Friday, October 31, 2008

Phinally, we're winners

We’ve gotten a whole lot more tricks than treats from our pro sports teams over the past 25 years.

Today, on Halloween, it’s payback time.

Something almost unheard of will happen today in the city of Philadelphia. More than a million people will gather along Broad Street from City Hall to South Philly to salute the World Series Champion Phillies.

These kinds of civic celebrations have all too often been something we see on TV. In other towns. With other city’s fans rejoicing.

Some are better at it than others. New York City can do a pretty good parade. Then again, we also remember the New Jersey Devils holding their celebration in the parking lot of the Meadowlands.

The nation today likely will learn what it means to be a Philadelphia “phan.”

Our image precedes us. Let’s get this one out of the way right now. Yes, we booed Santa. The truth is he deserved it. He was a shabby St. Nick.

We’ve been known to be brutally tough on opposing teams, and even rougher with our home-town heroes, who all too often have come up short.

But today all of that changes. After 25 long years, we’ve dusted off the parade plans and are throwing a shindig that likely will set the bar for years to come when it comes to celebrating a championship.

How big a deal is this? They’re using not one stadium, but two. Both Citizens Bank Park and Lincoln Financial Field will be packed as the parade of floats carrying our World Series champs snakes its way down Broad Street toward the stadium complex.

Tickets were free, available on the Internet. They were snapped up in a matter of minutes.

The region’s schools and business are likely to be largely abandoned today. Officially schools are open. Unofficially I’m guessing a lot of students – and workers for that matter – will be absent with a serious case of “Phillies Phever.”

Twenty-five years is a long time to wait. But we persevered. We continued to buy tickets. We continued to pack stadiums. And yes, we often continued to boo.

Not today. The curse has been banished. The drought is quenched. The sun is out. Even Mother Nature is cooperating. It is going to be a glorious day.

One fitting for a city of champions.

A few jackasses spoil the party

There’s a few in every crowd.

Wednesday night there were more than a few. They weren’t satisfied celebrating the city’s first sports championship in 25 years. They had to leave their calling card.

And of course they did so in the ugliest way possible, leaving a stain on the pristine joy that spread across the entire region.

Thousands poured out into the streets in spontaneous celebrations after the Phils won the World Series title, the city’s first in a quarter century. Most were there to soak in the sheer joy of the moment. Others too advantage to revert to a character trait we see again and again tied to large crowds fueled on too much alcohol.

They resorted to violence. Cars were tipped over. A SEPTA bus shelter at Broad and Walnut was destroyed. One business was targeted. Robinson Luggage at Broad and Walnut took a direct hit. Looters broke into the store by shattering glass doors and windows. That’s bad enough. Of course on the way out these lowlifes carried out as much merchandise as they could. They apparently weren’t going anywhere. Police believe one knucklehead used a suitcase to start a fire at Broad and Sansom.

Let’s be clear. The overwhelming majority of those who took to the streets did so in the spirit of the evening, an outpouring of joy and emotion that’s been building for 25 years. Only a few took the opportunity to break the law.

But it was a few too many. Luckily, like so much of our lives these days, images of these vandals are popping up everywhere. There are still images and videos of the destruction on the Internet. Of course, some of the most outrageous acts can be viewed on YouTube.

Police are now hot on their trails. Good. If you have any information on who is responsible for these acts, police would like to hear from you. You can call them at 215-686-TIPS.

By all means, let’s enjoy the party. We’ve waited long enough for it. But, in the inimitable words of Mayor Michael Nutter, “You cannot be a jackass.”

Unfortunately, there’s never a shortage of those around.

Another gem from Nutter

Give Michael Nutter this: You always know exactly how he feels.

The Philadelphia mayor is quickly gaining a reputation for saying precisely what’s on his mind. That in itself is unusual for an elected official, let alone a politician. They all too often speak in code and political double-speak.

In short, Nutter can at times be brutally blunt. We sometimes refer to it as the “wince factor.” Sometimes you cringe when Nutter speaks his mind.

A few weeks back we castigated the mayor for his choice of words after still another shooting of a Philadelphia police officer. Nutter told the gathered media exactly how he felt. He was ticked. Except that’s not the word he used. In fact he used one of my least favorite words in the English language. It’s a common term for relieving yourself. But it’s also often used to denote being upset. It’s just not very often used by the mayor of a major city at a widely disseminated press conference.

Nutter dropped another juicy sound bite Thursday in talking about the city’s preparations for today’s parade to honor the World Champion Phillies.

The city is expecting more than a million people to line the parade route along Broad Street.

Officials want everyone to have a good time, but they do not want a repeat of the actions of some neanderthals who went on vandalism sprees in the wake of the party after the Phils’ win over the Rays Wednesday night to win the World Series.

Nutter made how he felt crystal clear.

“You can be joyous; you cannot be a jackass,” Nutter said. “That kind of idiotic, destructive behavior will be no accepted in the city of Philadelphia.”

Well said, mayor.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


9:58 p.m.

It was at that moment that the torch was passed. And the curse was broken.
Twenty-eight years ago it was Tug McGraw throwing his famous “Peggy Lee” fastball (Is That All There Is?) past Willie Wilson.

Last night it was a mirror image, with a similar swing and a miss from the Tampa Bay Rays’ Eric Hinske on an offering from Brad Lidge.

Carlos Ruiz squeezed the ball, and a city and region erupted.

What followed was a little like popping the cork on a bottle of champagne. And there was plenty of that going on as well.

The Phillies were World Champions. The curse was broken. .The drought is over. We’re winners.


You can make a legitimate argument that we pay entire too much attention to these silly games designed for little boys but played by millionaire men.

But that would ignore the fiber that unites us as a community. At 9:58 last night we were not a city or suburbs, black or white, rich or poor, blue collar or white collar, Republican or Democrat.

We were sports fans. Slightly crazed sports fans, but ones whose hearts were beating as one.

For 25 years we had waited, sometimes patiently and at times not so patiently, to be led out of the wilderness.

More than once we were led to the edge, only to get another dagger in the heart.
We heard about Billy Penn and his displeasure of seeing skyscrapers rise above the brim of his hat from his perch atop City Hall.

We looked inside ourselves to some character fault, for some reason to explain 25 years of losing.

The truth is there was no real reason, other than the fact that more times than not we simply lost to better teams.

Our frustrations grew, matched only by the bile in our stomachs. We manifested this yearning for something other than a kick in the gut in our own traditional way.

We booed.

Yes, we once even let Santa Claus know he did not exactly come up to our standards.
We watched a parade of athletes come and go, lining their pockets but failing to deliver us from our pain.

We tore down one stadium, built several others.

But still we did not win a title.

Until last night.

At 9:58 p.m., a quarter century of angst, 100 seasons of losing dissipated. The drought is over. We drank from the cup of victory. Liberally.

Anyone ready for a parade?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Just a few more hours

The wait is almost over.

We’ve waited for 15 years for the Phils to get back to the World Series, to erase the memory of that Joe Carter laser that pierced our hearts.

We’ve waited 28 years for the Phils to once again offer us the sheer delirium of being champions of the baseball world. The celebration in 1980 is still talked about in hallowed terms.

We’ve waited 25 years for a championship of any kind. The last time we’ve had the sweet taste of victory was in 1983. Since then we’ve endured 100 seasons without the sweet taste of a title.

I suppose we can wait a few more hours.

We can try to put the debacle of Monday night’s suspended game behind us. Ditto for the decision to postpone the conclusion last night.

There are those who believe all of this is a good thing, that it actually provided fans with an opportunity to recharge their batteries.

Only if they’re hooked up to portable heaters.

Look, I am as manic as anyone about the idea of the Phils finally winning something tonight.

But don’t ask me to be thrilled about the way Major League Baseball and network television treats the fans who pay the freight.

They will re-start tonight’s suspended game at 8:37 p.m., right after the half-hour political message from Democrat Barack Obama.

Not that it matters. Do you think they would have started any earlier if not for that? Yeah, sure. They probably would have moved it all the way up to 8:29. Basically all they’re canceling is the pre-game show.

But the elements remain stark. Temperature at game time is expected to be around 40 degrees. It likely will dip into the 30s during those three and a half innings. Fortunately, the fans likely will supply more than enough heat. Citizens Bank Park tonight will be positively electric. They could probably run the lights off the sparks coming out of the stands.

But some things don’t change. The season is too long, the games are played too late, too often in wintry conditions.

There are some silver linings. Since they’re only playing three and a half innings (please don’t bring up the possibility of extra innings) the game should end shortly after 10 o’clock. Kids might actually be able to see a little history being made.

Should – OK when – the Phils win, it means the party will start a little earlier as well.

We’re on the brink of history. Twenty-five years of being branded losers, an epic drought when it comes to sports championships. That’s 100 seasons of futility. Or is that phutility?

And it might end tonight.

Phinally. We’ve waited long enough.

About that informercial

One of my most vociferous critics e-mailed yesterday that in my ranting against Major League Baseball and the way they sell out the fans to TV, I left one villain out.

Barack Obama.

He’s right. They’re re-starting tonight’s suspended Game 5 of the World Series at 8:37 p.m. That’s because the Democrat running for president has purchased a half-hour of time for a political infomercial, starting at 8.

I don’t know if Obama realized he’d be interrupting World Series mania, especially here in the land of unchecked Phillies Phever, but that’s what will happen tonight.

So if you flip on the TV at 8 expecting to see the Fox pre-game show, don’t bother, unless of course you’re interested in what Obama has to say.

He’ll be on all the networks but one. ABC is going with its normal programming.

The truth of the matter is the only thing Obama is interrupting is the pre-game show. Do you really think that Fox would start this game any earlier even if they could? Not for a second.

They would have given us the full half-hour buildup, then gotten around to picking up the game, which will start with the Phils batting in the bottom of the sixth, sometime around 8:30.

Still, point taken. Add Obama to the list of things that are wrong with playing the World Series at these outrageous times, and in these miserable conditions.

Sestak vs. Williams

Here’s my daily non-Phillies item. Yes, there is another world out there. We call it the real world. It’s a world that, while it cares if the Phillies win, it does not treat it as life and death.

For those, and for political junkies crazed with the final week of the campaign, there is this.

Craig Williams and Joe Sestak will finally stand on the same stage this morning.

The Republican Williams is challenging the first-term incumbent Democratic congressman, the man who stunned the local GOP two years ago by beating one of their icons, 20-year incumbent Curt Weldon.

The two-hour event is being hosted by the League of Women Voters from 10 to noon at the at the Lang Performing Arts Center on the Swarthmore College campus.

For Republicans, this is a view they’re unaccustomed to, that of the challenger, and the underdog. They’ve adopted the tactics once heard in this district from Democrats, urging a series of debates.

And Sestak has reacted the way the Republicans often once viewed those very same kinds of challenges. He largely ignored them.

Republicans say he’s been ducking them. Democrats remind them that’s exactly what the GOP did for years.

But in the last memorable 7th District donnybrook, Weldon did offer Sestak two debates, held well in advance of election day. Republicans also are steamed that Sestak has held them at bay until just a few days before voters head to the polls.

Today they go mano a mano. After they scrambled to find a candidate to challenge Sestak, the GOP struck gold with Williams. Anyone unfamiliar with him will quickly learn that today.

He’s bright, articulate, and rock solid on the issues.

Let the debate begin.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The stuff hits the fans

I heard a song on the radio over the weekend while riding in the car. Now I can’t get it out of my head. This morning it seems pretty appropriate.

The song? “Red Rain,” by Peter Gabriel.

“Red rain is falling down. Red Rain. Red Rain is falling down all over me.”

We’ve now entered the world of the surreal, Phillies fans.

Yes, we have seen this before. The year was 1977. Phillies vs. Dodgers. The game was delayed two hours because of a driving rain. Major League Baseball decided to start the game anyhow. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and National League President Chub Feeney sat in their box seats without rain coats. Great night for a ballgame. Steve Carlton and the Phillies lost to Tommy John, 4-1. The Dodgers won the pennant.

I didn’t think I would ever see a similar travesty. I was wrong. I saw it on Saturday. It took 31 years, but baseball once again showed exactly what it thinks of the people who pay the bills to walk through the turnstiles.

They never for a second considered postponing that Saturday game. It had been pouring all day, a really nasty wind-driven day. But the forecast called for clearing at night. That’s all baseball needed to hear.

Fans didn’t have to wait another three decades to have it rubbed in their faces again. How about two days?

What happened Monday night is kind of hard to explain. Maybe it really is Philadelphia. Maybe we are cursed. Call it the curse of Bowie Kuhn.

It was raining at the start of the game last night. But Major League Baseball clearly had no interest in postponing the game. What followed was a slow descent into what the front page of our print edition correctly describes as a “Rain of Error.”

A few innings into the game, it was pouring. Water was starting to collect on the field. Now baseball was stuck, because the Phillies were ahead. In the top of the sixth, it looked like a monsoon was enveloping Citizens Bank Park.

In the top of the sixth the Rays tied the game. That gave Commissioner Bud Selig the “out” he so desperately needed. It apparently wasn’t raining hard enough to stop the game in the fourth, fifth, or top of the sixth, but as soon as the Rays tied the game, Selig suddenly came to his senses and stopped play.

Here’s the deal, one fans should come to realize. You don’t matter. The game is no longer played for you. It is played for TV, for programming, for entertainment, and most importantly as a vehicle to sell products.

That’s why the season now runs so long, giving us games featuring the Boys of Summer playing in games where the temperature never breaks 50.

That’s why games are no longer played in the afternoon sunshine, when kids might actually be able to play them.

That’s why these are now prime time affairs, all the better to push ratings and sell commercials.

That’s why the night games no longer can start at 7 or 7:30. They have to be pushed back to prime time. The TV production might start at 8, but the first pitch does not occur until 8:35.

That’s why the breaks between innings are now stretched out, because extra commercial time has been sold.

The conditions in which the Rays and Phillies played, first Saturday and then last night, were atrocious. Fans were forced to sit around all afternoon with no word from baseball’s brass about a postponement. They shouldn’t have held their breath. It was never going to happen. Baseball never considered the fans and the conditions they had to endure either night. That’s because the fans don’t matter.

Saturday was cold, raining and miserable. Fans were forced to sit through a one hour and 36 minute delay. Major League Baseball started a World Series game after 10 p.m.

Last night was worse. It was raining at the start of the game, but baseball marched on.

It wasn’t fair to the Rays. It wasn’t fair to the Phillies.

But it was actually cruel to the fans. The Phillies set an all-time attendance record this year. Doesn’t matter. None of that matters. The fans don’t matter.

Baseball proved that once and for all last night.

Maybe we are cursed. Somewhere Bowie Kuhn is chuckling in his grave. There have been 603 World Series games played in World Series history. This is the first time a game has ever been suspended.

The game is supposed to pick up tonight at 8, weather permitting. Don’t be fooled by that. Even if they play, first pitch won’t happen before 8:30.

Bud Selig will make sure of that.

It is still raining as I write this Tuesday morning.

Maybe a heavy fog will roll in tonight. We’ve seen that before, too. Anyone remember the Fog Bowl?

Who knows how many people will show up at Citizens Bank Park tonight. Who knows how many people no longer have their tickets, or have made other plans, or need to juggle travel arrangements.

Maybe the game will be played in a stadium only half full.

Doesn’t matter. Bud Selig and baseball will soldier on.

That’s because the fans don’t matter.

Red Rain, falling down all over us.

Forecast of doom

There is one other item that is still sticking in my craw about this entire Phillies’ situation.

It involves one of my favorite topics, or suppose I should more correctly say my least favorite topics.

It has to do with the weather. Yesterday’s weather. OK, last night’s weather to be exact.

Where did that come from? Did I miss something in the forecast. The first I heard about the chance of rain last night was as I was driving into work Monday morning.

Huh? Comes as news to me. Apparently came as news to many forecasters as well.

Then through the day we heard about the “chance” of showers last night. But we were reassured again and again that they would arrive late and not have any effect on last night’s World Series game. How did that work out?

A co-worker who had just walked to the Wawa last night around 6:30 stuck his head in my office and offered this grim forecast: “I don’t like the looks of this weather out there.”

He did something that’s always helpful in these instances. He actually went outside.

When I left the office to head home just after 7 p.m., it was already spitting rain.

By the time I got home, it was raining. Not drizzling. Not spitting. It was raining.

It also was raining at Citizens Bank Park. And it kept raining, eventually picking up steam until the game was finally suspended with the Phils coming up to bat in the bottom of the sixth.

It wasn’t the Storm of the Century. But it’s a forecast we’re going to remember for a long time.

Obama does Chester

There is a big world out there outside of the World Series and Phillies Phever. Some times we need to remind ourselves of that.

Exactly one week from today, we’ll go to the polls to elect a new president.

And Pennsylvania remains in the crosshairs of both the McCain and Obama camps.

John McCain and Sarah Palin will make several appearances in the state. He held a rally in Pottsville last night. He will team with Palin for a couple of stops today.

Last night Obama was in Pittsburgh, but this morning he will hit Delco, with a rally at Widener University in Chester that is expected to draw as many as 50,000 supporters. Of course, that was before Mother Nature got involved. As Phillies fans know all too well, it started raining last night and it is still raining. It’s expected to rain steadily most of the day and into tonight.

Obama is expected at Widener at 10 a.m.

It’s been awhile since a presidential candidate has been in the city. Ronald Reagan was there in 1980. And John Kennedy famously visited in 1960.

The rally, which is expected to clog city streets, making it difficult to get around, either on foot or especially via school buses, caused Chester Upland School officials to cancel classes for the day.

You can make the argument that the last thing kids in Chester – or anywhere else for that matter – need is a day off for school.

Chester Upland Superintendent Gregory Thornton said it was a safety decision, since crowds are expected from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., although the rally itself is set for 10 a.m. on the main quad on campus.

Chester has a population of about 35,000, which means a group larger than the city’s normal population could engulf the town. Amid that throng there would be 7,000 kids trying to get to school in the 4.7-square mile school district.

The decision to close the schools raised a few eyebrows, in particular among some local GOP officials. Springfield GOP boss Michael Puppio called the decision “a disgraceful misuse of taxpayer dollars” and said the Obama campaign should have moved the rally if if meant cancelling classes.

I’m inclined to give the district a break. It’s not exactly new that kids are out of school when a big political event comes to town. Any number of school bands have taken part in recent rallies.

Besides, we could use a diversion to take our minds off the Phillies’ debacle.

No word yet on whether they will suspend the Obama rally because of the weather.

Monday, October 27, 2008

One more win

One more win.

One more win and we wash away 25 years of waiting, of suffering, of crying in our beer, of being branded losers.

If 1993 seems like a lifetime ago, when we watched as Mo Cheeks dunked to seal the Sixers’ world championship, that’s because it was.

1980, the last Phillies title, was even longer.

Now we are on the verge of redemption.

It’s been a fairly tumultuous weekend here in Phillies-land. First we had to endure water torture – literally – Saturday night. Game 3 of the World Series was supposed to start at 8:35.

I kind of had a bad feeling about this game for days. The forecast said it was supposed to rain most of the day Saturday. For once, the weather folks weren’t wrong. But they also indicated that it would start to clear up Saturday night. I just had a feeling that Major League Baseball and Fox were going to do whatever was necessary to squeeze that game in.

I wasn’t wrong. The game started after 10 p.m., the latest starting time ever for a World Series game. So much for deadline for the Sunday paper.

But instead of the last time we dealt with the misery of rain involving the Phillies in the playoffs (we’re still haunted by the sight of National League President Chub Feeney sitting in the pouring-down rain without a topcoat), this time it was the Phils who persevered.

They won in the wee hours.

Last night they made it easy on all of us. They crushed the Rays, 10-2.

It would appear the stars are aligned. Tonight they will send Cole Hamels – he of the 4-0 postseason record – to the mound to seal the deal.

Twenty-five years. That’s a quarter of a century. For many fans, it’s longer than they’ve been alive.

Think you can wait one more day?

Go Phillies.

Everything's Jake with Phils

The day after the Phillies eliminated the Dodgers to win the National League pennant, I get a phone call here in the office.

It’s the start of my favorite story so far from the Phillies run to a World Series title.

It’s from Sherry Lancianese, a mom out in Aston. It involves her son Jake, Gov. Rendell and the World Series. And the Daily Times plays a feature role as well.

It seems a few years back, when Jake was in elementary school at Hilltop Elementary, the governor came to the school to praise the district’s new kindergarten program.

While he was there he asked the kids some questions. Jake Lancianese correctly answered one of the questions. When the governor asked him what he wanted, Jake responded that if the Phillies ever made it to the World Series, he wanted tickets to a game. A story, including Jake’s photo and his request, appeared in the Daily Times the next day.

Jake didn’t forget. After the Phils won the NLCS, he sat down atthis kitchen table and penned a letter to the governor.

His mom called me. It sounded like a great story and I told her, absolutely, I thought it would be worth a shot of reminding the governor. I asked her to let me know how they made out. I meant to have someone get back to them, but in the frenzy we’ve been involved in with the World Series, it skipped my mind. It was on the list of stories I wanted us to do.

Last Thursday I get a voice mail. It’s from the governor’s aide. “The governor needs to speak to you,” Anne Shriver said in a pretty serious voice. My stomach was in knots. I knew that our editorial endorsements had appeared in the paper that day, and one of them mentioned the governor. I figured he was upset about something. I had totally forgotten Jake’s story. The governor, however, had not.

I call the aide back and leave her a message. She calls me back. I’m calling her at about the same time. She picks up the phone almost at the same time.

“Can you hold for the governor,” she asks? What was I going to say, no?

Rendell comes on the phone. I’ve met him a couple of times. He sounds like my best friend.

“Phil, you’re not going to believe this story,” he says.

I immediately think of Jake’s story. I still can’t believe I did this, but I blurt out, interrupting the governor:

“I don’t believe it, don’t tell me you heard from the Lancianese family.”

Oh, he had heard alright. They sent the letter certified mail. Rendell goes over all his own mail. He saw the letter, which included the story from the Daily Times as proof, and contacted the family.

That’s how that great story ended up on our front page Saturday. And that’s how wound up at last night’s Phillies game.

He and his dad were at last night’s Phillies game, courtesy of Gov. Ed Rendell.

And the Daily Times played a small role in it.

Sometimes I just love this job.

One week and counting

Times like these call for a little perspective. Then again, when you haven’t won a world championship, perspective tends to go out the window.

However, lest we forget, one week from tomorrow something fairly important is going to happen, and it has nothing to do with the Phillies.

At least I don’t think it does. Unless they decide to hold the parade then. I know, I know, you’re not supposed to talk about such things.

Next Tuesday we hopefully will have recovered from the party to get down to the serious business of electing a new president.

This week we are getting a calling card, a reminder of the crucial role of the Pennsylvania suburbs, on Tuesday. Sen. Barack Obama is planning a rally at Widener University in Chester. The Democratic nominee will speak at the Main Quad at 10 a.m.

Tonight Obama will be in Pittsburgh.

The Republican tandem of Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah palin also will be in the state this week. McCain is doing a rally in the Pottsville School District today. He’ll join Palin for a rally in Hershey on Tuesday. Palin also will be in Shippensburg Tuesday afternoon and will do a second rally Tuesday night at Penn State’s main campus in State College.

Of course, they have already done a huge town meeting here in Delaware County in the courtyard of the county courthouse.

All of which points to the crucial role of Pennsylvania, and within that the key role of the Philadelphia suburbs, in the vote. There is still a belief that Pennsylvania could tip the election, and the Philly suburbs could tip the state vote. The belief is that McCain must attract enough votes in the suburbs to offset the huge edge Obama is expected to roll up in Philadelphia.

Polls done over the weekend see the race as getting closer, at least on the national level.

The latest poll of swing states done by Quinnipiac University continues to show Obama with a 13-point lead in Pennsylvania. But a Big Ten Battlegrond Poll showed a tighter race, with Obama up by 10 points.

Republican strategists continue to believe Pennsylvania is the key to a McCain win. Many can not see him capturing the White House without winning the Keystone State.

Get used to seeing a lot of the candidates over the next eight days.

Better buckle your seat belt, too. It might be a bumpy ride.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The agony and the ecstasy of a Phils' win

Have I mentioned recently how much I hate TV?

Look, I'm a print guy. This blog appears online, but if you cut my arms open, you'd be just as likely to get ink as blood.

I spent much of the past week doing two things I don't especially care for: Checking the forecast and making a battle plan for Saturday night.

For those of you glued to political coverage on MSNBC, Fox or CNN, I bring you this news bulletin: The Phillies are playing in the World Series.

For most of the region's sports-addled fans, that brings tidings of great joy. After all, it's been 15 years since Joe Carter broke our hearts with that laser into the seats in Sky Dome to beat the Phils in the 1993 Fall Classic. It took 15 years, but the Phils are back, and after two games in Tampa, the scene shifted Saturday to Citizens Bank Park.

Everywhere you go, there are smiles on the faces of the faithful. Unless you happen to be a newspaper editor.

Look, I'm as big a fan as anyone. My heart shattered in '93; I loved the "Wheeze Kids" in '83; I was at the parade in 1980.

But in 2008 I have other issues to deal with.

Sprots has long since surrendered its soul to TV. They pay big bucks to televise these events. They tell them when to play. TV says jump, major league sports execs respond, "How High?"

There was a time when the Fall Classic was played in sunshine. Not anymore. This is now strictly a Prime Time Affair, regardless of how many kids will not be able to stay up to watch their heroes. The Series is played at night, sometimes late night, toward the end of October, in less than ideal weather.

Last night's game was supposed to start at 8:35. That in itself poses a challenge for our nightly print deadline. We long ago established new later deadlines in order to handle these Wolrd Series games.

But note the first four letters in that word - D-e-a-d-line. At some point, we have to start printing newspapers in order to get them into the hands of our readers. Go ahead, cal us dinosaurs. Some people still cling to the idea of holding a newspaper in their hands.

Then there was the other little problem last night. I guess it was about Tuesday that I started hearing the forecasters calling for rain on Saturday. Not good. Add in the possibility of weather problems with an 8:35 start, and you have a newspaper editor's nightmare.

So I started creating Doomsday Scenarios. In a perfect world, I thought to myself, if it was pouring all day, Major League Baseball might make an early call to postpone the game. Yeah, right, I told myself. Right after they sell the souls of their grandmothers. I knew that was never going to happen, especially when the forecast started to shift, with many calling for rain most of the day but clearing at night.

Sceanario Two was my big concern. As I suspected, Major League baseball was not about to make an early call. They would make everyone slosh down to the ballpark, then sit and wait in the rain. 8:35 came. And went. Rain delay. Not good.

Saturday night's game was delayed 1 hour, 31 minutes. Which ment it started just after 10 p.m. Which told me something I had been fearing all week. We likely would be publishing newspapers that did not have the result of the game in them.

If you are a home subsciber, you probably noticed that. And the box on Page 3 informing you that last night's game ended too late for that edition of the Daily Times. It killed me to do it, but we really had no choice. We informed readers they could get full coverage on our Web site, another arrow in the heart of an old print relic like me.

When Carlos Ruiz hit that dribbler down the third base line to win the game in the 9th inning to score the winning run, it was exactly 1:46. I know because I had been looking at my watch constantly for the past two hours.

Yes, I'm hapy that the Phillies won. I'm ready to do it all over again today.

It's something of a double-header. The Eagles play at the Linc at 1, with the Phillies on deck for Game 4 of the World Series.

But it won't start at 4, or even 4:35. Nope, it's also an 8:35 start. Prime time, you know.

Hey, at least it's not going to rain. So tonight I suppose they'll play 19 innings. Just kidding. I think.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

Remember the Eagles?

Yeah, I know, who cares? We're busy painting the town red. We've waited 15 years for the Phillies to return to the World Series, and now we might have to wait one more day because it's supposed to pour down rain all day.

Cheer up, they're still supposed to squeeze the game in tonight, and tomorrow is expected to be gorgeous.

Which will make for a marathon day of sports: Eagles-Falcons at 1 at the Linc; Phils-Rays at 8:30 at the Bank. A double-header, if you like.

Anyone else have a clue as to this Eagles team? I am now officially 2-4 picking games this year, while the Birds are a thoroughly mediocre 3-3 on the season.

Something is bothering me about this team. I just don't think they're very good. That was pretty clear in how they had to struggle to overcome a not-very-good 49ers team.

On the other hand, if there is on thing the Eagles have done is play very well when they come off their Bye week.

Make it Eagles 23, Falcons 17, as the Birds ruin the homecoming for Exton native and Penn Charter star Matt Ryan. But I would not be surprised if the Eagles go belly-up.

Why? There's something fundamentally unsound about the way this team plays, and the way it's set up. Six games into the season and Andy Reid is still figuring out what to do about a fullback? This week they signed Havertown native Kyle Eckel. But converted defensive lineman Dan Klecko is still supposed to get the start.

They also passed on an opportunity to get All-Pro and lock Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez from Kansas City, even though they desperately need both a blocking presence at that position and a solid option for Donovan McNabb in the red zone. Gonzalez wold have filled both.

But Andy, along with Joe Banner and the Eagles' brass, knows best. Which so far has gotten to them 3-3.

Let's go, Phillies!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Payne ends for Faith's family, friends

It was a familiar sound that accompanied Lemuel Payne as he left a Sharon Hill court in handcuffs yesterday: Silence.

Payne had no comment on the charges that he was the driver of the black Mercedes that struck and killed 16-year-old Faith Sinclair as she tried to cross Chester Pike back on Aug. 3.

It’s the sound that police and Sinclair’s family members struggled with for almost three months, since that fateful Sunday night when the black Mercedes slammed into Faith, then sped off, leaving her to die in her friends’ arms.

For almost three months, Payne was a free man, at least physically. But I would imagine he was anything but free psychologically. In reviewing the charges filed against him Thursday, another picture develops. Payne knew that he had struck someone at that intersection. He also knew that, for whatever reason, he drove off without stopping to render aid or notify police. He obviously learned later on that Faith Sinclair had died. There is every indication that he took steps to hide his damaged car, including stashing it in an Upper Darby garage, where it was found covered with a tarp. The garage’s windows had been recently tinted so someone outside could not see what was inside.

Police found the car in the garage within days. They identified Payne as a person of interest. But he was not charged with any crime. Until Thursday.

Payne surrendered to authorities.

It took 81 days.

I don’t know what Payne did during those 81 days. I know what Faith Sinclair’s friends and family did. Several of them have called to urge the newspaper not to forget Faith’s case, not to let it slip through the cracks. They would often gather at the site to hold vigils for Faith.

Police slowly, tortuously built their case, including using the county Investigative Grand Jury.

I also know what Faith’s mother, Kim Ferrell, did. Just about every day, she would visit either the intersection where her daughter died or the cemetery where she now rests.

She apparently went to the cemetery again yesterday, to tell her daughter that they now know the person police believe is responsible for her death.

As I said, for those 81 days, Lemuel Payne was a free man. But I am guessing he was never free of the demons that chased him ever since police say he fled that intersection after striking and killing Faith Sinclair.

The same kind of demons that maybe now Faith’s family and friends can begin to put to rest.

Dems the breaks

I’ve worked at this newspaper for more years than I care to remember.

That means I’ve covered more than my share of elections.

In almost every one of them, the following words have been a staple: The Republican Party, and their overwhelming edge in voter registration in Delaware County.

Not anymore.

I was startled at the numbers coming out of the County Election Bureau this week. You can check it out for yourself here.

The 3-1 voter registration edge the GOP once enjoyed is gone. Democrats continue to closed the gap. They now trail the mighty GOP by just a little more than 18,000.

Democrats added another 6,000 voters just since Oct. 6. Republicans added just 1,200 during the same period.

The scoreboard now looks like this: GOP 46.9 percent, Dems 42.4 percent.

The county has gone Democratic in the last four presidential races. Two years ago 7th District voters showed longterm incumbent GOP Congressman Curt Weldon the door. Republicans continue to dominate locally, especially when it comes to the County Courthouse, where they win everything in sight.

But the numbers show a shift in the county that will be fascinating to watch.

New polls numbers out this morning indicate the crucial Pennsylvania suburbs, once loyal GOP bastions, are tilting toward Democrat Barack Obama over Republican John McCain in the presidential race.

That does not bode well for McCain’s chances of winning the crucial Keystone State. He needs a strong showing in the suburbs to offset what is expected to be a huge margin of victory for Obama in Philadelphia.

But the numbers say the GOP might not have the numbers to deliver that kind of win anymore.

Democrats flexing muscle in Delaware County? Who’d a thunk it.

Phils' bats tied up in knots

All even.

And no one should be surprised.

If you’ve watched this Phillies team this year, then the fact that they have trouble manufacturing runs in lieu of hitting home runs should not come as a surprise.

The fact is they’re probably lucky to be coming home after stealing a win in Game One at Tropicana Field.

Last night they weren’t so lucky.

Small ball is not their forte. They live and die with the long ball. Last night they died.

This team continues to get runners in scoring position. And fails to deliver a clutch hit.

They’ve scored five runs in the two games, and as usual three of them came courtesy of a home run.

The math is pretty simple. Last night the Phils again were unable to deliver with runners in scoring position, going 1-for-15. That makes them 1-for-28 for the Series. Not good.

At times all they needed to do was put the ball in play. But with a runner at third, designated hitter Greg Dobbs struck out. It wasn’t a good night for Dobbs, who fanned twice with a runner at third and less than two outs. Jayson Werth also did it once.

In the seventh, with a chance to tie the game, Ryan Howard struck out with two men on board. Howard did have two hits in the game, but didn’t deliver at crunch time.

The team’s spark plug, the guy who sets the table and makes this offense go, is not exactly hitting on all cylinders. Jimmy Rollins is now 0-for-the-Series in the leadoff spot. That makes him 0-for-10 with three strikeouts in the Series.

Simply put, the Phils’ bats are ice cold. They’ll be in good company Saturday night when they return to their home in South Philly. The forecast calls for rain and more cold temperatures.

The Phils will need to deliver some heat. So far they’ve been unable to do so, particularly with runners in scoring position.

But enough of the negative. Let’s look on the bright side, and no, we’re not talking about the weather.

The fact is the Phils did what they had to do. They went into Tampa and won a game. That shifts home-field advantage to the Phillies. They play very well at Citizens Bank Park.

But they will need to pull out the lumber. Saturday night would a good time to start.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Justice for Faith Sinclair

It has taken 81 days, but today there will be justice for Faith Sinclair.

Delaware County District Attorney G. Michael Green will announce charges have been filed in connection with the hit-and-run that snuffed out the life of the promising 16-year-old.

A suspect is expected to surrender to Sharon Hill Police this morning.

It was back on Aug. 3, a Sunday night, when the Ridley teen and a group of friends tried to cross Chester Pike at Laurel Road in Sharon Hill.

She didn’t make it. Sinclair was struck by a black Mercedes. The driver did not stop.

In the investigation that followed, police tracked down the car they believe was the vehicle that struck Sinclair. It had front-end damage police said was what they would expect, a missing side-view mirror, a smashed windshield.

They knew who owned the vehicle. He was termed a “person of interest” in the case. But they did not know who was driving. No charges were filed.

A $10,000 reward was posted for information by the Citizens Crime Commission.

The county utilized the Investigative Grand Jury to hear from potential witnesses in the case.

One word seemed to surround the mystery of what happened that night. Silence.

That silence will be broken today. We likely will learn the identity of the person police believe struck Faith Sinclair, and then simply drove off.

It has been more than two months, a time in which Sinclair’s friends and family were unable to ease their pain, without the knowledge of who was responsible for her death.

That should end today. Because today there will be justice for Faith Sinclair.

That's one

The front page of our print edition pretty much sums things up this morning.

One down, three to go.

How are your fingernails this morning? Have any left? Never in doubt, right?

The Phillies pushed us one step closer to sports nirvana last night, edging the Rays, 3-2, in Game 1 of the World Series.

This one went pretty much according to the script. Another strong outing from Cole Hamels, who is looking more and more like the second coming of Steve Carlton, and a long ball from Chase Utley.

The second baseman got the Phils off to the perfect start in the first inning by depositing a Scott Kazmir pitch in the right-field seats to give the Phils a 2-0 lead and quiet all those cowbell-ringing fans inside the seriously quirky Tropicana Field.

Hamels took it from there, pitching a strong seven innings, giving up just two runs on five hits while striking out five.

You might say this one went according to the script. Hamels, the MVP of the NLCS, dominated for seven innings. He then handed the ball to Ryan Madson, who quickly is perfecting his setup role as the “Bridge to Lidge.” He pitched a perfect eighth and then gave way to lights-out closer Brad Lidge. Nothing new here. Lidge did what he has done all season, slamming the door in a 1-2-3 ninth to seal the deal.

There was one other unfortunate similarity to the Phils’ win. Their penchant for “untimely” hitting continued last night. They left 11 runners on base, many of them in scoring position. This game should not have been close. Hamels should have been on cruise control. But time after time, the Phils failed to deliver the killer punch, especially with runners on base.

Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell combined for an 0-for-7. Both had opportunities to deliver big blows, but flailed instead. Jimmy Rollins did not exactly set the table. He went 0-for-5.

But none of that matters now. The only thing that does is that the Phils went one up in the World Series.

Three to go. Brett Myers takes the mound tonight as the Phils will look to take a stranglehold in the series.

How fast do you think they can get Hamels back on the hill?

3:23, a beautiful number

A confession here. I have a favorite number from last night’s big Phillies win.

It is not 1, as in the Phils taking a 1-0 lead in the World Series.

It is not 3, as in the number of runs they scored.

It is not 7, the number of strong innings from ace starter Cole Hamels.

Nor is it 0, the number of base-runners allowed by relievers Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge in the eighth and ninth.

It is 3:23. That’s how long it took to play the game. Three hours and 23 minutes. With an 8:35 start, the game ended right around midnight.

I am a newspaper editor. I deal with something every day. It’s called a deadline. It’s a little like having a loaded gun pointed at your head every night.

Playing World Series games in prime time might be convenient for TV, but it wreaks havoc with newspapers.

The truth is, we’d hate to find ourselves in the position of having to print newspapers without the result of the game in them. The truth is that’s a possibility. Remember, baseball is the one game that is not played with a clock. Throw in network TV, a late start, and a ton of commercials, and these games take forever to play.

That’s another reason for me to be a Cole Hamels’ fan. The games in which he pitches happen to move at a pretty good clip.

Last night we were able to sub a special front page, with lots of color, because the game ended at a reasonable hour.

Of course, on Saturday, when the Series heads north to South Philly and Citizens Bank Park, they are talking about the serious possibility of rain.

That could mean a rain delay. I don’t even want to think about it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Chasing the demons of '64

In a city that is holding its breath as World Series Fever turns our world upside-down, my thoughts this morning took an odd turn.

I have been thinking about 1964. That’s really where all this starts. This notion that we are cursed, that our sports heroes are fatally flawed, doomed to failure, sure to stab us in the heart.

It started when Chico Ruiz stole home to propel the Reds over the Phils. Up six with 10 games to play, the ’64 Phillies went belly-up to earn a permanent spot in the darkest recesses of our sports-addled minds.

The city has struggled with the emblem ever since. Even a World Championship in 1980 has not completely dispelled those feelings of inferiority, that somehow, some way, our sports teams will fail in the clutch.

I was 9 years old in 1964. I loved two things: Playing baseball and the Phillies. I followed them religiously, either at my father’s side as he sat in the yard listening to the transistor radio, or on TV, which my father eschewed because he could “see the game better” on the radio. Today, all these years later, as a person who loves nothing more than sitting on his porch on a steamy summer night doing the same thing, I finally know what my dad was talking about.

I grew up in a little town out in Chester County. Oxford, Pa., has a fairly famous connection to the Phillies – and that 1964 team – that I bet you’ve never heard of.

His name is John Ogden. Ogden was a scout for years with the Phillies. As kids we would often hang around outside his house because we knew the kindly older man had a penchant for giving out tickets to see the Phils at Connie Mack Stadium. To be honest, we probably were just pestering him and he likely offered the ducats as a way of getting us off his lawn.

And what would Ogden’s connection to the ’64 Phillies be? As I said Ogden was a scout. During one of the endless trips that scouts took in those days, before every moment of every prospect’s life was captured on video, Ogden found himself beating the bushes in another little Pennsylvania town. Ogden was in Wampum, Pa.

Ring a bell? It should. That was where John Ogden laid his eyes on a young slugger. His name was Richie Allen. We would later know him as the “Wampum Walloper.”

Ogden signed Allen, who starred as a rookie on that 1964 team. Allen was known for his prodigious power, and his occasional blasts over the Ballantine Scoreboard at Connie Mack Stadium.

I’m not sure if it was after Ogden signed Allen or later when he was terrorizing National League pitching, but Allen once joined Ogden on the front porch of that Oxford home. Every kid in town was there to see the next great hope of the Phils.

Kind of like that ’64 team he starred on as a rookie, Allen was a bit cursed. He had a running series of disagreements with team management, as well as the fans. He once famously etched the word “Boo” in the dirt around first base. He got involved in a famous tussle with teammate Dick Stuart, and was involved in an equally infamous injury to his hand, which he claimed happened when he put it through a headlight while pushing his car. Eventually Allen was traded.

But it never diminished my admiration for him. That’s because I had another reason to like Allen. Like my dad, he fancied the ponies. He was a bit of a horse player.

He once famously said about the arrival of Astro-Turf artificial surfaces: “If a horse can’t eat it, I don’t want to play on it.”

Which brings us full circle. The Phils will play Game One of the World Series tonight, inside a domed stadium, on an artificial surface.

Maybe if they win, we can finally put away the demons of 1964. But some elements of that team will be with me forever.

Seeing your favorite player sitting on the front porch of a house in your tiny home town will do that to you.
Finally. Or maybe that should be Phinally.

The Phillies and Rays will tee it up tonight in Game 1 of the World Series at Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay.

Of course the Phillies clinched their spot in the Fall Classic last Wednesday by dumping the Dodgers in L.A. That was seven long days ago. In the meantime the Rays and Red Sox were in the throes of a seven-game struggle before the Rays finally prevailed.

Crazed Phillies fans have been biding their time, buying every piece of Phillies paraphernalia they can get their hands on, for the last seven days.

We waited 15 years to get back to the World Series, what’s another seven days.

Here is one man’s view of the Series. Tonight is the key. And Cole Hamels is again in the spotlight. He’s been lights out so far in post-season play. He’s compiled a 3-0 record and a sparkling 1.23 ERA.

If Hamels wins, the Phils will follow his lead. I say Hamels delivers again. He goes eight strong and then hands it off to Brad “Lights Out” Lidge.”

You heard it here first. Phillies in six.

Anyone ready for a parade?


If you just can’t wait until 8:35 (yes, I know that is ungodly late. Just thank your lucky stars you’re not a newspaper editor with an impossible-to-meet deadline), there’s any number of rallies for you to get your Phillies fix while waiting for Game One.

In Delco, fans will converge in the courtyard of the Delaware County Courthouse Government Center in Media from 12:30-1:30 this afternoon. Wear your red.

If you’re going to be downtown, the city is holding a pep rally at noon at Dilworth Plaza outside City Hall.

And if you’re feeling really adventurous and like your baseball with a chill in the air, there will be a Phillies Viewing Party in the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing to watch Game 1 of the Series in the great outdoors. Game time is 8:35. Imagine that, 2,000 fans huddled outside in the October chill to watch a game being played in the climate-controlled indoor atmosphere of Tropicana Field.

Go figure.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fighting terror at home

Forget al-Qaeda.

Yes, we are still engaged in conflict in Iraq. And increasingly we look at the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan and their role in aiding and fomenting the terrorist element intent on bringing down the United States.

But you don’t have to go to the Middle East to find terrorist elements that threaten our way of life.

Sometimes all you have to do is visit your local Dunkin’ Donuts.

Upper Darby police yesterday asked for the public’s help in tracking down what top cop Mike Chitwood referred to as a group of “urban street terrorists” who are believed responsible for a series of recent brazen daytime armed holdups at the popular local coffee outlets.

Police released a harrowing surveillance video that depicts one of these thugs leaping over the counter and sticking a gun in the face of a female employee, then knocking her to the floor.

Police believe this group is responsible for hitting three local Dunkin’ Donuts outlets, including two in West Philadelphia. Chitwood says they also hit an Upper Darby Pizza Hut.

Ironically, the Dunkin’ Donuts that was the site of the latest armed heist has a farely well-known daily customer. That’s where Chitwood goes to get his java fix.

The Upper Darby top cop fears that if this gang is not apprehended – and soon – someone is going to be seriously hurt or even killed. He points out that it was just such an instance in Philadelphia where Officer Chuck Cassidy walked in on a holdup and was shot and killed by an armed robber.

“Anybody can walk in,” the chief said.

Chitwood, famous for labeling those who commit crimes on his turf as “scumbags,” has an even sterner warning in this case.

“These guys are street terrorists, plain and simple,” Chitwood said.

And they are here, on our streets, in our neighborhoods. No one is going to forget the war in Iraq, or in Afghanistan.

At the same time, maybe it’s time we started to pay more attention to the war in Upper Darby, and every other town endangered by this new-wave style of terrorism.

The 'curse' of lousy players

Can we please stop talking about a curse?

The only thing we’ve been cursed with when it comes to our pro sports team is the curse of lousy players.

Here are the basics. Philadelphia has been engulfed in something of a drought when it comes to pro sports championships. That’s kind of like saying Katrina was a rain storm.

No Philadelphia team has won a championship since 1983, when Mo Cheeks slam-dunked to seal the deal for the Sixers as they vanquished the Los Angeles Lakers.

That was 25 years ago. That’s an even 100 seasons, with nary a championship trophy. No parades down Broad Street.

There are those who insist this quarter century of ineptitude is somehow linked to the decision that allowed buildings to be erected that would be taller than Billy Penn’s hat atop City Hall.

Willard Rouse crashed through that ceiling when he built Liberty Place. Now the Comcast looms even higher, with Billy Boy now dwarfed by the city’s burgeoning skyline.

I don’t for a second think there is anything to this so-called curse. Oh, I’ve done more than my share of cursing in the past 25 years, but it’s usually directed at the players on the field, or the coaches, or owners who have too often fielded inept squads.

Can you say Doug Pederson? Freddie Garcia? Shawn Bradlee? John Vanbiesbrouck?

The Phillies made a return trip to the World Series in 1993, only to have a stake driven through our hearts by Joe Carter. The curse then wasn’t so much that the Phils lost, but the decision by manager Jim Fregosi to go to closer Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams that set off the fans’ ire.

In 2004, the Eagles actually made it to the Promised Land, only to see it all slip away as they took their good old time in the fourth quarter while losing to New England.

Now we are once again on the brink. The Phillies open the World Series tomorrow against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Cole Hamels, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Brad Lidge will play key roles in the outcome of the Series.

Billy Penn will have nothing to do with it. Unless Charlie Manuel decides to use him as his designated hitter.

Boys of summer? Don't fall for it

When it comes to baseball, I’m something of a purist.

I believe the game should be played outdoors, in daylight, on real grass.

Which amounts to strike three for this World Series. Of course, all the games will be played in prime time. TV calls this shot. Nothing new about that. They’d play the games at 2 in the morning if that’s when TV told them to throw out the first pitch.

In fact, all 7 games of the World Series will start at 8:30 or a few minutes later. Prime time. So what if that’s too late for many kids who must get up for school the next day. (And newspaper editors who have trouble staying up until 9 o’clock most nights. And don’t even get me started about deadlines.) That’s strike one.

Strikes two and three involve Tropicana Field. That’s the orange can where the Rays play their home games. It has a dome. Mid-October in Tampa might be delightful, but you’ll never know it in the climate-controlled atmosphere inside this stadium. It also has a funky design, with all kinds of nooks and crannies and skywalks. Also look for a Phils’ outfielder, maybe Pat Burrell, to lose a ball in the domed ceiling of this joint.

Then there’s the playing surface. Dick Allen once famously proclaimed this of Astro-Turf when it first debuted. “If a horse can’t eat it, I don’t want to play on it.”

Suffice it to say Allen would hate Tropicana Field. It’s not real grass. It’s not especially pleasing on the eyes. And it has more than its share of bumps. Did you happen to see that final out recorded Sunday night in their win against the Red Sox, and the nasty hop that grounder to second took? You’ve been warned, Chase Utley.

Then again, there is one thing that you have to begrudgingly give to playing inside. Weather is not a factor. No matter what it is doing outside, Games 1 and 2 will be played in hermetically sealed perfect conditions inside Tropicana Field.

I believe baseball is a summer game. They don’t refer to them as the Boys of Summer for nothing. I’m thinking T-shirts and shorts.

When the Series heads north to Philadelphia for Games 3 through 5 Saturday, Sunday and Monday, the Rays had better pack their long underwear.

Game-time temperatures will likely be in the 50s. And fall from there as the game goes on.

And one other thing. The forecast is calling for showers on Saturday and rain on Sunday. Better pack an umbrella if you’re going.

Maybe there really is no place like dome.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Payback time for Tampa

It’s Payback Time.

Jan. 19, 2003. The last Eagles game every to be played at Veterans Stadium.

Coming into that that crazed South Philly pit were the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This one was a lock. Tampa never won when the temperature was below 32 degrees.

A chilled Vet awaited a final banquet, ready to feast on Buccaneers.

Didn’t work out that way. I think Joe Jurevicius is still running. If you don’t know what that means, you are not a serious Eagles fan.

The same can be said for Ronde Barber. He stepped in front of a Donovan McNabb pass at the goal line as the Eagles were driving for the tying touchdown and took it coast to coast.

It’s as quiet as Veterans Stadium has ever been. A numbed crowed filed out in silence.

They tore the place down a few months later. But they did not dispel the demons.

A year later, it was the Flyers turn to exact our revenge. They faced the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Instead the Lightning zapped the Flyers on the way to a Stanley Cup.

Now it’s payback time.

The Phillies will be in Tampa Bay Wednesday night to kick off the World Series. The Rays – just Rays now, they dropped the Devil – finally advanced and became the Phils’ opponent when they beat the Red Sox in a deciding Game 7 Sunday night.

The Phils are rested and ready to go.

We have not forgotten Joe Jurvecius and Ronde Barber.

It’s time to exact some revenge.

A vote for Colin Powell

Something occurred to me as I watched Colin Powell on Sunday weigh in on the presidential race.

Powell explained how he agonized over his decision, caught between his long-time loyalty to an old friend, Sen. John McCain, and his newfound respect for Sen. Barack Obama.

Powell announced he was backing the Democrat from Illinois, and in the process offered a scathing condemnation of the Republican Party and the tactics that have been employed against Obama.

But I could not escape one overriding thought: Why wasn’t this guy running for president?

We have fears that McCain does not have the temperament to sit in the Oval Office. He is known to react rashly, and often with more than a trace of anger. Does the name Sarah Palin come to mind?

On the other hand there are lingering fears about Obama’s lack of experience, whether there is enough substance behind the glowing oratory.

In a perfect world, we would seek some combination of the two. Someone like Colin Powell.

A general who led troops into battle in Iraq. A former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And former secretary of state under George W. Bush.

Yes, he also was the person dispatched to the U.N. to seal the deal on the argument for military intervention in Iraq, a claim we now know was based on fault intelligence.

It does not diminish Powell’s luster.

I’d vote for him in a heartbeat.

A little frost on the pumpkin

Winter arrived this morning.

I know what the calendar says. I know that officially there are still two months before winter checks in on Dec. 21. Don’t believe them.

Winter got here this morning.

How do I know this? For the first time since last spring, I was forced to dig through my trunk this morning looking for the windshield scraper.

That’s right. I had a job to do before I was able to jump in the car and start the morning commute. First I had to scrape a fairly heavy frost off the windshield. While I was scraping the windshield, something else occurred to me.

It was cold out. Really cold. Probably about time to give up the last ghost of summer and break out the winter coat.

On second thought, maybe that can wait. I’m an endless summer kind of guy.

Even when my chattering teeth are telling me otherwise.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Kanterman case

It has been the single question that has haunted me since we first heard of the tragedy that played out in that Marple parking lot back in June.

Little Nicholas McCorkle was safely tucked into his car seat in the back of his grandfather’s SUV on one of the hottest days of the summer.

Only Edward Kanterman did not drop the tot off at the day care center as he normally did. Instead, he drove to the tech school in the Lawrence Park Shopping Center where he taught a course, parked the SUV, closed the door and hurried inside.

It is something any of us have done any number of times as we rush through our daily schedule.

With one horrific difference. Little Nicholas was still in the back seat. Police believe temperatures inside the vehicle soared well over 100 degrees. Nicholas was not discovered until Kanterman came back to his SUV shortly after lunch. By then it was too late.

And the question remains. How could this happen? The answer is one most of us probably would rather not admit. It could happen all too easily.

I like to tell myself there is no way I could ever forget that precious cargo inside the car. The truth is while I would like that to be the case, deep down inside, there is a nagging doubt.

Yesterday Edward Kanterman entered a plea in the case. He pleaded “no contest” to a charge of involuntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to three years probation and 200 hours of community service.

A clearly repentant Kanterman told our courthouse reporter, Marlene DiGiacomo, that he simply did not want to put his family through the ordeal of a trial. That’s why he entered the plea, against the advice of his attorney.

“I live with it every day,” Kanterman said.

The truth is Kanterman already has been given a much tougher sentence than the one meted out in court yesterday.

He has sentenced himself to life, a life in which every day he will be haunted by what happened on that sweltering June morning, and what he possibly could have done differently.

The rest of us can certainly sympathize with Kanterman, even as we wonder how this could have happened.

And fight back the demons that tell us it could happen all too easily.

Recession? What recession? We're seeing red - and green

It has been a horrific couple of weeks on the economic front. Wall Street goes in fits and starts, down 700 points one day, back up 900 the next, fluctuating wildly even during one day’s trading.

The fear is that we are either approaching or already in a recession.

Try telling that to the faithful standing in line outside a store on Baltimore Pike last night. They could not peel off the bills fast enough. You could still see the smoke coming off their credit cards.

And what would cause such a boost to the local economy?

National League champion duds, of course.

At one point the line was 20 deep and out the door at the Modell’s store. Hats, T-shirts, souvenirs. So long as it had a Phillies logo and declared them National League champions, it was being snapped up as fast as the items could be put out on the shelves.

Guess that’s what happens when you spend 15 years between appearances in the World Series.

Recession? Maybe everywhere else. There’s no caps on spending in the Delaware Valley. At least not where the Phillies are concerned.

There’s only a run on caps. We’re painting the town red. And turning the local economy green in the process.

Of course the red that comes with those credit card bills in a month will be a sobering experiences. By then we might be standing in line to buy World Series Champion goods.

And now we wait

So the Phillies are going to the World Series. Now all they need is someone to play.

Everyone pretty much conceded they would face Tampa Bay, which held a commanding 3-1 lead over the Red Sox going into last night’s Game 5 of the ALCS.

And it certainly looked like the Rays were going to have their ticket punched to the Fall Classic in the early going. Right up until the seventh inning.

The Rays methodically built a commanding 7-0 lead, displaying the hitting and aggressive base running that has become their signature.

Then, amazingly, they watched it all dribble away. The Red Sox rallied to take an 8-7 win and slice the Rays’ lead to 3-1.

It’s not as if the Red Sox don’t have some experience at this. They’ve done this before, coming back from a 3-1 hole to boot the Yankees out of the playoffs. Think that might be in the Rays’ heads this morning?

Tampa blew a golden opportunity. They had their foot on the Red Sox’ throats. And they let them off the hook. And opened the door to doubts, and the thought that they could blow the series.

For the Phils, it’s now a waiting game. The argument is whether the weeklong break – the World Series will not start until next Wednesday night – is a help or a hindrance. How do they stay sharp without any games to play? Does the rest offer them the chance to heal up and rest all their arms, while cementing their rotation for the Series? Does the fact that the AL teams continue to go tooth and nail for at least a few more days weigh on them as they battle to advance, unable to rest any regulars or their pitchers?

Actually, the wait probably won’t have all that much effect on the players. It’s tougher on the fans. We’re all revved up, with nothing to cheer.

We don’t even have an Eagles’ game this weekend to tide us over. They’re on their Bye week. And didn’t even get us started on the Flyers. Not exactly the kind of start they wanted.

So we sit. And wait. And buy anything in red that carries a Phillies logo.

Six days and counting. We’re “Series-ly” psyched.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The new Joe Sixpack

Is there a more famous person in the country this morning than Joe the Plumber. The guy became a running theme in last night's debate between John McCain and Barack Obama.

That woule be Joe Wurzelbacher, a plumber from Toledo, Ohio. He met McCain at a campaign stop. He told the Republican his fears that Obama's tax plan would keep him from buying the small business that employs him.

Both candidates kept coming back to Joe and whether or not taxes would be raised and the effect a tax hike would have on the public.

Forget Joe Sixpack. We now have Joe the Plumber.

A 15-year wait is over

While you’re driving to work this morning, take a glance at the driver next to you.

I’m guessing they’re smiling.

That’s what winners do.

It’s been a long 15 years. That’s how long it’s been since we’ve been able to utter these words in the same sentence: Philadelphia Phillies, National League Champions.

Yes, we’re going to the World Series.

We just don’t know who they’re playing yet. Does it really matter? Tampa has a 3-1 lead over the Red Sox and can seal the deal tonight.

But don’t get too excited. Regardless of when the ALCS is decided, we’re going to be facing a bit of lag time. That’s because the World Series will not start until next Wednesday regardless of who the Phils’ oppponent is.

All the better to savor a National League pennant. Hell, we don’t even have an Eagles game on Sunday to bide us over. Guess we’ll just have to survive a week without second-guessing Andy Reid.

Speaking of second-guessing, Charlie Manuel must have a sense of fulfillment this morning. Of course, any joy Manuel has in leading the Phils to the pennant is tempered by the fact that he now will head home to bury his mother, who died earlier this week.

Manuel, a genuinely decent, good man, has been second-guessed more than just about anybody outside of George W. Bush. He was at times ridiculed for his down-home, country manner of expressing himself.

All Manuel did in the last five games was out-manage Joe Torre.

Torre is headed for the golf course. Manuel, and this special team, is going somewhere else.

They’re going to the World Series.

Enjoy the ride!


OK, I admit it. I spent most of my time watching the Phillies last night.

Yes, I know there was a fairly important debate going on. I flipped furiously between innings, but the sports fan in me just wouldn't allow me to stick with the debate other than between innings.

From what I saw, it sounded like more of the same.

The same claims, the same sound bites, the same vitriol over personal attacks on both sides.

Here's the really sad part. I did catch the end of the debate. Then I flipped furiously back over the Phils game.

Then I went to bed with the Phils up 5-1. I saw most of the Phils runs, including that dynamite Jimmy Rollins leadoff homer.

I managed to see Cole Hamels for the most part blowing through the Dodgers' lineup.

I was over on the debate when Manny Ramirirez took Hamels out for the Dodgers' only run.

I of course was gone a few minutes after I hit the bed. Yes, I was fast asleep when the Phils became National League champions.

But I didn't have to wait until this morning to find out.

My wife woke me with the news.

It felt pretty damn good.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Thank God for the remote control

Get those fingers limbered up folks. They’re likely going to get another workout tonight.

In case you haven’t noticed, there will be two major events on TV tonight.

Yes, I know it is hard to believe, but there is life outside the Phillies.

There is another little matter that will be contested this evening. Maybe you’ve heard of these teams.

I refer to Team McCain and Team Obama.

That’s correct, the third and final presidential debate will take place tonight.

Actually, you might be able to catch a few innings of the Phillies game before the debate kicks off.

First pitch of Game 5 of the NLCS is at 8:22. The candidates will not step to the podium at Hofstra University to hash out their differences on domestic policies until 9 p.m.

Maybe the Phillies already will have chased Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley by that time.

The debate will be on the major networks. The Phillies game will be on Fox.

Nationally, it will be no-contest. The debate should swamp the baseball game. I am guessing it probably will do so in Los Angeles as well.

Here? I’m not so sure. So here’s the deal? What will you be watching tonight. I know what I will be doing.

Burning up the remote control, flipping furiously back and forth.

That’s if I can stay awake that long.

One win to go

Fifteen years. That’s how long we have waited for the Phillies to return to the Promised Land.

It was back in 1993 that a group of grungy throwbacks captured our hearts, toppled the mighty Braves, and advanced to a World Series.

The temptation to look ahead is great. There is also great danger in doing so.

It is said the city’s sports franchises operate under a curse. Believers say that allowing the city’s skyline to tower above the hat of Billy Penn atop City Hall prevents us from winning another world championship. The last time we did so was when the Sixers won in 1983. That’s 25 years, a quarter century.

Now we stand one win away from competing on baseball’s grand stage one more time.

But that’s the key. We’re not there yet. We need to beat the Dodgers one more time. To do that, the Phillies will send their young ace to the mound in L.A. tonight to smite the Dodgers. He will be opposed by Chad Billingsley.

First pitch is at 8:22. If sometime around midnight you non-sports fans are awakened by a cacophony of voices, yelling, screaming, and banging of pots and pans, do not call police.

That is the sound of a city of winners. Count the minutes. Paint the town red.

But don’t celebrate too early. There’s one more win to go.

Bye, bye Birdies

As the region is furiously painting the town red, you’d think the Eagles would be green with envy.

You’d think they’d be doing anything possible to get themselves back on the Back Page.

After all, isn’t this supposed to be their town, where all other sports quiver at the mere thought of competing with the colossus of local sports?

You’d be hard-pressed to get that feeling today.

The Phillies own the joint. And the Eagles did nothing yesterday to change that. Literally.

Yesterday was the NFL trade deadline.

You would think the Eagles, sitting at a thoroughly mediocre 3-3, would be looking at every angle to add a few weapons to their arsenal.

Instead the Birds decided to stand pat and enjoy their bye week.

In the process they may be saying bye, bye to their favored status here in town.
That’s because another team took a different tack yesterday.
They wear stars on their helmets.

Eagles fans have been fairly screaming for months for more offensive weapons, especially a game-breaking wide receiver.

An NFC East team went out and got one yesterday. Hint: It was not the Eagles. Nope, the Cowboys trade several draft picks, including a first-rounder, to the Lions for wideout Roy Williams.

Also available was tight end Tony Gonzalez, the sure-fire Hall of Famer with the Kansas City Chiefs. But he’s not coming here either. In fact, he’s not going anywhere. He’s staying in K.C. The Eagles deemed either a third or a second-round draft choice too steep a price to pay for Gonzalez at this point in his career.
It is being said the Eagles were “in the mix” of teams showing interest for both these guys. They obviously decided the asking price was too high. Interesting in that this is a team that has traded out of the first round the last couple of years.
As has been the mantra under Andy Reid, the Birds clearly think they have all the weapons they need.

So far those weapons have gotten them to a 3-3 record.

Enjoy the bye week, fellas.

Let’s go, Phillies.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Up the golden Stairs

One win away.

It’s been 15 years. Do you remember what is was like to be in the World Series. Yes, I know, we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves. The Phils still need to win one more game before they can think about moving on to baseball’s biggest stage.

Fans have no such limitations, on the other hand. So let’s start the party.

Of course, you have to stay awake to be part of the party. Last night’s game was not over until after midnight.

I didn’t even come close.

When I was a kid, my mom used to have a way of telling us when it was time to go to bed.

“Up the golden stairs,” she would intone. Nothing else needed to be said. We knew it was bed time. Ignoring the message was not recommended. Dilly-dallying in an attempt to stay up would be met with a decidedly more stern, less “golden” pronouncement.

I have been thinking about that saying of my mom’s ever since the Phils acquired slugger Matt Stairs to bolster their bench this summer.

Unfortunately, last night I took her advice after watching the first few innings at the kitchen table as I wolfed down some dinner. That’s when I made a fatal mistake. I decided to catch the rest of the game in bed. Big mistake. The last thing I remember is the Phils trailing, 3-2.

This morning, as is my daily morning ritual, I gingerly flipped on the radio, not knowing what I would hear. To tell you the truth, I was kind of expecting to hear about a Phils’ loss and the series being knotted 2-2.

Instead I was jolted awake by news of a thrilling come-from-behind win, of homers by Shane Victorino and one Matt Stairs.

Up the golden Stairs, indeed.

One win away. Go Phillies!

Seven down, five to go

Make it seven down, five to go.

Police in Chester continue to whittle away at their Most Wanted List. What was once 12 dangerous suspects on the lam is now just five.

The latest suspect to be corraled is Edgardo Gutierriez Jr. He’s also known as “Macho.”

“Macho” was wanted on charges connected to the murder of 19-year-old John “White Pork” Strand.

Police and Philadelphia SWAT team members caught up with Gutierrez. Authorities say it was an anonymous tip that led officers to the apartment in the 1500 block of Levick Street where Gutierrez was holed up.

I hope that the person who dimed out Gutierrez did so after recognizing his picture in the newspaper.

We have joined with community groups and Chester police to push the Most Wanted list, getting the suspects faces out there for the public to see in hopes that someone will come forward with information on the suspects.

Chester police tell us much of the information they have been getting is from people who have seen the pictures in the newspaper.

That’s seven down, five to go.

The faces of the five still at large appear once again on today’s front page of the print product. Make sure you pick one up. Take a close look at the five men. If you recognize any of them and have information on where they may be hiding out, call police and let them know.

The streets of Chester and in fact the entire region get a little safer every time one of these guys gets locked up.

And to those five suspects: Stop looking over your shoulder. Turn yourself in. Police are not going to go away. They will hunt you down.

And when these five are under arrest, maybe police will compile another list and start the process all over again.

Seven down, five to go

Make it seven down, five to go.

Police in Chester continue to whittle away at their Most Wanted List. What was once 12 dangerous suspects on the lam is now just five.

The latest suspect to be corraled is Edgardo Gutierriez Jr. He’s also known as “Macho.”

“Macho” was wanted on charges connected to the murder of 19-year-old John “White Pork” Strand.

Police and Philadelphia SWAT team members caught up with Gutierrez. Authorities say it was an anonymous tip that led officers to the apartment in the 1500 block of Levick Street where Gutierrez was holed up.

I hope that the person who dimed out Gutierrez did so after recognizing his picture in the newspaper.

We have joined with community groups and Chester police to push the Most Wanted list, getting the suspects faces out there for the public to see in hopes that someone will come forward with information on the suspects.

Chester police tell us much of the information they have been getting is from people who have seen the pictures in the newspaper.

That’s seven down, five to go.

The faces of the five still at large appear once again on today’s front page of the print product. Make sure you pick one up. Take a close look at the five men. If you recognize any of them and have information on where they may be hiding out, call police and let them know.

The streets of Chester and in fact the entire region get a little safer every time one of these guys gets locked up.

And to those five suspects: Stop looking over your shoulder. Turn yourself in. Police are not going to go away. They will hunt you down.

And when these five are under arrest, maybe police will compile another list and start the process all over again.

Running with the bulls

Quick! Better jump back into the stock market.

Forget the Phillies. How ‘bout dem Bulls? No, not the NBA team. I’m talking about all those Wall Streeters. They were running wild yesterday.

Anybody have any clue what is going on with Wall Street? After a week that can only be described as a time when the Street of Dreams turned into the Street of Nightmares, we’re back on the plus side. Big time.

It was just a few days ago that some were actually telling people who might need cash on the short term to consider getting out of the market altogether.

Yesterday the market exploded. Fueled by word that the U.S. would move to further stabilize banks, Wall Street recovered from its worst week since the Great Depression, in the process going on a 936-point tear.

It was the biggest single-day gain in terms of points in the market’s history. Wall Street, battered by eight consecutive days of staggering losses, gained a lot of it back in one wild day of trading. The Dow wound up 11 percent on the plus side.

It’s a good thing. Last week the markets lost $2.4 trillion in shareholder wealth. Even with the 900-point gain to close at 9,387.61, that’s still a long way from last year’s all-time market high of 14,165.

But it should soothe a lot of jitters, both on Wall Street and on Main Street, as nervous investors fretted over their 401K retirement nest eggs disappearing before their eyes.

And it once again proves something we hear again and again in these instances. If you don’t need your money right away, if you’re beyond a five-year window for retirement, the best thing to do when the market is tanking is usually to do nothing at all.

Let’s just hope the ride continues.

Fill 'er up

Improbable thought of the day: Who’d have thought that one day we’d actually be celebrating gas selling for $2.99 a gallon?

Hey, that’s a dollar less than it was going for just a few months ago.

The freefall at the pumps continued over the weekend, with AAA reporting gas prices skidded another 12 cents.

Here in Delaware County, you can actually buy gas for as little as $2.95 a gallon.

That would out at the Wawa in Brookhaven, where they seem to be having some kind of price war.

Now I am wondering if all those moves toward conservation, with everyone looking to buy a hybrid car, or jump onto mass transit, will go out the window as prices decline at the pump.

There are some things about expensive gas that should have taught us a valuable lesson. We shouldn’t abandon them and jump back into our gas hogs just because it’s cheaper to fill up the tank.

Near Nirvana for Philly fans

So you didn’t think the news could get much better for Philly sports fans?

Think again. If you were like me and were long gone before the Phils rallied to beat the Dodgers last night, you also missed something else. The Giants got crushed on Monday Night Football by the lowly Cleveland Browns.

That news comes just hours after the Cowboys, who lost in overtime to the Cardinals Sunday, announced that quarterback Tony Romo would miss as much as a month with a broken finger on his throwing hand.

Of course, the Redskins also turned back into the Deadskins on Sunday, losing to the hapless St. Louis Rams.

The entire NFC is suddenly in reverse, all of which benefits the Eagles, who have stumbled to a 3-3 start. But the Giants now lead the division at 4-1, and the Cowboys and Redskins both now have two losses.

Now if the Flyers could only bolster their defense.

Our new online home

So how do you like it?

No, not the fact that the Phillies are now just one win away from the World Series.

I’m talking about our new home here online. Yes, I hope you’ve noticed that when you went to what I know is your favorite spot on the Web, you found a new look here at

We’ve changed the site to make it more interactive and reader friendly. I hope that you agree.

You’ll now be able to take part in daily online polls in news, sports and entertainment.

You’ll also be able to check how your reader instincts stack up with others, because our site now will tell you which story is the most read on the site, as well as which one draws the most comments.

And we’re also putting much more emphasis on our blogs, the content that appears only online.

We’ve also made it easier for you to find older stories. We are now able to post seven days worth of content on the site. Anything before that also will be retrievable via our Search function.

But don’t just be a reader. The whole idea of this online world is for you, the readers, to get involved. Post a comment on the site. If there’s something you’d like to see, send me an e-mail at Or simply pick up the phone and give me a call. You can reach me at 610-622-8818.

One thing has not changed. I still pick up the phone. Now on to the important things. How ‘bout dem Phils!!!

Monday, October 13, 2008

The campaign heats up

We must be getting close to an election. The rhetoric is heating up. And some of it is getting ugly.

I’ve always had a fear about this election, that if Barack Obama looked like he was starting to pull ahead in the polls, the attacks on him would be ratcheted up.

Turns out those fears were pretty much on the money.

The mood at several GOP rallies last week got downright ugly. The attacks on Obama again swerved over the line into personal questions. Still one more speaker took the opportunity to stress that his middle name is Hussein.

One woman at a town hall meeting cautioned that the Democrat is an Arab. To his credit, John McCain immediately corrected her.

In fact, McCain was trying to put out this brush fire, to let his backers know that Obama is a good man and even that they would have nothing to fear should he be elected president.

Unfortunately, once the tenor of a campaign is set, it’s a little hard to put that genie back in the bottle.

The McCain camp has been pushing an old association linking Obama with William Ayers, a former member of the Weather Underground that was responsible for a series of bombings in the ’70s. They served on the board of an educational foundation in Chicago but do not seem to have any close ties.

In return, the Democrats rolled out an ad stressing McCain’s ties to the Keating 5, one of the key components in the savings and loan scandal of the ’80s.

And Democrats have not been without their vitriol, too often responding to the GOP charges in kind. Regardless of whether or not you believe she should have been there, Sarah Palin was booed while dropping the puck at the Flyers’ season opener Saturday night.

Protesters have been decidedly more nasty in their tactics at several GOP events in the past week.

Then this weekend Democratic Congressman John Lewis, of Georgia, an associate of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., castigated the McCain campaign for “sowing the seeds of hatred and division.”

But he didn’t stop there. He raised the ugly specter of George Wallace, the strident Alabama governor, who he said “created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights.”

An outraged McCain camp demanded an apology.

Lewis later issued another statement saying it was not his intention or desire to directly compare McCain or Palin to Wallace. Again, the genie was already out of the bottle.

On Sunday, Democratic vice presidential hopeful Joe Biden accused the McCain campaign of launching “unbecoming personal attacks” against Obama.

The nation stands on the edge of the abyss, with our economy by just about any standard facing its greatest crisis since the days of the Depression.

But why talk about that, and other key issues, when you can inflame the passions of your base – and hopefully attract moderate and undecided voters – by tossing a few red-meat sizzlers out there.

The election is three weeks from tomorrow. My guess? Brace yourself. It’s likely to get uglier.

Which prompts another question? Is this any way to elect a president.

I don’t have a dog in this fight. I think both McCain and Obama are good, decent men and viable candidates. Either way, I think we are light years better off than what we have endured the past eight years.

I just wish we could go about this process without the ugly, petty personal stuff that seems to overtake the serious issues facing the nation.

Remember the Phightins!

The Phightin’ Phils decided to take their nickname seriously last night.

Of course, it never hurts when the other team decides to throw a pitched ball directly over your head.

The Dodgers may have done the Phillies a favor. This one was almost over before it started. The Dodgers rocked Phils’ starter Jamie Moyer right out of the box, dropping five runs on him in the first and then tacking on another one in the second to seize a commanding 6-1 lead. Moyer recorded only one out in the second before making a quick exit.

The game, which the desperate Dodgers clearly needed to right their foundering ship after losing two straight in Philly, was almost over before it started.

Then the Dodgers decided to throw a little gas on the fire, add a little insult to the injury.

The Dodgers apparently had not forgotten that Brett Myers threw a pitch behind Manny Ramirez back in Philly. In the third, Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda gave them a wake-up call, and something of a calling card at the same time.

He buzzed a fastball over Shane Victorino’s helmet. Victorino took umbrage. Oddly enough, it was almost as if Victorino saw it coming. He seemed to be indicating that if Kuroda was going to hit him, he should do so by nailing him in the arm or his back side, not his noggin.

Both benches and bullpens held an impromptu meeting on the field. No punches where thrown, though Manny decided to be Manny, offering up some histrionics for the cameras while being “held back” by his teammates.

All of which should provide an interesting backdrop for tonight’s game. It also might shroud the Phils’ real problem.

The Dodgers are bringing back their ace, Derek Lowe, tonight on three days rest. The Phils are countering with Joe Blanton. Cole Hamels will get his usual rest before taking the hill Wednesday night.

Tonight is not the problem. It’s down the road that it could get interesting. By pitching tonight, Lowe also will be available for a deciding Game 7, if necessary on his normal rest. Hamels, who will pitch Wednesday, will not be available for that final game in Philly Saturday night.

The Phillies, and Hamels in particular, better hope it does not come to that. Hamels has been splendid down the stretch and in particular in the playoffs.

Maybe you don’t even want him pitching tonight off his normal rest. Still, there’s a part of me that thinks – or maybe wishes - it should be Hamels going to Manuel, demanding to pitch tonight.

Maybe it won’t matter.

Let’s hope not.

Remember the Eagles?

Remember the Eagles? You know, the team that plays football in these parts?

While we have been merrily painting the town red with the success of the Phillies, the Eagles and their struggles have been somewhat shoved into the background.

But there they are this morning, in the lead spot of both Philadelphia newspapers. But not on the front page of your Daily Times.

Sorry, but an NLCS game trumps a regular season NFL game, even when the Eagles win and the Phils lose.

That’s right, the Eagles won yesterday, despite their best efforts to give away a game to the 49ers. And the news was even better for Birds’ fans, because the Redskins inexplicably lost to the hapless Rams, and the Cowboys lost in delicious last-second fashion to the Cardinals. We actually got to see the final seconds of the Cowboys loss, the way they managed to rally to tie the game in the final seconds of regulation, followed by the pure joy of seeing them choke one up in OT via a blocked punt that was recovered for a touchdown.

I was actually depositing my son back on his college campus after his fall break, so I missed most of the first half of the Eagles game.

Unfortunately, I did not miss the entire first half.

That’s right, I did manage to see the last 40 seconds. The Cowboys were not the only ones to have problems with a kick yesterday.

Sooner or later, Andy Reid has to get one of these end-of-half scenarios right, doesn’t he? Yesterday was not that day.

The Eagles got the ball back with about 45 seconds left in the first half. They at first appeared content to head into the locker room with the lead. They ran the ball on first down. Then they suddenly seemed to realize there was still time on the clock and they had all their timeouts left. They quickly ran off a couple of pass plays, and managed to call their final timeout with a single tick left on the clock.

They then quickly trotted David Akers out to attempt a 50-yard field goal. Akers has not had a lot of luck with these kicks in recent weeks. It didn’t get any better yesterday. The middle of the Eagles line seemed to collapse, allowing a jail break by the 49ers. They swatted Akers’ kick right back at him. The ball took a perfect bounce into the hands of a Niner, who strolled untouched into the end zone.

Just like that, a fairly good first half went right into the toilet. The 49ers went into the locker room up by a point.

They actually widened the lead in the second half, before the Birds ran off 23 unanswered fourth quarter points, including an interception return for a touchdown to seal the deal late in the game.

The Eagles now stand dead even at 3-3. They can kick back for a few days during their bye week, and hopefully will be able to get the rest of their walking wounded healthy, then start their push for the playoffs in two weeks.

For now, they leave the stage for the Phils.

October baseball. Gotta love it.

The Print Column: Voting with your wallet

My mom had a fairly simple theory when it came to casting her ballot. She didn’t necessarily bother with issues. She did not see race. Black or white was never an issue with her. Neither was gender. Of course for most of her life a woman running for high office wasn’t really a consideration.
She saw only two things. She saw D’s and R’s. In her book D was good; R was bad.
As many times as I tried to convince her it wasn’t that simple, she never budged.
As a young adult, her political beliefs were forged by the cauldron of the Great Depression. She and her siblings survived. But I’m not sure they ever got over the struggle, and the toll that it took on the family.
And one thing’s for certain, she never forgot it. Her hero was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who she credited with bringing the nation back from the abyss. When I told her that World War II didn’t exactly hurt in that regard, she dismissed my claim.
She never forgot what happened to her and her family in those years. And she voiced her opinion about it every time she entered a polling place.
I guess there are some Republicans in this county who would say the fruit didn’t fall far from the tree in the Heron family.
The truth is a little more complicated. I don’t share my mother’s blind loyalty to Democrats. I try to pay attention to the issues. As a newspaper editor, I try to steer our coverage and keep it in the middle. There are those on both sides that would scoff at such a suggestion, who insist we are in bed with the enemy.
Actually, I have another theory when it comes to elections, and the way people vote.
It’s not the same blind loyalty as my mother’s, but it shares the same kind of simplicity.
I think people vote their wallets. When times are good, they’re along for the ride. Let the good times roll. Their vote indicates they want more of the same, and incumbents roll.
When things go south, when their wallet gets as thin as a supermodel, they seek change.
When this election season was in its infant stages (does it really ever end?), there was much talk about foreign policy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Then Wall Street started to implode. So much for the war on terror. Now the war is being waged on the homefront.
We watched as Congress debated a $700 billion economic bailout plan as the aftershocks of economic turmoil cascaded from Wall Street to Main Street.
Some very familiar names have disappeared. Merrill-Lynch, the people who told us for years they were bullish on America? They kind of wound up like so many bulls do in those bullfights we watch on TV. The only thing left to decide is who gets the ears and tail. Bear Stearns. Lehman Brothers. AIG. Wachovia. Gone. Hope they didn’t buy the Citibank signs for the Corestates/First Union/Wachovia Center just yet. That merger looks like it’s off. Wells Fargo now is the leader to take over Wachovia.
People’s life savings are disappearing in front of their eyes. I’ll be honest with you. I have not checked my 401K in about a month. The truth is I’m almost afraid to look. I hear all the experts advise that the best thing to do is nothing. That’s easier said than done.
Last Monday, with the bailout plan in place, things actually managed to get worse.
At one point Wall Street had toppled 800 points. That’s nearly 7 percent of its value. It was an epic week on Wall Street, and very little of it was good. Friday afternoon stocks did make a rally to avoid still another horrific day.
I don’t claim to know where exactly all this is going, other than this.
There are 22 days left until we go to the polls to elect a new president.
In the past few days, the rhetoric has sharpened on both sides. We are suddenly hearing about Barack Obama’s old friends, especially those with ties to the Weather Underground. Whether or not you would say he is “palling around” with terrorists is a debate I will leave for others.
We also are suddenly starting to hear whispers about John McCain’s old ties to the Keating Five and the savings and loans scandals.
The mud is beginning to fly. I assume it will get worse as Election Day draws near.
On Nov. 4, people will enter the voting booths. Bet on this. They will carry their wallet in there with them.
They will decide who can better deal with the economic morass we find ourselves in and cast their vote accordingly.

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

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

The Eagles are little bit like the economy - in a meltdown.

Despite my picking them to win last weekend, they went belly-up in an ugly loss at home against the Redskins.

They now stand on the edge of the abyss, peering over the precipice to what could be the flaming embers of another season if they do not turn this thing around.

As they fly to San Francisco, they do so without star running back Brian Westbrook. He's not even making the trip, saying home to nurse sore ribs.

Me? I'm nursing a seriously ugly 1-4 record at this prognostication game.

Fortunately, the 49ers aren't very good. Then again, just how good the Eagles are is open to debate. A good team goes to San Francisco and takes care of business, despite playing without several stars.

Sunday might tell us how good, or bad, the Eagles really are.

It says here they struggle mightily, but still have enough to put away the 49ers.

Make it Birds, 16-13, in the pre-game warmup to Sunday's real event, Game 3 of the NLCS later Sunday night between the Phils and Dodgers.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Daily Numbers - October 10

The Daily Numbers: 4:35 time of first pitch this afternoon for Game 2 of the NLCS pitting the Phils and Dodgers at Citizens Bank Park. It’s the only afternoon game in the 7-game series.

6 suspects on Chester’s Most Wanted list now back in custody. There are 6 more who remain on the loose.

32 high school students charged with underage drinking after police raided a couple of parties in Aston and Swarthmore.

22 age of Rosin O’Neill, who will surrender this morning on charges connected to a fatal crash on the Blue Route last month.

2 cats in Bethel Township that have been shot with a pellet or BB gun.

11 to 22 months in jail, the time a Chester County woman is facing in a crash that took the life of a state trooper.

13 age of girl found stabbed to death, along with her dog, inside a trailer in Delaware City, Del.

1 elderly blind woman killed when fire broke out in a West Philadelphia apartment.

15 percent dip in revenue expected today when Atlantic City casinos announce their September numbers.

366 days ago that the stock market hit its all-time high. In the last year, we’ve watched as $8.3 trillion in shareholder value has disappeared.

679 point decline in the Dow Jones Industrials yesterday as the financial meltdown continues.

5,585 point decline in the Dow in the last year. That adds up to a 39.4 percent loss.

15 billion dollar deal that looks like it will now go forward in which Wells Fargo will acquire Wachovia. Citigroup is getting out of the running.

2 percent dip in serious crime in Pennsylvania last year. The numbers of murders, rapes, and robberies went from 345,000 in 2006 to 338,000 last year.

2 home runs by Chase Utley and Pat Burrell to power the Phils over the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLCS.

7 strong innings from Cole Hamels, who surrendered 2 runs on 6 hits while striking out 8 to get the win.

0 for 4 for Rafael Furcal in the key leadoff spot for the Dodgers.


Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
For six innings last night, fans at Citizens Bank Park had to sit on their hands as the Phils’ bats were silenced. Then they erupted for all the runs they would need in the sixth.


I Don’t Get It: Road rage. Police now have a pickup truck they are calling a “vehicle of interest” in connection with an incident that resulted in a shooting on the Schuylkill Expressway earlier this week.


Today’s Upper: Who cares about the Eagles’ struggles? Go Phillies.


Quote Box: “It went from you could hear crickets to all of a sudden you couldn’t hear anything.”

-- Phils closer Brad Lidge on the emotion that surged through the stadium after two Phillies homered in the sixth.

Six down, six to go

Our front page today pretty much sums up the situation involving the 12 Most Wanted Criminals in Chester.

Six down, six to go.

Percy Thompson is the latest member of the “Most Wanted” list to be corralled. He was nabbed in Kentucky and will be returned to Chester to face attempted murder charges.

Last week it was Michael Cropps, who was busted in Virginia. He’s now back in Delco to face murder charges in connection with the shooting death four years ago of soccer star Will Trippley.

Ask any newspaper editor and you will learn that there likely is no better feeling he or she can have than knowing the newspaper is making a difference in the community.

When I was first approached by a community group about the possibility of publicizing a “Most Wanted” list, I was quick to get on board.

We have published the photos of the 12 suspects several times. In fact, each time another suspect is arrested, we have been running the photos of those who remain at large.

I will admit there is a part of me that was uneasy when I first saw the photos. All 12 suspects are minorities, either African-American or Hispanic.

The newspaper did not make up the list. We did not pick and choose from an array of suspects. We ran the photos of the 12 suspects police had identified.

I have not gotten a single complaint about the coverage. In fact, just the opposite has been true. Both the community and police have been effusive in their comments about the newspaper’s role in getting these six people off the street.

If we have helped in that regard, I am only happy that the newspaper has been of service. I take no special joy in the circumstances that led to the list, nor the plight of those who are now in custody or are still at large.

But I do know this. We are not yet done.

Six down, six to go.

Another chapter in a very sad saga

The latest sad chapter in the O’Neill family saga will play out today.

Rosin O’Neill, 22, is expected to turn herself in to face charges connected to a fatal accident that occurred on the Blue Route last month. The Newtown Square woman was driving the wrong way when her car collided with one being driven by a Massachusetts woman. Patricia Murphy Waggoner, 63, was pronounced dead at the scene. O’Neill was hospitalized.

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman will announce the charges against O’Neill at a press conference this morning. The Delco woman is expected to be charged with homicide.

She is the sister of Sean O’Neill Jr., who is now back in a juvenile facility in the western part of the state for his role in a shooting that took the life of his lifelong friend and Cardinal O’Hara classmate Scott Sheridan. O’Neill Jr. was initially charged as an adult with involuntary manslaughter in the shooting, which followed an unchaperoned drinking party at the O’Neill home. He served nine months at a juvenile facility before being released on home monitoring. Last week he was returned to another juvenile facility on a probation violation.

Their father is Sean O’Neill Sr., who has legal troubles of his own. He is awaiting trial on federal weapons and immigration offenses.

A lot of people believe these are three different instances, that one has nothing to do with the others.

They are not especially happy that they get lumped together in the newspaper each time one or the other is in the news.

Roisin O’Neill is 22. She is an adult, and her actions should stand on their own.

At the time of the fatal shooting, Sean O’Neill Jr. was a juvenile.

Sean O’Neill Sr. has no shortage of backers who believe he is the target of some kind of vendetta by the feds.

I have listened to the complaints offered about the coverage involving the O’Neill family. There’s a part of me that can understand their gripes.

But there’s also a part of me that understands there are now two people dead because of the actions of members of this family.

I don’t know the O’Neills. I’ve never met them. There’s a part of me that certainly can feel for them and what they have gone through.

But there’s also a part of me that struggles to understand some of their actions, and the devastating result those actions have had on others.

We will cover the story today of the charges being filed against Roisin O’Neill.

It will be the latest chapter in an incredibly sad saga.

Phils Chase down win in Game 1

For six innings they seemed like the same old Phillies.

The only offense they were taking in Game 1 of their NLCS against the Dodgers was to the silly comments of an L.A. columnist.

They had managed exactly nothing against Dodgers starter Derek Lowe.

In the meantime, it looked like they were well on their way to squandering a very good outing by their ace Cole Hamels.

He had surrendered only two runs, including a monster double in the first inning off the bat of Manny Ramirez that if hit to any other spot in Citizens Bank Park other than that tiny corner of centerfield likely would have been a home run.

The Bank was silent. Maybe it was appropriate after what’s been happening to the economy yesterday and the last week for a ballpark named after a bank to be shrouded in doubts, anxiety and tension. The place was as quiet as a church.

Then Chase Utley delivered. Yes, he of the ailing hip and diminished offensive output launched a Lowe pitch into the rightfield seats to even the score.

It was like a surge of electricity went through the place. Fans were on their feet. Rally towels were everywhere.

Fans barely had a chance to settle back in their seats when Pat Burrell stepped to the plate and hit a laser shot into the leftfield stands.

Make it 3-2 Phils.

Then the Phils fell back on what has been one of their strengths all year. After Hamels pitched a scoreless seventh, it was Ryan Madson in the eighth, preserving that precious one-run lead, and serving as the “bridge to Lidge.” The Phils ace closer slammed the door and the Phils took a 1-0 lead in the series.

They hook up again this afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. On what should be a glorious late afternoon, the Phils will try to take a stranglehold on the series before heading to the Left Coast for the weekend.

Today is the only afternoon game in the series. All other games are scheduled for 8:22.

Brett Myers takes the hill. And yes, just as there was for six innings last night, there are some lingering doubts. Which Brett Myers will we see, the one who struggled early in the year and then, suddenly and inexplicably the guy who backslided into those erratic ways, or the guy who was one of the most dominating pitchers in the National League after his return from the minors.

The crowd will tell us. It will either be the meek group that sat in silence for six innings, or the raucous group that rocked the joint for the final three.

The Phils have put one in the win column. They banked on the same modus operandi they used all season. Solid pitching and the long ball.

We’ll take it.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Daily Numbers - October 9

The Daily Numbers: 8:22 time of first pitch tonight for Phils and Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLCS at Citizens Bank Park.

5 p.m., when the party starts outside Citizens Bank Park with the OctoberPhest Phillies Postseason Party. You don’t need a ticket to the game to join the party.

45,000 rally towels that will be given to fans as they enter the park before tonight’s game.

8:09 the National Anthem performed by Philadelphia Boys Choir and Chorale.

8:13 ceremonial first pitch thrown by Gary “Sarge” Matthews and Garry Maddox, heroes of the Phils 1980 team that beat the Astros in the NLCS and went on to beat the Royals in the World Series.

850 million dollar budget deficit now looming over the city. Mayor Michael Nutter is eliminating worker bonuses.

20 million dollars expected to be poured into the local economy during the NLCS. It couldn’t come at a better time.

10,000 dollar reward posted for information on who placed an explosive device in a West Chester parking garage.

2 people shot yesterday in the middle of the afternoon on a street in Camden, N.J.

15 point lead for Barack Obama over John McCain in Pennsylvania, according to a new Rasmussen survey of state voters. They have it 54-39 percent for the Democrat.

189 point decline in the Dow Jones Industrials yesterday as the financial meltdown continues.

3 cent decline in the price of gasoline. We’re now paying an average of $3.34 at the pump.

4 wins away from the World Series, where the Phils stand as they kick off their NLCS against the Dodgers tomorrow.

14 wins in the regular season for Cole Hamels, and 1 lights-out effort vs. the Brewers in the NLDS.

14 wins in the regular season for Dodgers starter Derek Lowe.


Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Can you feel it? Yep, as the front page of our print edition proclaims, it’s “Red October.” We’ve got a serious case of Phillies Phever.


I Don’t Get It: Why is it some media members simply can’t help taking a shot at Philly fans every time one of our teams enters the national stage.


Today’s Upper: Go ahead, paint the town red. We’re four wins away from the World Series..


Quote Box: “When he goes, we go. He’s the catalyst for our club.”

-- Pat Burrell on leadoff man and defending NL MVP Jimmy Rollins.

Attitude adjustment

Here we go again.

An appearance by a Philadelphia sports team on the national stage would not be complete without someone taking a shot at Philly fans.

Enter T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times.

The L.A. Dodgers are in town to kick off the National League Championship Series tonight against the Phillies.

Simers took the occasion to kick Philly fans. You can read the entire column here.

He datelines his piece “Angryville.” That gives you a clue as to what is to come. It’s the usual claptrap, even trotting out the familiar lament that the city’s main attraction (that of course being the Liberty Bell) has a crack in it.

We apparently have another crack as well, one in our defenses that allows Simers and legions of other scribes to jab a stick in our eye.

Knock yourself out, guys. If you’re expecting an apology, don’t hold your breath.

This may be something you’re unfamiliar with, it’s called passion. Try to get to the game early. Maybe around 5 p.m., all the better to view all those “angry” fans already flocking to the stadium to join the party.

We don’t arrive fashionably late, nor leave early, as is the tradition in La La Land.

We have a passion forged through the fire of more losing seasons than we care to count, including a generation that has grown up waiting for our next world championship.

During that drought, our stadiums were not empty. We don’t abandon our team. We show up, and mourn each loss as a community of die-hards.

This year we set an attendance record at Citizens Bank Park, where more than 3 million people jammed the joint all summer.

We drink beer, not latte. We eat hot dogs, not sushi. We wear Gap, not Gucci.

And for the next week we will wear red, except for three hours late Sunday afternoon, when we will don green and cheer or jeer for the Eagles. But then you wouldn’t understand, being how your NFL franchise now plays in St. Louis.

So excuse us while we paint the town red. Forgive us if our emotions collide with your Left Coast Cool.

We don’t do Hollywood. We do South Philly. We’re more row house than Beverly Hills. You see it as angry. We think it’s more attitude.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Bad sign of the times for McCain

John McCain might be in trouble in Delaware County.

I say that because of a something I saw while driving home the other night.

I was tooling along Springfield Road when I noticed an odd thing on the lawn of a house. It was a Bill Adolph sign.

Yeah, I know that’s not exactly unusual. But that’s only part of it. There’s nothing new about those familiar blue signs with the green “Bill Adolph” type on them. Especially on Springfield Road. It’s the heart of Adolph country. Every other house has one. Bill’s a neighborhood guy.

But it was something else on the lawn that caught my eye.

Just a few steps away on the same nicely kept front yard was another sign – touting Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. This county tends to be fairly strident in its political beliefs. But this is pretty strong evidence that at least one family who remains loyal to the GOP locally is supporting the Democrats when it comes to the presidential race.

It reminds me that the Delco GOP, which continues to routinely win state legislative races as well as dominating the Media Courthouse, has lost the last four consecutive presidential races.

The county backed Bill Clinton twice, then threw its support behind Al Gore and John Kerry.

There’s also the small matter of Joe Sestak showing longtime incumbent Congressman Curt Weldon the door after a 20-year reign in the U.S. Congress two years ago.

Ticket-splitting seems to be gaining favor in the county, even as the wide gap the GOP once enjoyed in voter registration continues to shrink.

A new poll of Pennsylvania voters this morning has more bad news for McCain.

The Rasmussen Reports survey indicates the Democrat Obama is opening up a wide lead over the Republican in Pennsylvania, fueled in large part by the worsening economic conditions in the nation and state.

The poll shows Obama with a 13-point lead, with 54 percent in Obama’s camp, to just 39 percent for McCain.

As is clearly evidenced along Springfield Road, maybe it’s a sign of the times.

Painting the town red - with red ink

Phillies fans are painting the town red.

In the process they may also be turning the town green. And that just might have Mayor Michael Nutter in the pink.

The Phillies appearance in the National League Championship Series could mean as much as $20 million pouring into the region’s coffers.

Those estimates are from the city Commerce Department and Philadelphia Sports Congress, a division of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau.

They believe the visiting fans, media, sponsors and other descending on the city could empty their pockets to the tune of $17 million in direct spending. Another $3 million could be reaped from various taxes and parking revenues.

It couldn’t come at a better time. Yesterday Nutter indicated the city’s economic squeeze was worse than first expected.

The city is being hurt by the same factors that are rattling the nation and world.

Nutter said the budget shortfall, at first thought to be in the neighborhood of $450 million, now might be more like $850 million.

The mayor announced he was freezing bonuses for 4,500 non-union employees. He also wants City Council and the court system to slash their budgets by 5 percent.

Yep, the Phils are painting the town red.

So is Nutter. Only he’s painting it with red ink.

Talking the talk, walking the walk

Donovan McNabb is embarrassed.

He should have lots of company. But that’s the problem. When you listen to Andy Reid, you’d never get the impression that the Eagles have given away three eminently winnable games already this year.

All Reid says is his standard “I have to do a better job putting players in position to make plays.”

Apparently McNabb had seen – and maybe heard – enough. The quarterback called a players-only meeting Monday and aired out his teammates for the malaise - almost a willingness to accept defeat - that was settling over the team.

It’s the same kind of “close but no cigar” mindset that doomed the team last year before they ran off three meaningless losses at the end of the year.

Those who were in the meeting say you could “hear a pin drop” when Donovan spoke.

Lorenzo Booker put it in a little more stark terms. He knows where this can lead. He spent time with some absolutely horrendous Dolphins teams the past few years.

“The fact of the matter is we’re 2-3,” Booker said. “We can talk about how good we are or how close the games were that we lost but they’re still losses. We’ve got to start putting this talk into action or we’re going to be average.”

McNabb has talked the talk. Now he’s ready to walk the walk.

Unfortunately, he may be walking out onto the field Sunday in San Francisco without his best weapon. Running back Brian Westbrook has not practiced this week as he nurses two broken ribs.

One more loss Sunday and the Eagles season will be broken. And no amount of team meetings or talk will change that.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Daily Numbers - October 8


The Daily Numbers: 1 day until the Phils and Dodgers kick off the NLCS at Citizens Bank Park.

8:22 time for the first pitch of Game 1 Thursday night. In fact all but one game will have the 8:22 start. Friday the Phils and Dodgers meet at 4:30 in South Philly.

20 million dollars, what the Phils’ appearance in the NLCS is expected to mean to the local economy.

20 million dollar wining Powerball jackpot that was sold at the Lansdowne Diner.

22 workers at a North Philadelphia Bulk Postal Center that will share a $10.28 cash payout.

8.6 million people registered to vote in Pennsylvania. That’s a record number.

13 percent gain in Democratic voters in Pa., while the Republican numbers have declined 1 percent.

2 suspects and a Philadelphia police officer injured after a confrontation Tuesday afternoon in Kensington.

10 million donation to the city of Camden from one of its longtime corporate icons, Campbell’s Soup.

3 million dollars awarded for safety upgrades on Roosevelt Boulevard, one of the most dangerous highways in America.

508 point decline in the Dow Jones Industrials yesterday as the financial meltdown picks up speed.

33.3 percent decline since the high mark of 14,164.53 just a year ago.

2.2 trillion dollars in losses tied to the stock market collapse.

0.5 percent emergency cut in a key interest rate announced this morning by the Fed Reserve in an attempt to stabilize the economy.

68 percent plunge in earnings in the third quarter by banking giant Bank of America.

3 cent decline in the price of gasoline. We’re now playing an average of $3.40 at the pump.

4 wins away from the World Series, where the Phils stand as they kick off their NLCS against the Dodgers tomorrow.

1 team meeting held by Donovan McNabb and his Eagles teammates in an attempt to reverse their faltering fortunes.


Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Go ahead. Paint the town Red. Let’s hope Joe Banner and Jeffrey Lurie and green with envy. And that they take the necessary actions to right their ship.


I Don’t Get It: Road rage. Especially when you have kids in the car. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: Let’s hear it for Gary Vetre. He’s a math teacher in the Upper Darby School District and was one of the runner-ups for teacher of the year.


Quote Box: “The calls I’m getting – every money manager I deal with, and every client I talk to – are just very emotional. This is a very, very emotional time and most of them are taking steps to shore up their defenses, reducing exposure to sticks just toe defend their portfolios.”

-- Hugh Johnson, chairman and chief investment officer of financial giant Johnson Illington Advisors.

Economic blues

The beat goes on. Or maybe I should say the beat-down.

The Dow tumbled another 500 points yesterday. There seems to be no stopping the economy as it teeters closer and closer to the edge of the abyss.

The nation has looked on in horror as, in some cases, lifetimes of savings has disappeared in an epic collapse.

Things got even dicier this week when some commentators, including CNBC’s money guru and local guy Jim Cramer, started recommending those with short-terms needs for their money, say like in the next five years, to get out of the markets.

Can you say panic? No one was actually saying it. But a lot of people were thinking about it.

This morning the Fed reacted by ordering an emergency cut half-percent cut in a key interest rate.

Whether or not it can stop the bleeding is yet to be seen.

Most experts continue to urge caution, to recommend that if you are 10 years or more away from retirement that your best course of action is likely to do nothing.

That’s easier said than done. As anyone who has checked their 401K recently can offer clearly understand.

The winner? It's debatable, but the issue is not

There’s a saying that anyone who has played any playgroup hoops is familiar with.

No blood, no foul.

The same can be said of last night’s debate betweeen John McCain and Barack Obama.

The town hall meeting style, with questions from members of the audience and the Internet, should make one thing perfectly clear if it is not already.

There is only one issue in this election: The economy.

Amercians are nervous, and angry. They are watching their life savings disappear right in front of their eyes.

And they want someone to take charge and offer a solution.

My guess is that the candidate who can best deliver a solution to the economic crisis and ease voters’ minds about this mess is the person who will be sworn in come January.

Saying farewell to Wachovia Spectrum

Does anyone else think it is entirely appropriate that the Flyers are going out of their way to mark the final season of their former home, the Spectrum.

I do, but maybe not for the reason most think of when the reminisce about the old joint.

Earlier this season the Flyers played an exhibition game in their old home against the Carolina Hurricanes. They brought back almost all of the captains in team history for a very nice pre-game celebration.

Last night they took one more spin around the ice in an exhibition game against their minor league affiliate, the Phantoms. The Phantoms beat the big club, by the way.

After the Phantoms complete this season at the original South Philly sports palace, the joint will be torn down.

The bricks will come down, but not the memories. Not the visions of two Stanley Cups and an NBA Championship.

Not a lifetime of concerts by every major act, including playing a big role in launching the careers of Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel.

Actually, what struck me is the name that hangs on the side of the building. Like the spiffy upgrade across the parking lot, it is actually the Wachovia Spectum, just as it is the Wachovia Center where the Flyers and Sixers now play.

The building started as the Core States Center. Then that became the First Union Center, before finally morphing into the Wachovia Center.

Wachovia is now about to go by the boards. It will be acquired either by Citigroup or Wells Fargo.

In the meantime, the banking industry and economy continues its freefall.

Soon all that will be left will be a pile of debris.

Just like the building where the Flyers and Sixers once played.

Donovan's last stand?

Donovan McNabb apparently has seen enough.

The Eagles quarterback called a players-only meeting in the wake of the team’s latest debacle, the 23-17 loss to the Redskins at the Linc on Sunday.

Here’s one word that seemed to be the cornerstone of the meeting: “Embarrassed.”

McNabb apparently made it clear to his teammates that he is embarrassed at both his own and the team’s play in losing two straight weeks, as well as the game they fumbled away earlier this season to the Cowboys.

He admitted as much on his own blog yesteday.

McNabb apparently told his teammates in pretty clear language that it was up to each player to rededicate himself to the season and eliminate the silly mistakes that have plagued the team so far.

Right now the Eagles are sitting at 2-3, and looking up at everyone in the NFC East. They also are behind the eight ball in that all three of their losses have come to NFC opponents.

One thing I wonder if McNabb broached with the team behind closed doors. I wonder if the QB told the team he was not an especially big fan of some of the play-calling they’ve been getting and let them know he was going to bring it up with Coach Andy Reid.

No, I don’t really think McNabb went there. But I think he should.

Right now the Eagles are kind of like the economy, standing on the edge of the abyss. Another loss Sunday against the 49ers after flying across the country could push this team – and this season – over the edge.

Can you say must win?

There are 11 weeks left in the NFL season. The Eagles are going to be facing a lot of “must wins.”

Sunday in San Francisco is just the first one.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Will gloves come off in Round 2?

Brace yourself for Round II.

John McCain and Barack Obama are set to go mano a mano again tonight in their second debate. It will take place at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. It will be a Town Hall format with questions submitted by audience members and Internet participants.

That town hall moniker makes it seem like a nice, courteous affair.

I don’t see it. This one could be where the gloves come off, and the two candidates engage in a heavyweight bout. The Main Event as it were.

I say that because of the nasty turn the campaign has taken in the past few days. Things are getting ugly.

Sarah Palin, the self-described “pit bull with lipstick” hockey mom, has taken on the attack dog mode so often associated with the vice president’s slot.

She has been hammering Obama for an old connection to former Weather Underground activist William Ayers. The two served on a board of an educational facility in the Chicago area.

Palin has indicated Obama likes to “pal around” with terrorists. That’s because the Weathermen were renowned for their anti-war actions in the ‘70s, including a series of bombings.

To me the connection is a reach. Hey, Palin says she saw it in the New York Times, so maybe she’s starting to read the newspapers. A few weeks ago, quizzed by Katie Couric, she couldn’t name one that she read regularly.

She wants to talk directly to the American people. She doesn’t want that message to go through the filter of the media. It’s coming through loud and clear this week. And it’s not a pretty picture.

Obama apparently could not resist firing back. He’s unearthing old stories about McCain and his ties to the Keating 5 and the savings and loan scandals of the ‘80s.

All of this is set up by the backdrop of the constant drum beat of an economy going to hell in a handbasket. And of poll numbers that show Obama increasing his lead, specifically in several crucial swing states, including Pennsylvania.

It sounds as if McCain’s handlers are looking to move the discussion away from the economy, with the belief being that it’s not an issue that plays well for him.

Good luck to them avoiding what is clearly the No. 1 issue in the election.

Tonight I expect the candidates to shake hands when they take the stage in Tennessee.

And then come out swinging.

Here's your Phillies NLCS schedule

Here’s a tip for Phillies fans: Sleep now.

The times have now been set for the Phils NLCS against the Dodgers that kicks off Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park. We’re going to be burning the midnight oil.

We get exactly one afternoon game. That will come late Friday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. Every other game is scheduled to have the first pitch at 8:22 p.m., regardless of whether it is in Philadelphia or L.A.

Sunday we actually get something of a double-header, with the Eagles playing in San Francisco at 4:15, followed by the Phillies and Dodgers in L.A. at 8:22.

Here’s how the schedule breaks down:

Game 1, Thursday, Citizens Bank Park: 8:22 p.m.
Game 2, Friday, Citizens Bank Park: 4:35 p.m.
Game 3, Sunday, Dodger Stadium: 8:22 p.m.
Game 4, Monday, Dodger Stadium: 8:22 p.m.
Game 5, Wednesday Oct. 15, Dodger Stadium: 8:22 p.m. *
Game 6, Friday Oct. 17, Citizens Bank Park: 8:22 p.m. *
Game 7, Saturday Oct. 18, Citizens Bank Park: 8:22 p.m. *

* If necessary.

All games will be broadcast on Fox-29.

Get your beauty sleep now. The way these games run, they should be ending somewhere between 11:30 and midnight.

It could be worse. You could work for a newspaper. Our nightly deadline is 11:40. We’ll be pushing that one most nights.

Paint the town red?

I have mused in this space several times about how the Phillies had taken over the town this summer.

The Phils spent most of the summer in or near first place in the National League East. Talk about the Eagles, which usually dominates the airwaves 12 months a year, actually was shunted aside in favor of baseball chatter.

So you would think that we’d be ready to paint the town red this week, with the Phils advancing to the National League Championship Series by finishing off the Brewers.

You would think the Eagles would be green with envy.

Well, the two teams went head-to-head for TV viewers on Sunday. The numbers are kind of interesting.

We’re still a football town, at least when it comes to the tube. The Eagles drew a 22.7 rating Sunday as they bumbled their way to a loss at home against the Redskins. In the meantime the Phillies were pulling just a 13.8 rating as they beat the Brewers to advance to the NLCS.

Here’s the scoreboard: 674,000 households tuned to the Eagles, 410,000 glued to the Phils. I will admit I was one of those tuned to the Birds. I had them on TV, the Phils on the radio. Of course I was also flipping madly back and forth.

Part of that has to do with the fact that football lends itself to TV, with its short bursts of action and violence. Baseball, on the other hand, is more languid, perfect for the radio.

The Eagles clearly haven’t lost their grip on the region just yet. But another loss this Sunday, as the Phils are striving to get to the World Series, just might do the trick.

On Sunday the Eagles actually are the pre-game show. They’re on Fox at 4:15, while the Phils follow on Fox at 8:22 in Game 3 from Dodger Stadium at 8:22.

These quotes are for the Birds

Here are two quotes that set me back a bit when I read them after the bumbling Eagles lost to the Redskins Sunday.

“Not taking anything from them, but there is no way this team is better than us. It was embarrassing these last two weeks. They’re two teams we should not have lost to.”

Those choice words come from quarterback Donovan McNabb.

Defensive end Trent Cole was singing a similar tune.

“That was embarrassing. We’ve got a great team. But we’ve got to go out there and show it. We just didn’t show it today.”

What games are these guys watching? It’s the same tired old song they’ve been chirping since last year, when similar mistakes and poor play dropped them out of playoff contention.

The Eagles – and their front office – puffed up their chest after they won their last three games, as if that was a true indicator of how good the team is.

I’m not buying. In fact, I think the last two weeks are likely a better indicator of how good this team is. The opening-day win against a horrible Rams team, the exciting shootout loss against the Cowboys and a dominating win against the Steelers might be the real mirage.

Last year the Eagles finished 8-8. They could be looking at an instant replay.

This team just isn’t that good. That was my belief when they got to Lehigh this summer. It was my belief through the exhibition season. I’ll admit I got sucked in by those efforts against the Cowboys and Steelers.

Not anymore. These guys, from Andy Reid right on down, seem oblivious to the team’s problems and the fact that they continue to make the same mistakes in every game. They refuse to run the ball, have no ability to establish a running game, and Reid continues to ignore pressing needs, such as punt returner last year, now fullback and tight end, as well as place kicker this year.

The Eagles now are seeing injury heaped upon insult. As usually happens during an NFL season, they’re banged up to boot. Brian Westbrook, who did not exactly make a difference against the ‘Skins, has two broken ribs and is questionable for the game against the 49ers in San Francicso Sunday afternoon.

Here’s another quote the Eagles should consider.

“We got our ass kicked,” defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said after seeing his defense torched for more than 200 yards rushing Sunday.

I don’t think it will be the last time.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Daily Numbers - October 6


The Daily Numbers: 1 p.m. yesterday, crunch time for Philly sports fans with both the Phillies and Eagles playing at the same time.

8:07 Thursday night, Game 1 of the National League Championship Series with the Dodgers in town to face the Phillies.

4:15 next Sunday, when the Eagles take the field again in San Francisco against the 49ers.

10 more hours you have to register to vote to be able to cast a ballot in the November presidential elections. You can register at the county courthouse in Media until 6 p.m.

100 Delaware County firefighters who made the trip to Emmitsburg, Md., yesterday to see fallen Sharon Hill firefighter Mike Reagan’s name added to the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial.

19060 the new zip code set up for the Garnet Valley area out in Concord Township.

41 age of man shot while driving on the Schuylkill Expressway last night in what police are calling a road-rage incident. He had his 8-year-old daughter in the car with him at the time.

50,000 people who packed the Ben Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia Saturday for an acoustic concert from Bruce Springsteen as part of a voter registration push by Sen. Barack Obama.

250 wireless cameras Philadelphia wanted erected in high-crime areas. They now indicate it won’t happen. They’ll only have about 70 cameras in place by the end of the year.

20 million dollar winning Powerball ticket Saturday night believed sold in Pennsylvania.

25 birds seized when police raided a suspected cockfighting ring in North Philadelphia.

30,000 dollars believed taken in a holdup at a Wal-Mart store in Burlington Township, N.J.

34 tenants police now believe were videotaped by a landlord in Norristown.

11 Pa. U.S. House members who voted in favor of the $700 economic bailout plan, including Rep. Joe Sestak.

6 cent dip in the price of gasoline over the weekend. AAA now reports the average price at the pump in the Philadelphia region at $3.43 a gallon.

6 strong innings from starter Joe Blanton, who got the win yesterday as the Phils closed out the Brewers in their NLDS series.

2 home runs for Pat Burrell, who had been struggling, along with a homer to lead off the game by Jimmy Rollins to lead the Phils over the Brewers.

3 losses to go with just 2 wins for the struggling Eagles.

23 unanswered points for the Redskins, after they fell behind the Eagles 14-0.

17 of 29 passing for Donovan McNabb, who was less than scintillating.

33 yards rushing for Brian Westbrook, on just 12 carries.

203 yards rushing surrendered by the Eagles’ defense, as the Redskins played smash-mouth for much of the game and shoved the ball right down the Eagles’ throats.


Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Thrill of victory, agony of defeat. Yep, that pretty much sums up the afternoon for Philly fans.


I Don’t Get It: Don’t fans deserve a little more respect than the drivel Andy Reid offers them after another galling loss. His “I have to put players in better position to make plays” mantra is worn out.


Today’s Upper: AAA now reports gas prices at their lowest levels since the spring. Of course, it also means that the summer driving season is officially over.


Quote Box: “We don’t think we should be looking at any thing less than a World Series – and that’s a World Series win.”

-- Jimmy Rollins, after the Phils won their NLDS series against the Brewers to advance to the NLCS.

Thrill of victory, agony of defeat

In my print column this morning I wrote about the “thrill of victory,” and the agony of trying to figure out how to cover it.

I was referring to the idea that as the editor of the newspaper and a huge sports fan, I often find my joy in reveling in the success of our Philly sports teams tempered by questions about how we would go about covering these big stories.

But yesterday I found myself dealing with another similar emotion.

Again with apologies to Jim McKay, you can call it “thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat.” I actually glanced at my watch. It was 4:03. Phillies win; Eagles lose.

Both the Phillies and Eagles were, for some as yet unexplained reason, playing at 1 o’clock yesterday afternoon.

The Phils were facing the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 4 of the National League Division Series. They needed to win to avoid coming home for a pivotal Game 5, and the daunting prospect of facing Brewers’ ace CC Sabathia with a full four days rest.

The Eagles were at the Linc for a crucial NFC East contest. They had lost two very winnable games and stood with a thoroughly mediocre 2-2 record. It was early to call a game a “must-win” situation, but it was close.

The Phillies delivered the goods. They got an excellent outing from No. 4 starter Joe Blanton, who mowed down the Brewers for six innings before giving way to the bullpen. Jimmy Rollins set the pace with a homer to open the game. Pat Burrell, who did not have a hit in the series, hit two homers. Brad Lidge did his normal thing, slamming the door to seal the deal.

So far so good.

Unfortunately the Eagles were playing at the same time. This one did not go nearly as well. After racing to a 14-0 lead, the Eagles watched the Redskins storm back to win, 23-17.

Andy Reid is once again talking about having to “put players in a better position to make plays.”

Go ahead, paint the town red. The Phillies are going to the NLCS. They open at Citizens Bank Park Thursday night against the Dodgers.

If you’re an Eagles fan, you’ll have to settle for being green with envy.

This team suddenly looks an awful lot like last year’s edition. Remember the Birds were all full of themselves because they managed to win their last three games last year, despite having been eliminated from the playoffs.

After a decent start this year, they have now lost a crucial game to the Cowboys, blown another key contest to the Bears, then got manhandled by the Redskins yesterday.

Mike Schmidt used to describe playing in this town as “the thrill of victory, and the agony of reading about it in the newspaper the next day.”

The Phillies provided the thrills, the Eagles the chills.

The Eagles – and their fans - now will have to stew in still another galling loss until 4:15 next Sunday. That’s when they tangle with the 49ers.

And that one might actually be a “must-win” game.

For now, every game is a must-win for the Phils. That’s what happens when you’re in the playoffs.

Remember the playoffs, Eagles fans?

Nothing remote about these emotions

Anyone else need a thumb splint this morning?

Yes, I was among those flipping furiously most of yesterday afternoon.

I parked myself in front of the TV, armed myself with the remote control and a portable radio, and braced for three hours of Phillies and Eagles drama.

Thanks to the TV czars who tell our professional sports leagues when they will play these events, we had ot deal with the incredibly aggravating prospect of both the Eagles and Phillies playing yesterday at 1 o’clock.

Here was my strategy. I set up the TV to watch the Eagles. Then I put the Phils on the radio. And I spent the afternoon flipping furiously back and forth.

Football does not lend itself to constant flipping back and forth. It is a much more immediate, action-packed affair. Baseball, on the other hand, moves at its own pace. It is a slow, languid dance. It moves at its own pace. There is no clock.

It was not long before I was pumping my fist into the air. Jimmy Rollins opened the game by launching a pitch into the right-field stands. 1-0 Phils.

Then the Eagles took the opening kickoff and marched right down the field to score. 7-0 Birds. Looking good. Soon after that rookie sensation DeSean Jackson returned a punt for a touchdown to put the Eagles up 14-0. Then came a key turning point in the game. The Eagles’ next drive stalled and they sent out David Akers to try a long field goal. Akers has been struggling from this distance. He missed two last week. Make it three. His kick sailed agonizingly just outside the right upright.

It was like pulling a plug. The Eagles went dead for the rest of the day. The Redskins chipped away and wound up beating them.

Luckily, the Phillies did their part, and salvaged the day by winning and advancing to the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers.

Now excuse me while I ice down my thumb.

Reid it - and hear it - and weep

As I joined the rest of Eagles Nation Sunday watching helplessly as the Redskins ran the final six minutes off the clock, with the Eagles defense reverting to their most unnerving habit, their inability to get off the field, I had the voice of Andy Reid running through my head.

I jokingly said to no one in particular, “I can hear Andy Reid now. “I’ve got to do a better job of putting players in position to make plays.”

It his standard response after every loss.

But I was fairly confident that after this most recent, galling loss, even Reid would not be so smug, so arrogant, as to trot out this same, tired old song.

Certainly he would have more respect for the fans who have stuck with this team through so many years, and so many cruel losses, as to not show such contempt for the public with his standard reply.

So you can imagine what was going through my head a few minutes later when Reid approached the microphones, read off the injuries, then went into the same trite line: ““I’ve got to do a better job of putting players in position to make plays.”

I thought my head was going to explode. It’s clear Andy Reid has little or no regard for the people who live and die with this team every week.

Last year the Eagles’ boss decided he knew better than everyone else and could enter an NFL season without a punt returner. After muffed punts cost him the game, Reid remained defiant.

He has consistently said his wide receivers are more than adequate and the team does not need an upgrade at that key position. Yesterday, after a few more balls clanged off the hands of his wideouts, we got more of the same. The Eagles’ one bright spot, rookie DeSean Jackson, actually bailed out his coach with another brilliant punt return for a TD, then disappeared from the play list. The one guy who could make a difference suddenly became a non-factor.

This year Reid decided he didn’t need a fullback. First he brought in Dan Klecko, who was a defensive lineman on several Super Bowl teams and dabbled at fullback in goal-line situations. Then Reid decided that wasn’t working out. He tossed Tony Hunt, a tailback at Penn State who has never played fullback in his life, into the breach.

He also apparently does not think he needs a tight end who can block. It cost him a touchdown last week at the goal line. Yesterday they got stuffed again. In the process, tight end L.J. Smith was involved in some kind of confusion that caused Donovan McNabb to audible out to another call. Brian Westbrook actually lost yardage on the play.

The Eagles for the first three weeks of the year have been hailed for their ability to stop the run. It helps when the other teams decide not to bother running the ball. Yesterday the Redskins were not nearly as accommodating. They decided to pin their ears back and go right at the Eagles defense.

One telling sign was a critical fourth-and-1 play late in the fourth quarter. Clinton Portis seemed to be stopped at the line of scrimmage. Then suddenly the entire pile of Redskins and Eagles started moving forward. When it stopped Portis had the first down and the Eagles were looking at being able to do little more than watch as the Redskins took a knee after each play and run out the block. That’s right, the Eagles had used all their timeouts.

We’ve seen this one before. And we’ve heard Reid’s tired words entirely too often.

Reid will address the media in a few hours. Let me save you the trouble.

He will take the blame, say it’s his responsibility and indicate he has to do a better job of putting his players in a position to make plays.

And he will say it again after the next galling loss.

The print column

With apologies to the late Jim McKay, I sometimes refer to this job as “the thrill of victory, and the agony” … of trying to figure out how to cover it.

It was a Saturday afternoon ritual when I was a kid. Around 5 p.m., I would huddle in front of the television for ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.” And every week I would hear the distinguished voice of McKay as the backdrop to the compelling intro to the show, “spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport, the thrill of victory …”.

It was of course at this time every week that we would see what has become the embodiment of the “agony of defeat.” It was the harrowing scene of a ski jumper in his familiar crouch hurtling down one of those huge ramps, preparing to launch himself into the stratosphere. Then he loses his balance, topples off the side of the ramp and takes a horrific tumble into some hay bales.

I was always wondered who that poor soul was. Now I know. His name was Vinko Bogataj (pronounced Bo-ga-tie). He was from Slovenia, but in 1970 he was a Yugoslavian entrant at the Ski-flying World Championships in Oberstdorf, West Germany.

It was Bogataj’s misfortune to have his nasty spill, including careening off the ramp, flipping several times and blasting through a fence as horrified spectators tried to get out his way, captured on film and immortalized by “Wide World of Sports.”

Amazingly, Bogataj suffered only a slight concussion in the fall. But that image has some to become synonymous with the “agony of defeat.”

I can commiserate, in a strange sort of way. I certainly get my share of the agony of defeat in this business. Every once in awhile, I also experience the thrill of victory. If only it ended there.

I am as big a sports fan as you will find. I live and die with the Philly sports teams, just as I have since those days when I spent every Saturday afternoon with Jim McKay.

I am the embodiment of the fan, living and dying with his team. But I’m also a newspaper editor. So every time there is a major sports event, I temper the fan side of my brain with the more even-keeled news guy as I determine just how we will go about covering these big stories.

Last weekend I spent much of Saturday and Sunday fretting over the Phillies. First there was the matter of if they would clinch a playoff spot. Once it became pretty clear that was no longer in question, the issue became who they would play, and when.
All of this is compounded by my new best friend. That would be the Internet. There was a time, not that long ago, when we published once a day, and our deadlines gradually built up throughout the day. Those days are gone. Forever.

Now, through the wonders of the Internet, we literally can publish information 24 hours a day. I decided last week to introduce a “magic number” as we counted down to the Phils making the playoffs.

On Saturday, I kind of felt like my old pal Bogataj. My computer is in the family room in the basement. And it seems like every 10 minutes or so I was running down those steps to udpate our Web site. At least I didn’t fall off the side of the steps.
My Saturdays and Sundays now start online, as I check our Web site and add and delete information as it becomes available.

Last Saturday afternoon, I immediately posted an update after the Mets won their game, meaning the Phils would still have to win if they wanted to clinch the National League East. The Mets played at 1; the Phils were on the Fox national game starting at 3:55.

The Phils won, making them National League East Division champs for the second year in a row. Back down to the basement for another update.

In the meantime, I knew that would create the need for more coverage of the playoffs. I knew that the National League Division Series would start Wednesday, but I didn’t know who they would play. That wouldn’t be decided until Sunday.

Both the Brewers and Mets were playing Sunday afternoon. I posted a story Sunday indicating that if the Mets won, the Dodgers would be coming to Citizens Bank Park. If they lost, however, and the Brewers won, then Milwaukee would be our guest. If they both won or both lost, they would need a one-game playoff Monday to determine the Wild Card winner, and in the process who the Phils’ opponent would be.

I could feel the knot in my stomach getting bigger with each minute ticking off the clock knowing we would be doing a special playoff preview section in the Wednsday paper. It always helps to know whom you’re playing in such circumstances.

Luckily, the Mets gave us an instant replay of their epic collapse from last year. On the last day of Shea Stadium, their fans could “Shea” goodbye to the playoffs. Milwaukee won and the Mets lost. Along the way we reported online that the Phils won their game on Sunday and awaited the outcome of the Mets and Brewers games. Then we updated with the Brewers winning. That left only the Mets.

Talk about the agony of defeat. Can you say choke? For the second straight year? I couldn’t help smiling as I updated the Web site with news that it would indeed be the Brew Crew coming here on Wednesday.

But my brow quickly furrowed as I thought about the tight window we’d be operating in for our special playoff section.

Thus the thrill of victory, and the agony of trying to figure out out our coverage.
I think Vinko Bogataj would understand.

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

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Remote Control alert

Heads up, Philly sports fans. Limber up those thumbs. Check the batteries in the remote control.

Just as we feared, the Phils failed to finish off the Brewers in Milwaukee last night.

And it sets up one of the more harrowing days in Philly sports in recent memory.

The Phillies will be be playing a crucial Game 4 as they attempt to avoid facing a deciding Game 5. And the Eagles will be playing what some are already referring to as a 'must-win' situation vs. the Redskins at the Linc.

And both games start at 1 p.m. That's correct, they're playing at the same time.

Can you say picture-in-picture?

Or maybe you simply set up two TVs or visit your local sports bar where multiple screens will be displayed. Or you simply watch one game on TV while listening to the other on the radio.

That will be my likely tactic, especially since I don't have picture-in-picture.

And what of all those Eagles loyalists packed into Lincoln Financial Field? How many radios do you think will be tuned to the Phils game? Would the Eagles' brass consider putting the video highlights of the Phils on their gorgeous end zone video boards?

Only if they're winning.

Both these games should be coming down to crunch time at just about the same time, right around 4 o'clock.

Of course the Phils just couldn't bring themselves to take care of this sticky problem by sticking a fork in the Brewers Saturday night.

Now they're looking square down the barrel of a pressure-packed neeed to win and close out the series today. That's because if they don't, they will be facing a well-rested Brewers' ace CC Sabathia Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

Oh, and something else. The Phils would be putting themselves in danger of becoming the first team in NLDS history to blow a 2-0 series lead. Nineteen teams have taken a 2-0 lead, 16 of them have sealed the deal in Game 3.

Of course that would be too easy for the Phils. Losing today would put them on the brink of adding a whole new chapter to the Philly fans' book of sports ignominy.

Hey, let's think positive. The Phils will win today, driving a stake in the Brewers's hearts behind Joe Blanton, to move on to the NLCS against the Dodgers. (No, Cole Hamels will not be on the hill today on three days rest.) That's right, it could be worse. We could be Cubs' fans. The team most regarded as the best in the National League got swept out of the playoffs in three.

Then mintes later David Akers will drill a 37-yard field goal with time expiring to lift the Eagles to a 19-16 win over the Redskins.

Of course, if the ball instead drifts to the right, just minutes after the Brewers beat the Phils, then they better man the bridges.

Yep, it should be a fairly interesting Sunday.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

Yes, fans, another week has rolled by and we await the dreaded Saturday Eagles pick.

But this is not just any Saturday. This is a Saturday when the Phillies could clinch their NLDS series by sweeping the Milwaukee Brewers.

And it says here that they better do just that.

Why? I'll give you two reasons.

If per chance the Phils should lose tonight in Milwaukee, they will play Game 4 tomorrow. Guess what time? That's right, chili breath, at 1 p.m., putting them smack up agianst the Eagles-Redskins clash at Lincoln Financial Field. Better buy batteries for the ol' remote. We could be clicking furiously tomorrow.

But there's a deeper danger should the Phils not put the Brewers out of their misery tonight.

The pressure would then revert to the Phils to win tomorrow, or face the specter of a well-rested CC Sabathia Tuesday night back in Philly.

I digress, I know. That's because I am trying to avoid talking about the Birds. You may remember I picked them to win last week. How'd that work out? Another mind-numbing Eagles loss makes me a less than stellar 1-3 on the season. The Eagles are 2-2. They've lost two games because of a botched snap late in one game, and an inability to punch a ball into the end zone on three straight plays from the Bears' 1last week. They easily could be 4-0.

But they're not. And questions remain about Andy Reid, Donovan McNabb, and the way they handle crunch time in the fourth quarter of big games.

The Redskins are coming off a huge win over the Cowboys, knocking thier arch-rival from the ranks of the unbeatens.

I will believe in Reid and McNabb again whey they show me they are capable of pulling out a game late in the fourth quarter. You won't find the answers on that laminated card, Andy.

Add in the fact that I don't think Brian Westbrook and his achy ankle will see much ation in this game, and you have a reciple for another devastating loss.

Don't ask me why, but I don't think it's going to happen. It's very early, but this one almost has a "must-win" smell to it for the Eagles. The 'Skins should still be breathing the rarefied air of their win over Dallas.

Make it Eagles, 19-16.

But don't be surprised if the Eagles fail to deliver one more time. Say, like, they are driving for the winning score, then for some reason McNabb throws a pass to a guy in the middle of the field with no timeouts left and the fans watch helplessly as the Birds fail to get their field goal team on the field in time as the clock expires. We haven't seen that before, have we?

In other words, let's go Phillies!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Remote Control alert

Heads up, sports fans.

Here's another reason to hope the Phils close out this series Saturday night by sweeping the Brewers.

If they don't they will play a Game 4 in Milwaukee Sunday.

Major League Baseball has just posted the times for the "if necessary" games 4 and 5 of the Phillies-Brewers series.

If the Brew Crew win Saturday night, they will play again at 1:07 p.m. Sunday.

That would put them directly up against the Eagles, who play the Redskins in a 1 p.m. game at the Linc.

Better buy new batteries for the remote control.

Of course the Phils could wipe out this problem by taking care of business Saturday night.

How 'Sweep' it would be.

The Daily Numbers - October 3

The Daily Numbers: 2 games to none lead for the Phils in their best-of-5 series against the Brewers after they beat the mighty CC Sabathia last night.

90 minutes of debate between vice presidential candidates Sarah Palin and Joe Biden. I’d call it a draw. A CBS poll of undecided voters has it 46-21 for Biden. I hardly think so.

10 minutes when Phillies fans and poltical junkies were furiously flipping channels between the playoff game and the debate.

50 to 41 percent lead for Barack Obama in a new CBS national poll of the presidential race.

3 businessmen, including 2 from Delco, indicted by the feds yesterday on charges they helped people bypass U.S. immigration laws to get into the country.

4 men indicted in a high-tech poker scam looking to swindle an Atlantic City Casino.

38 and 22, ages of a mother and daughter police in Philadelphia say were operating a prostitution service from their Wissinoming home that lured customers on the Craigslist Web site.

17,000 dollar ring ripped off from a Gordon’s jewelry store in the Oxford Valley Mall in the middle of the afternoon.

3 people wounded when gunfire erupted last night in the Olney section of Philadelphia.

4,000 dollar watch stolen from a woman who was cleaning a church in Wilmington by someone who walked in and took a purse containing the watch, cash and credit cards.

3 students at Northampton High School who have been diagnosed with the MRSA staph virus.

4.7 percent dip in revenue reported by the Pa. Revenue Department. That equates to a cool $281 million. State officials are now looking for ways to make up the shortfall.

4 more days you have to register to vote. The deadline is Monday, Oct. 6.

3 cent dip in price of gas. Average price at pump in Philly region now stands at $3.50.

1 grand slam in the postseason in the long history of the Phillies. That happened last night courtesy of Shane Victorino.

9 pitches in an epic at-bat by pitcher Brett Myers in the second inning. He drew a walk and after another walk to Jimmy Rollins, set the stage for Victorino’s heroics.

7 very good innings for Myers, who overcame a shaky first inning to mow down the Brewers.

2 games to none lead now for the Phillies, the exact opposite of where they stood last year.

10 runners left on base for the Phils. Most games that would come back to haunt them.

2 straight playoff saves for Phils closer Brad Lidge. That makes 43 in a row for the season

46,208 fans jammed into Citizens Bank Park, a record crowd.

6:30 p.m. start for Game 3 Saturday night in Milwaukee.

1 p.m. start for Eagles-Redskins Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. Remember the Eagles?


Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
So much for Andy Reid’s play-calling, Brian Westbrook’s ankle and Donovan McNabb’s ability in the clutch. The Phillies own this town. Yo, Birds, call us at Halloween.


I Don’t Get It: All eyes will be on the House today as they plan another vote on the $700 billion economic bailout plan. They are being urged by all sides to pass the measure. Yesterday the Dow tanked another 300 points. What don’t they understand about the position we’re in.


Today’s Upper: I have two words for you, Phillies fans. Burt Hooton. Anyone else thinking back to a ‘70s playoff game and the Dodgers pitcher being booed off the mound during that epic at-bat for Brett Myers and a meltdown by Brewers’ ace CC Sabathia?


Quote Box: “She kicked butt. She put Joe Biden on the defensive.”

-- State Rep. Steve Barrar, R-160, on Sarah Palin’s performance at last night’s VP debate.

“I think this debate certainly showed us that Joe Biden is ready to be president from day one and Sarah Palin is nowhere near ready.”

- Delco Dem boss Cliff Wilson.

The great debate: Sarah makes GOP smile

Full confession here: I expected last night to be the death knell for Sarah Palin.

Based on the way struggled in her limited media appearances and the way she has been shielded by the McCain camp, I was expecting the worst for the Alaska governor.

I had images of Upper Darby’s own Tina Fey and her devastating ‘Saturday Night Live’ parody of Palin dancing in my head.

Didn’t happen.

Sarah Palin strode out onto that stage last night, stared straight into the camera, and held her own in the first – and only – vice presidential debate.

I would mark the debate as a draw.

In doing so, I think it almost has to be beneficial for Republicans and the McCain/Palin ticket. In case you haven’t noticed, they haven’t exactly been having a banner week.

It started last week with McCain suspending his campaign and announcing he was going back to Washington to work on the economic bailout plan. He also called for postponing last Friday night’s debate.

But once he got to Washington, most seemed to think he didn’t help things and might just have made things worse. He got hammered for days.

The latest polls out this week show Barack Obama widening his lead, especially in several swing states such as Ohio, Florida and, yes, Pennsylvania. A Quinnipiac poll actually had Obama opening up a double-digit lead here.

Then all eyes shifted to St. Louis and last night’s vice presidential debate. Most were expecting the “wince factor” to be in play, to see a continuation of Palin struggling to give cogent answers to questions, to show that she has sufficient command of the issues and policies to be the second half of a presidential ticket.

She didn’t deliver any knockout blows, but more importantly was that she isn’t picking herself up off the canvas this morning. You could call it a draw. Which I think most Republicans would take in a second if you offered it to them earlier in the week.

Palin looked much more at ease and in command, even if she did have a tendency to stick to her talking points, regardless of the question. But that’s the nature of debating, framing the argument in a way that best suits you.

And she might have gotten off the two best lines of the night. Palin called the Obama policy on Iraq “waving the white flag of surrender.” The other one might not have pleased Republicans quite as much, when she spoke of the “many blunders” in foreign policy by the Bush Administration.

After the debate, the spinners were doing their thing. One instant survey done by CBS of uncommitted voters shows 46 percent saying Biden got the better of the debate, to just 21 for Palin.

I’m not buying those numbers.

There were no knockouts in this affair, which in itself is a win for Palin. I still have my concerns about her experience and her abilities to step into the role of president if the need should occur.

But it was a very long, lousy week for the McCain team. A bad night from Palin could have been the coup de grace. Instead she held her own against the formidable Biden. It might have been just what McCain needed.

Eat your heart out, Tiny Fey.

Make it the Well Fargo Center

Cancel those plans for the Citi Center as a new name for the Wachovia Center.

Enter Wells Fargo.

This morning we are greeted by the news that Wells Fargo will acquite all Wachovia banking operations in an all-stock transaction worth about $15 billion. At the same time Wachovia is ending talks with rival suitor Citigroup.

We’re assuming that means still another name change for the Sixers and Flyers home in South Philly. What started as the CoreStates center, then morphed into the infamous ‘FU Center,’ as in First Union, and then to the Wachovia Center, has still one more change on tap. Earlier this week it appeared the Citigroup moniker would be hoisted up on the side of the building. Now it looks like Wells Fargo is in the driving seat.

Of course, at least for one final year, it also means getting used to the Wells Fargo Spectrum. At least until they tear the old place down next year.

There’s something appropriate about that. Maybe they should implode it. Kind of like our economy.

Two months and waiting

It was two months ago tonight that Faith Sinclair was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver as she tried to cross Chester Pike in Sharon Hill.

Her family still waits for the answer to the question that has haunted them ever since. How could someone do such a thing?

We wonder the same thing.

This week we learned the county Investigative Grand Jury was looking at the case. It’s a key tool that is often used when investigators are having trouble getting people to come forward to talk about what they may know about the case.

Here is the editorial that appears in today’s print edition on the mystery involving Faith Sinclair:

We have not forgotten
Neither have Sharon Hill Police.
Nor the Delaware County District Attorney’s office.

It was exactly two months ago, on a summer Sunday night, when Faith Sinclair tried to cross Chester Pike in Sharon Hill.

It’s a bad intersection, where the busy thoroughfare crosses Laurel Road. Neighbors have complained about it for years. On Aug. 3, they got still another horrific example of just how dangerous it is.

And they got an even more brutal glimpse of just how cold-hearted and unfeeling some people can be.

Sinclair never made it across Chester Pike.
She was struck and killed by a dark-colored Mercedes.

Then something almost as horrific happened. The driver did not stop. Instead, the car fled the scene. And Faith Sinclair was left to die in the street.

In the two months since that terrible night, many things have been learned about the accident.

It took police only a few days to track down the car they believed was responsible for snuffing out Faith Sinclair’s life.

They found a black Mercedes S-Class in a garage in Upper Darby. It was covered with a tarp. Neighbors indicated the windows of the garage recently had been tinted dark.

Police say the damage on the Mercedes, a crumpled front bumper, missing side-view mirror and smashed windshield, is what they would expect to find on the car that struck Sinclair.

They know who owns the vehicle. Lemuel Payne, 26, has been identified by Sharon Hill police as a “person of interest.”

Payne has not been charged in connection with the case. Through his attorney, he has declined to speak with authorities. In fact, no one has been charged in the hit-and-run.

That’s because, despite a $10,000 reward offered by the Citizens Crime Commission for information in the case, one thing remains a mystery.

Police know the car that struck Sinclair. They know who owns the car.

But they don’t know who was driving. And that’s where the investigation has stalled.

Now law enforcement is using a new tool in the search for Faith Sinclair’s killer.

The county’s newly seated Investigative Grand Jury is probing the case. Witnesses appeared before the panel in September. More apparently will do so in October.

The grand jury is a powerful crime-fighting tool, one that is often turned to when investigators hit a brick wall or are faced with an unwillingness on the part of potential witnesses to provide information.

In the words of one source close to the case, “the noose is tightening.”

Faith Sinclair, and those who knew and loved her, deserve no less.

They deserve to know who snuffed out her promising life and then so cavalierly fled the scene.

The popular word for this situation these days is called “closure.”

We have another one. It’s called justice.

Myers bat-tles Sabathia

Brett Myers is not exactly feared for his bat.

In fact, you might say that, given his last couple of outings, it was his right arm that was giving more people the chills. Unfortunately, those were Phillies fans, who watched him revert to the early-season troubles that resulted in him being demoted to a stint in the minors.

Last night, in the crucible of the National League Division Series, Myers survived a shaky first inning and went on to tame the Brewers. Along the way, the Phils posted a 5-2 win to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-5 series.

But it was Myers’ bat, or at least an at-bat, that might have been the key to the game.

The not-exactly-mighty Myers stepped in against Brewers’ ace CC Sabathia in the second inning with a man on base. He immediately started swinging for the fences. Two massive whiffs later, he was in an 0-2 hole.

Then something weird happened. Or maybe it’s an omen. Myers took what certainly looked like strike three. But the home plate umpire didn’t see it that way. He called it a ball. It seemed to rattle Sabathia, who was already heading for the dugout. That’s when things got even curiouser. Myers started fouling off pitches. Eventually he worked the count full. At this point all you could think of was Burt Hooton and one of those moments that’s burned into the consciousness of Phillies’ fans. Hooton literally got booed off the mound at Veterans Stadium in the late ‘70s against the Dodgers. The Phils eventually coughed up that game on Black Friday. But the murmurs of Hooton were back last night at Citizens Bank Park with every pitch Myers fouled off as the crowd roared and waved those white rally towels.

A rattled Sabathia finally issued ball four. Then he walked Jimmy Rollins to load the bases. Next batter? Shane Victorino. You know what happened next. The ‘Flyin’ Hawaiian’ hammered a pitch down the line into the left-field bleachers for a grand slam. It was a stake in Sabathia’s heart, and maybe a fatal blow to the Brewers.

The Phils now head to Milwaukee in the exact opposite position they found themselves last year. After losing two games at home to the Rockies, the Phils went to Colorado down 2-0 and facing elimination. They went meekly in three.

Not this year. Now it’s the Brewers on the ropes.

The Phils have their foot on Milwaukee’s throat. They will send ageless wonder Jamie Moyer to the mound Saturday night to finish the job.

I like their chances.

It was a big night for Myers, who after that shaky start managed to wipe away the fears linked to his last two outings.

He and Hamels give the Phils a nasty 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation.

They can wrap this up Saturday night, and spare Eagles fans the bother of having to deal with both the Birds and Phillies sharing the stage on Sunday.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Daily Numbers - October 2


The Daily Numbers: 2 months since 16-year-old Faith Sinclair was struck and killed as she crossed Chester Pike by a hit-and-run driver. The county investigative grand jury is now looking at the case.

4 suspects on the Chester Police list of 12 Most Wanted that are now in custody. That means there are 8 to go.

4 years ago, when standout soccer player William Trippley was fatally shot, an innocent victim caught in the crossfire of a gunfight in Chester. Michael Cropps has now been charged with his murder.

56 dogs and cats that have been removed from what are being described as “horrific” conditions inside a kennel in Emmaus, Lehigh County. Authorities say hundreds of animals were crowded together in unsanitary conditions.

65 age of the owner of an auto repair shop in Lansdale who faces charges that he inappropriately touched and exposed himself to a minor male who worked in the shop.

2 months, age of tot who police say was shaken and then thrown to the floor by a man in Delaware. The newborn suffered multiple fractures and severe brain damage.

25,000 to as many as 50,000 music fans who are expected to gather on the Ben Franklin Parkway Saturday for a free acoustic concert by Bruce Springsteen, part of a voter registration drive by Barack Obama.

15 of October, last day for bids for the ailing Boscov’s department store chain. An auction will follow on Oct. 20 and a sale hearing the next day. It looks like the family store will be acquired by Versa Capital Management of Philadelphia.

7 point lead for Barack Obama over John McCain in the latest Keystone Poll of Pa. voters. But a Quinnipiac poll of Pa. shows Obama with a much bigger lead.

11.5 million people in Pennsylvania who will be on a statewide list of potential jurors being put together by the state Supreme Court.

74 to 25 vote last night by which the Senate passed that new and improved $700 billion economic bailout plan. Both Pa. senators, Casey and Specter, voted in favor.

220 workplace fatalities in Pa. last year, 93 of them in the Philly region.

723 million dollar price tag on the new, scaled-back health care plan being proposed by Gov. Ed Rendell.

15 million more miles Pennsylvania motorists drove in July 2008 compared to July 2007. So much for the high price of gas.

1 penny dip in gas prices overnight. Seems like it goes down about a penny a day. Average price in the region is now $3.53.

8 superb innings for Cole Hamels to win Game 1 of the NLDS vs. the Brewers yesterday.

9 strikeouts, 2 hits and 0 runs for the Phillies ace.

1 more scary 9th inning for Phils closer Brad Lidge.

45,929 hearts in the throats of fans jammed into Citizens Bank Park as Manuel opted to lift Manuel and go to Lidge, then watch as Lidge put the tying runs in scoring position.

42 straight times this year that Lidge has sealed the deal.

6 p.m. start for Game 2 tonight.


Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Bring on CC Sabathia. The Brewers’ ace will be looking to deliver what Milwaukee desperately needs, one victory of the two games played in Philly. Sabathia again will take the hill tonight on three days rest, as he’s been doing now for the past couple of weeks down the stretch. If the Phils can beat Sabathia, they should seal the deal in Milwaukee this weekend. If Sabathia prevails, it’s a whole new ballgame. Get ready for a marathon Sunday, with both the Eagles and Phillies playing.


I Don’t Get It: How do you live with yourself for two months knowing that you struck a young girl and then fled the scene, leaving her to die. And how if you were a passenger in that car do you stay silent about what you know? I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: Thank god for the world’s greatest invention, the remote control. Thumbs will getting a workout tonight around 9 as the Phils game winds down and the vice presidential debate kicks off.


Quote Box: “It was pretty nerve-wracking.”

-- Tom Nowlan of Broomall, on the 9th inning effort of Phils’ closer Brad Lidge in shutting the door on the Brewers.

Palin vs. Biden

You might call it a double-header.

The Phils play the Brewers in Game 2 of the NLDS at 6 p.m.

I imagine Brad Lidge will be striding to the mound just about the time the main event of the evening kicks off.

That, of course, would be The Great Debate, Part II.

Palin vs. Biden.

Can anyone remember when a contest pitting the two candidates for vice president garnered such attention?

It’s often said that the VP slot is an afterthought. That no one votes for vice president. They make their decision on who sits at the top of the ballot.

Not this year.

That is in large part due to what can only be called “The Palin Effect.”

Sen. John McCain stunned everyone – including many in his own party – when he selected the little-known governor of Alaska as his running mate.

A couple months ago you likely would not have known Palin if you bumped into her on Baltimore Pike.

Now that upswept hair-do and fashionable glasses create one of the most recognizable visages in the world.

Sarah Palin has injected a whole new buzz into this buzzsaw of a presidential horse race. Her detractors simply scoff at her lack of experience and say she has no business being a heart beat away from the presidency, especially when that heart beats inside the chest of what would be the oldest man ever elected to the office.

Her supporters laud her as breath of fresh air, someone outside the usual Beltway Politics crowd.

There’s not much middle ground on Palin; you either love her or hate her.

Her initial spike in favorable ratings has been sliding recently as she has struggled in her limited, carefully selected media appearances.

That all will go by the boards tonight. Palin will be standing on a stage with her opponent, longtime Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware.

I’m not exactly sure what to expect. Will Palin wow everybody, as she did in her convention speech? Or will she struggle as in her most recent interviews.

Upper Darby’s Tina Fey, whose dead-on impersonation of Palin has juiced up “Saturday Night Live,” will join the rest of the nation glued to the tube.

There are those who believe the GOP has intentionally downplayed expectations for Palin, that if she merely survives against Biden that would be considered something of a victory.

I think McCain needs more than that. His numbers are sliding, especially in key swing states like Pennsylvania. That’s in part because of the lingering question about his choice of the inexperienced Palin.

The eyes of the country will be on that stage. Riveted on Sarah Palin and Joe Biden.

Except of course for Phillies fans, who likely will be furiously flipping back and forth between the game and the debate.

You might say Sarah Palin is John McCain’s Brad Lidge. And tonight he needs a big save.

Justice for Faith Sinclair

Faith Sinclair’s family is still waiting for answers.

So are we.

Sinclair is the 16-year-old who was trying to cross Chester Pike in Sharon Hill back on Aug. 3. But as Sinclair tried to navigate the Pike at Laurel Road, she was fatally struck by a dark-colored Mercedes.

Then tragedy turned criminal.

Whoever was behind the wheel of the car decided, in that moment of horror, to flee. They didn’t stop. Didn’t offer assistance.

Police put out a dragnet for the vehicle. They found what they believe is the car that struck and killed Sinclair in a garage – where the windows had recently been tinted black so as to block the view inside – in Upper Darby.

Police say the damage to the Mercedes, with a crumpled front-end and a smashed windshield, displays all the signs they would expect of the vehicle that struck Sinclair. In fact, they are fairly certain this is indeed the car.

They know who owns the car. They have labeled him a “person of interest.” He has declined, through his attorney, to speak with law enforcement.

A $10,000 reward was posted for information in the case.

But police still do not believe who the driver of that car was that fateful Sunday night.

They believe that two people do, the driver, and a passenger they believe got out of the Mercedes shortly after the accident.

A month has gone by, without an arrest in the case. It has left those close to the Sinclair family, as well as law enforcement, frustrated with the lack of progress.

Now another tool is being used. The case is being reviewed by the newly seated county investigative grand jury.

These matters are highly secretive, but it is believed that witnesses have been called before the panel and more could do the same in two weeks.


Because those who knew and loved Faith Sinclair deserve answers. They deserve an end to the pain. They deserve answers to what happened on that Sunday night as she tried to cross Chester Pike. They deserve to know who could so casually strike their loved one, and then flee the scene.

They deserve justice.

King of the Hill

15 years. That’s how long it was between post-season wins for the Phillies. It was Oct. 21, 1993, Game 5 of the World Series, when Curt Schilling blew away the Toronto Blue Jays at the Vet to send the series back to Toronto.

Unfortunately, we all know what happened in Game 6. Remember Joe Carter? How can any Phillies fan forget him.

The Phillies have been looking for an ace ever since Schilling moved on to greener pastures.

Yesterday they just may have found him.

You can call him King Cole. Cole Hamels, the cool California left-hander, was everything you could want in a staff ace in blowing away the Milwaukee Brewers.

Ever since the Phils successfully defended their NL East title Saturday, thereby allowing Hamels the luxury of skipping a Sunday start and resting that golden left arm, he has been the man in the spotlight.

Game One is key, they said. Hamels needs to come up big.

On Wednesday, Hamels delivered.

Hamels put the hammer down on the Brewers and staked the Phils to a 1-0 lead in this short, best-of-5 sprint they call the NLDS.

All Hamels did was shut down the Brewers on two hits. He struck out nine in eight innings. The Brewers only got one batter as far as second base. And just as there were so often back in 1993 when Mitch ‘Wild Thing’ Williams stalked onto the mound, there were probably a few hearts in fans’ throats yesterday courtesy of a scary ninth by Brad Lidge. In fact, there likely is no shortage of fans still scratching their heads at manager Charlie Manuel’s decision to lift Hamels after 8.

That doesn’t matter this morning. What does is that the Phils got a 3-1 win.

In doing so they managed to win a playoff game for the first time in ages. Actually 15 years to be exact. And that’s in large part due to one person.

King Cole Hamels.

A pitch to remember what's important

Cole Hamels was lights out in leading the Phils to a huge win in Game 1 of their NLDS series against the Milwaukee Brewers Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park.

But he did not throw the most important pitch.

That honor went to Richard Bowes.

Don’t recognize the name? Try it this way: Officer Richard Bowes. He’s the Philadelphia policeman who was wounded last week by the same gunman who shot and killed Highway Patrolman Patrick McDonald.

Officer Bowes was joined by his son in throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before Wednesday’s playoff game.

A lifelong Phillies fan, Bowes took time to thank the fans, who offered him a standing ovation, for their thoughts and prayers. But he stressed that “the real hero in this is Pat McDonald and I want every one to continue to pray for Pat.”

Actually we’re the ones who should be thanking him. And all of the men and women in blue who put their lives on the line every day.

Maybe Bowes brought the Phils some luck. The truth is a baseball game suddenly doesn’t seem so important when we think about McDonald, Bowes and what they do every day.

Thanks for reminding us, officer.

Cops fume at another questionable ruling

Here are a few more thoughts I had concerning the cop-killer in Philadelphia who had been granted parole.

This comes as we learn of still another troubling incident involving the release of another violent offender.

Edward Burgess was involved in a struggle with a Philadelphia officer. He got the upper hand and beat the officer, then went for his gun.

Burgess, who has 13 prior arrests, was arrested after other officers arrived on the scene. He faces a slew of charges including aggravated assault.

But on Sept. 22, Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Rosalyn K. Robinson issued an order allowing Burgess to be released on house arrest as he awaits trial. That’s not scheduled until March 25, 2009.

The order came the day before Officer Patrick McDonald was fatally shot by Daniel Giddings, who was out on parole after serving 10 of 12 years on a violent carjacking.

Police and the D.A.’s office are not thrilled about the judge’s ruling in the Burgess case. They’ve filed a detainer that kept Burgess behind bars and will seek a reconsideration of the ruling.

In the meantime, furious police officials are beginning to wonder just whose side the law is on.

Can you blame them?

Here are my thoughts on the McDonald case:

It is the same agonizing scene, one we’ve become all too accustomed to viewing.
A sea of men and women in blue, slowly filing into the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. Awaiting them inside is a flag-draped casket. They have come, joined by grieving family, friends, and city officials, to once again bury one of their own.
The city bid goodbye to Highway Patrolman Patrick McDonald on Tuesday. His badge was permanently retired. Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey indicated he would be promoted posthumously to the rank of sergeant.
There were tributes, all testament to what we’ve lost. There were knowing nods, plenty of tears, and even a few smiles.
But there was also a piercing, palpable sense of anger.
That’s because this never should have happened. McDonald was gunned down last week after a routine traffic stop. What happened after he stopped that vehicle was anything but routine.
Inside was 27-year-old Daniel Giddings. He was a stranger to Officer McDonald, but no stranger to the law.
Giddings had his first brush with the justice system when he was just 10 years old. It was not his last.
In 1998, Giddings was involved in a violent carjacking and aggravated assault. He was sentenced to six to 12 years in jail. That in itself raised a few eyebrows. He could have been sentenced to as much as 45 years for the carjacking, in which he shot his victim in the kneecaps.
Giddings had served 10 years of that stretch when, for some reason, he was deemed worthy of parole, this despite a lengthy list of violations he racked up while behind bars.
In August he was granted parole and released to a halfway house. It did not take long for him to revert to familiar habits.
He fled the halfway house after about a week. Then he was involved in a violent confrontation with police. It was at that time that Giddings made a prophetic – and violent – prediction. He vowed he would never go back to prison again and would kill as many cops as he could who were trying to prove otherwise.
Officer McDonald didn’t know that. He was making a routine stop. Giddings fled. McDonald chased him. In the gun battle that followed, McDonald was wounded. Then Giddings revealed the traits that later led cops to descbrive him as “just evil.”
Giddings stood over the fallen officer and fired several more shots into him in what can only be described as an exeuction.
Giddings was fatally shot in a subsequent shooting with other officers in which still another policeman was injured.
As police officers prepared for another funeral, the fifth city officer to be slain on duty in the last three years and ninth to be shot just in the past 12 months.
They did so through gritted teeth, knowing that Giddings had no business being back on the street.
Daniel Giddings was a free man courtesy of the state Board of Probation and Parole.
Then they did something that’s usually done to them. They raised their voice in protest, calling for an end to such early releases.
Their anguished plea was heard – as far away as Harrisburg.
On the eve of Officer McDonald’s funeral, Gov. Ed Rendell announced he was temporarily halting the early release of violent inmates and named a Temple University professor to lead a review of the parole procedures.
It was the right call.
There is much to be said for giving offenders a second chance, and for time behind bars being used to rehabilitate.
Giddings, even though he used his time behind bars to receive his high school degree, did not seem to grasp either concept. That did not stop him from being released. And it didn’t stop him from reverting to his violent behavior once back on the street.
Rendell made it clear he believes there are problems with the system. We agree.
Daniel Giddings will never be eligible for parole again. But other violent offenders likely will be
Rendell’s temorary halt to more releases comes too late for Officer McDonald and those who mourn his loss. It will not bring back the fallen officer. It will not ease the pain felt across this region at the loss of still another person in uniform.
But perhaps the examination will prevent such a mistake from happening again.
And insure we never have to go through this horror again.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Daily Numbers - October 1

The Daily Numbers: 3 to 6 years in jail for former Lehigh University provost Steven Devlin, snagged in an Internet sex sting.

100 bucks, just 20 dollars over face value, for a pair of tickets in the upper level for today’s Phils-Brewers playoff game, on an online ticket site.

3:07 p.m., first pitch at Citizens Bank Park this afternoon.

19 age of Sean O’Neill Jr., who was ordered back into custody and sent to a youth camp for a probation violation. He was charged in the fatal shooting of a friend that followed a night of drinking.

500 housekeeping and other union workers at Crozer Chester Medical Center who rejected the hospital’s last, best contract offer.

33 homicides reported so far this year in Delaware County. A fatal shooting in Chester Monday afternoon is the latest, and the 17th homicide in the city.

120 new rail cars coming to SEPTA’s regional rail lines. A prototype will be on display at Suburban Station starting Thursday.

26 age of Philadelphia man who could face the death penalty after being convicted of first-degree murder in what police said was a gang-related shooting.

12.8 billion dollar offer to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike that has been pulled off the table by two companies after the plan was rejected by the federal government and not enacted by the state Legislature.

6.5 percent dip in tax collections in Pennsylvania in September. For the first three months of the new fiscal year, revenue is down $281 million.

54 to 39 percent edge for Barack Obama over John McCain in Pennsylvania in a new Quinnipiac University Poll.

2 other key contested states in which Obama also leads, according to the polls. Obama has a 51-43 edge in Florida, and a 50-42 edge in Ohio.

45 to 38 percent edge for Obama in the latest Franklin & Marshall poll out today.

8 vehicles involved in a deadly crash in Galloway Township, South Jersey, last night.

1 penny dip in gas prices overnight. Average price now in the region is $3.54. It was down 4 cents over the weekend.

3:07 first pitch today for NLDS faceoff between Phils and Brewers.

4 as in Phillies in 4. You heard it here first.

21 major league starts for Yovani Gallardo, who takes the mound for the Brewers today.

3.35 Gallardo’s career ERA.

0 times the Eagles scored in those 4 cracks at the Bears goal line. Yeah, I know, it’s still hard to believe.


Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
You can literally feel the excitement today. It’s called playoff baseball. And we’re right in the thick of it. Now actually winning a game, which we failed to do last year in being swept by the Rockies, would feel even better.


I Don’t Get It: Another Internet sex sting. Attention, guys. You don’t really know who that is on the other end of that Internet chat line? What part of that don’t you understand?


Today’s Upper: I’m thrilled that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will be performing at halftime of the Super Bowl. I’m a lot less so about his solo show Saturday on the Parkway as part of a voter drive for Barack Obama. Bruce doesn’t need my approval. He’ll find no bigger fan of his music than me. I just wish he’d keep his politics separate from the music.


Quote Box: “I have playoff experience checked off next to my name.”

-- Phils’ starter Cole Hamels, who takes the hill in Game 1 of the NLDS this afternoon.

Welcome to Red October

Can you feel it?

Welcome to Red October!

There’s something special about baseball. It’s the only sport that’s contested without a clock. It moves at its own pace. It is languid with its own pace and nuance. Some would simply call it boring; I’d call it beautiful.

And never more so than today. That’s because the Phillies are back in the playoffs.

They host the Brewers this afternoon in a best-of-five National League Divisional Series.

In the special section inside today’s newspaper, all but one of our panel of prognosticators pick the Phils to beat the Brewers and move on the NL Championship Series. Only Dennis Deitch, our former Phillies beat writer, is going with Milwaukee, based on superior pitching.

It is an argument with lots of merit. In baseball, especially playoff baseball, the team with the better pitching usually wins. Not this time. Sorry, Dennis, I like the Phils.

But today is the key. The Phillies have their “ace” going to the mound. Cole Hamels, the cool California kid, must come up big. I want Hamels to deliver this game to lights-out closer Brad Lidge in the 9th with the Phils comfortably ahead.

Should that not happen, should the Phils or Hamels stumble, they are facing the daunting prospect of going against CC Sabathia tomorrow already down one game.

I say Hamels is up to the task.

Make it Phils in four.

By the way, if you’re trapped in the office or unable to get to a TV this afternoon. I have a deal for you. Set your browser on our site, I’ll be live-blogging the game and providing inning-by-inning updates.

Yep, you can feel it everywhere today. It’s playoff baseball. Welcome to Red October.<

Another sting, the same question

I am left this morning to ponder the same question I deal with every time I read about another arrest involving an Internet sex sting.

What part of this don’t these guys understand?

How long will it take for them to realize that there is no way to know who that really is on the other end of that Internet chat line?

That you are literally taking a loaded gun and pointing it at your head. That you don’t know if this is really an “adventuresome” mother offering herself and her young girls for a sexual encounter, or an undercover detective trolling the Internet as part of the county’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

Today’s tawdry tale comes from Steven Devlin. He is the former provost at Lehigh University. Yesterday a teary-eyed Devlin stood in Delaware County court and offered a full apology to his family and friends. More than a dozen supporters packed the courtroom. But also present were some of his Bryn Mawr neighbors who told of the effect Devlin’s arrest had on them as well, how they now are leery of letting their children play alone on their street.

To his credit, Devlin has plainly admitted what he did. He is undergoing therapy and has made tremendous progress, according to his lawyer Art Donato. The attorney stresses that Devlin has no sexual attraction to children, but became addicted to the Internet. A psychologist indicated that after a life-threatening health crisis, Devlin retreated to the Internet and “escaped to a world of fantasy.”

Except that what Devlin wound up doing was not fantasy, but all too real.

Which does not answer my question: What don’t these guys get? And one other thing, this one equally as troublesome. How many people are out there doing similar things that aren’t stung by the undercover detectives?

I hope Devlin ponders these questions as well.

He’ll have three to six years in jail to think them over.

More bad news on the economy

It’s not been the best of week’s on the economic front.

Brace yourself. The news is about to get a little worse.

This doesn’t have anything to do with the Senate’s vote later today on the $700 billion economic bailout plan. It doesn’t have anything to do with the House rejecting the same measure on Monday, immediately sending Wall Street into a panic, and a 770-point nosedive.

It does have something to do with the failure of so many of our financial institutions. Sort of.

The names are now familiar to us. Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch. AIG.

Now Wachovia, the biggest bank in the region, is about to disappear, at least in terms of its banking operations. They are being taken over by Citigroup Inc.

And for local sports fans, it could mean another chapter in the merry-go-round of the names that adorn two of our sports palaces in South Philadelphia.

That’s right, what was first the CoreStates Center first morphed into the First Union Center. Right now it’s called the Wachovia Center. Oops!

Official are not yet sure if the name will be changed again. While Citigroup is taking over some Wachovia operations, others will remain. Back in 1996, CoreStates signed off on a $40 million, 29-year deal for the naming rights of what would become the CoreStates Center.

Comcast boss Peter Luuko indicated yesterday he does not yet know if the names will change once again. Of course the Wachovia Spectrum is already on the “hit” list. It will be torn down after one final season to make way for Philly Live!, an entertainment and retail complex at the sports playground in South Philly.

But there is one other reason to hope they don’t hoist that “Citi” mantel onto the Wachovia Center.

It would put us in bed with the hated New York Mets. The Mets this year bid adieu to decrepit Shea Stadium. Next year they will move into their new palace, Citi Field. That’s right, Citibank has the naming rights to the Mets new stadium.

We don’t need to share anything with the Mets.

Next thing you know someone will tell us that Citigroup is taking over Citizens Bank.

Don’t even think about it.

Buck stops here for Reid, Eagles

I have a new motto for Andy Reid’s desk.

The Eagles’ boss has been filleted in the aftermath of his play-calling decisions with Sunday’s game against the Bears in the balance. With the ball inside the Bears’ 5-yard line late in the game, the usually pass-happy Reid changed his tune, calling four straight running plays.

Correl Buckhalter carried to the 1. Then Tony Hunt missed a hole inside, bounced outside and was swarmed under. No gain. Then back to Buck. He tried the form utilized by Brian Westbrook, who unfortunately was standing on the sideline in civvies. Buckhalter went airborne, but unfortunately came up short. On fourth down, Reid again dialed up Buckhalter, with a straight dive. Apparently as soon as the Eagles lined up in the I formation, everyone on the Bears side of the ball knew what was coming. Buckhalter got stuffed. Four straight runs, zero points. A very aggravating loss.

At his day-after post-mortem, Reid defended the play-calling. No QB sneak, no bootleg, no play action, no fade pattern into the corner.

Reid said he was leery of utilizing the almost-always successful sneak because Donovan McNabb was banged up most of the week. That didn’t stop him from dropping back to pass 41 times, and 9 other plays that were supposed to be passes but resulted in sacks or other mayhem.

Yet McNabb was deemed ineligible to take the snap and fall forward to what would have been a winning touchdown.

Yes, there were two missed David Akers field goals. And Matt Schobel missed a block on fourth down.

But Reid, as he usually is, remains adamant.

Hence my new motto for the Birds’ big guy.

He needs a sign to plop down right there on his desk at Eagles Nation in the Nova Care Complex. Maybe he can emblazon it over the image of that fourth-down play, with his backup running back being swarmed under by the Bears.

“The Buck Stops Here.”

Yeah, tell me about it.