me by surprise.

Pickett took the time to thank this newspaper for the way we covered his teams. He said we were fair. I can’t think of a better compliment.

It is a goal I have set for our news coverage of the city as well.

Pickett stepped down after winning another state title this year, capping 13 years in the very demanding job of head man when it comes to Chester basketball. It’s a little bit like being the manager of the New York Yankees. Winning isn’t enough. That’s expected. That’s a given. Winning championships is what counts.

Pickett did that, and so much more. Last night we had the chance to thank him for all that’s he’s done. Instead, he took the opportunity thank us.

Coach, it was our pleasure.

Want fries (and some piping) with that?

Some thieves in Delaware County have hit bottom. Literally.

Police in Brookhaven are hot on the trail of robbers who are helping themselves to pipes from the bathrooms of some fast-food joints.

You can read Cindy Scharr’s report here.

Police in Brookhaven say three different fast-food joints were hit in the last week or so. The most recent was the Burger King on Edgmont Avenue, where some chrome-plated brass pipes were swiped from a restroom.

Police say the thieves are likely selling the valuable metals for some quick cash.

Let’s hope they flush these guys out quickly.

Make it 6 straight losses for the Phils

This likely was not the homecoming Jimmy Rollins had in mind.

Come to think of it, it probably didn’t do much for Jamie Moyer either.

The Phils, in desperate need of a win, opened a three-game set in Oakland last night, likely after many of you had already retired for the night.

You didn’t miss much.

The Phils did just enough things wrong to get beat 5-2, their sixth straight loss.

Moyer pitched well, but made one bad mistake, and could only watch as it was deposited in the seats by A’s Emil Brown.

This is getting serious. The Phils did not lose this many games in a row at any time last season. You have to go back to 2006 to find the last time the Phils were on the losing side of the ledger six straight games.

For the most part, Moyer baffled the A’s with his collection of off-speed stuff. Moyer struck out nine and retired 13 straight batters at one point.

Didn’t matter, because once again the Phils’ anemic offense for the most part continued to sputter.

Looking for a silver lining? The Phils remain in first place, a game up on the Marlins. In fact, every other team in the NL East lost last night.

Kyle Kendrick takes the hill tonight. The Phils better discover their bats soon. Or they likely will be discovering what it’s like to be looking up at the Marlins again.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Of Mendte and McKie

Today we have two examples of men behaving badly. Allegedly, of course.

And they both have Delco angles.

First there is former Sixer and Temple star Aaron Mckie. He’s in hot water for allegedly lying on an application to buy a couple of guns in Montgomery.

That’s because he has a protection from abuse order that is still active against him right here in Delaware County. It was filed by an ex-girlfriend.

McKie was charged with a felony gun violation and a misdemanor charge of lying to authorities. His lawyer called it an honest mistake and indicated McKie was looking to buy the guns, including a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson and a .9 mm Ruger.

Montco D.A. Lisa Ferman did not sound nearly as understanding.

Then there’s local guy and star news anchor Larry Mendte. Make that former anchor star.

Mendte got the ax yesterday from Channel 3. This is all fallout from the gift that keeps on giving for local gossip hounds. That would be Mendte’s former anchor mate, Alycia Lane.

Now both of the former stars are out of work.

Channel 3 says it made the move to fire Mendte, a Lansdowne native who graduated from Monsignor Bonner and West Chester University, after its own investigation.

It appears the station has the goods on Mendte in terms of his alleged access into Lane’s e-mails via a software program that they installed on the computer.

Being out of a job is not Mendte’s only worry. He’s also apparently the focus of an FBI investigation into the matter of who accessed Lane’s private e-mail accounts.

Mendte has not been charged with anything as of yet. His attorney says Mendte is cooperating with the investigation and expects him to resume his broadcasting career.

But it likely won’t be at Channel 3. That gives him something in common with his ex-anchor mate. Lane has now filed suit against the station, saying she was wrongly fired in the wake of a series of incidents that had her in the headlines, as opposed to reading them.

In the suit, she claims at least one of the cause celebres, an appearance with Dr. Phil to discuss her divorce, was actually encouraged by the station. She also has some less than nice things to say about Mendte, who she claims was jealous that she was making more than he was (they both were earning more than $700,000 a year)_and that she was getting the bulk of the credit for the spike in the station’s ratings.

As someone who recently made an appearance on cable TV, and who was aghast at just how bad it made me look (please tell me I don’t look that ancient in person), it’s enough to make me appreciate the anonymity of the newspaper.

Then again, there is that $700,000 salary.

Times earns a mention on the Letterman show

The Daily Times has made the big time. We’ve gone national.

OK, actually we apparently made it onto the “David Letterman Show.”

Don’t ask me, that’s way past the time when I am still upright, but an e-mailer this morning informs me that we earned a mention on the late-night talker during a segment called “Smalltown News.”

They apparently showed an ad from an edition of the newspaper from a local church offering a workshop on “keeping it in your pants.” Sounds like my kind of congregation.

They did give us a plug, however, identifying us as the Delaware County Daily Times, even if they did say we were located in “Pree-mos.” We usually pronounce it as Pr-eye-mos, but who knows.

Of course, as we all know, Primos does not exist, other than in the eyes of the U.S. Postal Service. We’re located in Upper Darby Township.

At any rate, thanks for the plug, Dave. Always glad to help.

Go West, young Phillies

If you’re a Phillies fan, prepare to lose some sleep. That’s because the Phils are opening a nine-game road trip tonight on the West Coast, with three games in Oakland against the A’s.

It’s something of a homecoming for Jimmy Rollins, who grew up in the Oakland area.

Maybe it will kickstart the Phils out of the offensive doldrums that plagued them during their recent less-than-stellar home stand.

But the real problem for us newspaper folks is the fact that the first two games of the series start at 10:05 p.m. That means they may or may not make it into your print edition of the paper. We’ll replate when the games end, meaning we will stop the press (although no one will actually run into the press room and yell, “Stop the Presses,” that only happens in the movies.) We’ll remake the page with the result of the game, and then restart the press. Just how many papers the game coverage actually makes it into depends on a lot of factors.

We’ll also offer full coverage online. We get a break on Thursday, with an afternoon game starting at 3:35 p.m.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- June 23

The Daily Numbers: 11 units of the Meetinghouse Apartments in Upper Chichester evacuated after a fire Sunday morning. A man was later found dead inside his apartment.

19 age of man hospitalized after a weekend shooting in Darby Township.

2 dead and 3 injured after another violent weekend in Philadelphia.

2 age of child police say was beaten by her father, 38, with a plastic long-stem rose in Upper Darby. He’s charged with simple assault and endangerment of a child.

12 miles of the Schuylkill Expressway that will have overnight lane closures during a $12 million repaving project.

186,000 vehicles that use the stretch of the Schuylkill from the Pennsylvania Turnpike to City Line Avenue every day.

71 age of legendary comedian George Carlin, who died Sunday. He was the first of the new wave of counter-culture comedy acts.

4 people killed in 2 different crashes of small planes in South Jersey over the weekend.

200 residents of an apartment complex in the Logan section of Philadelphia out of their homes after authorities found a host of unsafe conditions at the complex.

11 feet, the height of the letters Unisys wants to hang on the side of a downtown Philadelphia building to herald its move into Center City.

1.4 billion fewer miles logged by drivers in the U.S. in April 2008, as opposed to April 2007, according to AAA.

4.15 a gallon, what we’re paying for gas in the Philly area. This time last year it was $3.01 a gallon.

5 straight losses for the Phils, who fell again to the Angels Sunday, 3-2.

1 game lead the Phils are clinging to in the National League East, despite winning just 3 of their last 12 games.

6 hits for the struggling Phils lineup, although Chase Utley did snap his 0-fer with a double.

7 wins and 5 losses for staff ace Cole Hamels, who made just a couple of mistakes, enough to get him beat.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Look on the bright side. The Phils got swept by a team managed by Morton native and Springfield High star Mike Scioscia.
I Don’t Get It: The downward spiral of Jevon Kearse’s career continues. After being released following an injury-plagued and generally disappointing stint with the Eagles, the defensive lineman was picked up for DUI in Tennessee over the weekend.

Today’s Upper: There’s no getting around summer and highway construction projects, as drivers who use the Schuylkill Expressway are about to find out. PennDOT is about to resurface the section from the Pennsylvania Turnpike to City Line Avenue The good news? Most of the work will be done overnight.

Quote Box: “I feel like the women let us visit their lives for a reason, to help cultivate what will make them stronger.”

-- Karen Hollis, winner of the Agency Award presented by Women’s Way for her work with abused women.

Pride of Delco, indeed

Mike Scioscia was coming back to Philly for the first time as a manager of a big-league baseball team.

Scioscia’s Los Angeles Angels, in first place in the American League West, were matched up against the Phillies, in first place in the National League East, for a crucial weekend inter-league standoff.

Scioscia’s squad had just finished a series at home against the Mets and flew all the way across the country, arriving early Thursday night. No doubt Scioscia had several things he needed to do once he got into Philly.

But before he did anything else, he made a quick trip “home.”

Scioscia grew up in Morton and was a star at Springfield High before a lengthy big league career with the Dodgers.

But Scioscia wasn’t visiting relatives back in Morton.

Instead, he headed to Widener University, where he handed out the MVP Trophy at the conclusion of the game pitting a group of Delco League All-Stars vs. a team of Military All-Stars.

Scioscia no doubt had a million things he needed to attend to, but it did not keep him from getting to Widener.

Some people don’t forget where they came from.

Scioscia is one of them.

It’s almost enough to make us forgive him for the sweep his Angels pinned on the Phils this weekend.

Hey, Mike, maybe we’ll see you in October!

A hippy-dippy Sunday forecast

Here’s my tribute to George Carlin, one of the first “hip” new comedians my generation embraced in the ’60s.

Carlin died Sunday at the age of 71.

One of the routines he was famous for was the “hippy-dippy weatherman.”

If you were coming of age at that time, just the words are enough to bring a knowing smile to your face.

Thirty-five years later, I have a different reaction. Specifically I return to one of my favorite rants. That would be our local TV weather forecasters.

My grief used to be reserved for the most part to winter and anything approaching a few flakes of snow, which they would promptly hype into Armageddon.

Now they can’t even get a rain storm right. Saturday night they were telling us to pretty much forget Sunday. It was going to be a washout, with on-and-off showers and even a good chance of severe storms in the afternoon and evening.

So of course it was a beautiful, sunny day.

Come back, George. And bring the “hippy-dippy weatherman” with you. He can’t do much worse when it comes to the forecast.

Road construction ahead

If it’s summer, that means it’s road construction time. The key here is patience.

Yes, we all scratched our heads as we made like grand prix drivers swerving in and out on Springfield Road trying to miss all those raised manhole covers. But look at the result. Now it’s smooth sailing from Route 1 all the way to Clifton Heights.

A similar scene played out a month before on Baltimore Pike. Getting there was not a lot of fun. But the finished product made it worth the aggravation.

Now the stakes are getting cranked up a bit.

A major overhaul will be unveiled on the Schuylkill Expressway. An $8 million project will mean repaving on a 12-mile stretch from the Pennsylvania Turnpike to City Line Avenue. Unfortunately, it also means lane closures.

The good news is that most of this work is slated to be done in the overnight hours. Crews will be on the scene 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., effectively missing both the morning and afternoon rush hours.

The project will start in the eastbound lanes. We’re talking milling and then laying down new asphalt, much as was done on Baltimore Pike and Springfield Road.

PennDOT estimates 186,000 vehicles use that stretch of the Schuylkill every day. If you’re one of them, here’s a tip. Take a deep breath.

And keep thinking about how nice it will be when it’s done.

The Phlailing Phils

The last time the Phils were home they blazed their way to an 8-2 record.

Of course, most of those games were against National League teams. Last week they got to test their mettle against the best of the American League, the leaders of both the AL East and AL West, the Red Sox and Angels, respectively.

Uh, not so good. The Phils managed to win just one game vs. the Beantowners and got swept by the Angels.

Better hold off on those World Series parade plans.

The Phils are facing the same demons that have haunted this team in recent years. When they are hitting, they are an awesome offensive show. When they’re not, they struggle to make contact, let alone score runs. Small-ball is not the club’s forte. Right now they are back in strikeout mode, simply too often failing to put the ball in play.

And they also are struggling with inconsistent starting pitching. Even their ace, Cole Hamels, was unable to reverse the tide yesterday. He made only a couple of bad pitches, but it was enough to take the loss. He’s now 7-5, and he’s the best guy on the staff.

And there is one other incredibly frustrating aspect to this team. They still from time to time show an undisciplined nature that is absolutely agonizing.

Take for instance the at-bat offered by one So Taguchi with the Phils trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the 9th Sunday.

The Phils had runners at second and third. Taguchi worked a 2-0 count. Chase Utley, who had snapped out of his funk with a double, was on deck.

Of course, Taguhci then promptly flails at a curveball and pops out weakly in foul ground near third base.

Game, set and match. A sweep for the Angels and five straight losses for the Phils.

Maybe they need to get away. If that’s the case, the schedule is working in their favor. They head to Oakland and Texas before a stop in Atlanta.

Maybe a road trip is all this team needs to get back on track. Something tells me that’s not the case.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- June 19

The Daily Numbers: 375 days in jail and an additional 4 years of supervision for Herbert Ackley, husband of the woman who swindled Ridley School District out of $500,000, which she blew at several casinos. Police charged him in connection with the scam.

128,223 dollars in restitution that will be paid by Herbert Ackley, who also is giving up his pension as a Ridley School District employee.

19 drivers nailed on DUI charges during a recent police checkpoint held in Brookhaven.

16 age of girl police say was raped by a 19-year-old who apparently lured her to a bogus job interview.

52 to 40 advantage for Sen. Barack Obama over Sen. John McCain in a new Quinnipiac College Poll of Pennsylvania voters.

4 people in Pennsylvania now part of 383 salmonella cases linked to tainted tomatoes. The Pa. cases are in Bucks, Lancaster, Butler and Warren counties.

10,000 dollar reward now being offered for information in the killing of an aspiring teacher in Philadelphia. Beau Zabel had just arrived in the city to follow his dream of being an educator.

400 million dollars sliced from the state budget wanted by Gov. Ed Rendell by Republicans in the Senate.

118 million dollars of that will come from Rendell’s ambitious boost in education spending.

12 billion dollar plan to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike to a private entity that is being shot down in Harrisburg.

2,500 dollars to help pay closing costs included in a state rep’s plan to help struggling homeowners move from adjustable-rate mortgages to fixed rates.

2.75 million dollars in grants handed out to a series of non-profits by the Philadelphia Foundation.

200,000 square feet of convention space coming to Montgomery County with the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center at Oaks. It will fill the void created by the closing of the Fort Washington Expo Center.

17 threatening message allegedly made by a Bucks County teacher against her own elementary school. She plans to fight the charges.

6 schools in Philadelphia that will be removed from private control by the School Reform Commission.

4 hits for the reviled J.D. Drew, who led the Red Sox to a 7-4 win over the Phils yesterday.

2 of 3 games at Citizens Bank Park taken by the BoSox.

0 for 20 for Chase Utley since last Saturday.

6 runs and 6 hits – including 2 first-inning home runs – surrendered by Phils starter Kyle Kendrick.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Forget about this being a preview of the World Series between the Phillies and Red Sox. With this pitching staff, the Phils will struggle to win the National League, let alone compete in the Fall Classic.
I Don’t Get It: Why exactly if you already had several run-ins with police would you announce your feelings about law enforcement in a mural painted on your car? I don’t get it.

Today’s Upper: Let’s hear it for Christiana Mall in Delaware. They’re implementing a plan that mandates the teens in the mall after 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights must be accompanied by a parent.

Quote Box: “It works. It knocks you out. I’ve never been electrocuted. It knocked me down.”

-- Upper Darby top cop Mike Chitwood, after taking one for the team when he had the department’s new Taser gun demonstrated on himself.

Presidential race heats up

The dust has barely settled on the Pennsylania Primary, which of course means it must be time to start the fall campaign. Yes, on the day before the first day of summer.

One thing became clear in the aftermath of our historic primary. Pennsylvania was again going to be in play as a major swing state in the presidential derby between Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain.

Over and above that, the Pennsylvania vote could well be once again decided by the key counties in the five-county Philadelphia region.

It likely was no accident that Obama already has spent a weekend in these parts, holding a town meeting at Radnor Middle School just last Saturday.

We should get used to seeing both Democrat Obama and Republican McCain as they joust for the key suburban voting bloc.

For Republicans in Delaware County, it will be an opportunity to reverse a rare losing streak. They have seen the county go Democratic in the last four presidential races. Twice the county backed Bill Clinton, and they followed that up by supporting Al Gore and John Kerrey, albeit in losing efforts.

A new poll out this week puts Obama well ahead of McCain in Pennsylvania. The Quinniac College poll gives the Democrat a 52-40 edge.

That’s a bit surprising in light of the fact that Obama lost the state to Hillary Clinton just eight weeks ago.

I’m guessing that margin will get a lot closer, and the battle for Delaware County will be just as intense.

Forget the traditional post-Labor Day start of the campaign. It’s going to be a long, hot summer of presidential politics.

A little more airport noise

Remember all the noise raised about noise emanating from Philadelphia International Airport?

It’s still around. In fact, there were two developments on the airport front Wednesday.

First, U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7, fired another shot at the much-hated airport redesign plan implemented by the FAA and the resultant increase in flights of heaviliy populated areas of Delaware County.

Joined by fellow Democrat Rep. Rob Andrews, from South Jersey, which is none too happy with the plan either, Sestak took his latest shot at the plan.

He pointed out that the new routes don’t exactly abide by a deal that was struck with the city of Philadelphia back in 2003. He and Andrews say the FAA ignored one corollary of that deal, that the airport would study noise patterns whenever they considered changes in flight paths. Sestak is urging Mayor Michael Nutter to review that agreement.

You can pretty much guess what’s coming next. Sestak has indicated he would consider legal action to block the changes, which have already sparked a lawsuit filed by Delaware County, as well as a hue and cry from residents whose homes sit under those new flight paths.

Meanwhile, down the road in Tinicum, all this talk about airport noise is pretty much old hat. They’ve been dealing with their noisy neighbor for years.

Yesterday they held a public hearing to detail the preliminary findings of another noise study done at the airport last year. Nineteen people showed up.

Airports, and the jets that use them, bring noise. That doesn’t come as much of a thunderbolt to the people in Tinicum who have been dealing with the rumble of aircraft overhead for decades.

But it is news to a lot of other residents of the county who now believe the flight changes enacted by the FAA are having a deleterious effect on their lives.

This noise – either from the jets or residents and officials complaining about it – isn’t going away anytime soon.

Turning sports on its head

Get ready for your sports to be turned upside-down this weekend – literally.

No, we’re not talking about the Phillies, who had a few flaws exposed in dropping two of three to the defending World Champion Boston Red Sox.

The Phils still don’t have enough starting pitching, and when the middle of their lineup goes silent, as they did for the most part against the Sox, their offense suffers some serious sputters. If this was a preview of the World Series, it was not a pretty one for the locals.

We’re also not talking about the Eagles, although a lot of people will be today. That’s because at 10 a.m. single game tickets go on sale. If it’s like most years, they won’t stick around very long.

What will be around all summer is the continuing debate surrounding QB Donovan McNabb, his achy shoulder, and whether this team as currently constructed can return to the playoffs.

We’re not even talking golf, although we were dumbstruck by what Tiger Woods accomplished in winning the U.S. Open last weekend, sealing the deal in a 19-hole playoff against a very game Rocco Mediate on Monday.

Now it turns out Woods accomplished the feat basically playing and walking the course on one leg.

Woods returned for the Open, his first competition since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his knee two months ago.

On Wednesday, Woods announced he would miss the rest of the golf season after undergoing new surgery on his left knee. Woods revealed he is suffering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the same ouchy knee he had scoped.

Oh, and something else. Woods also apparently was dealing with two stress fractures in his left tibia, the bone that runs from the ankle to the knee.

All of which makes what he accomplished this past weekend all the more miraculous.

Look, I play golf. Not very well, but I hack it around the course. I’m not sure what game Woods plays. It’s one I’m not familiar with.

For the PGA Tour, it’s now a chance for others to step up into the gaping void Woods’ absence leaves. More likely it means the game will retreat into the same small demographic – golf geeks like me -- it entertained before Woods came onto the scene.

All of which brings us to the big athletic event of the weekend in these parts: Gymnastics.

That’s right. They will determine the U.S. men’s and women’s gymnastic teams at the Wachova Center this weekend.

Don’t snicker. Aside from deciding who our Olympians heading to Beijing will be, it also means a $20 million windfall for the region.

And that’s something that should have us all doing backflips.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- June 18

The Daily Numbers: 5 to 10 percent hike in people using the food pantries in Delaware County.

50,000 dollars a year, what a new study by a Delco group now defines as the minimum income for a family of four just to survive.

61,593 dollars a year, what a family of four in Delco, including a preschooler and school-age child actually would need.

226 students collecting their diplomas last night at Academy Park High School.

1 student shot after commencement exercises at the Liacouras Center on the Temple campus in North Philly for Strawberry Mansion High School.

4 people facing drug charges in Upper Darby when police swooped down on what they claim was a heroin house.

17 million dollar wireless network in Philadelphia that will now be taken over by a group of local investors.

28 billion dollar spending plan that is pitting Gov. Ed Rendell against Republicans in Harrisburg.

30 of June, deadline for the state to have its spending plan in place.

25,000 state workers deemed not critical who could be furloughed if the state budget is not passed in time.

400 million dollars, what the GOP would like to see cut out of the Rendell spending plan.

120 million of that would come from Rendell’s ambitious education spending plan, which would boost education spending overall by 6 percent.

11 people busted in a South Philly drug ring.

925 jobs being axed and 2 plants being closed by regional chemical maker Rohm and Haas.

326 employees being chopped by insurance firm AIG.

17 titles for the Boston Celtics, who snagged another crown last night by demolishing the Lakers.

25 years since any Philly team has brought home a title.

0 runs on 7 hits last night for the Phils, who fell to still another Boston team, the Red Sox.

0 hits out of the vaunted middle of the Phils’ lineup of Utley, Howard and Burrell.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
So what happened to all those Game 6 conspiracy theories? You know, the wild saga alleged by Delco native Tim Donaghy, who claims NBA execs once had the refs move a Game 6 contest in the finals to ensure there would be a Game 7, meaning they could make more money. Didn’t work that way last night.
I Don’t Get It: A student was shot outside the commencement exercises of Strawberry Mansion High at the Liacouras Center yesterday afternoon. What happened to air horns?

Today’s Upper: Things could be worse. You could be a Mets fan today.

Quote Box: “I come because I don’t have enough money at the end of the month. I always run out every last of the month.”

-- Woman visiting the food pantry at Prospect Park Baptist Church.

It's the Battle of the Harrisburg Stars

The annual Battle of Harrisburg is beginning to take shape.

It’s mid-June. What else would you expect? With a June 30 deadline staring them in the face, Republicans and Democrats are digging in for their annual reality show, “Battle of the Harrisburg Stars.”

In some other states they call it passing a budget.

It’s pretty important stuff. If the budget is not in place by June 30, the state technically loses the ability of spend money. Sometimes, they take drastic steps such as furloughing state workers. That tends to wreak havoc on the old family budget.

This year Gov. Ed Rendell is seeking a huge boost in education funding in his $28.3 billion spending plan. That’s not sitting well with many Republicans, who believe he’s spending too much money.

One of the key areas of contention is education funding. It’s an old story, one that has been kicking around the Capitol for years. Rendell, acting on the findings of a recent “costing-out” study ordered by the Legislature that found the state was consistently under-spending on education. He wants to remedy that by increasing education funding by about 6 percent.

Republicans are countering with a plan that would boost education spending by about 3.5 percent.

In general they want to cut about $400 million overall.

But, hey, don’t get too worried. It’s early yet. After all, we’re still about two weeks from the deadline.

If it’s like most years, this thing won’t get done much before midnight on June 30, if not sometime around July 4.

It happens every year.

Of course, if you’re a state worker looking at a possible furlough after the deadline passes, you might be a little more concerned.

Rendell, no doubt racheting up the heat on his Republican colleagues, last week warned he could furlough 25,000 state employees who are not critical to the health and welfare of the state on July 1 if there’s no budget in place.

He’s not just blowing smoke, and not because he recently signed the state’s first smoking ban legislation. If you remember he did just that last year, when workers got a one-day unplanned vacation on July 9 as budget talks dragged on.

Talk about adding insult to injury. First you’re informed your services are not critical to the operation of the state. Then you’re handed a furlough notice.

Yep, must be the middle of June. Keep your eyes on the state Capitol the next two weeks.

The Harrisburg Two-Step is about to kick into full swing.

A different kind of graduation celebration

Somehow I don’t think this is exactly what they had in mind in terms of a graduation celebration.

In Philly yesterday afternoon, things took a turn toward the bizarre outside the Liacouras Center at Temple University a few minutes after the commencement exercises for Strawberry Mansion High School.

Police believe a spat between two groups of students escalated into gunfire.

A student believed to be an “innocent bystander” was shot in the back. He suffered a fractured rib and bruised lung. He is expected to recover.

Temple police actually were trying to break up the fight when the gunshots rang out. Five teens were taken into custody.

Yes, I know that someone actually had to pull the trigger on that .22-caliber, which was not recovered, by the way.

I’m left with the same dumbstruck feeling I get every time I read a story like this. Does anyone really feel there isn’t a problem with too many guns on city streets?

This was a high school graduation, one of life’s seminal moments. Today people aren’t talking about the 117 kids who received diplomas. They’re instead talking about a shooting that erupted after a disagreement.

It’s the same story, only a different setting. Once again an argument is settled in the way it all too often is these days, not with words or fists, but with a gun.


Bean Town blues in Philly

They’re planning another parade in Boston.

As a long-suffering Philly sports fan, it’s enough to make your blood boil.

So the Celtics demolished the Lakers last night, 131-92, to capture their 17th NBA championship. The first question, based on the way the Lakers played defense in the fourth quarter, is why they bothered to waste all that money on the flight east.

Then, of course, there’s the “ref-gate” theory. That would be that the NBA is so concerned with the allegations of Delco native and disgraced former ref Tim Donaghy about a previous Game 6 being affected by the refs to ensure a profitable Game 7 that they went the other direction last night.

We have our own reasons to hate Boston, in particular the Celtics. Many of those 17 crowns they are wearing came at the expense of the Sixers.

Then there’s the fact that we had to sit and grind our teeth while the Patriots dispatched Andy Reid and the Eagles in the Super Bowl a few years back. You remember that one, and likely not for the tempest in a tea pot referred to as “Spy-Gate,” the Patriots’ penchant for taping the other team’s defensive signals.

If you’re anything like me, you remember that game more for the Eagles performance in the fourth quarter, when they managed to run out the clock on themselves, eschewing a hurry-up offense and instead going on a long, plodding, scoring drive that took all too much precious time off the clock.

So bizarre was their strategy that it caused Pats’ coach Bill Belichick to wonder if the scoreboard was wrong, if the Eagles were actually leading the game.

Then there was last night. While the Celtics were cruising to another title, the Phils were going silently into the night against that other Boston team, the Red Sox.

In fact, they were actually going a little too silent, at least on TV. That’s because Comcast lost the signal for three innings. Not that we missed anything.

The Phils got shut out, scratching out only 7 hits on the night.

The Phils need a win this afternoon to take the series. Given the fact that they are missing Boston’s two best pitchers, and that slugger David Ortiz is on the injured reserve list, is that too much to ask?

A lot of people have tried to depict this series as a preview of the World Series.

The Phils need to hold up their end of the bargain.

I don’t think we can stomach too many more parades in Bean Town.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- June 17

The Daily Numbers: 25,000 dollars bail for a Ridley man who is in hot water again. This time Nickelous Dellapolla is charged with stalking a police officer.

2 more charges, for perjury and state tax evasion, filed against a former Ridley School District employee in the case in which his wife has already pleaded guilty, for ripping off more than $500,000 from the district and blowing it in casinos.
500 dollar reward being posted in Marple Township for information on who is responsible for the graffiti that marred Veterans Memorial Park.

2 cent spike in gas prices over the weekend. We’re now paying an average of $4.15, while diesel is going for $5.01 a gallon.

6 shootings overnight as violence continues to spin out of control on the streets of Philadelphia. Two of those shootings resulted in fatalities. This comes after a weekend in which 6 people were killed.

2 month-old baby who had been missing for 2 days found safe and sound in Philadelphia.

12 miles of the Schuylkill Expressway in Montgomery County from City Line to Route 202 that is going to be resurfaced. Most of the work will over done overnight and on weekends.

24 not guilty pleas entered yesterday in connection with a $60 million illegal sports gambling ring that was operating out of a room at the Borgata Hotel in Atlantic City.

240 million dollars in a tax-cutting package OK’d by state senators yesterday.

2,000 relief workers dispatched by the American Red Cross to flood-devastated areas of Iowa. So far the relief effort has cost $15 million.

25,000 state workers who again could face furloughs as the Legislature pushes budget talks toward a June 30 deadline.

2 home runs and a triple for Ryan Howard to lead the Phils to a 8-2 win over the Red Sox last night.

7 strong innings for Cole Hamels to pick up his 7th win.

45,026 jammed into Citizens Bank Park last night for Game 1 of this much-anticipated series.

19 holes on Monday, how long it took Tiger Woods to subdue Rocco Mediate in a playoff in the U.S. Open golf championship.

14 major titles for Woods, as he stalks the mark of 18 set by the Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
So the Phillies hit two triples last night in beating the Red Sox. What are the odds of those feats being performed by Pat Burrell and Ryan Howard, neither of whom are exactly known as speedsters?
I Don’t Get It: An aspiring teacher who moved to Philadelphia to chase his dream was shot and killed as he walked home after working the late shift at a local Starbucks, where he was working to make ends meet. Police say he may have been slain for his iPod. I don’t get it.

Today’s Upper: Someone else is finally getting ticked off about gas prices. Pa. Sen. Bob Casey says he wants a probe into possible gouging. It’s about time.

Quote Box: “He said the IED went off right under the gas pedal.”

-- Erich Sondermann of Drexel Hill, talking about the blast that injured his son, who is serving in Afghanistan.

A very tough decision

Sometimes being a public servant demands the wisdom of Solomon.

Which is my way of saying I don’t envy Delaware County District Attorney Mike Green.

Green now is grappling with what – if any – charges should be filed in the incredibly sad case of little Nicholas McCorkle. He’s the 14-month-old who was mistakenly left in the back seat of his grandfather’s car on the hottest day of the year.

The tot succumbed to his injuries early on Saturday. Now it is up to Green to determine if the grandfather, who apparently simply forgot to drop the toddler off at his day care site and instead drove to work, closed up the car with the child still inside, and went inside, should face charges in the case. The grandfather returned to the car more than five hours later and, to his horror, discovered the child and his mistake.

Yesterday, Green indicated he now will examine the findings of an autopsy to be performed by the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s office.

The tot’s mother said she hopes no charges are filed against her father in the case. It’s a perfectly understandable belief, that in fact no one feels worse about what happened than the grandfather in this case.

Our hearts go out to the family in this case for their agonizing loss. We struggle with how this could have happened, and wonder if we could ever find ourselves in a similar position.

The decision facing Green is not an easy one. When exactly does a simple mistake cross the line into a criminal act?

A very sad story is very likely about to get even more so.

Eye of the Tiger

Sometimes words have a way of fulfilling themselves.

Last Thursday, before the first round of the U.S. Open golf championship, I wrote about Tiger Woods. The most dominating golfer on the planet was about to tee it up for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee two months before.

The common thinking was that Woods had little or no chance against the field in the Open. The same might be said for any weekend on the tour, let alone the way the USGA had set up Torrey Pines, which bore little resemblance to the fairly benign track that played host to the regular San Diego tour stop back in the winter.

As the USGA likes to respond to those who believe they make their courses overly tough: “We are not trying to embarrass the best golfers in the world. We are looking to define them.”

In other words, Torrey Pines was going to be a bear. Most of the experts expected a replay from a few years back, when Woods returned in the Open after taking a couple of months off to mourn the loss of his beloved father, Earl.

Back then, Woods did not make the cut, the only time he’s missed the cut in a major.

Throw in the questions surrounding his knee and whether it could hold up under the rigors of four days of championship golf, and most believed you had the recipe for another early exit.

Not me. There is something about Woods that is other-worldly. I don’t consider him the best golfer on the planet. I believe he is the best athlete. Period.

And after this weekend, anyone care to question it? Woods not only made the cut, he stormed toward the top of the leaderboard, and on Saturday dropped enough exclamation points around Torrey Pines to maybe have the place renamed Tiger Pines.

Enter Rocco Mediate, to play the role of the journeyman pro tilting at windmills in the powerful presence of Woods.

Mediate did better than that. He extended Woods to the very brink, matching him shot for shot on Sunday, leading to an 18-hole playoff on Monday. Even that was not enough. The duo were still deadlocked after 18, leading to sudden death.

And death did indeed come suddenly, as Woods won it on the first extra hole.

At this point, words fail to describe what Woods did this weekend. You think of Willis Reed limping back onto the court to lead the Knicks to an NBA title.

But that’s a team game. Woods stands on the stage alone.

Woods’ knee clearly was bothering him. He often used his clubs as a cane after teeing off and heading down the fairway. The grimace seen in his face after so many shots told you all you need to know about what kind of shape his knee was in.

There are those who probably believe too much was made of Woods’ knee, and his dramatic win. Not me. Every once in awhile I wander out onto the golf course. Not nearly as much as I’d like to.

I play golf. I’m not really sure what game it is Woods plays, but it’s one with which I am not familiar.

My son is a rabid soccer fan. He sits in front of the TV entranced by the European soccer championships. This weekend he kept telling me these guys are the best athletes in the world.

I corrected him, saying I still believe the stars of the NBA are the best athletes in the world.

Now I stand corrected. The honor clearly belongs to Tiger Woods.

The guy simply is not of this world.

Welcome back to Philly, guys

One glance into the Boston Red Sox dugout reveals a lot of familiar faces. There’s skipper Terry Francona. You know, the guy who claimed he got a “mulligan” after his stay in Philly and landing the top job in Beantown.

There’s Curt Schilling, the former ace of our staff, last seen in these parts hiding under a towel as Mitch Williams walked a tight rope in so many of those classic ’93 playoff games.

And let’s not forget J.D. Boo, I mean Drew. Of course Drew is the guy, represented by our old pal Scott Boras, who infamously told the Phillies not to waste their first-round pick on him because he had no intention of signing here. The Phils dug in their heels, took him anyhow, and watched as he was good to his word. He went back into the draft the next year and immediately became public enemy No. 1 with many sports fans in these environs.

All of which makes the 8-2 drubbing the Phils laid on the Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park last night that much more sweet.

It’s been billed as a clash of titans, the leaders in the NL East and AL East going mano a mano. Tickets are harder to find than Willie Randolph fans in the Big Apple.

One down, two to go. It doesn’t get any easier after that, with Delco native Mike Scioscia bringing his first-place Angels to town.

There is, however, a little icing on our cake this morning. Over night the Mets pulled the plug on Randolph. The roots of this move go back to the New Yorkers’ epic collapse last September, when the Phils blew by them to the the NL East crown.

For Phillies fans right now, life is good.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- June 12

The Daily Numbers: 251 graduates from Chester High last night, but only one was 83. That would be Kenneth Smith, who left school to join the Army in World War II and finally received his diploma last night

14 persons nabbed in a DUI checkpoint in Clifton Heights.

9 persons dead from heat-related causes in the region. Eight of the deaths occurred in Philadelphia, one involved a faulty generator in use after a power outage in King of Prussia.

1 teen struck by lightning at the height of Tuesday night’s storm. She’s hospitalized in critical condition.

5,000 people in the region who are still without power this morning. Most of those are in Montgomery and Chester counties.

2 p.m., that’s when SEPTA police officers say they will go on strike this afternoon if they don’t get a new deal.

40 SEPTA commanders, not members of the union, along with city police who will take up the patrols in the event of a strike.

2 women in Bucks County who are facing charges in what police say was a sleepover for a group of teenage boys that turned into a sex party.

415,856 dollars, his winnings from the World Series of Poker that a Bryn Mawr man says he’ll donate to an educational charity.

4 instances of underage people being allowed on the floor of Philly Park Casino, according to state regulators. The casino faces a $18,000 fine.

12 New Jersey state workers who are charged with stealing gas from government pumps.

4.15 a gallon, where the Energy Departments says gas prices should top out. And that’s the good news. The bad news is they do not see them going down anytime soon.

15 percent dip in the stock price of US Airways amid word they will cut capacity 9 percent next year.

350 jobs being slashed by drug giant GlaxoSmithKline.

15 journalists subpoenaed to testify in front of a grand jury by lawyers for casino owner Louis DeNaples.

52 percent of New Jersey residents in a new poll who don’t like the job being done by Gov. Jon Corzine.

2 walks surrendered by Tom “Flash” Gordon in the ninth to load the bases last night. Dan Uggla emptied them with a walk-off grand slam that fueled a 6-2 Marlins win.

2 straight losses to the Fish by the Phils, whose lead in the NL East is now down to 2 games.

13 strikeouts racked up in another excellent effort from Phils starter Cole Hamels. He didn’t get the loss.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Anyone else have the same nagging thoughts while watching Flash Gordon melt down in the ninth last night? Let’s hope it was only an apparition.
I Don’t Get It: Two women face charges in Bucks County in connection with a sleepover that turned into much more. Police say one of the women put on a show for the boys, had sex with one 14-year-old and took a shower with another. The other woman apparently looked on. I don’t get it.

Today’s Upper: Let’s hear it for Kenneth Smith. The 83-year-old received his diploma from Chester High last night, more than six decades after he left school to join the Army in World War II days.

Quote Box: “He is just the sweetest boy.”

-- Patti Karlton, who operates the day care center where little Nicholas McCorkel attends. He’s now fighting for his life after being mistakenly left in the back of a hot car for hours.

A striking situation for SEPTA safety

There’s more than a little irony amid word that SEPTA’s police force could go on strike this afternoon.

About the time talks between the transit officers’ union and the company were breaking down yesterday, five young men were heading into a courtoom to face charges in connection with the death of Sean Patrick Conroy. They’re charged with his murder.

Conroy had the misfortune of being on a SEPTA subway platform when this group of young toughs decided to act out a dare, according to testimony at their preliminary hearing Wednesday.

Basically, it sounded like a bunch of guys talking tough. Then came a challenge to actually act tough. That talk turned deadly for Conroy, who attended Upper Darby High for awhile and whose mother still lives in Lansdowne.

The group set upon Conroy. The confrontation itself was not fatal, but the asthma attack it sparked was.

The group of young hoodlums – who likely should have been in school at the time of the attack – told police they abandoned Conroy when they saw a SEPTA police officer patrolling in a car. He was able to chase down and arrest one of them.

In the aftermath of the attack, and a string of similar incidents, fears about the safety of riders using the SEPTA system have steadily increased.

This at the same time more and more people are looking to get out of their cars to escape skyrocketing gas prices.

Mayor Michael Nutter and SEPTA officials say they have a contingency plan in place should the transit police walk off the job this afternoon. City police and some SEPTA managers will try to hold down the fort.

That likely won’t make riders feel any safer. Don’t believe it? Ask the family of Sean Conroy.

Some hope in a very sad story

There’s a sliver of good news coming out the incredibly sad story from Marple Township this week.

Little Nicholas McCorkel is proving to be a quite a fighter. The tot who was mistakenly left in the back of his grandather’s car for five hours at the height of this week’s heat wave continues to cling to life in Children’s Hospital.

You can read Rose Quinn’s account here.

By all indications, this was simply a horrible accident. Marple police Chief Tom Murray said yesterday there does not appear to be an other intent involved.

Any decision on whether charges will be filed in the case likely will be made by the D.A.’s office.

Everything about the incident smacked of the kind of routine that so many families play out time and again every day.

The grandfather picks up the tot at his daughter’s and delivers him to day care, then goes on to work. For some reason on this morning, the man did just that, but never dropped the 14-month-old off. Instead he drove to work, closed the car door behind him and went inside. The tot was not discovered until he returned to his car just after lunch.

One look at the photo that appears in today’s paper of little Nicholas celebrating his first birthday confirms the words of the woman who runs the day care center.

“He is just the sweetest boy, low-key, laid-back, just like his mother,” said Patti Karlton.

We’re all pulling for him.

A Tiger tale

One other sports note today. They will tee it up at Torrey Pines this morning for the U.S. Open golf championship.

Torrey Pines is what we hackers refer to as a “muni.” It’s a city course owned by San Diego that anyone can play, but not this wekeend.

The course that’s set up for the best golfers on the planet is very much unlike anything we likely will ever see. Thank God for small favors. Balls that leave the fairway this weekend will enter some truly menacing terrain, with knee-high rough. They are actually talking about the possibility of losing balls in this stuff. No sweat, I manage to lose my share of balls on some of the shoddy tracks I frequent.

But all of this is merely a sideshow to the real story of this annual Father’s Day golfing tradition.

The real story at Torrey Pines will happen a little after 11 a.m. today. That’s when Tiger Woods will stalk onto the first tee.

It is the first time he will have done so in about two months. Woods, the best golfer – if not the most dominating athlete – on the planet, underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee.

This morning’s will be his first competitive round in more than eight weeks. Most of the experts believe he will struggle to compete. They point to the last time Woods took this much time off, when he left the tour for a couple of months to deal with the death of his father. In that instance, he again returned to compete in the Open, and he was never a factor, missing the cut for the first time in his career.

Most are expecting a repeat. I hope not. I will likely be glued to the tube regardless. That’s because I’m a frustrated duffer who longs to chuck his day job and join the tour. Yeah, right, maybe if they need help with the grounds crew.

But watching Woods is simply mesmerizing. When he’s in the hunt on the weekend, it’s impossible to look away. That’s why I think he just might stun the world this weekend.

If he does, remember where you heard it.

Woods is the best, most dominating athlete in the world. This weekend just might serve as an exclamation point.

Winning -- and losing -- Uggla

That Fish Fry the Phils were hoping for in South Florida this week is turning into a Phillies Philet.

You would be hard-pressed to find a better summary of last night’s Phils’ loss than the headline that appears on the game story on Page 48 of today’s Daily Times. My compliments to the guys on the sports desk. They captured the loss thusly: The good (Cole), the bad (Flash), the Uggla.

That refers to Phils starter Cole Hamels, who surrendered a first-inning home run than mowed through the Marlins lineup, striking out 13, before surrendering another run in the eighth.

The problem is that the Phils’ powerful lineup went limp against young Marlins’ starter Andrew Miller. They managed just four hits against him in 7 innings.

The Phils did manage to scratch out a run in the top of the 9th to tie the game, setting the stage for Tom “Flash” Gordon. In this instance, the veteran reliever who has been having a very good year might better be referred to as “Flash Fire.”

Gordon had control problems, consistently missing the strike zone. Not by a lot, but then again you don’t really have to. Gordon walked two, eventually loading the bases while getting just one out in the ninth.

Up stepped Dan Uggla. Gordon was actually a pitch away from walking in the winning run when Uggla put an exclamation point on a Gordon fastball. Call it winning Uggla. The second-baseman crushed the pitch into the empty seats in left, a walkl-off grand slam leading to a deceiving 6-2 Phils loss.

Along the way the Phils managed to waste a very good performance from Hamels. And the vision of Gordon in the ninth brought back a lot of bad memories. Then again, the Phils’ bullpen has been one of the strengths of their season.

The loss shaves the Phils’ lead over the Fish to just two games. It will be up crafty veteran Jamie Moyer to try to reverse the tide tonight.

It doesn’t get any easier for the Phils, who then head to St. Louis for the weekend. This is the toughest part of their schedule.

We’ll likely know just how good this team really is by this time next week.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- June 11

The Daily Numbers: 5 hours, how long police believe a 14-month-old tot was left locked in a sweltering car in a Marple parking lot yesterday.

130 degrees, what police believe the temperature likely was inside the vehicle.

98 degrees, our high yesterday, one degree higher than the record for the date set in 1964.

169,000 homes without power last night as thunderstorms roared across the region, breaking up the heat wave. PECO estimates it may be a few days before all power is restored.

150 people in Delaware County without power this morning. Most of the damage was in Montgomery and Chester counties, which took the brunt of the storm, with high winds toppling trees and power lines in many areas.

2 persons dead in Philadelphia, at lest in part due to the heat. Both women were found in homes that did not have air-conditioning.

41 to 9, the margin by which the state Senate approved Pennsylvania’s first statwide smoking ban. All 4 Delco senators backed the measure.

250 bucks, the fine for a first violation. Those then increase to $500 and $1,000 for the second and third offenses.

25 percent of a casino floor, and maybe as much as 50 percent, that would be exempt from the smoking ban.

100 million dollar health plan rolled out by Republicans in the state Senate that would compete with a plan being proposed by Gov. Rendell.

700,000 dollars, what a Villanova woman will pay the feds to settle a complaint about the four personal care centers she ran, including the now-closed Brookwood facility in Upper Providence. Rosalind Lavin has been banned from ever again operating a facility after conditions in her four homes were found to be horrific.

1.8 million dollars, estimated value of the home Lavin owned in Villanova.

200 SEPTA transit police officers who now say they will go on strike Thursday if they don’t get a new contract.

17 million dollar wireless network in Philadelphia. The city is now in talks with another firm for the project now that EarthLink has pulled out of the deal.

4.2 percent dip in state lottery sales in counties in which one of the state’s new casinos is located, including Delaware County.

8 pitches into last night’s game and Brett Myers and the Phils were down 3-0. Yep, Brett Myers served up 2 homers in the first.

3 home runs in total on the night for Myers, part of the 7 hits and 5 runs he surrendered in a tad more than 5 innings in taking the loss.

18 home runs now surrendered by Myers, which leads the league.

12 Eagles who make more than running back Brian Westbrook. No wonder he’s ticked.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Two steps forward and one giant step back last night for Brett Myers, who appeared to be turning his season around in his last two starts, then blew up again last night in getting torched by the Marlins.
I Don’t Get It: Either Delco native Tim Donaghy is telling the truth in saying there’s a lot more to the NBA betting scandal, or he’s about the worst person on the face of the Earth.

Today’s Upper: The heat wave is gone. But the heat is not. It’s still going to push 90 degrees today. It’s just going to feel a lot better than the crushing humidity that enveloped us the last four days.

Quote Box: “In order to receive respect, you have to give respect.”

-- John Leary, principal of Penn Wood High School, in offering advice to graduates at ceremonies Tuesday night.

A tragedy in Marple, and some lingering doubts

The first question in light of the tragedy that unfolded yesterday in Marple Township is the obvious one. How could this possibly happen?

It’s the one I’ve been asking myself since we first got word of a child found locked in a steaming car Tuesday afternoon.

You think about how hot it was, how uncomfortable we were as we zipped from one air-conditioned environment to another, how we wondered just how long this intense early-season heat wave was going to last, and then you hear something that almost defies belief.

The truth is we just don’t know. But more than that is the belief that, even though many of us likely would deny it, it could probably happen to any of us.

Like anyone else, I spent much of yesterday afternoon wondering exactly how you manage to forget that you have a child in the back seat of your car. Then I remember some of the things I have done, some of the things I have forgotten, how fast we all live our lives, rushing from one place to another, and I wonder if, in another circumstance that could be me. I like to believe it would not. The ugly truth is there’s a little nagging doubt there.

It appears what happened was simply a horrific accident. A man picked up his grandchild as he often did. He would then drop him off at day care on his way to work. That didn’t happen yesterday. Instead the man apparently forgot his precious cargo, went to work, closed the car door behind him that morning and went inside.

It was only when he returned to his car shortly after lunch that he discovered to his horror the 14-month-old was still inside the sweltering vehicle. Police believe the temperature inside the car likely approached 120 degrees on Day 4 of our sizzling late spring heat wave. Yesterday’s temperature of 98 degrees set a record. The child was in the car for five hours. He was rushed to Bryn Mawr Hospital and later to Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia. His condition has not been disclosed.

Who knows exactly what happened, if there was some kind of a change in the routine, if something happened to scramble the man’s thought process, what other issues he was dealing with, that clearly his mind simply was elsewhere. Or maybe for some reason he just didn’t realize the child was still in the back seat.

Our first reaction is to wonder how this could have possibly happened, to assure ourselves that this could not happen to us.

And then we’re left to wonder if that’s really the case.

Butt out, folks

It took longer than expected, but the Pennsylvania Senate finally cleared the air.

That is on Tuesday they approved the compromise bill that would enact the state’s first smoking ban, limiting lighting up in lots of public places, including many workplaces.

All four senators with ties to Delaware County, Republicans Dominic Pileggi and Ted Erickson, as well as Democrats Connie Williams and Anthony Williams, backed the measure. That’s a change of heart for the Democrats, who were part of the group who originally snuffed out the measure last week in part because of the number of exclusions that water down the effect of the ban.

They have a point. This is not perfect legislation. That’s why they call it a compromise.

A lot of bars and local taverns will be exempted, anyplace where food is 20 percent or less of annual sales.

Then there’s the state’s glittering new casinos. As much as 25 percent of a casino floor – including Harrah’s in Chester -- will remain fair game for smokers, maybe as much as 50 percent if the casino can prove that the ban is hurting business.

Even with the exemptions, it’s light years from where the state and many workers too often found themselves, breathing in unhealthy – and unwanted – smoke, especially in the workplace.

The measure already was passed overwhelmingly by the state House. It now goes to Gov. Ed Rendell, who has indicated he will sign it. It goes into effect 90 days after that.

It’s been a long time in coming as Pennsylvania finally gets around to joining its neighbors in Delaware and New Jersey in reining in the number of public places where people can smoke.

Their message to Pennsylvanians: Butt out. It’s about time.

Andy shoulders role of media critic

Andy Reid apparently wants to wear still another hat.

The grand poobah of all things Iggles-related is apparently not satisfied being head coach and the main mover and shaker at Nova Care Nation.

He now wants to add sports editor to his duties. Reid now will decide which questions from the pesky media should be asked and whether he can be bothered to respond. That’s not especially new. This kind of friction between coaches and reporters has been going on since Gutenberg whipped up something called the printing press.

What is new is Reid now offering his critique of the questions put to him.

This all comes in the wake of the latest Donovan McNabb injury. Yesterday’s announcement that the QB was being shut down might come as news to some Eagles fans. It will not to readers of this newspaper. Our beat reporter, Bob Grotz, has been writing for more than a week that there is something wrong with the often-injured starting QB’s shoulder. Last week Grotz even had a teammate, wide receiver Kevin Curtis, confirming it.

In the meantime, Reid and most other media outlets downplayed the report.

But it didn’t take long for the issue to flare up again at this week’s mini-camp. McNabb’s throws were first limited. Then he started missing practices. Wednesday the team announced that not only would McNabb not practice, but he will be held out for the rest of the week. The team’s explanation is that McNabb is suffering with tendinitis in his throwing shoulder, something he’s dealt with before.

The team tried to put the best face on this, assuring the gathered media that no one believed it was a big deal and that McNabb should be ready to go when training camp opens at Lehigh in late July.

Then Reid turned media critique. He was asked specifically if this latest flare-up affected his perception of McNabb’s durability. Seems like a pretty legitimate question for a QB who has missed a lot of time with injuries the last couple of years.

Not to Reid. He laughed derisively and pronounced it a “bad question.” But that’s not all. He then called off the press conference and stormed off.

Which makes me wonder just how bothered Reid really is about this latest issue with McNabb, and not that he’s just dealing with a longstanding issue.

Once again the Eagles created an issue they didn’t really have to deal with. The team likely has known – as our reporter has – that McNabb has been dealing with this pain in his shoulder for weeks.

Only a cynical member of the press would conclude that the Eagles were trying to hide the issue.

What Reid and the Eagles have now accomplished is placing their marquee player once again under a microscope. Every McNabb move already was going to be closely watched. Now every errant throw – not exactly unusual for McNabb – will be met with a raised eyebrow. Heaven help him should McNabb reach for his shoulder after any throws.

In the meantime, guess who now assumes the No. 1 spot at practice? That would be Kevin Kolb, the young quarterback the Eagles invested a No. 1 draft pick in just a year ago, much to the surprise of McNabb and just about everyone else.

Andy Reid probably thought he was trying to put out a fire. All he managed to do was throw a little gas on it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- June 10

The Daily Numbers: 96 degrees, our high for yesterday, Day 4 of our early heat wave. That’s not a record, by the way. We cam up 1 degree short.

98 our expected high today, that would shatter the record of 97 for the day.

83 degrees, the balmy temperature that greets you as you head out the door this morning.

492 graduates who braved the heat to snag their diplomas last night from Haverford High School.

46 kids who formed the mini-miracle that is the Class of 2008 at St. Cyril of Alexandria Grade School in East Lansdowne. They graduated last night.

45 deadbeat parents snagged in a sweep held last month by the members of the Delaware County Sheriff’s Department.

4 people, including a student and her date, arrested in connection with a brawl after she was denied admittance to the Upper Darby prom because she arrived late, according to police.

4 bucks, what we’re paying for a gallon of gas, as well as a gallon of milk.

4 cent hike in the price of gas over the weekend.

4.09 average price per gallon of gas in the Philly area.

11 percent hike in number of riders packing SEPTA’s regional rail lines as gas prices shatter records every day.

1,475 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in Philadelphia. That’s the highest rate among the nation’s 10 largest jurisdictions.

52 age of Petal, the Philadelphia Zoo’s beloved oldest African elephant in an American zoo, who died yesterday.

2 supermarket chains in Pennsylvania who have joined fast-food giant McDonald’s in pulling several kinds of tomatoes in the latest salmonella scare.

10 underperforming stores that are targeted for closing by crafts chain A.C. Moore.

10 percent of its employees laid off by Franklin Electronic Publishers.

4 game lead for the Phils after the Marlins fell last night.

3 games between the Phils and Marlins starting tonight in South Florida.

600 home runs for Ken Griffey Jr., who set the mark last night as the Reds beat the Marlins.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
So is this still an Eagles’ town? Or have the Phils taken over? Here’s a hint. Donovan McNabb is now admitting his shoulder is a little bit sore. And Brian Westbrook sounds suspiciously like someone who is still ticked off by his contract. And all anyone is talking about is how to get tickets for those red-hot Phillies.
I Don’t Get It: No movement yesterday in the state Senate on that compromise smoking ban. Any day now, folks.

Today’s Upper: One more time, let’s hear it for everyone who had a hand in saving St. Cyril’s School, in particular Tommy Geromichalos, whose special “wish” set the wheels in motion.

Quote Box: “Keeping the kids cool, that’s the bottom line.”

-- Lou DeVlieger, assistant superintendent in Upper Darby, on move to release some students early in the heat wave.

A special night at St. Cyril's

I spent last night in the sweltering basement of a local elementary school. And I could not have been happier.

I haven’t lost my mind. I haven’t lost my faith, either. Thanks in no small part to a kid named Tommy Geromichalos.

I spent the night in the basement of St. Cyril of Alexandria School in East Lansdowne, where they were holding the graduation ceremony for the school's Class of 2008. It’s something a lot of people did not expect to happen.

I wanted to see with my own two eyes that wishes do come true.

Readers of this newspaper no doubt are familiar with what I’m talking about, the saga of young Mr. Geromichalos and his special “wish.” A few years ago, Tommy, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, wrote a letter to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. They’re the folks who grant the desires of ailing youngsters.

Tommy’s wish was more along the lines of a miracle. He didn’t want to go to Disney World, or meet a movie star or world-class athlete.

Tommy simply wanted his school to remain open so he could graduate with his class. Not even the folks at Make-A-Wish had the power to grant this wish. That’s when the miracle occurred.

Our columnist, Gil Spencer, wrote a piece about Tommy’s wish, and we published the entire text of his letter. What happened next was nothing short of miraculous. A community found its soul, and took it upon itself to raise the money to save St. Cyril’s.

That’s why I had to be there last night. A lot of what I do for a living leaves you questioning your beliefs and your faith.

It’s not that I was a “Doubting Thomas,” or even that I was doubting Thomas Geromichalos, but I still wanted to see it with my own eyes.

Tommy’s “wish” was indeed granted. And maybe best of all, it’s the story that keeps on giving. A foundation called BLOCS is putting together a plan that will keep the school, and several others that are also facing an uphill struggle, open for years to come.

I had the chance to meet many of the people at the school, including the school’s Administrative Assistant Mary Lou Love, Tommy’s teacher Jean Cashwell-Willert, the principal Sister Barbara Montague, and pastor the Rev. Edward Kearns.

All of them had nice things to say about the newspaper and our role in the story.

But this night really belonged to Tommy and the rest of the Class of 2008. They are in fact a miracle.

I asked everyone I met last night if they actually thought this night was ever coming to come. Most of them kind of sheepishly admitted they weren’t sure.

Looks like Tommy’s wasn’t the only wish that came true.

Smell something? That's summer

A few random thoughts on Day 4 of our early season heat wave.

Go ahead, call me insane. I said it yesterday and I’ll repeat it now: I like this weather.

Last night I drove home with the windows in the car down. Let’s just say I got a few stares from people clearly convinced that I had lost touch with my faculties. Or maybe that I was suffering from some kind of heat-related delusion.

But did you notice something else last night and this morning? Not only could you cut the thick air with a knife, you could actually smell it. It reminded me of that old chlorine smell that used to linger around the community pool. And to me it means only thing: Summer. Of course, this is from a man who admits to liking the smell of skunk. Yeah, I know, I’ve clearly gone over the edge. But I find something strangely reassuring when driving along and suddenly coming upon the familiar, pungent fragrance. Let’s face it, you don’t smell that when it’s 10 degrees out in February.

I didn’t get home last night until fairly late, but yes, I made an immediate beeline for the porch. I threw on a pair of shorts, grabbed a cold one, and entered my private enclave. As soon as I walked out the door, I could feel the vibe, as well as the humidity. Summer had arrived. My definition of summer is if I’m still comfortable out on the screened-in porch at 10 p.m. in shorts and a T-shirt. Last night was no sweat, if you get my drift. It was, in a word, outstanding. The only thing you could hear was the drone of air conditioners.

Finally, there is one bizarre thing I noticed in my travels over the weekend. What exactly would drive a person to stand next to the road holding up a placard announcing a store’s sale in that kind of heat? Did anyone else notice the poor folks doing so where the Route 1 Bypass meets Sproul Road. I almost called the office and sent a reporter out to talk to these poor souls, who spent hours in that grueling Saturday sun.

Of course, this heat wave has to end, and it most likely will do so in a fairly dramatic fashion.

That means thunderstorms and driving rain. For someone who makes a living producing something that is completely computer-dependent, these summer storms are always a fairly hair-raising experience.

Tonight should be interesting. Me? I’ll be on the porch, singing in the rain. Or at least listing to the Phillies game.

Phils win even when they don't play

The Phils now gain ground even when they’re not playing.

Last night Ken Griffey Jr. blasted home run No. 600 as the Reds downed the Marlins. In the process that means the Phils picked up another half-game on the Fish.

They enter tonight’s three-game set in South Florida four games up. Brett Myers takes the mound tonight. Myers has been turning around his mediocre start to the season. Last outing he threw six innings of no-hit ball, but was eventually outdueled by young Reds phenom Edinson Volquez.

Look for the Phils to take at least two of three in Florida, starting tonight with Myers on the hill. This is a guy with something to prove, a guy who is smarting from the criticism heaped on him with the way he was throwing early in the season.

Myers pitches better with a chip on his shoulder. That’s usually not a problem for him. He’s had his issues, including a couple of scrapes and corresponding blow-ups with the media. But earlier this season, Myers seemed surprisingly docile as he struggled.

Myers can be as gruff as he wants to be after the game, so long as he takes that same attitude with him to the mound. And throws lights out.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- June 9

The Daily Numbers: 80 degrees, what the thermometer was reading just after 5 a.m. this morning.

3 straight days of near-record temperatures in the mid-90s. We have 1 more tomorrow before we can expect some relief.

98 degrees, that would be our expected high today, which would break a record set back in 1933 We’re under an excessive heat warning again today.

105 what it will actually feel like outside today when you factor in the humidity and heat index.

4 dollars a gallon, now the average price nationally. We passed the mark over the weekend. Actually, in the Philly region, we’ve been forking that over for a couple weeks now.

140 dollars a barrel, where crude oil was trading on Friday. Some experts are already predicting $5 a gallon before the end of the summer.

159.19 dollars a month, what the average family in Delaware County is now spending on gas, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service.

3.55 percent of the average family’s income in Delaware that now goes directly into their gas tank.

3 people believed killed in a fire that roared through a home in Burlington County, N.J., early this morning.

200 SEPTA police officers who could walk off the job in a week to 10 days. They’re locked in a contract dispute with the transit agency, which is battling a rash of attacks on riders, even as usage soars due to high gas prices.

975 feet high, the pinnacle of the Philly skyline now that the new Comcast Center is officially open. The held a party to mark the event on Friday.

1,300 new workers who will make their way into the Comcast Center every day to go to their jobs.

2 billion dollars in economic activity being credited to the construction surrounding the Comcast Center.

4 people shot outside a social club holding a barbecue in Philadelphia. All four are hospitalized.

12 as in the 12th floor of the historic Wanamaker Building, where firefighters were called out in Center City to put out a small fire on Sunday.

30 feet down an elevator shaft, what a woman in an wheelchair plunged early Saturday at an Atlantic City casino. It took 45 minutes to rescue the woman, who is now hospitalized.

13games over .500 for the Phillies, who completed a sweep of the Braves yesterday.

3 doubles and 4 RBI for the suddenly sizzling Ryan Howard.

3.5 game lead for the Phils over the Marlins, as the Phillies arrive in South Florida for a three-game series starting Tuesday.

2 games to zero margin for the Celtics, who beat the Lakers again last night.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
The Phillies might just be the only thing hotter than the weather. This team is threatening to run away and hide top the National League East.
I Don’t Get It: Think the trainer of Big Brown feels a little silly right now? After bragging all week that no one else in the field was even in the same stratosphere as his horse, Rick Dutrow had to watch along with a lot of stunned bettors as his horse turned in a baffling performance. Big Brown was anything but, apparently “out of gas” in the biggest race of his life. Don’t blame the horse. Blame the horse’s behind of a trainer who managed to tick people off all week with his superior attitude, then was equally out of gas in trying to explain what went wrong.

Today’s Upper: Know anybody who had the Trifecta for the Belmont. That little combo of 6-4-8, headed by Da’ Tara paid a handsome $3,703.

Quote Box: “We are no longer children with backpacks and homework, but men and women with ambition and courage.”

-- Zachary Hostetler, valedictorian at Garnet Valley High School, in his addres to graduates Sunday.

We're having a heat wave

Now this is more like it. Call me a masochist if you must, but I actually enjoy this weather.

I spent much of the weekend camped on my screened-in porch, the air enveloping me thicker than pea soup.

I can hardly wait to get home tonight so I can set up camp again, cool beverage in my hand, and the constant drone of all those air conditioners humming in the background. The only thing better would be if there was a Phillies game on the radio. They’re off tonight.

We’re looking at maybe two more days of our first heat wave of the summer. Actually, summer doesn’t even arrive until June 20. Don’t tell that to the weatherman.

The truth is that it’s dangerous out there. We’re under an excessive heat warning, and we’re being urged to limit outdoor activity during peak heat hours.

That didn’t stop all those folks from taking part in the bike race yesterday in Philadelphia. Even I’m not that insane.

Schools are starting to be affected, with some districts in the area closing and others offering early dismissals.

Some residents at a nursing facility in Haverford were evacuated last night when air-conditioning at the facility failed.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for me, you know where I’ll be. Yep, sitting in a pool of sweat while enjoying the great (and steamy) outdoors.

I could take another three months of this.

Butt out, folks

The state Senate today gets another chance to clear the air in Pennsylvania.

The compromise smoking ban that was snuffed out last week is due to get another vote.

Delco Senators Dominic Pileggi, R-9, of Chester, and Ted Erickson, R-26, of Newtown, are supporting the measure. Sen. Connie Williams, D-17, of Haverford has opposed.

Critics say the measure is watered down with too many exemptions that would allow many places, including the state’s new casinos, to skirt the regulations and remain clouded in unhealthy smoke. They have a point, but it should not prevent them from taking this first step in getting the state to butt out.

We urge the Senate to pass the measure if they get the chance today.

Phils march through Atlanta

Break up the Phillies!

Baseball’s hottest team made like Sherman over the weekend and marched through Atlanta.

You can check out Ryan Lawrence’s take on the game here.

Funny you don’t hear that much about trading Ryan Howard any more, huh?

All Howard did yesterday was rip three doubles and drive in four runs as the Phils swept their series against the Braves with a 6-3 win.

That puts the Phils 13 games over .500 at 39-26. They remain up three and a half over the second-place Marlins.

And where do the Phils go now? That would be the soupy situation in South Florida, for a three-game set with the Fish at Dolphins Stadium.

The gap between first and second place in the NL East is about to get wider.

Another sure bet goes down the drain

This will give you an idea why I do not make my living in Las Vegas.

There is a certain allure to gambling. At least for most people. Not for me. There is only this certain truth: No matter what the wager I will come out on the losing end.

Don’t believe me? Consider this.

Saturday I’m at a graduation party. Of course, Saturday also was Belmont Day, with horse-racing lovers expecting the first triple crown in decades.

My family has sort of a romantic affinity to horse racing, in no small part because it was near and dear to our father’s heart.

So my brother decides to have a blind draw to “spice” things up a tad as race time nears. He threw the names of the nine horses into a hat and we make a blind draw.

My selection? Of course I drew Big Brown, the prohibitive favorite. That drew an immediate groan from my wife, who already saw seeing the handwriting on the wall for the horse who had yet to really be challenged and had blown away just about every field he faced.

Me? I’m already trying to figure out what to do with my little jackpot. Geez, even Big Brown’s main challenger, Casino Drive, was scratched.

You know what happens from here. Big Brown is never really in it. His rider actually pulls him up late in the race. He finishes dead last.

Not only am I forced to endure another lecture from my wife on why she has such a distaste for horse racing (thankfully there didn’t appear to be anything physically wrong with the horse), but my winnings just disappeared in front of my eyes.

That’s about my luck. Want to hear my prediction for the Phils? I didn’t think so.

The print column: Thanks, Tommy

Here's a copy of today's print column, about a special kid and a special story, one I could not be more proud of.
Some stories stay with you longer than others. Most of the time, that’s not a good thing. A lot of the stuff we deal with every day is fairly horrific; people dealing with the worst life can throw at them.
But there’s no question the worst is when those stories involve kids. Those are the faces you see when you sit up in bed at 3 a.m. in a cold sweat.
Maybe that’s why so many journalists develop a fairly tough exterior. Very often it hides a wounded soul, one pierced by too many stories about children in unimaginably sad circumstances.
It makes you wonder how people can be so heartless, how they can possibly act so callously toward kids who can’t defend themselves, who depend on adults to shield them from such brutal reality.
It makes you doubt your fellow man, and even your own reaction to still another harrowing ordeal.
Sometimes it makes you question yourself, and what you do for a living.
Then you meet a kid like Tommy Geromichalos.
I’ve been toiling in this racket now for longer than I care to remember. I can’t think of many stories I’ve taken more pleasure from than Tommy’s.
We were first introduced to young Mr. Geromichalos back in January 2006 by our lead columnist, Gil Spencer.
Tommy, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, had a wish. That gives him something in common with a lot of kids. He expressed his wish to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the organization that makes dreams come true for ailing kids.
What made Tommy’s saga unique was not his age, nor his condition. Rather, it was what he was asking for. A lot of kids ask for a trip to Disney World or to meet a sports superstar. There’s nothing wrong with those things, especially if it brings some joy to a sick youngster.
But that’s not what Tommy had in mind.
Specifically, Tommy asked the Make-A-Wish Foundation if it could save his school. Tommy attended St. Cyril of Alexandria parochial elementary school in East Lansdowne. Like many of the archdiocese schools in the eastern end of the county, St. Cyril’s was struggling. Attendance was declining; costs were headed in the other direction. The situation appeared bleak. The pastor had recommended to the archdiocese that the school be closed to ease the financial burden on the parish.
That’s when Tommy penned his letter. He “wished” for his school to stay open so he could graduate with his class.
Of course, the staggering financial abyss the school was teetering on was too much for even the folks at Make-A-Wish.
That’s when the real miracle happened.
Gil wrote a column concerning Tommy’s plight, and we also ran the full text of his letter to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
It struck a chord with our readers, as well as the St. Cyril community.
Soon, all the local TV stations were beating a path to St. Cyril’s door. The CBS Evening News even did a piece on Tommy’s wish.
I have to admit, being the product of a Catholic grade school, I have a soft spot for them and the nuns who taught me so well. And it pains me to see school after school in Delaware County deal with the threat of shutting down because of financial considerations.
Apparently, it had the same effect on a lot of other people.
We did a series of stories on Tommy and the grass-roots community campaign to save St. Cyril’s. The group’s motto, borrowed from the late Phillies reliever Tug McGraw, was “Ya Gotta Believe.”
They weren’t kidding. The group raised more than $260,000. They did what nobody thought they could do. They saved St. Cyril School. No less a figure than Archbishop Cardinal Justin Rigali paid a visit to the school to announce that it would remain open.
Today, thanks to a group called BLOCS (Business Leaders Organized for Catholic Schools), fundraising is continuing to assure that St. Cyril’s and other schools continue their mission. The group proposed a 10-year spending plan to offer a lifeline for the school and is extending it to other ailing archdiocesan schools in the region.
Tonight, the story will come full circle. Tonight Tommy’s “wish” will come true. Tommy Geromichalos will graduate, along with the rest of the Class of 2008, at St. Cyril School.
Some people have told me that the newspaper was instrumental in galvanizing the community behind the effort to save St. Cyril’s. Actually, it was more like the resolve of all those community members who were determined to make Tommy’s wish come true.
But I would be lying if I did not tell you that I take some satisfaction with what happened at St. Cyril’s.
Like I said, a lot of what we report every day involves stories that can scar your soul. This one did, too, but in a different way.
We could use a lot more stories like Tommy’s, a lot more miracles.
Who says wishes don’t come true?
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, June 6, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- June 6

The Daily Numbers: 573,792.71 dollars, what authorities say Carol Ackley stole from the Ridley School District to fuel her gambling habit. Now they’ve charged her husband in the conspiracy.

10 casinos where authorities tracked the Ackleys to in their ruinous gambling jaunts.

2.5 percent, what Gov. Ed Rendell and state Democrats want to cut from the state’s electricity usage.

97 the expected high temperature on Saturday, with an encore of 96 Sunday and 95 Monday. The heat index actually will be over 100. An excessive heat watch has been issued for the entire region.

188 graduates from Archbishop Prendergast High School who received their diplomas yesterday.

311 grads in their caps and gowns last night for Penncrest High School.

2 people shot and killed early this morning in the Juniata section of Philadelphia. Police believe it is a murder-suicide.

4 day work week being looked at for municipal workers out in Centre County as officials look for ways to save on energy costs.

14 age of honor student slain by her mother’s boyfriend in Plymouth Meeting. Mark O’Donnell will spend life in jail for the murder of Ebony Dorsey.

200,000 dollars, amount of Senate funds that a pal of state Sen. Vince Fumo now will admit that he and others used for campaign work.

24 hour electronic home monitoring for Jocelyn Kirsch, the so-called “Bonnie” half of Philly’s infamous ID theft duo. She also must now stay in the Philly area.

3 hits surrendered by Cole Hamels as he blanked the Reds and the Phils rolled, 5-0.

8 wins and 2 losses for the Phils on this homestand. Now they have 3 in Atlanta, before sets with the Marlins and Cardinals.

599 home runs, where Ken Griffey Jr. still stands, despite taking Hamels to the warning track in the 9th inning yesterday.

0 runs for the Garnet Valley softball team, who fell to Hatboro-Horsham in the PIAA AAAA playoffs yesterday.

1 win for the Celtics, who topped the Lakers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals last night.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Enough already about the J-Roll affair. He was wrong. Charlie Manuel did the right thing by benching him after he failed to go hard on the bases after a popup. Let’s move on. This team is as hot as the weather. No need to throw cold water on things.
I Don’t Get It: I wasn’t buying Herbert Ackley’s explanation at his wife’s trial that he had no idea where the money was coming from that he and the Mrs. were spending at a pretty steep clip at various casinos. Neither, apparently, did the police, who have now charged him in the case. What did he think, she was printing it out in the garage?

Today’s Upper: I may be in the minority here, but I say bring on the heat and humidity. I love summer. Give me this over winter any time.

Quote Box: “The money he and his wife gambled far exceeded what they made.”

-- Ridley Police Detective Sgt. Scott Willoughby, on case in which Herbert Ackley now has been charged in connection with his wife’s thievery from the Ridley School District, where they both worked.

Summer's here, so's the governor

Ed Rendell must have a restaurant he really likes in Ridley. He’s becoming a regular.

Just a couple of days after he held a hearing at Ridley High School pushing his school education plan, the governor was back in town yesteday, talking about his energy initiative at the Ridley Community Center.

His timing could not have been better.

Rendell had a warning for residents: If you think the cost of gasoline is putting a crimp in your wallet, wait until you see what’s in store with the price of electricity. You can read Alex Rose’s account here.

The short version is that electricity is about to get a lot more expensive. Rendell is pushing a package of bills to cut electricity demand in Pennsylvania by 2.5 percent and peak demand by 4 percent by 2013.

I wouldn’t count on that happening this weekend. My guess is that all across Delaware County, residents are breaking out the air-conditioners, fans and anything else they can get their hands on to stay cool.

That’s because we’re about to jump ahead a few weeks and enjoy our first real blast of summer weather. That’s as in blast furnace.

Starting tomorrow and right through the middle of next week, temperatures are expected in the mid to high 90s. And we’ll have high humidity as well. They’re saying we could shatter the record for high temperatures on Sunday and Monday.

So saving on air conditioning likely won’t be high on residents’ to-do lists. Staying cool will.

Maybe Rendell can come back to Ridley and do one of his classic pool-opening photo ops, just as he did as mayor of Philly when he took the plunge into local community pools.

One thing’s for certain, he’d have lots of company.

Let’s all keep our cool out there this weekend, folks.

Another chapter in the Ackley saga

We probably should have seen this one coming.

There’s another chapter in the Ackley family saga. You might remember Carol Ackley. She used to work for the Ridley School District. Ended up entering a plea for swindling the district out of more than $570,000. She says she is a gambling addict and blew it all at local casinos.

An interesting thing happened at her trial. Prosecutors grilled her husband when he took the stand, claiming he didn’t know where she was getting all that money as she sat next to him on many of those occasions.

You got the distinct impression from prosecutors that they didn’t believe him.

Neither, apparently, did police.

Yesterday they charged Herbert Ackley, also a former Ridley School District employee, with being a willing participant in the conspiracy.

You can read Cindy Scharr’s account of the charges here.

Herbert Ackley testified at his wife’s trial that he was “shocked” when he found out his wife had stolen the money.

Yesterday police had another shocker for him. They charged him with receiving stolen property, theft and conspiracy, saying he was with her on jaunts to 10 different casinos when they dropped large sums of money.

It was pretty clear during her trial that Carol Ackley had rolled the dice – and lost. Now it appears as if her husband is about to crap out as well.

Charlie lays down the law

The Phils got a gem from Cole, so of course everyone wants to talk about something else.

Hamels threw a three-hit shutout in silencing the Reds, and the Phils closed out an 8-2 home stand before leaving for a weekend set in Hot-lanta.

But it was something else that happened in the game that had tongues wagging.

Manager Charlie Manuel benched a player for not hustling. That in itself would be news. But this player happens to be the reigning National League MVP.

That’s right. Jimmy Rollins found himself on the pine after he failed to run out a pop fly in the third. The Reds botched the play, but Rollins wasn’t running hard. He should have been standing on second. Instead, he sheepishly was forced to retreat to first.

To his credit, Manuel gave him the hook. And to his credit, Rollins handled the matter head-on after the game. He indicated Manuel really only has two rules, that you be on time and hustle. He broke one of the rules. So he took a seat on the bench.

For his part, Manuel didn’t want to talk about it at all.

But it sends a clear message to the team: Lazy play won’t be tolerated, even if you’re the MVP.

That should pay dividends later this year. For now, too much is likely being made of the Rollins’ incident. And not nearly enough on the gem uncorked by Hamels.

The Phils are now once again 10 games over the .500 mark at 36-26. They go to Atlanta with a two and a half game lead. This is going to be one of the toughest parts of their schedule, with series against the Braves, Marlins and Cardinals, then back home to face the Dodgers and Angels.

Manuel’s message should serve them well.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- June 5

The Daily Numbers: 13 percent hike in ridership reported on regional rails in light of skyrocketing gas prices.

326 counts of child porn lodged against a man from Lansdowne.

466 graduates from Cardinal O’Hara High School who received their diplomas Wednesday.

2 Delco senators, Dominic Pileggi and Ted Erickson, who voted in favor of the statewide smoking ban bill yesterday. It was snuffed out in the Senate.

14 times police say the same man broke into an office complex in Bala Cynwyd. They say he ripped off thousands of dollars in high-tech goods, including carting off big-screen TVs.

70,000 dollars believed ripped off from a youth soccer organization in Montgomery County by a soccer mom who served as treasurer.

40 million dollar fraud admitted by a Bryn Mawr businessman who lied on bank documents to get some big loans.

1.3 million dollars in tax receipts the city of Philadelphia is losing each year because it takes too long to deposit the money, according to the city controller.

40 years ago today that Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was gunned down in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles just seconds after winning the key California primary. He died the next day.

48 to 42 percent lead for Barack Obama over John McCain in a new national poll.

46 to 38 percent lead for McCain among independents.

6 innings of no-hit ball for Brett Myers last night. The Phils still lost, 2-0.

2 hits and 0 runs for the Phils, who were shut down by young Reds’ phenom Edinson Volquez.

45,223 fans who went through the turnstiles last night, another sellout at Citizens Bank Park.

1 more sellout on tap for this afternoon’s Businessperson’s Special with the Reds.

16 sellouts through 34 home games so far this year for the Phils.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Ryan Howard swings at the first pitch after Edinson Volquez walks two guys and hits Chase Utley with a pitch to load the bases. Howard comes up and flails at the first offering. I don’t get it.
I Don’t Get It: I also don’t get Andy Reid and the Eagles attitude when it comes to Lito Sheppard. This isn’t about winning or losing. I don’t care if they think they are going to “win” this standoff. I do care that they stand to lose the services of a very good defensive back.

Today’s Upper: People are getting the message. We are getting out of our cars and climbing aboard mass transit. It’s about time.

Quote Box: “We’re following up on every tip or lead.”

-- Upper Darby Police Superintendent Mike Chitwood, on the investigation into the case of a teen whose body was found on trolley tracks.

A smokescreen in Harrisburg

Only a cynic would say that the compromise plan to forge a statewide smoking ban in Pennsylvania went up in smoke.

But that’s what it looks like.

A legislative panel had formulated the deal, which was far from perfect, but which also was light years ahead of where we are now, which is without anti-smoking legislation.

The proposal has way too many exemptions for places like casinos, as well as a lot of taprooms and bars. But it was still a starting point.

You can only imagine a bunch of senators retreating into the proverbial “smoke-filled room” and taking out the long knives to scuttle the deal.

The Senate voted the legislation down yesterday. It passed overwhelmingly in the House. Both Delco’s senators, Dominic Pileggi, R-9, and Ted Erickson, R-26, voted for the proposal. Democrat Sen. Connie Williams, D-7, of Lower Merion, who represents Haverford, voted against. So did Rep. Bryan Lentz, D-161.

Here’s the problem most of the senators had with the legislation. It superseded any ban that a local municipality had in place. With one exception. That would be for Philadelphia. The move ticked off legislators from places that already had a ban in place.

Lentz indicated that the “ban” wouldn’t be a ban at all, citing all the loopholes to allow smoking.

The measure still should have passed. It could come up for a vote next week. We hope the pols can cut through the smokescreen and vote for a plan the state desperately needs. Is it perfect? No. Far from it.

But it’s better than what we have now. Which is nothing.

Aug. 28, an historic date

I have to credit my good pal and faithful reader Rod Powell of Chester for this one.

Sen. Barack Obama, now the presumptive presidential Democratic nominee, made history this week when it became clear he had the delegates to capture the nomination. In so doing he will become the first person of color to be nominated for president by one of the major political parties.

And the night when he accepts that nomination has historical significance as well.

Obama will stride to the microphone in Denver on Aug. 28 to take on the mantle of Democratic candidate for president of the United States.

It will come exactly 45 years after another man stepped to a microphone in another city and made a little history.

It was Aug. 28, 1963, that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. appeared in front of a sweltering throng on the mall in Washington, D.C., and delivered one of the most famous speeches in American history.

King hushed the crowd – and awed a nation – with his words and oratory. He talked about his “dream,” about a nation where a man would not be judged by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character.

Forty-five years later, Obama will become the living personification of that dream.

When it comes to presidential politics, the nation finally will live up to King’s words, that all men are indeed created equal.

Phils let Reds off the hook

Brett Myers was lights out for six innings in his best outing of the year last night.

Myers looked like the ace the Phils so often envision as he threw no-hit ball at the Reds for six innings.

But it wasn’t good enough. Myers and the Phils were outdueled by young Reds phenom Edinson Volquez, who matched Myers almost pitch for pitch on a muggy night in front of still another sellout at Citizens Bank Park. The Reds finally got to Myers for a run in the 7th and won, 2-0.

I have no problem with what Myers did last night. Sometimes the other pitcher is just better.

The problem I have is the way some of the Phils batters approached Volquez. It’s not like the Phils did not have their chances. Volquez, who clearly has great stuff, also does not have complete command of it. His pitches were all over the place.

The Phils had him on the ropes in the fifth, when he walked two batters and then plunked Chase Utley on the foot to load the bases.

That brings slugger Ryan Howard to the plate. So what does he do? Of course he flails at the first pitch, lofting a lazy pop-up to left.

It’s one of my favorite pet peeves about some professional ballplayers. I’m sure Howard has been told to take a pitch or two in that circumstance, with a pitcher struggling to find the strike zone.

But there he was, up there hacking at the first offering.

Guess you’re not going to win them all. But when you’re helping the other team get out of jams, it makes it that much more frustrating.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- June 4

The Daily Numbers: 501 to 63, vote by unionized nurses at Crozer Chester Medical Center to approve a new contract.

50 dollars her hour, what many of these nurses will earn after getting average pay hikes of 4 percent a year in the 3-year deal.

12 percent more union members will pay for their own health care coverage under the contract.

17 graduates who received diplomas last night from the American Christian Academy in Aston. They also will be the school’s last graduating class. The school announced it was ending its high school program.

4 children who have now come forward to allege inappropriate touching by a clinical psychologist who was an employee of the Delaware County Juvenile Court.

6 years in jail for a Clifton Heights man for a fatal DUI accident in which a Montgomery County men he slammed into when he fell asleep at the wheel was killed.

0 increase overnight in the price of gas overnight. That’s the first time that’s happened in more than a week.

4.04 the average price of gas in the five-county Philly region this morning, still an all-time high.

2 of 5 gun control ordinances recently passed by Philadelphia City Council and signed by Mayor Michael Nutter that a city judge struck down Tuesday. The measures would ban assault weapons and a limit purchases of guns to 1 a month.

200 to $229 a night, what it will cost you to stay at the new Aloft Hotel set to open near the Philadelphia International Airport in September.

40 million dollars given to the University of Pennsylvania by Jerome Fisher, founder of the women’s shoe company Nine West.

6 years in jail for a woman distraught over her husband’s affair who then left deadly chemicals stolen from the lab where she worked at the mistress’s home. She also must pay $9,000 in restitution and $2,000 in fines.

20 years after a black man was shot and killed in Philadelphia, a white supremacist charged in the shooting so he could earn a skinhead tattoo was acquittted of most of the serious charges.

5 to 1 vote by Pennsylvania legislative leaders yesterday for a limited statewide smoking ban.

37,000 feet in the air, where a woman gave birth on a flight from the Philippines to New York.

10 games over .500, where the Phils now stand after taking another one from the Reds last night, 3-2.

45,096 people who went through the turnstiles last night at Citizens Bank Park, another sellout.

6 and 2/3 strong innings from starter Adam Eaton as he posted his 2nd straight win.

2 Eagles missing from yesterday’s opening session of a voluntary mini-camp. One was Lito Sheppard. The other was offensive lineman Scott Young.

2 District 1 titles in girls lacrosse for Springfield and Radnor, both of whom won yesterday.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Forget the Eagles. At least until after Labor Day. Who cares about Lito Sheppard? This is now the Phillies’ town. Paint the town red, not green.
I Don’t Get It: American Christian Academy in Aston, which was propelled into the national limelight with all-everything basketball player Tyreke Evans, will be no more. They held graduation at the small school last night. It will be their last. They are folding the high school, and its lofty athletic programs.

Today’s Upper: Kudos to both sides in avoiding a strike by nurses at Crozer-Chester Medical Center. Their new 3-year deal comes as good news to those who depend on the institution for crucial health services.

Quote Box: “We were able to reach a very fair agreement that maintains reasonable cost-share for Crozer nurses.”

-- Bill Cruice, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, on the deal between his union members and Crozer-Chester Medical Center.

A nation fulfills its dream

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Pretty impressive stuff. Those words form the opening stanza of the Declaration of Independence, penned by Thomas Jefferson more than 230 years ago.

They formed the backbone of a people looking to break away from the tyranny of the mother country, and envisioned a country where its citizens could become anything they set their sights upon.

Including growing up one day to be president.

Unless, of course, you happened to be a person of color. For them, certain parts of the American dream remained just that.

Until last night.

Amid the cacophony of partisan politics, it would be easy to lose sight of just what happened Tuesday night when Sen. Barack Obama captured the last few delegates needed to assure himself of the Democratic nomination.

In so doing he becomes the first African-American, or any person of color, to be the nominee of one of the major parties for president of these United States.

Ironically, in doing so he vanquished a similar dream, that of Sen. Hillary Clinton to be the first woman to be so nominated.

With either route, Democrats were set to make history.

Now they must make peace. Before he can turn his sights on his Republican foe, Sen. John McCain, Obama must heal the rift in his own party.

At the top of that list is just what role, if any, Clinton will have in the campaign. She gave no specific indication last night of her plans, although she did not appear to rule out accepting the vice presidential spot, if Obama was so inclined.

Since his surprising springboard out of the Iowa Caucus, through his rise from long-shot to favorite, Obama’s message has been the same: Change.

He certainly has delivered that. Along with no small dose of history along the way.

We all should take a moment to soak in just how important what happened Tuesday night really was. But only a moment.

Maybe even more historic will be the time when such an occurrence will be considered routine, instead of a pivotal moment in our history.

At least for one night, and hopefully from this point forward, when it comes to presidential politics, all men and women really are created equal.

Springfield Road blues

Here’s my rant of the day: Springfield Road.

Is this someone’s idea of a joke?

If you haven’t traversed the road from Bishop Avenue to State Road lately, you may now know what I’m talking about.

If you do, join the crowd. The road is being repaved. Eventually. Right now it’s just been milled. Which is good if you are interested in having all your fillings loosened.

Then there’s the matter of the manholes that litter the road. They’re all now raised from the milled surface of the rest of the surface.

I’m thinking this must be someone’s idea of a defensive driving course, as motorists zig and zag to avoid the jarring notion of actually driving over all these raised spots.

I don’t even have to drive the road during rush hour. I get in before the crews arrive, and they’re long gone when I head home. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to deal with this road when everyone else is out there as well.

A month or so ago it was Baltimore Pike. Then crews had Bishop Road tied up for awhile. One of these decades they likely will finish that project on the one side of the road to accommodate the new development going in between Springfield Road and Baltimore Pike.

I am trying to look at the bright side. I realize that this is the cost of progress. And I can smile now as I use the smooth Baltimore Pike, with the memory of that aggravation a thing of the past.

But I have a question. What exactly was wrong with Springfield Road? I don’t recall it being in such bad shape that called for this kind of a major overhaul.

Maybe it’s all a plot to get us out of our cars and use mass transit.

If not they’re doing a pretty good imitation.

It's the Phillies town

Don’t look now, but this is about to be the summer of the Phillies.

The guys in pinstripes are taking over the town. Don’t believe me?

Have you tried to get a ticket lately? Last night’s game was another sellout. That’s becoming the norm. Citizens Bank Park is now the place to be, a party every night.

It helps that the team is playing well, but that’s not the whole thing. The Phils’ 3-2 win last night put them 10 games over .500 and 2.5 games up on the Marlins.

But it’s the atmosphere the Phillies have created at their cozy little bandbox of a park. Very simply, it’s cool to be a baseball fan again. Young people are flocking to the park, and even ocasionally paying attention to a game that many people had given up for dead just a few years ago.

Another 45,096 poured through the turnstiles last night to see the defending National League East champions. Monday night they only drew 38,530. That’s now considered an off night.

They were over 45,000 all three days of the weekend. The Red Sox are coming to town in two weeks. Tickets for that series are almost impossible to get.

There is a chance that this team could come very close to selling out the rest of the season. That’s what happens when you mix a very good team that’s fun to watch in a venue that’s considered a jumping joint. In short, Citizens Bank Park is now one of the region’s hottest summer destination points.

Remember all the years when sports fans used to sit around all summer counting the days until Eagles training camp started? Not any more.

Lito who? Attention Jeff Lurie and Joe Banner. See you after Labor Day. At least for the summer, this is now the Phillies’ town.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- June 3

The Daily Numbers: 2 days before nurses at Crozer-Chester Medical Center say they’ll go on strike Thursday morning.

810 members of the nurses union who are threatening to walk out in an effort to pump up the nurse-to-patient ratio at the facility.

1,800 active bench warrants on file for deadbeat moms and dads with the Delaware County Sheriff’s Department. Officials are offering amnesty to anyone who turns themselves in this week.

5.84 percent tax hike coming in Wallingford-Swarthmore School District.

700,000 dollars a year, what Alycia Lane was making at Channel 3, slightly more than her co-anchor Larry Mendte. Now some feel that may have sparked jealousy, and eventually the e-mail probe in which Mendte and Lane are the central figures.

1 cent hike in the price of gas over the weekend. Another day, another penny at the pump.

4.04 the average price of gas in the five-county Philly region this morning, an all-time high.

4.99 a gallon for diesel. Hey, at least it did not go up overnight. How long before it breaks the $5 barrier?

126 percent jump in emergency roadside calls to AAA from people who have run out of gas, as compared with this same time last year.

368 stations in the Philadelphia region now reporting they are selling gas at $4 a gallon or more. That’s compared to just 36 in Delaware and only 5 in Jersey.

10.4 percent jump in ridership on SEPTA’s regional rail lines, according to a study by the American Public Transportation Association. They also note subway and elevated trains are up 1.12 percent, and buses up 3.1 percent. Streetcars and trolleys were up an astounding 54.2 percent.

2 instances in which live mortar rounds have been turned in by Montgomery County residents. They apparently were found on New Jersey shores and were taken home. Police detonated one of the devices yesterday.

5 years in jail facing Edward Anderton, the male half of the ‘Bonnie & Clyde” Philly duo that took ID theft and turned it into an art form. He entered a guilty plea yesterday.

26 percent jump in international tourists visiting Philadelphia in 2007.

93.7 million dollar loss reported by luxury home builder Toll Brothers in the second quarter.

1.5 games up in the NL East for the Phils, who took the first game of their series over the Reds last night.

21 home runs for Chase Utley, who went yard in the first inning last night and also made 2 stellar plays in the field to seal the win.

5 straight games in which Utley has hit a home run. He’s on a pace to hit 58 dingers this year.

3 OT periods before the Pens scored to beat the Red Wings, forcing a Game 6 in their Stanley Cup final series.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
There is just nothing better in sports than the Stanley Cup playoffs. Mix in a deciding game, a team on its last breath, a last-minute score and three overtime periods, and you have sports nirvana. Now if only that was the Flyers instead of the Penguins battling the Red Wings.
I Don’t Get It: Delaware police charged a couple who left their two young children alone in the car while they entered a casino and played the slots. I don’t get it.

Today’s Upper: A most deserving honor yesterday for a Pennsylvania soldier who was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously by President Bush. Ross McGinnis of Knox, Pa., threw himself on a grenade in Iraq to save his pals.

Quote Box: “We are just intending to stay here tonight until we get an agreement.”

-- Bobbi McClay, president of the nurses union at Crozer-Chester Medical Center, on talks that face a Thursday morning deadline before nurses indicate they’d go on strike.

Anchorman? Yes, but not the stereotype

I’ve only met Larry Mendte a couple of times. Once you get past the way he looks, he’s not exactly the stereotype of a TV anchorman.

Yes, he has great hair, and it’s almost always perfectly coiffed. That’s opposed to mine, which is entirely too gray and usually a mess.

I don’t do makeup in the newspaper racket, but if I did I would guess you could do worse than Mendte’s. The guy always looks great.

The other thing you realize when you meet him is that he is a fairly imposing presence. He’s a big guy, and he can fill up a room, let alone a TV screen.

I found this out when I shared a stage with him at the debate between then Republican Congressman Curt Weldon and Democratic challenger Joe Sestak. Mendte was the moderator; I was one of the panelists. Mendte was smooth as silk. As usual, I proved to a fairly substantial Comcast audience that this was a face that was meant for newspapers.

But I also learned something else that day. Mendte was a nice guy. I’ve met more than my share of TV anchors and TV types in general. We, that being newspapers and TV news operations, don’t always get along, especially when we’re both working the same story.

But Larry couldn’t have been nicer, and was anything but the blow-dried buffoon that Will Ferrell’s “Anchorman” – as well as so many folks who grace our TV screens, might suggest. OK, he probably does go overboard with the weather, but these days don’t we all?

I trace it to his upbringing right here in Delco. Mendte is a Lansdowne native, and a graduate of Monsignor Bonner.

All of which is to say for the life of me I can’t figure out how the hell Mendte managed to find himself in the position he’s now in.

That would be the focus of an FBI probe, in which it is alleged that he accessed the e-mail account of his co-anchor Alycia Lane, after she was fired from KYW-TV 3 in the fallout from her infamous run-in with police in New York City.

Today there is more, with it looking more and more as if this was precipitated by a complaint from Lane that her e-mail was hacked. Her lawyer has gone so far as to suggest that Mendte may have been jealous over his partner, sometimes referred to as the “Latina bombshell,” who had a penchant for making the gossip pages as often as the TV section.

I hope that’s not the case.

There is one person I’d like to hear from. We have yet to hear Mendte’s side of this. He’s been off the air since this latest meltdown at Channel 3 became public over the weekend. The station indicates he likely will not be back on until the matter is resolved.

Everyone is saying the right thing, that they are all cooperating with the investigation.

Lane was fired by Channel 3. She’s now suing the station. Mendte is on the sidelines.

I guess there’s a lot about TV news I don’t understand. Can’t say I’m especially interest in finding out, either.

Staycation? Shore enough!

If you read my print column this week, you know I’m something of an old hand at this “staycation” racket.

That’s the fancy name that’s been slapped on the latest marketing campaign aimed at getting us to spend big bucks for lots of gear that will make sticking around the house a little more appealing in these days of $4 gas prices.

Today’s there’s even more ammo on the “Staycation” front.

Brace yourselves, gas prices are not going down. You’re shocked, I know. Actually prices jumped another penny overnight, according to AAA.

Regular is now fetching a whopping $4.04 a gallon on average in the Philadelphia five-county region with diesel fuel still managing to barely stay under the $5 mark at $4.99 a gallon.

Remember in the days before the Memorial Day weekend, when a couple of stations crashed through the $4 plateau? This morning AAA says there are 368 stations in the Philly region with prices at or above $4. That compares with just 36 in Delaware and only 5 in South Jersey.

And there’s also this: AAA says their calls from stranded motorists who have run out of gas are going through the roof. The numbers have doubled from this time last year, up 126 percent.

The theory is that people can’t afford a full tank, and they just can’t make it until they have the money to buy gas again. AAA also nicely reminds us that running for long periods of time on or close to “E” can damage your engine. Just what you wanted to hear, I know.

At least one region seems to be coming out a winner in the gas price sweepstakes. That would be shore points, at least some of them.

Jersey shore spots reported being packed over the Memorial Day. It was the same story in Rehoboth Beach, Del., where 150,000 people arrived for the weekend and overnight stays were up 4.5 percent. Ironically, Ocean City, Md., reports they had 35,000 fewer visitors for the first official week of the summer season.

Hey, maybe people got to Rehoboth, took one look at their dwindling gas needle, and decided, “this is far enough.” After all, on a busy weekend, you’re looking at another 45 minutes to drive from Rehoboth on into Ocean City.

Just what I need. My favorite city in the world being overrun with even more summer shore-goers. Hey, find your own “Staycation” resort.

And save me a slice of Grotto pizza.

The Chase for the MVP

Maybe the Phils should ask Chase Utley to sell programs or sweep up after the games. He’s doing everything else for the team.

Last night The “Chase” for the MVP award continued at Citizens Bank Park with another tour de force performance from the Phils’ second baseman.

All Utley did last night was deposit another ball in the right-field bleachers, a tracer shot that screamed out of the park in the first inning, staking the Phils to a 2-0 lead.

It was his league-leading 21st dinger of the season, and the fifth game in a row that Utley has gone yard.

And Utley is not just doing it with his bat. He’s also making a statement in the field, snagging two line drives, including the final out in the bottom of the ninth when he robbed Joey Votto to seal the deal.

The Phils are now up by a game and a half over the Marlins in the NL East.

In the meantime, Reds slugger Junior Griffey took the night off, citing “general soreness.” I think I had that yesterday, too, after another tough weekend working in the yard.

Griffey likely will continue his march to 600 home runs tonight. He’s sitting at 599.

But he will not be the brightest star in Citizens Bank Park. That honor belongs to Utley, who is simply doing things that maybe have never been done by a second-baseman before.

He’s on a pace to hit 58 homers. How impressive is that? Consider that the all-time record for second basemen is 42, set by the immortal Rogers Hornsby in 1922, and the decidedly more motal Davey Johnson in 1973.

The Phillies have captured the last two National League MVP awards, with Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins alternating in the lead role.

Can you say three-peat? The Chase is on.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- June 2

The Daily Numbers: 6 Delco bridges targeted for repair under a program being pushed by Gov. Ed Rendell. It’s not going to be cheap. Price tag is going to be $200 million a year across the state.

14 year-old boy who was run over and killed by a SEPTA trolley in Drexel Hill Saturday night.

136 graduating classes at Swarthmore College, traditionally the last local college to hold commencement exercises, which they did on Sunday.

30.084 mills, the tax rate in Southeast Delco, which will remain the same under the budget adopted without a tax hike by the school board.

227.94 tax hike staring at residents of Rose Tree Media under the budget adopted by their school board. All schools must have their spending plan in place by the end of the month.

2 cent hike in the price of gas over the weekend.

4.03 the average price of gas in the five-county Philly region this morning, an all-time high.

3.20 where the meter starts running this morning on cab rides in Philly. A 50-cent fee has been slapped on all rides because of the high cost of gas.

4.99 a gallon for diesel.

27 age of woman who was 4 months pregnant who was shot when a bullet whizzed into her window in the city’s Germantown section.

4 people slain in another violent weekend in Philadelphia.

127 dollars a barrel, where crude oil is trading this morning.

13 age of girl in Sharon, Pa., who has been charged with kicking a police officer in a dispute. She’s apparently a runaway. She also has a new home, jail.

1.4 million bucks, what Pennsylvania is asking for one of its planes, a 1981 Beech King Air 200.

.5 games up, where the Phils sit, in first place, after taking 2 of 3 from the Marlins over the weekend.

20 home runs for Chase Utley, who now leads the National League.

599 home runs for Reds slugger Ken Griffey Jr., who comes to Citizens Bank Park tonight in search of No. 600.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Let’s hear it for Charlie Manuel, who continues to push all the right buttons and has the Phils sitting in first place at the dawn of June.
I Don’t Get It: Brace yourself. We’re all about to go back on the Alycia Lane watch. I don’t get it.

Today’s Upper: Let’s hear it for Media, which is going to offer a great promotion this summer on Wednesday nights to keep us out of our cars and close to home. If this is a “Staycation,” I’ll take it.

Quote Box: “Some of them are embarrassed … They say, ‘I was just trying to make it ’til Friday,’ and they couldn’t do it.”

-- AAA technician Gary Siley, noting the 50 percent increase in calls from drivers who are running out of gas.

Another storm at Channel 3

She is the gift that keeps on giving. At least for her fellow members of the media.

I speak, of course, of Alycia Lane. The former KYW-TV 3 anchor star is back in the news, and she’s dragging someone else along for the ride.

This time it’s Delco guy Larry Mendte, who was co-anchor with Lane.

The story broke over the weekend that the FBI apparently is investigating Mendte for accessing Lane’s private e-mail.

Why seems to be the key question here, and one that has yet to be answered, is why?

What is clear is this. The Lane saga, which had various chapters including her infamous e-mailed pix of herself in a bikini that she sent to a male ESPN anchor, much to the chagrin of his wife, and her dust-up with New York City police that led to her spending a night in the slammer and charges being filed against her, has now spun off a new tentacle. And Mendte is firmly in its grasp.

KYW TV-3 says Mendte will be off the air until the investigation is complete.

And once again I am reminded of something that we folks who toil at newspapers often grumble about. That being the celebrity – and often the salary -- that comes with these TV news anchor positions.

Of courst that is also one of the advantages of newspaper work. There is something to be said for the anonymity the newspaper provides.

There is no such anonymity when you are beamed into people’s homes every day. You become their companion, their dinner partner, the last thing they see before nodding off at night.

That, of course, is a two-edged sword. Just ask Channel 3, which has seen one high-profile anchor go down in flames when Lane was arrested, and now sees the male half of the tandem on the sidelines from the continuing fallout from the saga.

Geez, before you know it this story will be getting the prominence of that other TV staple, the weather.

Unless, of course, you’re at Channel 3, where it is seemingly is always stormy.

Any chance that one of this summer’s storm could be Hurricane Alycia?

Gas pains and the art of the 'Staycation'

We have now survived our first full weekend of $4 gas, and the fallout continues.

People are reacting in various ways. But in general there is one consistent theme: People are looking for ways to get out of their car.

That’s why I liked the piece we used in the Sunday paper on what they are doing in Media. You can read Kathleen Carey’s story here.

They are going to be shutting down State Street on Wednesday nights this summer and offering “Dining Under the Stars” in an effort to take advantage of folks who are looking to stay a little closer to home this summer.

I wrote about it myself in my Monday column this week.

It’s called the “Staycation.” I’m an old hand at this “close to home” stuff.

And if you needed more reasons to consider doing a little “Staycationing” of your own, AAA is more than happy to oblige this morning.

First, and no surprise, gas prices continue to rise. They went up two cents over the weekend. Average price of regular now stands at $4.03, while diesel is just a tad under $5 at $4.99 a gallon.

And then there’s this new dilemma. AAA reports more and more people are buying less than a full tank when they gas up. If you’ve filled your tank recently you know why. It’s like taking out a small mortgage.

But there’s also been an unexpected development tied to the idea that people are buying less gas. They’re running out of gas a lot more often. AAA reports their roadside calls from people who have run out of gas have doubled from this same time last year.

“The number one reason is they can’t stretch their money out from week to week,” said AAA mobile technician Gary Siley.

Break out those walking shoes.

Phils using a winning Manuel

Charlie Manuel, so often described as a bumpkin without the correct knowledge of the intricacies of the game of baseball whose team wins despite his managerial blunders, continues to push all the right buttons.

Everyone is all too willing to jump on “Uncle Charlie’s” back when one of his moves doesn’t work out. A lot less audible is the general silence that has met so many of his moves this year, most of which have been magic.

Take yesterday for example. Manuel is looking to pinch-hit for So Taguchi in the sixth. He has the league’s best pinch-hitter, Greg Dobbs, sitting on the bench. Instead Manuel goes with another left-hand bat, Geoff Jenkins. Dobbs has been sizzling, the league’s best pinch-hitter. Jenkins has been struggling.

So of course Jenkins launches a pitch into the right-field seats to tie the game. The Phils go on to win, taking two of three over the weekend from the Marlins. Jenkins is a dead low ball hitter, and Manuel apparently noticed that the Marlins’ reliever was firing everything low in his warmups.

The teams played leap-frog over the weekend, with the Marlins arriving in first, getting jumped by the Phils, then going back into first with a win Saturday night, then the Phils winning yesterday to end the weekend a half-game in front.

It says here that a big part of the team’s success has been the moves of one Charlie Manuel.

It’s not the popular belief. Hey, Manuel has left me scratching my head as much as anyone in the past. But he’s pushing all the right buttons so far.

And the Phils are in first place in part because of it.