Saturday, October 31, 2009

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

Call this one New York, New York.

The Eagles are the first half of a daylong, Philly vs. New York sports extravaganza. And the Birds no doubt are chafing at their new role as the city's warm-up act. The Eagles haughtily consider themselves the No. 1 sports team in town. But they're deluding themselves this week. Of course, a huge win would go a long way toward restoring their luster, as well as putting the fans in a frenzy for what is to follow Sunday night. I don't think it's going to happen.

Look for fans to be in a surly mood at the start of tonight's Game 4 of the World Series at Citizens Bank Park. They likely will be spitting out the remains of an Eagles' loss.

This is the game I have been pointing to that will tell us exactly what kind of team the Eagles really are. Unfortunately, I don't think we're going to like the result. That's because, basically, I'm still not convinced the Eagles are very good.

They have played exactly one quality team, and got smoked by the undefeated Saints.The laid an egg on the West Coast against a truly dreadful Raiders team, and they didn't play all that well against an equally woeful Redskins team on Monday night.

Now they face the Giants, a good - but also not great - team. The G-Men have now lost two in a row themselves.

The Eagles likely will be without the services of star running back Brian Westbrook, who is still battling the effects of a concusssion suffered Monday night. That will put the load squarely on the shoulders of Donovan McNabb. And that might not be a good thing.

McNabb has not played well since returning from a fractured rib. He consistently has been inconsistent, especially on third downs, missing open receivers, too often reverting to his old habit of firing balls into the ground.

The Eagles will need McNabb to once again get the ball into the hands of their new No. 1 weapon, emerging superstar DeSean Jackson. And they will need to do it while keeping the Giants' ferocious defensive line off McNabb's back. And in the process keeping McNabb off his back.

On defense, The Eagles will be tested by the Giants' powerful running attack.

As I said, this one will tell us a lot about the Birds. Maybe, I'm wrong. It would not be the first time. But I don't see the Birds winning this game. We'll have to settle for a win by the Phils in the second half of a New York double-header.

Make it Giants 27, Eagles 13.

Last Week: I was on the money again as the Eagles toyed with the Redskins on Monday night. Donovan McNabb did not play particularly well, but got the ball into the Hands of DeSean Jackson enough to get the job done. As for the Redskins: They're just a disaster.

Season Record: 4-2, same as the Birds.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 30

The Daily Numbers: 1win apiece after the Phils and Yanks split the first two games of the World Series in the Big Apple.
6 years, how long it had been since the Yankees had won a World Series game.
4 hits, all the Phils could scratch out against Yanks starter A.J. Burnett.
7 strong innings for Burnett, who struck out 9 and retired the last 8 batters he faced.
8 strikeouts in six-plus innings for Phils starter Pedro Martinez. He gave up all 3 Mets runs.
0 for 8 with 6 strikeouts for Yankees’ slugger Alex Rodriguez.
4 whiffs for Phillies star Ryan Howard, who has yet to find his stroke in the Series.
16, age of female high school student who was held up while walking to school in the 500 block of Industrial Drive in Yeadon.
1 person rescued and 1 still missing after they apparently fell out of a boat on the Delaware River near the Sunoco refinery in Marcus Hook.
4,700 SEPTA city division workers who are preparing to walk off their jobs tonight at midnight. That would leave a lot of people walking. And almost everyone having to drive to World Series Game 3 Saturday night in South Philly.
400,000 dollar fine being paid by Sunoco for clean air violations at a plant in Haverhill, Ohio.
12 and a half to 25 years in prison for three teens charged in the death of Starbucks manager Sean Conroy, a Delco native, on a center city subway concourse.
3 teens shot at a McDonald’s in Philadelphia in what police believe was a fight over a girl.
2 students and 2 frats that face charges at Penn State in connection with the death of a student who fell into a stairwell after a night of drinking.
200 million dollars in stimulus funds for Peco, which will use the money to deploy new “smart meter” technology.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Yes, the Phils got a split in New York. But why does it seem they still blew a golden opportunity to seize control of the Series.
I Don’t Get It: Three teens finally apologized to Sharon Conroy for their role in the death of her son. Earlier they had been laughing during court proceedings. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: It will be nice to see real, live fans again when the World Series comes back to Citizens Bank Park this weekend. What did they do to Yankees’ fans, force-feed them all tranquilizers?
Quote Box: “They’re the best team we’ve played all year.”
- Yankees star Derek Jeter, on the Phils after scatching back to a 1-1 tie in the Series.

Splitsville for Phils

The Phillies did what they needed to in the Big Apple, carving out a 1-2 split. That means they come home knowing they now hold the all-important home-field advantage.

Still, there is a bad feeling that they squandered an opportunity Thursday night in going meekly against the Yankees in a 3-1 loss.

They seemed tentative, especially on offense, where they didn’t hit, and didn’t run when they had opportunities to do so. In short, they weren’t aggressive.

It’s almost as if they were satisfied to gain a split. Their comments after the game did little to dissuade such a belief.

Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins openly indicated they felt good about going home with a split.

Starter Pedro Martinez seemed to focus as much on achieving his dream of pitching again in Yankee Stadium, when he wasn’t informing us that he has not felt well for several days, as he did about failing to knock off his “daddy,” those Bronx Bombers.

The Phils now return home to what undoubtedly will be a much more souped-up atmosphere in Citizens Bank Park. Not sure what they put in the water at that New Yankees Stadium, but they should check it for tranquilizers. The place absolutely seemed like a tomb.

That won’t be the case Saturday night in South Philly.

Which brings this season all the way back to where it started.

Cole Hamels.

It will be up Hamels to re-establish himself as the guy who was the MVP of both the World Series and NLCS last year.

Not the timid, meek, inconsistent whiner who has showed up all too often this year.

Hopefully Hamels – and his teammates – left that guy behind in that cold, antiseptic new Yankee Stadium Thursday night.

Justice? It's laughable

They say justice is blind. You probably wouldn’t get an argument from Sharon Conroy.

She’s seen all too much of it.

She’s also seen three young men – charged in the brutal attack that led to the death of her only son - laugh their way through the system.

Yesterday she saw them stand and offer an apology.

Finally, she hoped to see justice delivered.

She came away disappointed. It’s hard not to sympathize with her.

Conroy, who still lives in Lansdowne, dutifully showed up at every court hearing for the three teens charged in the death of her son, Sean. The 36-year-old Starbucks manager was the victim of a gang attack on a center city SEPTA subway concourse.

Ameer Best, 18, Nasheer Fisher, 17, and Kinta Stanton, 17, all were sentenced Thursday to 12 and a half to 25 years in jail.

Before hearing their fate, each stood, faced Sharon Conroy, and offered apologies for jumping her son in what appeared to be little more than a dare. Young men who had skipped school.

They had time to kill. Literally.

The three likely will be out of prison long before they even reach the age of Sean Conroy, who grew up in Upper Darby.

That fact was not lost on his mother.

“I’m disappointed,” she said outside the Criminal Justice Center. “I don’t think anybody left there happy today. As a parent, we were hoping for the maximum. Realistically, at least something equal to Sean’s life expectancy.”

But it was clear something else was bothering her. It was the young defendants’ callous attitude as they made their way through the justice system.

“I wake up to the sounds of his pleas for mercy while you laughed,” she said. “I don’t understand how you could laugh. You laughed right up to the verdict.”

Justice is supposed to be blind. It’s not supposed to laugh in your face.

You probably wouldn’t know that from the death of Sean Conroy, and the cavalier attitude of those responsible for snuffing out his life, and leaving his loved ones to pick up the pieces.

The houses that money built

What happened to the “House that Ruth Built?”

My guess is something akin to what was once home of the Broad Street Bullies.

They will close the doors to the Spectrum one final time Saturday night, after the last of a series of farewell concerts by Pearl Jam.

The Sixers and Flyers no longer play there. They now play at the massive, sprawling edifice across the parking lot now called the Wachovia Center.

It has always struck me that it appears as if you could take the Spectrum and fit it inside the Wachovia Center.

You just couldn’t get the passion inside.

The same now seems equally true for the new home of the New York Yankees. It’s still in the Bronx, it’s still called Yankee Stadium, but it seems to have lost its heart and soul. Maybe they still reside in the shell of the original, which is slowly but surely being dismantled next door.

During the first two games of the World Series, I was shocked at how quiet the place was. This was not the place that once instilled fear in opponents’ hearts. It seemed almost antiseptic.

Then came the killer. With the Phils leading 6-1 late in Game 1, the evidence of the change was clearly evident: lots and lots of empty seats.

I am thinking these are not the same people who inhabited the joint next door.

Just as many of the folks who showed up at the Core States-First Union-Wachovia Center were not those same orange faithful. These people were wearing suits, talking on cell phones. They were conducting business.

There was a time when NHL opponents would come down with a case of the Philly flu, rather than subject themselves to the ordeal of appearing in the Spectrum.

Likewise NBA players would tell you how they could feel the fans’ breath on their shoulders. That’s how close, intimate the old place was.

All of that is gone now. Soon the Spectrum will be, too. Just as Yankee Stadium, the original one, is now just a memory.

They say you can’t go home again. I’m guessing Yankees fans would agree.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 29

The Daily Numbers: 1 down, 3 to go for the Phils after they dismantled the mighty Yankees last night.
10 strikeouts in a dominating performance by Phils’ starter Cliff Lee.
2 home runs for Chase Utley as the Phils rolled to a 6-1 win.
50,207 fans in attendance at Yankee Stadium last night, but not nearly that many were still around at the end.
3 strikeouts on an 0-for-4 night for Alex Rodriguez.
8, age of two girls who police believe were sexually assaulted by a Chester Township man. A warrant is out for his arrest.
15,000 dollar reward now being posted for information on who is responsible for the execution-style shootings of 2 family dogs in Chadds Ford.
0 subways, buses or trolleys that will operate in the city in the event of a SEPTA strike.
30-18 percent margin for Sen. Arlen Specter over Rep. Joe Sestak in the latest Keystone poll.
28 percent in the poll who say they have a favorable rating of Specter.
36 percent say they are financially worse off than they were last year.
1,000 jobs being cut by US Airlines, but none of them in their Philly hub.
12 percent boost in profits at Newtown Square-based SAP.
3 teens to be sentenced today in the killing of a Starbucks manager who was attacked in a Center City subway concourse.
31 points down at one point, where the Sixers stood in their opener last night in Orlando.
21 points for Dwight Howard to lead the Magic.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Hats off to Cliff Lee. He was General Lee last night. Then again, it was also opening night for the Sixers. Uh, never mind.
I Don’t Get It: Some prankster changed an electronic message board along a Pa. interstate from its intended message to “Go Yankees.” Very funny.
Today’s Upper: Pedro Martinez going back to Yankee Stadium in Phillies pinstripes. Great stuff.
Quote Box: “He can’t pitch every day.”
- Yankees manager Joe Girardi, after the complete game gem thrown at his team by Cliff Lee last night.

Ya gotta Be-Lee-ve!

The aura of the Big Apple was shaken to its core last night.

The magic and mystique of the Yankees and Yankee Stadium must have been next door, at the rusting hulk of their original home.

Their ace didn’t get the job done. Their fans deserted them early.
There’s panic in the streets of Gotham.

But for the Phillies, there is only the cool, calm collected skill of the assassin who dismantled the powerful Yankee machine.

You can call him General Lee.

All the talk going into last night was about how the Yankees would be able to throw C.C. Sabathia three times vs. the Phils. Anyone intimidated by that prospect this morning?

On the other hand, the Yankees likely are dreading the thought of facing Lee two more times in this Series. If they’re that lucky.

All Lee did was throw a complete game gem in Game 1. He struck out 10.
Take away a 9th inning error and Lee shuts out the mighty Yankees.

But it was none of those things that really stuck a dagger in Gotham’s heart.

Instead it was a little bloop pop-up that made its way to the mound. Lee nonchalantly snagged it like he was having a catch with his son in the back yard.

Later on, he made a bit more flamboyant behind-the-back stab of a one-hopper headed back up the middle.

There is no boasting today in the Big Apple. There are only frowns. And the gnawing worry that this Yankees team does not have the magic of its predecessors.

Last night, all the magic was wearing red pinstripes.

And Cliff Lee, General Lee, was in full command of the troops.

Tonight there will be more dread for Yankees fans. An old nemesis will take the hill for the Phils.

Pedro Martinez is back. Let’s just say that he is not the apple of the Big Apple’s eye.

Start spreading the news indeed.

One down, three to go.

Another 15 minutes of fame

No doubt there must be a reality show in the works for Susan Finkelstein.

When Andy Warhol talked about everyone getting their 15 minutes of fame, he might have had her in mind.

Finkelstein is the woman charged with soliciting prostitution after she posted an ad on the Craigslist Web site “desperately” seeking World Series tickets.

Finkelstein’s ad profiled her as “Desperate Blonde Needs WS Tix.” It described her has a “gorgeous tall buxom blonde.” And it had some interesting terms for the transaction. “Price negotiable – I’m the creative type! Maybe we can help each other!”

For some reason, that drew the attention of police in Bensalem, Bucks County. They arranged a meeting in a bar, where they now claim Finkelstein offered to swap sex for the Series ducats. Finkelstein was handcuffed and marched off to the police station. She – and her lawyer – adamantly deny any such thing.

There’s a part of me that wonders why exactly it’s important for police to be patrolling for this kind of behavior.

There’s also a part of me that feels bad for what was about to happen to Finkelstein. In this age of the Internet, she was about to become a star. Once her story hit the blogosphere, it rocketed across the globe.
Finkelstein, who is described as a Phillies Phanatic, soon learned there was a downside to the fact that the Phillies were playing the New York Yankees in the Series. The New York tabloids had a field day with her saga.

But I had a bad feeling about what I figured was going to happen next. I wasn’t disappointed. You can’t turn on your TV without seeing Finkelstein’s smiling face. She’s made the rounds of local TV news shows, trying to offer her version of what happened in that bar.

She’s sticking to her guns that she was merely “flirting,” that she never offered sex for the tickets.

At this point, I don’t really care.

By the way, Finkelstein will be going to a World Series game. A radio station and car dealer are coming through with the ducats.

And there was no sex involved.

Get the reality show ready. How about this for a title: “What Would You Do For World Series tickets?”

It’s a guaranteed hit.

World Series bus-ted?

This being Philadelphia, there is a dark cloud hanging over what could be one of the great weekends in Philly history.

It comes courtesy of SEPTA and its city union. They are continuing to talk, but they don’t appear to be going anywhere.

And soon anyone who depends on the SEPTA to get around the city could be in the same boat.

You can catch all the details here.

That means if you’re one of those who like to beat the traffic in and out of the stadium complex by instead taking the El downtown, then hopping on the Broad Street line for a quick route to the stadium complex, you’re out of luck.

Here’s the brief course from SEPTA should Transport Workers Union Local
234 hit the bricks this weekend. Forget about mass transit in the city.
Nothing will be running. No subways, buses, or trolleys, no Market-Frankford El.

The regional rail lines will be going in and out of the city, but once at 30th Street or Suburban Station, you’ll either need a cab or some sturdy shoes to get where you’re going. Expect the trains to be packed, especially should the strike extend into Monday morning.

SEPTA and its unions continue to talk. They are looking at a deadline Friday night at midnight. The union has been working without a contract since last spring. They say the timing, just as the eyes of the nation come to the city, along with the World Series, is simply a coincidence.

If you believe that, I have some cheap World Series tickets you can buy.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 28

The Daily Numbers: 7:57 start time for Game 1 of the World Series tonight at Yankees Stadium. Gee, that means we only have to survive another 12 hours of hype.
3 to 6 years in jail for the Sharon Hill mother convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the stabbing death of her daughter.
8 months to 5 years in prison on drug charges for Fen Bruce Covington, the other man in the house the night a young intern was slain in Thornbury in 2006. Convington was not charged in the murder.
1.6 million dollar loan for a sewage collection system announced for the soccer stadium under construction in Chester.
788,000 doses of H1N1 vaccine expected in Pennsylvania.
17, age of high school student in Mount Holly, N.J., who died of swine flu.
19 deaths tied to H1N1 in New Jersey. In Pa., the number stands at 17 adults, including 8 in Philadelphia and 1 in Montgomery County.
500 dollar reward being offered for information on who is responsible for the shooting executions of 2 family dogs in Chadds Ford.
1 suspect shot by police early this morning in Northeast Philly.
2,000 jobs that could be created when a hybrid car firm sets up shop in the idled Boxwood Road former GM plant in Wilmington.
5 people hurt in a 2-vehicle crash in Greenville, Del.
25 dollar fares being offered by Southwest Airlines to some cities Dec. 2-16, and again Jan. 5-Feb. 10.
43, age of woman charged by police in Bensalem with prostitution for trying to swap sex for World Series tickets.
270 bucks for the cheapest tickets for tonight’s opening game of the World Series at Yankee Stadium. The price is apparently coming down because of the weather.
1.19 ERA in the post-season for Yankees starter C.C. Sabathia.
5 games, how long Phils shortstop Jimmy Rollins says it will take the Fightins to win the Series.
2 goal lead in first period for Flyers over the Caps last night. It didn’t hold up. The Flyers lost, 4-2.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.You have to feel bad for the Sixers and new coach Eddie Jordan. They open their NBA season tonight, up against Game 1 of the World Series.
I Don’t Get It: Sex for World Series tickets? Talk about getting to first base.
Today’s Upper: Only a few hours before we can stop talking about the World Series and watch some actual baseball. Weather permitting, of course.
Quote Box: “He’s been Nostradamus, that’s what I heard. He’s been making a lot of good predictions, so we’ve got to take that away from him.”
- Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, on Jimmy Rollins predicting the Phils will win the Series in five.

World Series of hype

If you think this whole World Series thing feels like it’s been cranked up three or four levels from last year’s frantic pitch, you’re not alone.

I can tell you why in two words: New York.

Specifically, the New York Yankees.

Yes, no one will ever mistake George Steinbrenner’s Evil Empire with the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Phils now will find themselves defending their World Series crown in the center of the media universe.

That’s why you saw Shane Victorino in a skirt on the front page of the New York Post yesterday.

In all honesty, it’s why you see the Statue of Liberty in a Yankees cap, along with her Philly counterpart, the state of Rocky Balboa adorned with a Phillies cap, on the front page of the Daily Times this morning.
Along with this headline: The Big Scrap-ple.

This is not just a couple of baseball games pitting the Phillies vs. the Yankees.

It’s a faceoff of Philadelphia vs. New York City. It’s the cheesesteak vs. the Reuben. The soft pretzel vs. the bagel.

It’s about the opportunity for Philly, once and for all, to step out of the shadow of Gotham City.

Brace yourself, eventually, weather permitting, they may finally play some baseball tonight in Yankee Stadium.

Until then, expect the hype to be in permanent overdrive.

By the way, I agree with Jimmy Rollins, but I think it will take them one more game.

Make it Phillies in six.

'Scoring' some Series tickets?

This might give a whole new meaning to “scoring” some World Series tickets.

Forget about getting to third base, police in Bensalem, Bucks County, say a woman there offered sex for a couple of World Series tickets.

The woman’s lawyer is adamantly denying the charges.

But he’s not denying that Susan Finkelstein, 43, is a rabid Phillies fan who was suffering from a serious case of Phillies Phever and was desperate to get her mitts on some World Series ducats.

It’s how far she was willing to go to get them that is in dispute.

Finkelstein took out a personal ad on Craigslist Web site, describing herself as a “gorgeous buxom blonde,” and seeking World Series tickets.
In the ad she went on to list the price as “negotiable. I’m the creative type! Maybe we can help each other.”

The ad no doubt was meant to raise a few eyebrows. It did, including a few at the Bensalem Police Department. They set up a meeting at a bar.

They now allege she offered sex for the pricey tickets and charged her with soliciting prostitution.

You can pretty much imagine what happened next. This morning Finkelstein’s “offer” is all over the media, including front-page coverage on one of the New York tabloids.

In the immortal words of the late, great Rich Ashburn, “Hard to believe, Harry.”

Swine flu concerns

If there has been one word that has been stressed while everyone waits and wonders when an H1N1 vaccine is going to arrive, it has been this:

This won’t make it any easier.

Officials in Mount Holly, N.J., confirm that a 17-year-old high school student who died over the weekend had swine flu.

The Burlington County Medical Examiner is saying that influenza is the cause of death.

The sophomore at Rancocas Valley High School became New Jersey’s 19th person to die of swine flu.

Here in Pennsylvania, the death toll from H1N1 stands at 17. That number includes eight victims in Philadelphia and one in Montco. Delaware County has not recorded any swine flu deaths as yet.

And County Council sounds like they’re getting as antsy as the rest of us as they await word from the state on when a vaccine might arrive.

Councilman Jack Whelan said the county has requested 95,000 doses for students in grades kindergarten through 12th grade.

They’re planning a meeting with the county’s school superintendents for Thursday morning.

While the CDC says it has bumped up its allocation for H1N1 vaccine for Pennsylvania to 788,000 doses, up from 566,000 reported last week, no one at the state level is offering any details on how the vaccine is being distributed or to who.

In the meantime, expect nerves to get more and more frayed with each new story like the one breaking in New Jersey.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 27

The Daily Numbers: 666 bucks, how much you can expect to shell out for a ticket to one of first two World Series games at Yankee Stadium.
946 bucks, what that same ticket to Games 3 or 4 at Citizens Bank Park will set you back.
423.5 million dollars, combined deals signed by 3 Yankees stars, C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Texeira.
111 million dollar payroll for Phillies in 2009.
2 family dogs found shot to death and placed tail-to-tail near some local railroad tracks in Chadds Ford, Chester County.
45 minutes of talks between SEPTA officials and Transport Workers Union Local 234 in an attempt to head off a threatened strike that would crippled mass transit in the city just in time for World Series games this weekend.
3 teens shot on a West Philly street last night.
27,000 students in Philadelphia schools who have given their consent to get the H1N1 vaccine.
39, age of woman fatally stabbed in a luxury apartment complex in Montgomery County Sunday night.
8 weekends in jail for a man who admitted trying to sneak an unloaded gun on to a US Airways flight to Phoenix with the help of an airline employee.
40, age of pedestrian in Philadelphia who has died of his injuries after being struck by a bicyclist on Oct. 15.
2 TDs for Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who is quickly blossoming into an NFL superstar.
1 TD on an interception return for the newest Eagle, linebacker Will Witherspoon.
17 points surrendered by the Eagles’ defense in the 27-17 win.
1 pass completed by Michael Vick last night, for 5 yards, to go with 3 runs for 9 yards.
79, age of ailing Yankees’ owner George Steinbrenner, who is planning to be at Yankees Stadium for the World Series.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Even when the Eagles win, they lose. They likely will be without Brian Westbrook next Sunday in their crucial match with the Giants. He suffered concussion symptoms last night after taking a knee to the head vs. the ‘Skins.
I Don’t Get It: See there’s still no deal OK’d in Harrisburg for table games, part of the budget agreement. Glad to see some things in the state Capitol don’t change.
Today’s Upper: Some words of caution last night from a doctor who urged some people with minor flu symptoms to simply stay home, not rush to the hospital. Good idea.
Quote Box: “We’re trying to do this for Pops, Mr. Steinbrenner.”
- Yankees Manager Joe Girardi, on the ailing team owner.

The murder of Veronia Benson

A cat is set on fire on a Chester street and tip lines light up with people who want to drop a dime on the suspect.

I don’t condone animal abuse. But I am routinely besieged by people who believe we make too much of it when bad things happen to animals, and not nearly enough of it when the same happens to a human being.

They have a point.

This weekend a 23-year-woman walked out of a relative’s home in Chester and went to get in her car. A man walked up to her, stuck a gun in her chest and pulled the trigger at point-blank range.

Vernonica Benson, the mother of a 2-year-old daughter, was trying to turn her life around. She had moved into an apartment in another town, was taking part in a program called “Wings for Success” and was on her way to starting a new career.

But a trip back to visit relatives brought her back to the mean streets of Chester. And to the gun violence that continues to plague parts of the city.

It would be nice if the same kind of outrage that is voiced when something horrific happens to an animal is voiced when the tragedy is all too human.

Anyone with information on Benson’s murder is asked to contract county Detective Michael Palmer at 610-891-4700, or Chester Detective Patrick Mullen at 610-447-7908.

This morning we are dealing with another savage case of animal abuse.
This time it happened in Chadds Ford, where two family pet dogs were found shot to death and left tail-to-tail near some railroad tracks.

No doubt there will be another outpouring of emotion and anger. And no shortage of calls to a tip line seeking information in that case.

I hope the same can be said of the savage shooting of Veronica Benson.

A star is born

The Eagles did a couple of things in their win last night in their prime time encounter with the Redskins that they should have done last week in Oakland.

First and foremost, they got the ball into the hands of the NFL’s newest superstar. That would be DeSean Jackson, the electrifying second-year wide receiver.

It took all of three plays for the Cal product to put his stamp on the game. Jackson took an end-around from Donovan McNabb and was off to the races. Jackson turned on the jets and was untouched as he outran the hapless Redskins 67 yards into the end zone.

It was one of two Jackson TDs on the night, the other coming on a 57-yard bomb from McNabb in the final two minutes of the first half.

Jackson was almost enough to beat the Redskins by himself. He also reeled off a 29-yard punt return.

By now you’re wondering what the other thing the Birds did that they should have done last week. Easy. They put their foot on the neck of an inferior foe, and then stepped down. Hard. And did not let up.

Thanks to Jackson, the Eagles got up early on the Deadskins and never looked back.

This was not a classic game. Eagles-Redskins games rarely are, but it is something the Birds failed to do last week, and also failed to do in two tries vs. the Redskins last year. That would be win.

Helping in no small part with that was the latest addition to the team, middle linebacker Will Witherspoon. He scored a TD after he picked off a deflected pass and rumbled into the end zone. The former Ram – playing his second game this year at Fed Ex Field – also caused a fumble when he slapped the ball from Campbell’s hands. The Eagles sacked Jason Campbell six times.

Of course, even when the Eagles win, they manage to lose. They might have lost Brian Westbrook for next Sunday’s crucial faceoff with the Giants at Lincoln Financial Field. The star running back was knocked woozy when he took a knee to the helmet in the first quarter. He left the game and did not return. Initial indications are he suffered a concussion. His availability for next week is not yet known.

But for now, in the dreck that is so much of the NFL, the Eagles find themselves once again in the thick of the NFC race. Sunday they face the Giants, which likely will tell us much about just what kind of team they really are.

After all, you can only play the Chiefs, Bucs and Redskins so many times. I would count the Raiders in there as well, but I have to remember actually beat us this week. So revved up were the Raiders that they got waxed this week by the Jets, who shut them out in a 38-0 rout.

Without Westbrook the Eagles will be hard-pressed to beat the Giants, who he seems to specialize in torturing. Here’s a hint. Get the ball to Jackson. Early and often.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 26

The Daily Numbers: 23, age of woman gunned down outside her mother’s house in Chester.
8 part-time officers hired by Darby Borough police.
100 Darby borough residents who took to the streets Saturday to take a stand against violence.
4,700 union members who run SEPTA’s city division who authorized a strike this week if they don’t get a new pact, just in time for the World Series.
32 stab wounds suffered by a priest in Chatham, N.J., who was found slain in his church. A janitor has been charged.
10, age of Philadelphia girl who died of brutal abuse police say came at the hands of her parents. Her father hung himself in his jail cell over the weekend.
2 people killed in a head-on crash in Montgomery County early Saturday.
8 months old, age of toddler found dead in an apartment in Camden, N.J. The father is believed to have killed the child, then taken his own life and setting the apartment on fire.
16, age of girl found stabbed multiple times in Southwest Philly early Monday morning.
5 million dollars for Philadelphia International Airport for more security cameras.
38 million dollars for Crozer-Keystone Health System from sale of 3 properties, including the Healthplex Complex in Springfield.
40 feet, current depth of Delaware River in the region. The Army Corps of Engineers is going to move forward with a plan to deepen it to 45 feet.
14 Americans killed in a copter crash in Afghanistan.
5 percent uptick in gas prices in the region. Average price at the pump in the region is $2.68 a gallon. That’s up from $2.53 a gallon last week.
4 game sweep for the Yankees the last time they hooked up with the Phils, back in 1950.
5-2 Yankees win over the Angels last night to advance to the Series. It means no World Series for Angels skipper and Delco native Mike Scioscia.
0.74 ERA in post-season play so far for Cliff Lee, who will be the Phils’ starter in Game 1 of the Series Wednesday night.
4-1 loss for Flyers last night against the San Jose Sharks.
0 games suspended for Flyers Mike Richards for his brutal hit that left a Panthers forward Mike Booth unconscious on the ice.
3-2 record for Eagles, who are in D.C. tonight for Monday night matchup with the Redskins.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Make it Broadway vs. Broad Street. It’s the Phillies and Yankees in the World Series.
I Don’t Get It: Who walks up to a 23-year-old woman and shoots her point-blank in the chest.
Today’s Upper: Red October rolls on.
Quote Box: “We want to enjoy this tonight. We’ll worry about Philly tomorrow.”
- Yankees star shortstop Derek Jeter, after they won the ALCS Sunday night against the Angels.

New York, New York

In the words of the one and only Francis Albert Sinatra: Start spreading the news!

It’s the Phils and Yankees in the World Series, a dream come true for local baseball lovers.

The truth is there are those who believe that chip the size of a cheesesteak that sits on the shoulder of so many surly Philly fans comes in no small part due to the fact that we have spent our lives in the shadow of New York City.

Halfway between Gotham City and the nation’s capital in D.C., we too often get overlooked.

Not this week.

Now we get a chance to knock off the Evil Empire, otherwise known as the New York Yankees.

It’s the I-95 series. The Battle of the Jersey Turnpike. The Bronx Bombers vs. Ryan’s Hope. The Big Apple vs. the Big Pretzel.

Buckle your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Series trouble for transit

Don’t look now, but Red October may be about to run off the tracks.

At least if you depend on mass transit to get to the game. Or just about anywhere else in the city.

That’s because the union that represents the 1,200 members of SEPTA’s city division are threatening to hit the bricks, just in time for the World Series.

Transport Workers Union Local 234, which represents city division bus drivers, trolley and subway operators, on Sunday authorized a strike this week if talks don’t produce a new deal.

A work stoppage means that nothing would move in the city in terms of mass transit. The regional rail lines would not be affected.

But if you’re one of those who take the El downtown and then jump on the Broad Street line to the stadium complex, you could be thrown a curve.

A strike would not only mean chaos on city streets, it would likely mean a huge traffic problem for Games 3 and 4 in South Philly next weekend as almost everyone would be forced to drive to the game.

Both sides are planning to sit down at the bargaining table again this week.

They need to cut a deal.

SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney is confident they will be able to do just that. A union spokesman is not nearly as cheerful. He notes the union has been working without a contract since last spring.

He says the fact that that the strike vote comes at the same time the eyes of the sports world are turning to the city for the World Seriees is simply a coincidence.

Yeah, sure.

Birds on back burner

Remember when the Eagles used to be a big deal around here.

And an Eagles Monday night game was enough to bring the local sports world to a screeching halt?

Not this week.

It no doubt galls the folks down at Nova Care Nation to no end to know that they are have been relegated to an afterthought, even as they command a bit of the national spotlight tonight when they head down I-95 to tangle with the Redskins in a Monday night affair.

But they will do so in the shadows. That’s because the spotlight will be shining squarely on the World Series matchup between the Yankees and Phillies.

The Series won’t start until Wednesday night. But it is already Topic No. 1 around the water cooler.

Donovan McNabb and his pals will simply have to deal with playing second fiddle for a couple of weeks.

They would do well to go about their business, and emerge from this World Series mania, in the thick of the NFC East race.

Things actually tightened up a tad yesterday when the Giants lost their second straight game, falling to the Cardinals at home, 24-17.

That means if the Birds can beat the lowly Redskins tonight in D.C., they will be tied with the Giants in the loss column, at 4-2, although the New Yorkers have played one more game, thanks to the Eagles bye week. Dallas is already sitting at 4-2, thanks to their win over the Falcons yesterday.

Of course, the Eagles could go out and pull a repeat performance of last week’s disastrous performance in Oakland.

I don’t think that’s going to happen. Look for the Birds to win, and for almost no one to notice as we are consumed by another Red October.

Yes, the Eagles will be green with envy.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

Anybody remember the Eagles?

Normally such a quandary would have Eagles' execs down at the Nova Care complex climbing the walls, seeking to restore their perceived perch as the No. 1 team in town.

This week they likely don't mind a tad lower profile while the Phils and their their fans bathe in the spotlight of a second straight National League crown and another date in the World Series.

That's because the Birds laid one of the biggest eggs in franchise history last week when they flew all the way across the country, then forgot to show up in losing a dreadful 13-9 contest to the Raiders.

How bad was it? The Eagles got outscored by the Phils, 11-9.

The Eagles continue their tour through the dregs of the NFL this week when they pay a visit to the nation's capital Monday night . Their goal will be to state emphatically that they do not belong in this steaming mess of mediocrity in the NFC. Sitting hip-deep in that simmering stew of bad teams are the Redskins.

But first a few words about last weekend's debacle against the Raiders.

It;'s hard to explain just how bad the Eagles - and coach Andy Reid - were in the loss in Oakland. Maybe the biggest indictment came after the game, when several players stated openly that they were unprepared for the Raiders' game plan of blitzing, something they hadn't showed before this season. Even worse was that the Eagles never adjusted, with Reid dialing up one pas play after another, exposing Donovan McNabb, still guarding some bum ribs, to the pass rush, in front of a tissue paper-thin offensive line that featured King Dunlap and Winston Justice at the tackle spots.

The news didn't get much better this week. Starting linebacker Omar Gaither is likely out for the year with a foot fracture. The Birds actualy made a trade, bringing in linebacker Will Witherspoon. To show you how concerned the Eagles are about their defense, look for Wtherspoon to be on the field a lot Monday night.

Reid and the Eagles simply cannot afford a repeat performance, one that would serioulsly damage their season.

I have been on the record that many of the moves made so far this odd year by Reid and the Birds have showed a sense of deperation.

Maybe it's time for the team to play that way.

It won't be easy, even against another inferior foe. The Redskins' list of problems is even longer than the Birds', which should tell you soemthing about the NFC East.

Make it Eagles 26, Redskins 13.

Last Week: I certainly didn't see the loss to the Raiders coming. I wasn't alone. It's never easy for East Coast tems to fly across the country and tee it up on the West Coast. That is not excuse either for the game Reid coached or the one his squad played.

Season Record: 3-2, same as the Birds.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The un-Philly Phillies

Lovable losers?

City of Brotherly choke artists?

El Foldo-ville?

Not anymore.

Phillies 10, Dodgers 4.

After stopping eveyrone's hearts Monday night with a cardiac comeback win, the Phillies methodically bludgeoned the Dodgers into submission Wednesday night to capture their second straight National League crown and head back to the World Series.

And here's the funny thing. No one is surprised. When the Dodgers got a homer in the first to stake themselves to a 1-0 win, they never batted an eye. Did anyone not expect them to fire right back? Didn't think so. In the bottom of the inning, Jayson Werth offered a classic touche by crushing a VIcente Padilla into the right-field seats, and the party was on.

These Phillies team just might be the un-Philly team. We are used to being teased by our sports heroes. We are used to being sweet-talked by our idols right to the door of the boudoir, then having it slammed in our face.

It was a perpetual case of unrequited love.

We endured more than 25 years of championship drought. We once were entralled by those guys wearing skates and orange sweaters as they hoisted two Stanley Cups. But that was a generation ago, and they have not scaled the mountain since. The Sixers took us to the mountaintop in 1983, but have wandered in the wilderness since. Then there is the ultimate tease, our beloved Iggles. For the past 11 years, they have been good. Actually very good. Just not good enough. Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb have done a lot of things. But they have not won a championship.

Which brings us to the pinstripes, and this particular band of Phillies.

They are something we simply are unaccustomed to. They are money. From Charlie Manuel, to Ryan Howard to JImmy Rollins, they come up big when the chips are on the table.

Last year they ended our championship drought. They must love the taste of champagne. Because this year they're back for more.

The Phillies are the first team to win back-to-back National League pennants in a decade. And they're not done.

They now await the winner of the Yankees-Angels ALCS and a date in the World Series, starting next Wednesday.

Don't bet against them.

In maybe the most un-Philly feeling imaginable, they aren't just happy to be there.

They expect to win. Like I said. Money.

Hometown hero, or the Yankees?

The Philies big win over the Dodgers to advance to the second straight World Series leaves only one question left unanswered: Who will they play?

And that just might create a bit of a dilemma for Delco baseball loyalists.

The overwhelming sentiment is a matchup with the mighty Yankees, and the opportunity not just for the Phils to defend thier World Series crown, but perhaps once and for all to wipe away our long-standing inferiority complex from sitting in the shadow of the Big Apple.

But we do so at a cost to one of our own.

The Yankees are on the precipice of advancing, holding a 3-1 edge over the Angels.

Sitting in that Angels' dugout is a hometown kid, Delco native Mike Scioscia. The Angels skipper is the pride of Morton and Springfield High.

It would create a natural rivalry with the Phillies. But my guess is Scioscia and the Angels are about to give way to the Battle of the Pinstripes.

New York vs. Philly.

Big Apple vs. Big Pretzel.

Sorry, Mike. Bring on the Yankees.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 21

The Daily Numbers: 23, age of New Jersey man “stung” by members of the Delaware County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
8 and 11, ages of young girls who the man thought he had set up a liaison with, along with their mother, only to walk into the arms of undercover detectives.
35 minutes of deliberations, how long it took a jury to clear a Darby police officer sued in connection with an alleged strip-search incident.
The jury did not believe the stripp-search ever took place.
40 dollars, how much police believe a Colwyn woman charged a teen boy for sex. They believe she was doing a brisk business with borough teens.
300 jobs created by the latest development in Chester, a new senior development at the site of the former Chester Towers.
25 percent absentee rate at two Penn-Delco School District elementary schools as flu concerns continue to pop up across the region.
200 jobs up for grabs yesterday at Philadelphia Park Casino because of their expansion plans.
1,000 more jobs that could be created once table games get the OK for the state’s slots parlors.
10,000 jobs across the state tied to table games, with at least 4,500 in the Philly region. That would include Harrah’s in Chester.
5 weeks old, age of newborn found unresponsive in Philly. The baby’s parents are under arrest on assault charges.
1,000 dollar reward posted for information leading to an arrest in the murder of a baker in Woodlynne, N.J., during a holdup.
33, age of Delco man who has been charged with tying up an elderly Delaware couple during a home invasion.
2.9 percent increase in home sales in Pennsylvania in September. That accounts for 3,187 properties sold.
9.18, how much Philadelphia spends per voter on its elections.
287,000 dollars, how much state funds were funneled to a pal of former Sen. Vince Fumo in state contracts. The man pleaded guilty yesterday.
5 shaky innings from Cole Hamels in his last outing in the NLCS. He’ll be on the hill tonight as the Phils look to advance to the World Series.
8:07 first pitch again tonight for Game 5 of the National League Championship Series at Citizens Bank Park.
100 tackles recorded 3 times in his career by the newest Eagle, linebacker Will Witherspoon, acquired in a trade with the Rams yesterday.
.3 seconds left when the Wizards Mike James sank 2 of 3 free throws to beat the Sixers last night.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Maybe there really is something to all this talk about how much it aggravates the Eagles that the Phillies are the center of attention.
They pulled off a trade yesterday to bolster their shaky linebacking corps.
I Don’t Get It: Another suspect nabbed in an Internet sex sting. I still don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Here’s a sure bet. Table games mean more jobs in the region and state. A lot more jobs.
Quote Box: “Drivers should not be doing anything than operating a vehicle.”
- Upper Darby Police Superintendent Mike Chitwood, as the township continues its push for a statewide ban on use of hand-held devices while driving.

The ghost of Manny Mota

It took more than 30 years, but here was my initial reaction to the Phils’ heart-stopping, come-from-behind win over the Dodgers Monday night to take a commanding 3-1 lead in their National League Championship Series against the Dodgers.

Take that, Manny Mota.

Oct. 7, 1977. If you’re of a certain age and a die-hard Phillies fan, I probably do not have to go any farther.

Black Friday.

Maybe one of the lowest moments in Philadelphia sports history.

Ironically, it also provided one of the high points, one of those occasions that people often point to when talking of the legendary passion of Philly sports fans.

I know because I was there.

It was Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. Dodgers starter Burt Hooton was spotted to a 2-0 lead, but was struggling with his stuff. In the bottom of the second, the Phils were rallying. With two men on and two out, Hooton was facing his pitching counterpart Larry Christenson. With the count 1-2, Hooton fired what he clearly thought was strike three to end the inning. Only home plate umpire Harry Wendelstedt didn’t see it that way. He called it a ball.

A perturbed Hooton kicked at the rubber on the pitcher’s mound. That’s all Phillies fans needed.

What happened next is something I will never forget. I rank it as one of the truly great moments in Philadelphia sports. In part because it defines us as fans.

The fans unleashed their fury on Hooton. He responded by walking Christenson. Things got louder. Hooton was rattled. Theh he completely unraveled. With each ball he uncorked, the din grew louder. Christenson walked three straight batters before being lifted. As he walked to the dugout under the unrelenting verbal assault, for a second I actually felt sorry for him. Then I continued screaming at the top of my lungs.

Of course, we all know how that game turned out. Manny Mota hit a line drive that Greg Luzinski could not get to. Fans turned their wrath on Manager Danny Ozark, who failed to insert defensive replacement Jerry Martin as he had all year.

It was like knocking over the first domino in one of those intricate displays. Current Phils first base coach Davey Lopes then hit a ball that went off the glove of third baseman Mike Schmidt. Shortstop Larry Bowa barehanded and fired to first, seemingly just in time to get Lopes.
Only this time the call went the other way. Safe.

The Phils 5-3 lead crumbled. The Dodgers won, 6-5, and went on win the series.

Walking out of the stadium, I remember two things from that day. How loud the crowd was in literally chasing Hooton off the mound. And how quiet it was just a few hours later, after enduring one of the most painful losses in Philly history.

Monday night I figure the Dodgers and their fans were feeling the same way.

It took more than three decades, but the ghost of Manny Mota had finally been exorcised.

My favorite thing about the Internet

Now that I split much of my day between working on the print edition and online, where this blog appears, I am often asked about the differences between the two.

Our Web site “solves” two huge logistical problems print people struggle with every day.

First, we print and distribute the newspaper once each day. But news does not stop. It is now a 24-hour operation. We now are capable of doing the same online. We break stories online, sometimes with only a few sentences, then develop and update them through the day. That is something we can’t do with print. The fact is readers now decide pretty much on their own when they want their news. We are reacting to that.

Second is the fact that every day we are limited in print by the size of the newspaper. Some of the toughest questions I face each day are not which stories are going to get in the paper. Those decisions usually pretty much take care of themselves.

My biggest problems each day are all the stories that are not going to get into the newspaper. That problem disappears online. We are limited only by how fast we can shovel the information out there.

But neither of these two key issues are actually my favorite thing about the Internet.

This is. Suppose (and I know this would never happen) we have a bad typo in our lead headline.

In print, that’s a major problem. Online, while a problem, it’s a temporary one. Because with a few keystrokes – Voila! – the problem is fixed. I can change anything that appears on the site. I can add information. As we get updates, I can add that material to our online reporting. And yes, I can even fix mistakes.

Print, on the other hand, and as I am constantly reminding the staff, is FOREVER! Once the newspaper leaves the building, it is out of our hands.

As someone who works more and more online, I can admit that there is an inherent danger built into this process. There is the constant lure of being tempted by speed, to get the information out there as fast as we can, without taking the same care to be sure it is as accurate as we would like.

That is because, to my way of thinking, in the back of our minds we know that regardless of what winds up on the Web site, it can be changed in the blink of an eye. Not so with print. I am constantly reminding myself to throttle back just a bit when I’m working online.

I’m thinking maybe the folks at the Major League Baseball Web site likely would concur with me on this issue.

Monday night, with the Dodgers set to drive the final nail into the Phils and even the National League Championship Series at 2-2, they published an item on their Web site that said in fact that had in fact happened.

Of course we all know what happened next. The Phils rallied, with Jimmy Rollins smoking a heart-stopping double into the gap to score two runs and cap a spine-tingling rally as the Phils won, 5-4.

Spine-tingling is likely not what that person at was feeling at the time. The story was quickly pulled from the site.

I know exactly how he feels.

Another sex sting

By this time I really shouldn’t be surprised. I can’t help it. I still am.

It’s happened again. Readers of the print edition today will be greeted by Evan Weidmann, a 23-year-old New Jersey man who is the latest to be corralled by the Delaware County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

You can read the story here.

It’s particularly gruesome. Undercover county detectives say Weidmann drove to Delco expecting to have a tryst with a mother an her two young daughters, 11 and 8.

Instead, he drove right into the arms of county law enforcement officials when he drove into the parking lot of a fast-food joint just off I-95 in Lower Chichester.

Recently I had a visit here in the office from Dave Peifer. He’s a county detective.

We had the opportunity to talk about what I am increasingly considering “the Wild, Wild West.” That is the cyber-world of online folks out there. And I mean “out there.”

I quizzed Peifer about one of the many things I don’t get about these people who get stung in these undercover operations. I asked him when exactly these people are going to catch on to the fact that you really have no idea who the person at the other end of these chat lines really is. Sure, it might be a mom offering up her young daughters for your sexual desires. Then again, it just might be an undercover detective.
It’s a roll of the dice.

Then I told Peifer my real fear about these stories. I’m wondering if the fact that we keep seeing these successful stings means that there is a ton of this kind of behavior that is not being caught.

He simply shook his head and sadly concurred.

Scary stuff.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 20

The Daily Numbers: 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th inning, when Jimmy Rollins unloaded that shot to the gap in right-center, scoring 2 runs and propelling the Phils to a thrilling come-from-behind win.
3-1 lead for the Phils over the Dodgers in the NLCS. They can wrap it up and head back to the World Series with a win Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park.
2 days suspension for a Chester firefighter lifted in a dispute over a decal of the U.S. flag affixed to his locker.
13 inch blade on a Samurai sword that a despondent man allegedly used to attack an Upper Darby police officer.
100 victims who are lining up to sue the diocese of Wilmington alleging sexual abuse by priests. The diocese has declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
27, age of volunteer firefighter in Fort Washington under arrest on charges he had sexual relations with an underage girl.
5 hour standoff in Delaware that ended with a man’s arrest after he fired shots at officers.
3 people, including 2 active Air Force airmen stationed at Dover Air Force Base, killed in a crash in Dover Sunday.
88, age of Howard Unruh, mass killer who gunned down 13 people on a Camden street in 1949 shooting spree.
7 cents per gallon jump in cost over the weekend. Gas is now an average of $2.54 a gallon in the Philly region.
6.22 percent combined state and local sales tax in Pa. that ranks us 30th in the nation. Delaware is one of 4 states with 0 sales tax.
4 laptop computers that a former TSA officer at Philly International admitted stealing while he was screening bags.
18, age of Penn State student who died after a night of drinking. His death is sparking a review of alcohol use on the campus.
2 million dollars illegally transferred to a region of his native Pakistan by a Philadelphia food vendor. He pleaded guilty to the illegal transfer.
700 million dollars in state aid to Penn State and other Pa.
universities that is still in limbo as budget talks drag on.
300 employees laid off by the state since July because of spending cuts.
The state is now saying more layoffs likely will be needed.
8 straight postseason games in which Ryan Howard has now driven in a run.
3 scoreless innings by 4 Phils relievers as they kept the Dodgers in check and allowed the Phils to come from behind for the win.
6 innings for Phils starter Joe Blanton, who gave up 4 runs on 6 hits.
17 straight post-season games in which Ryan Howard has reached base.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.I know the Eagles are insanely jealous of the attention showered on the Phillies. But you have to think that maybe this week they don’t mind.
I Don’t Get It: Attacking a police officer with a samurai sword. Never a good idea.
Today’s Upper: One more win for the Phils Wednesday night and they advance to the World Series to defend their crown.
Quote Box: “I’m just an American, tired of Old Glory getting stomped on.”
- Linda Vasile, protesting outside Chester City Hall yesterday morning over an edict banning a U.S. flag decal on a firefighter’s locker. The edict was lifted.


It’s nice to see that sometimes rational thought and common sense can prevail when it comes to a municipal dispute.

That seems to be the case in Chester, where a controversy over a decal of a U.S. flag affixed to a firefighter’s locker resulted in the suspension of a union member – and some national publicity.

Last summer the city’s fire commissioner issued a policy that banned all decorations on lockers. But the edict only started to be enforced last week when some firefighters complained about a cartoon that was being displayed on one locker. Some intimated it had negative racial overtones.

The story had all the elements of a classic municipal standoff: First Amendment free speech rights, union vs. management issues, even some racial overtones.

Add in the U.S. flag and you are bound to attract a lot of attention.

Fire Commissioner Jim Johnson decided to stem the issue by enforcing the policy of eliminating all such items on lockers. Firefighter and union member Jim Krapf complied – except for the U.S. flag decal on his locker. He refused to remove it. He was promptly suspended two days last week.

When word hit the media that a city firefighter was suspended for refusing to remove the flag decal, the issue suddenly started drawing interest from all over.

Yesterday, as a meeting was scheduled betweeen Krapf and city officials, a group of about 40 pro-flag protesters showed up to show their support for the firefighter – and Old Glory.

Not surprising.

It appears the city relented. Krapf can keep the decal of the flag on his locker. He was reinstated to his job and returns to work on Thursday.

The flag was granted an exception to the policy banning such displays on lockers.

Johnson said his policy would be tweaked to allow for the proper display of the flag decal.

If it’s one thing that city officials are routinely criticized for, it’s not being flexible.

Clearly, the policy of trying to restrict what can and can’t adorn lockers is a good one, in its broadest terms.

But when that policy extends to a decal of the U.S. flag, especially in these times, the city is asking for trouble.

Johnson made the right call in flagging his all-inclusive policy.

Thrill of victory, agony of deadlines

Readers may notice something odd about today’s front page.

Then again, maybe you won’t. At least that’s my hope.

The front page of today’s print edition is not dominated by last night’s dramatic win by the Phillies, with Jimmy Rollins knocking in two runs with a two-out-double with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to lead the Phils to an improbable come-from-behind, walk-off 5-4 win over the Dodgers.

The win gives the Phils a 3-1 stranglehold on the National League Championship Series, just one win away from returning to the World Series to defend the crown they won last year.

Oh, the game is out there. It’s featured in the skybox across the top of the page. But it’s not our lead story. We reserved that spot for the settlement of a dispute between Chester city firefighters and officials over a U.S. flag decal that was displayed on a locker. The city relented and now will allow the sticker, and also reinstated the firefighter, who had been suspended for two days at the end of last week.

Covering Delaware County is what we do. Of course, the Phillies are a big part of that. There is no shortage of readers who call to complain every time we lead the paper with a big sports story, and make no mistake, last night’s win by the Phils is a very big story. They tell me that’s what the Back Page is for, that we should reserve the front page for a news story.

Actually, there were two news stories that I considered for today’s lead spot. The other was about a man charged with attacking Upper Darby police with a samurai sword. Upper Darby top cop Mike Chitwood even went so far as to identify him as “Delco’s Last Samurai.” We “teased” that story off the front page.

But the Chester story was generating a lot of controversy, and we decided, literally, to run it up the flagpole.

Of course, that decision was made at about 5 o’clock yesterday afternoon. I don’t have the luxury of waiting until ten minutes before midnight to make that call. If I did I might have made a different decision.

No doubt there are a lot of people, like me, who lapsed into sleep somewhere around the eighth inning, with the Dodgers clinging to a 4-3 lead. We woke up this morning literally not knowing who won the game.
That mystery was soon solved by flipping on the radio and checking KYW.
It was confirmed by the morning papers, inlcuding ours, in an unusual circumstance, actually informing many people who won last night’s game.

Yes, I could have constructed a page that focused on the Phils and then simply changed the key elements of the page after the game. It would have involved using an early color photo, locking that in on the page, and then changing the black type – including the lead headline - on the page later on.

Color causes us problems in terms of time and production. So when we have a game we know is going to run late, such as playoff baseball or next Monday night when the Eagles play in Washington, we will use one of the early photos that we get from our photographer at the game. Last night that was Eric Hartline. That’s his shot of Ryan Howard on today’s back page watching his laser beam of a homer disappear into the right-field seats in the first inning.

Of course, the key photos would be from the celebration after the Phils dramatic ninth inning win. But that occurred at about 10 minutes before midnight. That won’t work for us.

There is another element readers should know about, and which might explain why your paper was delivered a little bit late this morning.

While thrilling for fans, an ending like last night’s is agony for newspapers – and sportswriters.

Our writers covering the game do not have the luxury of waiting until the contest is over to write their stories. They literally are crafting their stories as the game is being played. We call it “running” copy because it is written as the game is running.

No doubt most writers had already locked in on a theme of the Phils dropping Game 4 last night and facing the challenge of a deadlocked series.

At 10 minutes to midnight, with a walk, a hit batter and one swing of Jimmy Rollins’ bat, all that went out the window.

Suddenly writers were completely rewriting their stories to reflect the Phils’ come-from-behind win.

I’ve always envied writers from the West Coast, including the contingent from L.A. covering the Dodgers last night. The last-minute heroics – while certainly souring the mood of Dodgers’ fans – likely did not faze them a bit. That’s because it was only 10 minutes to nine on the West Coast. Plenty of time to rewite their stories to reflect the Dodgers’
epic collapse and still make deadline.

Our normal deadline most nights is 11:40, about 20 minutes ‘til midnight. With all these 8:07 starts, we knew we would be holding the press to be sure we got the result of the game in.

No doubt we’ll be doing that again Wednesday night as the Phils seek their second straight National League pennant.

It just might be our lead story on the front page. Of course, that depends on what else happens that day. We cover Delaware County. The Phillies and their playoff success are an important part of that.

Just sometimes not the most important part.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 19

The Daily Numbers: 11 runs scored by the Phillies, as opposed to 9 points for the Eagles. Ouch!
8:07 start time for Game 4 tonight at Citizens Bank Park.
5 year contract approved by UAW Local 1069 at Boeing yesterday.
3, 2, 3, 3 and 4 percent pay hikes over the life of the deal for union workers at the Ridley plant.
35, as in Directive 35, which is at the center of a dispute in Chester over a flag decal that was attached to a fireman’s locker, and which he was ordered to remove. He refused and has been suspended for 2 days.
59, age of man killed in a strange accident at the entrance to the Blue Route Sunday.
5 years, how long it took Newtown Township to finally give the OK to the development plan for a 219-acre development on the Ellis Tract in the township.
2.53, average price of gas in the 5-county Philly region.
3 Catholic high schools in New Jersey that will be hit with teacher walkouts this morning.
8 gunshot wounds suffered by a man on a North Philadelphia street last night.
15 to 20 percent dip in prices for holiday travel expected this year.
30 teens who police believe stomped on a 15-year-old during an attack in Philly. Police are now hunting for suspects.
2,600 walkers who braved the elements yesterday to take part in the Breast Cancer 3-Day in Philly after the first 2 days got wiped out by the rain.
123 million dollars in federal stimulus funds available for Pennsylvania weatherization projects, including $5.3 million coming to the Community Action Agency in Delco.
8.8 percent jobless rate in Pa. in September. That’s up from 8.6 percent in August.
25 million up for grabs in the Wednesday Powerball drawing after no one hit on Saturday night.
21, age of West Chester University student found shot to death in her car in Philly. Her 19-year-old boyfriend has been charged.
32.5 million dollars in sales to lead the weekend box office for “Where the Wild Things Are.”
8 shutout innings for Cliff Lee in powering the Phils over the Dodgers.
16 straight post-season games in which Ryan Howard has reached base.
46 degrees, game time temperature at Citizens Bank Park, about half what the two teams played in Friday in Los Angeles.
2 missed field goals by Eagles kicker David Akers. The Birds lost to Oakland, 13-9.
0 touchdowns scored by the Birds, against a team that had lost 3 straight weeks by more than 20 points.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Call it the agony of defeat, followed by the thrill of victory. That’s what it was like for Philly fans yesterday, who sat through the Eagles bitter loss in Oakland, only to be redeemed about an hour later when the Phils crushed the Dodgers.
I Don’t Get It: I still don’t get the appeal of playing baseball in 45-degree weather.
Today’s Upper: Anyone else think Ryan Howard would make a pretty good tight end.
Quote Box: “Cliff Lee, what can I say about him, he was absolutely outstanding."
- Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel, on his starter last night.

Thrill of Phils, agony of Birds

Here’s pretty much everything you need to know about what kind of sports day it was for Philly fans yesterday.

The Phillies outscored the Eagles, 11-9.

You might say it was a bitter/sweet day. After the agony of seeing the Eagles fail to show up on the West Coast and lose to the Raiders, the Phils again gave us the thrill of victory in crushing the Dodgers, 11-0.

The Phils now take a 2-1 lead in the NLCS, with Game 4 tonight at 8:07 at Citizens Bank Park. They’re two wins away from a return trip to the World Series.

The Phillies, apparently sensing their fans’ despair at the Eagles pathetic showing, did not waste any time in delivering a much-needed balm.

The Phils jumped to a 4-0 lead in the first inning, powered by a two-run triple by Ryan Howard and a two-run homer by Jayson Werth, and never looked back.

Cliff Lee went eight shutout innings in stifling the Dodgers, who looked like the only thing they wanted to do was get back to those 80-degree temperatures on the Left Coast.

Tonight another former Phillie, Randy Wolf, will take the mound for the Dodgers. Forget the Wolf Pack. This team needs heat packs, clearly out of their comfort zone in the chilly confines of Citizens Bank Park.

Maybe that’s what was wrong with the Eagles, who flew across the country and looked like they were suffering from a serious case of jet lag in 70-degree weather in Oakland.

Actually, if you really want to know what I think is wrong with the Eagles, read my item on them below.

They are the exact opposite of the Phillies. When the money is on the table, the Phillies – led by people like Ryan Howard - deliver.

When the money is on the table for the Phillies, we get Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb.

The Phillies gave us a parade last year and are looking to provide another one. The Eagles gave us that effort against the Raiders yesterday.

That’s really all you need to know.

The Heene family reality TV show

Here’s a stunner.

Officials now believe the saga of the “boy on the balloon” in Colorado was part of an elaborate hoax.

Officials in Larimer County said Sunday they will file charges, including felony counts, against Richard Heene and his wife, Mayumi.

The sheriff there now believes the entire stunt was concocted as a way to pitch a new reality show.

Why am I not surprised.

From the moment this story literally streaked across the radar screen last week, as the nation sat riveted in front of TVs wondering about a 6-year-old who was on board a homemade space ship that somehow came untethered from the family’s home and was floating over the Colorado landscape, I’ve been skeptical.

I got about a minute of the father on camera before my suspicions were confirmed. Remember Andy Warhol’s famous comment about everyone getting their 15 minutes of fame? Richard Heene just might be the poster boy for this kind of story.

It says a lot about us as a society, and as media, that we continue to deliver this 24-hour diet of what is becoming an increasingly blurred picture of what is news, what is entertainment, and what is a “reality TV” hybrid of the two.

Last week’s stunt was initially believed to be real, and was covered as such, with live images of the balloon – supposedly with its precious cargo intact. We got a live commentary on the story, regardless of what the talking heads actually knew or could confirm about what was going on.

We now know it wasn’t real at all. The 6-year-old was never on the balloon. And when the family dutifully showed up on The Larry King show that night, the boy – named Falcon - intimated that “we did it for the show.”


This was not the family’s first leap at reality TV. Heene and his wife once took part in a TV show called “Wife Swap.”

People actually tune it to watch this stuff. They also will tune in to the notion of a 6-year-old trapped and helpless in a homemade balloon thousands of feet above the earth.

And the public eats it up.

The Heenes now likely have more than they bargained for in terms of their 15 minutes of fame.

They aren’t the first.

They won’t be the last. Something will come along to replace them.

That’s the thing about a 24-hour news cycle. You have to have something to put on to fill those hours.

For right now, the Heene family saga will do nicely.

Film at 11.

Reid it and weep

Andy Reid should get down on his knees this morning and thank God for the Phillies.

Big Red should be leading the cheers for the Big Red Machine that plays across the street.

That’s because the Phillies today will no doubt get the lion’s share of our attention, which is a good thing if you’re an Eagles fan. Or if you’re Andy Reid. Not that our haughty, arrogant coach can be bothered with such trifles as upset fans.

The Birds hit one of the lower points of the Andy Reid Era yesterday, basically failing to show up as they lost to the lowly Oakland Raiders, 13-9.

This game might have been a microcosm of the Andy Reid/Donovan McNabb.
First there was the sneaking suspicion that the Birds, like many East Coast teams, might struggle to start the game, battling the dreaded hangover effect from flying across the country.

Indeed they did. Only the Eagles never recovered. This wasn’t John Madden’s Raiders they were facing. Or even those of Tom Flores. Both former coaches were in the house yesterday. Instead these were Tom Cable’s black and silver. The highlight of their season was – until yesterday – the fact that Cable took a swing at one of his assistant coaches.

Last week they were embarrassed by the Giants. Antonio Pierce was moved to say the Raiders played like it was a “scrimmage.”

The Eagles didn’t even do that yesterday.

And once again the fingerprints for this disaster have Andy Reid written all over them.

He went about the project of rebuilding his offensive line in the offseason, let veteran Tra Thomas go and decided to replace Jon Runyan, who was recovering from knee surgery. Reid rolled the dice with the Andrews brothers, with Stacy coming off knee surgery that ended his year last season, and Shawn still trying to get his head on straight and his achy back healed. They signed Jason Peters to man Thomas’ spot at left tackle.

Shawn Andrews is now out for the year. Stacy Andrews can’t get on the field. Todd Herremans has not yet played with a foot injury. Peters went down in the first quarter yesterday. So we got a good look at King Dunlap, Nick Cole, Max Jean-Gilles and Winston Justice. It wasn’t pretty.

Of course, with the Raiders coming into the game unable to stop the run against anyone this year, and with an increasingly makeshift offensive line, the offensive genius of Andy Reid decided it was a day to throw the ball almost 60 times. In the process Reid again exposed Donovan McNabb, still recovering from aching ribs, to his non-existent offensive line.

The few times Brian Westbrook or Sean McCoy did carry the ball, they carved out huge chunks of ground. Didn’t matter. Reid again had his blinders on, and could see only passing plays on that huge chart he carries around.

It soon became apparent that McNabb was not sharp, instead lapsing into his habit of throwing balls into the ground. No matter. Reid continued to dial up the pass plays.

Not helping a lot was kicker David Akers, who missed two field goals.

The Wildcat? It was missing in action, with little or no action for Michael Vick.

Reid also gambled on bringing back Jeremiah Trotter, only to see him exposed once again, when the Raiders found him – and picked on him on a first-down pass play that led to the game’s only touchdown, Trotter hopelessly trailing the play.

Maybe the Reid/McNabb Era can best be summed up with this: The 11-year veteran quarterback tried to call timeout at the end of the first half, apparently unaware the team had no timeouts left.

Or maybe this. The Eagles got the ball back with three minutes left in the game, trailing 13-9. They were one drive away from pulling this game out of the fire. Did anyone believe McNabb was going to deliver? I didn’t think so.

I said a few weeks ago that I expected the Eagles to break out to a 5-1 record against this miserable part of their schedule. And I still wouldn’t know if they’re any good.

I was wrong. The Eagles are now 3-2. And I have a pretty good idea if they’re any good.

They’re not.

The unofficial arrival of winter

We’re marking another first this morning.

No, not the Eagles coming up flat in a game against an inferior opponent that they were supposed to dominate. We’ve seen that act before. And we no doubt will see it again.

No, I am talking about the unofficial arrival of winter. They had snow in State College over the weekend. And it was snowing yesterday in Boston, as evidenced by the Patriots romping over Tennessee in the snow.

But I refer not to any of these so-called “snow events.’ Instead my own personal version of winter arrived this morning.

I had to scape the windshield. Of course, in order to do that, I had to locate the scraper.

A thick coating of frost greeted me when I got into the car this morning.

I should have expected it, after a thoroughly wet, raw, miserable weekend.

They say the temperatures are expected to rebound close to 70 later this week.

It can’t get here soon enough. And it can’t change the obvious. Winter is coming.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

Welcome to a double-header Sunday.

The Eagles will be on the Left Coast to play the lowly Oakland Raiders at 4, while the Phillies have jetted back home and continue their NLCS against the Dodgers tonight at 8 at a cold, rainy Citizens Bank Park

Phillies fans who brave the elements to tailgate early for the Birds' game should be rewarded with another cakewalk against an inferior team.

The key in this game once again will be for the Eagles to build a solid lead and then get their regulars out of the game and move on to next week's game against Washington.

Look for the Birds to struggle a bit, more a result of jetting across the country than anything Jamarcus Russell and the Radiers will do. Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott should have a field day devising schemes that will no doubt befuddle the raiders' young QB. Watch for the Birds to score at least one TD on defense.

In the meantime, it would be nice to see the Eagles line up and actually run the ball against someone. But I'm not holding my breath. Look for another aerial assault to be unleashed on the Raiders, with Messers. Jackson, Maclin and Celek having another field day catching balls from McNabb.

Two weeks from now, when the Giants come to town, the Eagles might rue the fact that they can't run the ball and their 'Wildcat' so far has looked more

Still, this is another breeze for the Birds in sunny Oakland.

Make it Eagles 30, Raiders 10.

Last Week: I was right on the money with a blowout win over the Bucs. The NFL should realy consider charging half-price for some of the dreck teams such as the Bucs and Chiefs who are showing up on the Eagles schedule. Today doesn't look to be much different.

Season Record: 3-1, same as the Birds.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 16

The Daily Numbers: 4:07 start time for Game 2 of the NLCS this afternoon between the Dodgers and Phillies. Can you say Happy Hour?
10 p.m. curfew now in place in Darby Township.
16,000 dollars believed ripped off from a youth group by John Green, a former Penn-Delco School Board member. He faces trial on Nov. 30 after still another delay.
4 men being sought in a break-in in Collingdale.
18, age of Academy Park student who now faces attempted murder charges in a shooting that left another teen wounded.
1 to 2 inches of rain that is expected to soak the region over the weekend.
2 inches of snow that covered the ground in State College yesterday. It could always be worse.
6, age of boy who was feared inside a homemade helium balloon that came loose and floated off into the Colorado sky yesterday. Turns out he was never in the balloon.
2 alarm blaze at a Folcroft chemical business last night that forced the evacuation of several nearby streets.
11 Wawa stores that have been the target of 3 suspects who have been holding them up in Northeast Philly.
200 West Chester University students who gathered last night to remember a 21-year-old student who was found slain in the Strawberry Mansion section of Philly.
2 teens rescued from the chilly waters of the Delaware River after they apparently fell in at a Port Richmond waterfront site.
6 people busted in Philly for ripping off the federal WIC (Women, Infants, Children) program to the tune of more than $300,000.
13 million dollar fine slapped on fan maker Lasko Products of West Chester in a 2005 fire that killed a 7-year-old Philadelphia boy.
18-36 years in jail for career criminal who specialized in breaking into apartments of Saint Joseph’s students and ripping off electronics and computers.
2,200 video games that a former postal service mail handler admitted he stole while working at the Philly post office.
65 miles of the Pa. Turnpike that will be closed for 5 hours late Saturday so several bridges can be demolished.
4.7 million dollars in the coffers for Rep. Joe Sestak in his bid to unseat Sen. Arlen Specter. He’s raised $758,000 in the last quarter.
10,000 more jobs axed across Pennsylvania in September.
7 different pitchers used by Charlie Manuel in Phils’ win last night.
2 3-run homers for the Phils from Carlos Ruiz and Raul Ibanez.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Time to vote for Pedro this afternoon. Martinez will take the hill for Game 2 of the NLCS. He will be opposed by former Phillie Vicente Padilla.
I Don’t Get It: There’s something that just does not smell right about the saga of the boy in the balloon who really wasn’t.
Today’s Upper: Thank God It’s Friday. And the Phils should create the perfect happy hour with a 4:07 start in Game 2 of the NLCS this afternoon.
Quote Box: “We aren’t here to cause a problem, but if you want a problem, you’ve got it.”
- Eugene Guarnere, president of the Delaware County Police Chiefs Association, at demonstration last night in support of ousted Yeadon top cop Bryan Hills.

Phillies, the anti-Philly team

One down, three to go.

Red October rolls on.

Here are some random thoughts on last night’s thrilling 8-6 Phillies win over the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLCS:

* This very well may be the anti-Philly team. By that I mean that when the money is on the table, this team consistently comes up big. Ryan Howard might just be one of the greatest “money” players in Philadelphia history. This team built a lead over the Dodgers, powered by a Carlos Ruiz homer and Howard double, then never batted an eye when the Dodgers pulled to within a run. Instead Ibanez dug in and then calmly launched a ball over the right-field wall to again give the Phils a comfy margin.
Then it was Brad Lidge getting his third straight save.

* Anyone else tiring of Cole Hamels’ act? Yes, he was the MVP of last year’s NLCS and World Series. I won’t deny him that. But he’s also been thoroughly mediocre most of this year. And his penchant for whining, seemingly the essence of California laid-back cool, grates on this passionate Philly fan’s nerves.

Last night he crossed the line. Hamels did something you simply can’t do. He showed up his teammates. And when those two teammates are likely headed for Cooperstown one day, it makes you look that much worse.

Hamels clearly was irked when Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins failed to turn a double-play. And he let his emotions bubble to the surface.
That’s called showing up your teammates. And it’s something that simply isn’t done. I am guessing it did not go unnoticed by his teammates. And it won’t be forgotten.

* Get used to these marathon games. We get a break today with a 4:07 start in L.A., but expect all the rest of these 8:07 p.m. starts to stretch past midnight. Between all the ads and the pitching changes, the four-hour game will be the norm, not the exception.

* Try to get used to the L.A. fans. No, those weren’t people dressed up as empty seats both early in the game and when the Phils held a two-run lead in the ninth. The “fans” on the Left Coast are notorious for arriving late and leaving early. That’s why they call it La-La land.

* Pedro Martinez takes the mound this afternoon. Game time is 4:07, which will set up one of the all-time TGIF Happy Hours!

The boy in the balloon

I am in the business of trying to figure out each day just what it is people want to read.

Crime usually does the trick. Sometimes politics will do, or an especially heated municipal issue.

Here’s something else that might fill the bill. Put a 6-year-old boy in some kind of weird homemade helium balloon that looks like something out of your favorite “Invasion of the Martians” cheesy sci-fi flick, then have the balloon suddenly come loose and go airborne, supposedly with the boy still inside.

I happened to mention the weird story to some people in the office early yesterday afternoon. The look in their faces told me all I needed to know. The “boy in the balloon,” floating over the Colorado landscape, was about to become the center of the media universe.

You could not pry people away from the television in our office yesterday. I imagine the same scene was played out all across the nation. Thankfully, the story had a happy ending. Eventually the balloon – which looked kind of like the spaceship from Woody Allen’s “Sleeper” – returned to Earth on its own. Then came the moment of truth, opening the latch and looking inside.

As the nation held its breath, we learned that the boy was not inside.
So where was he? We pondered that as the good folks on TV informed us that someone had seen the boy get into the balloon, sparking talk that maybe the boy had fallen out.

A huge search was put in place, trying to trace the path the balloon took from where it lifted off in Fort Collins, about 40 minutes north of Denver, to where it touched down near the Denver airport, in the plains east of the Mile High City.

Our fascination with this story says something about us – myself included. I am a member of the media. I rushed to put the latest updates on the story on our Web site. TV, as you can expect, switched into all-boy-in-the-balloon, all the time. For two hours, we heard every possible bit of speculation about the story.

It was a visual story, and we were mesmerized by the video of the balloon – supposedly with its precious cargo – floating against a solid blue sky. The only thing missing was some background music, maybe David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”

“This is ground control to the 6-year-old in the balloon.”

“Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do. … Here, am I sitting in my tin can.”

Only in this case it was a makeshift spaceship-balloon.

There was a time when we would not have seen all this on live TV. It would not have been on every Web site in the country. It would have been reported, but likely only after all the facts were determined.

Clearly, those days are gone. We give people news when they want it – which is right now. Not necessarily after things can be thoroughly checked out.

It’s the nature of the news business now. We don’t publish once a day any longer. We publish instantaneously. We get information, we “publish”
it online. When it changes. We change the story online.

TV brings us streaming live images of the drama, complete with live commentary that may or may not be accurate.

As we know now, the boy was never on the balloon. Instead he was discovered hiding in a box in the attic of his home.

That no doubt will set off a whole new media storm. Questions are being asked about the family and who knew what and when about the now-infamous incident.

I will leave that for others. All I know is this. When you have 24-hour media - TV, radio, print and online - you have to feed the beast. Think O.J., Michael Jackson and any other high-profile celebrity saga. Or, in the case of yesterday’s story, something that cuts right into our marrow, a child alone floating across the sky in a helium balloon.
Anyone remember the little girl in the well? We can’t get enough of it.

Yesterday we served up a mesmerizing two-hour feast of human drama.

And the public ate it up, and still came back for more. Just as they will today and tomorrow.

Up, up and away. You could use that to describe the story of the boy in the balloon.

And the way the media covered it.

2 more embezzlement cases

It has happened again. Twice, actually.

Two more women find themselves on the wrong side of the law, charged with ripping off, in one case, their employer, and in another their friends and community.

First we have the case of Margaret Lagana. Authorities say the Clifton Heights woman, who was making $200 a week as a bookkeeper at a business in Collingdale, apparently decided to supplement her income.

Lagana is charged with ripping off more than $100,000. Police believe she stole from both the business and personal accounts of her employer.
It was noticed when the man’s grandson noticed his grandfather’s Vanguard retirement account was being depleted.

Nice, huh?

Then there’s the case of Lisa Butler. She’s the 37-year-old Glenolden woman who was a volunteer and treasurer of Briarcliffe Fire Co.

You know where this one is going. When Butler was suspended for an altercation, officials began reviewing the books. They were stunned at what they found.

This week Butler was charged with ripping off her friends and fellow brother and sister volunteer firefighters to the tune of $103,000.

It’s kind of hard to believe what can drive a person to rip off a volunteer fire company, let alone one that has put you in a position of trust.

In Butler’s case, authorities indicate she simply used the money for “shopping.”

Butler’s family has long ties to the fire company. Her husband also is an active member. The D.A.’s probe indicated he had no idea what his wife was up to.

It just makes you shake your head.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 15

The Daily Numbers: 103,000 dollars, how much police believe was ripped off from Briarcliffe Fire Co. by a woman who was their treasurer and a volunteer.
35 checks that the woman allegedly made out to herself between November 2006 and December 2008.
8:07, start time for tonight’s Game 1 of the NLCS between the Phillies and Dodgers in L.A..
79 degrees, expected game time temperature in Los Angeles.
45 degrees, the high here in Philly today with a couple inches of rain.
3 inches of snow, what they’re expecting today in State College and some areas in the Poconos.
23 inches of snow, what we had last winter. Experts are again saying we’ll have above average snowfall and below average temperatures this winter.
1,789 union employees at Boeing represented by United Aerospace Workers Local 1069 that have a tentative deal with the company, meaning there will not be a work stoppage.
4 cats found abandoned in a Chester trash dumpster. The kitties apparently are in good health.
7 people held up in the Fairmount section of Philly by a man riding a bike. A suspect is now under arrest.
14 percent of New Jersey voters now backing the independent candidate for mayor over Democrat Gov. Jon Corzine and Republican challenger Chris Christie.
200 million dollars in cuts that the Philadelphia School District is looking to make in their $2.4 billion budget.
1 owner of a baker gunned down last night in a robbery attempt in Wodlynne, N.J.
1 brother now charged with assaulting another brother with a golf club after they argued during a round of golf at Cobbs Creek Golf Clug.
1 person killed in a crash last night on I-95 just over the line in Claymont, Del.
5 percent boost in home foreclosures since the summer.
10,015.86, where the Dow Jones industrial average closed yesterday. It was the first time in more than a year that the Dow was over 10,000.
5.4 million dollar fine that could be slapped on US Airways for allegedly flying 8 planes that did not meet federal guidelines.
2 teachers strikes in 2 years as educators in the Saucon Valley School District in the Lehigh Valley again have hit the bricks.
2 of 3 men charged in the fatal beating of a Phillies fan at Citizens Bank Park who saw the charges against them reduced yesterday.
2 cops, 10 inmates injured when a police van and school bus collided yesterday morning in Philly. No children were on the bus at the time.
6 vehicles taken out of service in the region and 37 citations issued by state troopers cracking down on unsafe trucks.
1 winner who will collect $31 million in last night’s Powerball drawing.
47, age of Bucks County woman who will face trial for the death of a toddler who was left in a hot car.
1.8 million dollar more raised by Sen. Arlen Specter than Pat Toomey in the U.S. Senate race.
7 starters who pitched in last year’s Phillies-Dogers NLCS showdown. Only 1, Cole Hamels, who has started a game in this year’s playoffs.
25 percent increase in ratings this year for Phillies telecasts on Comcast SportsNet.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Time for Cole Hamels to come up big tonight. The California Kid needs to shine in the brilliant sunshine of his home turf.
I Don’t Get It: Two more women charged with ripping off their employer and a local fire company. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Let’s hear it for 8:07 starts for World Series games. And let’s hear it for playing in 79-degree weather in L.A., rather than 40-degree miserable cold and rain here.
Quote Box: “We are confident that justice will be served and Ms. Butler willl be held accountable fo her actions.”
- Mike Puppio, solicitor for Briarcliffe Fire Co., after their treasurer and a volunteer was charged with ripping them off for $100,000.

Perfect weather for Hamels

It was exactly one year ago today that we were celebrating the Phils’
NLCS championship over the Dodgers.

Yes, baseball continues to play later and later. Imagine this. The Phils and Yankees are in the World Series. Game 7 is set for Lincoln Financial Field. It is Nov. 5. You read that right.

Now, with all this talk of Nor’easters and a bad winter, let’s say the East Coast gets hit with a major winter storm. New York City and Philadelphia are sitting under 6 inches of snow. Then what? Put the game off for a couple of days? Pick it up in spring training? Baseball keeps rolling the dice with Mother Nature. Occasionally it comes up snake-eyes. Like last year’s suspended final game between the Phils and Rays. Like last weekend’s game that was snowed out in Denver.

It’s only a matter of time.

Of course, if L.A. keeps making the post-season, a lot of those problems will go out the window. It will be shorts and T-shirts tonight in Chavez Ravine, with a game-time temperature of 79 degrees.

Which should suit Cole Hamels, Mr. Cool, the Laid Back California Kid, just fine. Fans are wondering which Hamels they will get, the MVP of last year’s NLCS and World Series, or the wildly inconsistent, and mediocre pitcher who went to the hill so often this year.

Actually we might get both. The game is starting at 5:07 in L.A. That’s daylight. In case you missed it, Hamels went 0-6 in the regular season this year in the daylight, and got roughed up by the Rockies in the daylight in Game 2 of the NLDS last week.

But the game will end at night in L.A., meaning if Hamels can survive the early going, he might be able to take control.

Hamels, who just celebrated the birth of his first child with wife Heidi, needs to be the man for the Phillies tonight.

This nugget from the New York Times: Of the seven pitchers who have started in the playoffs for the Phils and Dodgers, only one started a game in last year’s NLCS. That would be Hamels.

It’s time for Hamels to stake his claim to again being the ace, and drive a stake through the Dodgers’ hearts.

Prediction: Phillies in 5.

Playing with numbers

The Dow yesterday cracked the 10,000 mark for the first time in a year.
Not only did it once again crash through that magical plateau, but it closed there, ending the day at 10,015.86, up 144 points.

So why don’t I feel any better? I suppose my 401K might be better for it, but I still see an economy that’s in trouble.

10,000 is a nice number. This is not so nice: Foreclosures were up 5 percent as we went from summer to fall.

I also see a lot of people out of work. And more closings on the way. Just last week, across the river in Gloucester County, N.J., they got hit with two thunderous uppercuts in little more than 24 hours on the labor front. First Sunoco announced they would be shuttering their Eagle Point refinery, furloughing almost 500 workers. Then the United State Postal Service announced it would be closing a facility there, costing another 600 jobs.

I suppose I should be happy that the Dow is recovering. After all, that 401K is supposed to be the key to my golden years, which have not been looking all that golden for the last year or so.

But I see unemployment continuing to rise, it’s in double-digits in many areas, including Philadelphia, weak consumer spending, and a housing market that is still trying to find its way out of the doldrums.

I also notice that among the first to reap the rewards of this market upswing are many of the banks that got us into the financial dilemma in the first place.

Everyone keeps saying the recession is over, that the economy has turned the corner.

Could have fooled me. Next up is the Christmas holiday shopping season.

Even while so many workers are getting the heave-ho-ho-ho.

We interrupt Red October to bring you this weather bulletin: We might be looking at a White December, January and February.

And in the meantime, we’re going to get wet. Real wet.

The region is bracing for a double-whammy, courtesy of Mother Nature. A nasty Nor’easter is expected to batter the region much of the day. And that will just be Round 1 of the wet, raw, cold weather. Round 2 will arrive right on its heels, giving us a second dose of wet weather that is likely to drench our weekend.

The unusually early storms are expected to do some serious damage down at the beach, washing away much of those annual beach replenishment projects in which tons of sand are pumped onto the beach to replace what was washed away last year.

Hey, it could be worse. In some areas of the Poconos and out at State College, they are likely to get accumulating snow later today.

All of this has some forecasters wondering if we are in for an especially cold, snowy winter.

Here’s the call from Accu-Weather. Don’t blame us. We’re just the messenger. They are calling for above average snow, likely somewhere in the mid-20s in terms of inches. Last year we got 23 inches of snow, most of it in March.

And one final thought. While we surrender to the nation of turning on the heat, we can sit in front of the TV tonight and watch that famously laid-back California crowd arriving in shorts and T-shirts for tonight’s Game 1 of the NLCS.

Game time temperature in LA. is expected to be 79 degrees.

No wonder they call it California Dreamin’.

The unofficial start of winter

We interrupt Red October to bring you this weather bulletin: We might be looking at a White December, January and February.

And in the meantime, we’re going to get wet. Real wet.

The region is bracing for a double-whammy, courtesy of Mother Nature. A nasty Nor’easter is expected to batter the region much of the day. And that will just be Round 1 of the wet, raw, cold weather. Round 2 will arrive right on its heels, giving us a second dose of wet weather that is likely to drench our weekend.

The unusually early storms are expected to do some serious damage down at the beach, washing away much of those annual beach replenishment projects in which tons of sand are pumped onto the beach to replace what was washed away last year.

Hey, it could be worse. In some areas of the Poconos and out at State College, they are likely to get accumulating snow later today.

All of this has some forecasters wondering if we are in for an especially cold, snowy winter.

Here’s the call from Accu-Weather. Don’t blame us. We’re just the messenger. They are calling for above average snow, likely somewhere in the mid-20s in terms of inches. Last year we got 23 inches of snow, most of it in March.

And one final thought. While we surrender to the nation of turning on the heat, we can sit in front of the TV tonight and watch that famously laid-back California crowd arriving in shorts and T-shirts for tonight’s Game 1 of the NLCS.

Game time temperature in LA. is expected to be 79 degrees.

No wonder they call it California Dreamin’.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 14

The Daily Numbers: 18, age of Michael Savage, killed in an accident last week at Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades. Gone way too soon.
8:07, start time for all but one of the Phillies NLCS games against the Dodgers.
4:07, start time Friday afternoon for Game 2 in L.A. Should make for a great TGIF Happy Hour.
500,000 dollars bail for the teen suspect charged in the death of Cuddles the cat. A magisterial district judge yesterday rejected a plea to lower bail.
100,000 dollars believed stolen from a JF Kenney Electric by a former bookkeeper from Clifton Heights.
2 guilty pleas tied to the shooting death of a man in the parking lot of a popular restaurant on Route 202.
17 million dollar deal for Alloy Surfaces Co. in Chester Township to build more decoy devices for the U.S. Navy.
31 percent of Pa. voters who believe Sen. Arlen Specter should be re-elected, according to new Susquehanna Polling data. He continues to hold a 44-16 edge over Rep. Joe Sestak in a Democratic primary.
140 employees of Mount Laurel Township in New Jersey who will be forced to take 2-week unpaid furloughs in a budget crunch.
6 month extension deadline to file your federal income taxes that expires Thursday.
1 man struck and killed as he walked along train tracks just after midnight in Edgemoor, Del.
42 million dollar cap for the Pa. Film Tax Credit. That’s down from a cap of $75 million in state budget cuts.
1 woman stabbed in an attack in the parking lot outside the Wal-Mart in Parkesburg, Chester County.
45,000 square foot expansion set for The Walk, the outlet center in downtown Atlantic City.
500 dollar trash collection fee proposal that is being scrapped by Philadelphia City Council.
170,000 dollars stolen from her grandmother by a Pottstown woman. Police say she looted the woman’s life savings to pay tuition and other expenses.
2,500 students in the Saucon Valley School District in the Lehigh Valley who will be without teachers this morning when educators go on strike.
82, age of crooner Al Martino, who played the role of Johnny Fontaine in “The Godfather.” He lived in Springfield.
37, age of Bethlehem man who yesterday pleaded guilty to charges involving offering underage girls alcohol and having them pole dance at parties in his home.
6 vehicles taken out of service in the region and 37 citations issued by state troopers cracking down on unsafe trucks.
435,000 dollars awarded to a biotech exec who sued the University of Pennsylvania in a flap over his degree from Wharton.
$50,000 grants awarded to several animal rights groups by the Eagles as they continue to work with animal advocates in the fallout over the signing of Michael Vick.
180,000 dollars that the lawyer for Kate Gosselin says her ex-hubby and reality TV show co-star Jon Gosselin must put back in their account.
4 straight wins to start the pre-season for the Sixers, who dispatched the Knicks last night, 93-85.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.8:07 starts for all but one of the NLCS games between the Dodgers and Phillies. That’s more like it. Those 80-degree temperatures in L.A.
aren’t bad either.
I Don’t Get It: Media continue to flock to cover the antics of Jon and Kate Gosselin. Can someone explain this to me.
Today’s Upper: Let’s hear it for Army Specialist Jason Venini, who is home safe and sound in Lansdowne after a year in Iraq. The lifelong Phillies fan was thrilled by the pinstripes winning their NLDS showdown with the Rockies.
Quote Box: “He loved that school. He had a definite dream: It was to go to Williamson.”
- Jim Murray, uncle of Michael Savage, at yesterday’s memorial service for the student who was killed in an accident at the school last week.

Honoring Michael Savage

We violated one of our own policies at the newspaper today.

In general, we do not cover funerals. Too often our presence is viewed as an intrusion on a family’s grief.

Notice that I did not say we never cover funerals.

Sometimes, news dictates that we do exactly that , such as in the case of a particularly notable figure.

Very often, the circumstances surrounding these funerals involves a notorious or criminal act.

The truth is, our presence is not wanted there, and we try to respect that. The family usually makes that pretty clear to us.

But that wasn’t the case on Tuesday when family and friends gathered to say goodbye to Michael Savage. He’s the 18-year-old student at Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades who was killed in a tragic accident on the campus last week.

Savage, a former football player at Academy Park High School, didn’t do anything wrong. His death was a tragic accident, at a school that has done a lot of good things for a lot of kids over the years.

I wanted to be sure that we gave both Savage, and the school, the coverage they deserved.

At the same time, I wanted to be very careful that we were not seen as intruding on the family’s grief. For that reason, we made contact with the family through the funeral home, to gauge their reaction to the possibility of us covering the funeral.

They indicated to us that they had no problem with us doing so, in fact they went so far as to thank us for the coverage we provided on the story over the weekend.

The last thing I want to do is heap more heartache on a family undergoing about the worst possible circumstances life can throw at us.

Our goal was to honor the memory of Michael Savage. I hope we accomplished that.

Welcome home, soldier

I love stories like the one we presented yesterday about Jason Venini.

That was his smiling face you saw on Page 1. Right next to his beaming mom.

And why not. You may have noticed Jason was wearing Army fatigues. He had just gotten home from a tour in Iraq.

Venini shipped out just about this time last year. Which created a problem for the lifelong Phillies fan.

After suffering through one of the longest championship droughts in sports history, Venini had the misfortune of being on the other side of the globe as his beloved Phils treated the rest of us to a Red October and a World Series championship last year.

So is it any wonder that one of the first things Venini wanted to do, after huggging all the family and friends that greeted him at the airport and at his Lansdowne home, was plant himself in front of the TV and watch the Phils-Rockies Monday night?

The Phils even got in on the act, winning a classic and closing the door on the Rockies to advance to the NLCS and a date with the Dodgers.

Venini also missed last year’s NLCS when the Phils beat the Dodgers to advance to the World Series.

You can be he won’t be missing Red October, the Sequel.

Welcome home, soldier. A heart-felt thank you from one Phillies fan to another for your service.

Go Phillies!

Wolf-in down a familiar face

This give a whole new meaning to Red October, the sequel.

When you gaze out there at those opponents Thursday night when the Phillies open the NLCS, those opponents will look familiar.

The Phils and Dodgers will repeat their epic battle in last year’s NLCS.
We all know how that one ended. Can you say Matt Stairs? (What do you think is the over/under on how many times TBS shows a clip of that majestic home run disappearing into the L.A. night?).

But Thursday night will have an even more familiar look for Phils’ fans.

That’s because it is expected that Dodgers’ Manager Joe Torre today will confirm that an old friend will be on the mound for L.A.

Left-hander Randy Wolf is expected to get the nod to start the series for the Dodgers. He likely will be opposed by new daddy Cole Hamels.

Does this mean the “Wolf Pack,” that die-hard group that used to sit in the upper reaches of Veterans Stadium when Wolf toiled for the Phils, will show up, complete with wolf masks, in ultra-cool L.A.?

And Wolf will not be the only familiar face to Phils fans. At some point in the series, we can expect to see another former Phil on the mound for the Dodgers. That would be Vincente Padilla.

And one final thought as we count down to the opening pitch.

Bravo to Major League Baseball for not further punishing Phils’ fans with any more ridiculous starting times.

All games of the seven-game NLCS are set for 8:07 p.m., except Friday, which will create one of the great Friday afternoon Happy Hours in recent memory with a 4:07 first pitch.

Of course, the people in L.A. might not be nearly as enthused about those times. Remember, an 8:07 start time for us means a first pitch just as people are leaving the office on the Left Coast at 5:07.

Hey, they’re used to having their starting times at odd times for the convenience of East Coast TV viewers. But at least everything out there occurs earlier, not later.

I have no complaint with the times. Even the idea of the one late afternoon contest. It will satisfy those traditionalists (like myself) who like the idea of playoff and World Series games being played in the daylight.

Of course, I have an added incentive to be pleased by those starting times. In this business, we call it a deadline. We should be able to make our deadline, and still get the result of the game into our entire press run.

Unless, of course, the Phils and Dodgers decide to play a thousand innings.

Remember, baseball is the one sport contested without a clock.

Let the games begin.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 13

The Daily Numbers: 3 runs scored by the Rockies in the bottom of the 8th last night to take a 4-2 lead over the Phils.
3 runs scored by Phils in top of 9th to retake the lead, 5-4.
9:50, ending time of Phils’ win, propelling them to NLCS starting Thursday night in L.A. That’s a lot better than the 2:16 a.m. end of Sunday night’s affair.
7,000 dollars, what a man displaying a sawed-off shotgun got during a holdup at the Alliance Bank on 69th Street.
78, age of man in Upper Darby charged with fondling a teenager on a park bench.
1 year in Iraq that came to end yesterday for U.S. Army Specialist Jason Venini, of Lansdowne. Welcome home, soldier.
84 students who were out sick at Archbishop Carroll High School as it reopened Monday after being closed two days last week because of a H1N1 outbreak.
125 foot fall that killed a construction worker when a crane overturned in downtown Philadelphia yesterday.
6, age of student suspended from school in Newark, Del., for carrying a “weapon” in school. It was a camping utensil. The kid now may face 45 days in reform school.
70 protesters who took part in action outside a New Jersey elementary school where students took part in a video honoring President Barack Obama. The protesters said it crossed the line between separation of church and state, to the point of being “indoctrination.”
12, age of boy police say was left in a car in the parking lot as his mother went inside to gamble at Delaware Park.
11, as in the 11th smartest metro region in the nation. That’s where Philly ranks, according to The Daily Beast Web site.
58, age of motorcyclist who died of his injuries after a crash in Brandywine Hundred.
500,000 dollars believed ripped off from a real estate settlement firm in Montgomery County by a title clerk who worked for the firm.
52, age of man killed when fire raced through his West Philly home yesterday morning.
3 billion in payments being processed by the Pennsylvania Revenue Department yesterday now that a state budget is in place.
1,400 checks cut and 3,000 electronic deposits handled by the state agency on Monday.
2 straight saves for Phillies closer Brad Lidge, who is rounding into form just in time as the Phils head for the NLCS against the Dodgers.
8:07 starting time for Phils and Dodgers in L.A. Thursday night.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Manage to get your heart started again? Last night is why you are a fan. A great game, and a Phillies win to boot. Bring on L.A.
I Don’t Get It: A woman is arrested in a Delaware casino after police found her son alone in the car in the parking lot. He had been out there for two hours. She told police she wanted to win some money to take him to the movies. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: You can just feel how upbeat the region is today. Listen to the folks as you get your morning coffee. Everybody is coming down with Phillies Phever.
Quote Box: “These couple of games have been kind of character builders.”
- Phillies slugger Ryan Howard after he drove home the tying runs and scored the game-winner in the 9th inning last night as the Phils won their NLDS with the Rockies.

Red October

Red October?

After Sunday night’s game that did not end until 2:16 a.m., Phillies Nation might better have been described as Red-Eyed October as a bunch of bleary Phils fans staggered out into the world bright and early Monday morning.

Then came last night, with a much more manageable 6:07 start time in Denver, but with an absolutely cardiac-inducing finale. Call it Red-Faced October. You can exhale now, Phillies fans.

The Phils, who had been clinging to a 2-1 lead much of the night, watched in horror as the bullpen collapsed again and the Rockies rallied with three runs in the eighth to take a 4-1 lead.

The less stout-hearted among us were already making plans for Game 5 tonight in Philly. Oh, ye of little faith.

The Phils scratched and clawed to get a couple of runners on base for Ryan Howard. That’s all it took. The man who is quickly putting together numbers that have not been racked up since Babe Ruth, once again delivered. I know that post-season play is not supposed to be considered in the MVP voting. But Albert Pujols is now watching the playoffs on TV, unable to even boost the Cardinals to even one measly win against the Dodgers. In the meantime, Howard has put the Phils on his broad shoulders and delivered time after time. Howard blasted a pitch off Rockies closer Huston Street on one hop off the right-field wall, scoring both Shane Victorino and Chase Utley just steps behind him.

But the Phils weren’t done. Howard’s tag team Bash Brothers parther, Jayson Werth, then knocked the big guy in with a single to right. 5-4 Phils.

Scott Eyre looked solid to start off the ninth, getting the first two outs. Then he ran into trouble. The Rockies got two runners on base, and Charlie Manuel headed for the mound. Phillies fans knew what that meant.

An entire region of Phillies red started turning Dodger blue as fans held their breath as Brad Lidge made his way to the mound. And for the second straight night, Lidge delivered, striking out Ryan Tulowitzki.

Exhale, folks.

On to L.A., and the NLCS.

A couple of things to look for. Game 1 looks manageable enough, with a start time of 8:07 in La-La Land. That will set the stage for maybe one of the great Friday Happy Hours in recent memory with Game 2 with a 4:37 start. That will be followed with something of a Philly sports double-header. The Eagles will be in Oakland for a 4 o’clock game Sunday. Then the Phils will be in Citizens Bank Park for Game 3 at 8 p.m.

Welcome to Red October. We’re just getting warmed up.

Welcome back, Mario

We had a visit from state Rep. Mario Civera yesterday.

When I walked out to meet him, he had a broad smile on his face. That’s not unusal for Mario. And not because he’s campaigning. Civera, the Upper Darby Republican who has represented the 164th District in Harrisburg about as long as anyone can remember, is turning over a new leaf.

Civera is leaving the state House to run for County Council, along with incumbent Jack Whelan. They are facing off against Democrats Nancy Baulis and Keith Collins.

Three of the candidates have been busy knocking on doors all across the county.

Civera has been trying to do likewise, but he’s had this other little thing on his mind. It’s called a state budget.

Civera is the House minority chairman for Appropriations. That makes him a big player when it comes to the state budget. And it put him at ground zero in the 101-day impasse that brought this state to a grinding halt and made it something of a national embarrassment.

Civera actually paid a visit to the office in late summer, along with Sen. Dominic Pileggi, R-9, of Chester, to voice their exasperation at the governor and his fellow Democrats in terms of what they were trying to accomplish.

At the time I joked with him if he would be uncomfortable if the budget dragged out into September or October and he would be forced to campaign for council without a state spending plan in place.

At least I thought I was joking. At one point I even asked him what he would do if the budget battle dragged on with no deal in sight, if he would consider getting out of the race for county council. He said he would not, that he had made up his mind, that he was leaving Harrisburg.

It just took a lot longer than he ever envisioned.

Civera joked when he saw me because we both knew exactly what the other was thinking, that neither of us in late summer ever thought the budget battle would go on that long.

Civera offered a couple of other nuggets of what his life has been like the past 101 days. One is that he saw some things happen in Harrisburg that, literally, he has never seen before. And Civera has seen just about everything. A month ago Civera sounded perplexed at the constantly shifting stances taken by the governor, as well as House Democrats. He said at one point he actually had different people who were in a position to know tell him that table games were out of the budget deal, and that they were still in, only at the same time.

He also offered a bit of a warning. He said there are some serious storm clouds forming over Pennsylvania, specifically problems with the state employees public pension plans that are going to cause some serious budget problems in the next couple of years.

That will be someone else’s worry now.

Civera now can concentrate on the job at hand, keeping the GOP lock on the county courthouse intact.

I don’t doubt he’ll be smiling all the way. Anybody who survives what he just did for the last 101 days deserves at least that.

The down side of gambling

Pennsylvania is careening down a path to still another expansion of legalized gambling.

Tucked inside the nice package that resulted in a new state budget – 101 days after it was supposed to be in place – is language that will allow the state’s slots parlors to add table games.

It would put Pa. casinos in position to steal even more business from their counterparts in Atlantic City and Delaware, even Las Vegas.
Basically, anything you can do in Atlantic City, you’ll now be able to do down at Harrah’s in Chester.

Poker your thing? Take a seat. Like the idea of tangling with a dealer at blackjack? You’re in business. Craps or roulette your cup of tea?
Roll the dice, baby.

Not talked about so much is the down side of all this gambling, what it does to those inclined to be lured to the tables. Make no mistake, there is a social cost – in ruined lives – of all this gambling.

Which is why this item from just down I-95 at Delaware Park caught my eye yesterday.

A Wilmington woman was arrested inside the casino there. Her violation had nothing to do with anything she was doing inside the gaming hall.
Instead, police wanted to talk to her about something she did before she went in. In particular something she left behind.

Police said the woman left her 12-year-old son alone in her car in the parking lot while she went in to try her luck in the casino. Police said the boy was in the car for more than two hours Sunday afternoon.

The woman told police she wanted to win some money to take her son to the movies.

Yeah, there’s a downside to all this gambling.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 12

The Daily Numbers: 4:06, as in 4 hours, 6 minutes, how long it took the Phils to finally edge the Rockies in last night’s NLDS game in Denver.
10:07, first pitch Sunday night at Coors Field. Yep, that means if you hung in there, the final out came after 2 a.m.
35 degrees, game-time temperature in Denver. That ties the Major League record for coldest game ever.
6:07, first pitch of Game 4 tonight in Denver.
108 years of church services that came to an end with yesterday’s final service at St. John the Evangelist Church in Lansdowne.
18, age of Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades student who was killed in an accident on campus Friday.
148,000 dollar fine for Sunoco for violations of hazardous waste regulations at its Marcus Hook plant.
2 days that Archbishop Carroll High School was closed last week because of a H1N1 outbreak. The school reopens this morning.
1 firefighter injured in blaze that struck a home in Kensington last night.
132,000 square feet of space in the new Wegman’s grocery store that opened in Collegeville. It includes a pub.
18 people rescued from a fire in a Warminster apartment building early Sunday.
101 days, how long it took Pennsylvania legislators to agree on a new state budget, which was signed by Gov. Rendell Friday night.
2.47, average price of gasoline in the 5-county Philadelphia region.
1 more win, all the Phils need to advance to the NLCS against the Dodgers.
264 yards passing for Donovan McNabb in his return as the Eagles starting QB Sunday against the Bucs.
2 TD catches for rookie wide receiver Jeremy Maclin.
1 win combined for the 3 teams the Eagles have beaten so far this year.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Well, I was right. You start a playoff game at 10:07 p.m. and your ending time is right around 2 a.m. Wonderful.
I Don’t Get It: Not that it matters what the fans want. Baseball – and all major league sports – will continue to play their most meaningful games exactly when TV tells them to play them. The fans be damned.
Today’s Upper: Just imagine how you’d feel this morning if you had stayed up until after 2 a.m. only to watch Brad Lidge blow the game.
Yeah, I know, the thought was going through my head as well.
Quote Box: “The ball might have caught me … Nobody said anything so I ran hard.”
- Phillies Chase Utley, on a key play in the top of the 9th in which a ball seemed to hit him, thus making it a foul ball. Instead, Utley ran it out and no call was made. Jimmy Rollins advanced to third, where he scored the winning run on Ryan Howard’s sacrifice fly.

Rocky Mountain High

Four hours, six minutes.

Let me repeat that. Four hours, six minutes.

That’s not my time in the marathon. That’s how long it took the Phils and Rockies to complete the marathon Game 3 of their NLDS game in a frigid Coors Field in Denver last night.

First pitch was at 10:07. You do the math. That’s right. When Brad Lidge (yes, Brad Lidge!) got Troy Tulowitzki to fly out to left to preserve a nail-biting 6-5 Phils win, it was after 2 a.m.

I won’t bore you with the details of what kind of a nightmare this creates for newspapers, and newspaper editors. Let me just say that our normal deadline is 11:40.

Yes, we printed some papers last night without the score of the game.
For the most part those were our home-delivery papers. We included a box that indicated the game ended too late for that edition and urged readers to go to our Web site for complete coverage.

It’s something I hate to do, in effect punishing our best customers, but we had little choice.

Yet despite the fact that the game started at an ungodly hour here on the East Coast, and despite the even more ungodly temperature at game time, a wintry-like 35 degrees, the Phils and Rockies still managed to draw up a classic.

That 35-degree reading tied a major league record set in Game 4 of the
1997 World Series when Cleveland hosted Florida.

The Phils and Rockies quickly heated things up, swapping the lead 6 different times.

No doubt there are a lot of bleary eyes heading out this morning, unless you’re one of the lucky ones who has Columbus Day off.

Tonight, we get a break, but only because all of the other series are now wrapped up. If the Twins had beaten the Yankees yesterday, we’d be looking at another 10:07 start. But with the Phils and Rockies now having the stage to themselves, we get a much more manageable 6:07 start.

It’s enough to warm a newspaper editor’s heart. Which just might have to be restarted if we see Brad Lidge in the ninth inning again tonight.

Is this any way to do a budget?

Well, it only took 101 days, but the embarrassing annual folly known as the Pennsylvania budget process is over.

Now it’s time to pick through the carcass of the smoldering ruins of what passes for legislative action in Harrisburg.

Gov. Ed Rendell should be happy, and not just because he managed to put his John Hancock on the fiscal blueprint and still manage to whiz down the Turnpike in plenty of time to take his seat on the Eagles Post-Game Show yesterday.

Rendell wants his legacy to be that of the “education governor.” This budget won’t hurt that at all. The governor dug in his heels and fended off any attempt to cut education funding. Spending on education actually will rise, not an easy thing to do in these economic times.

There also is not wide-scale income or sales tax hike, aside from letting Philadelphia temporarily hike its sales tax to alleviate its own budget crunch.

The arts community should be rejoicing in their ability to beat back a wildly unpopular move to add the state sales tax to tickets to concerts and shows, as well as admissions to museums.

Probably not as happy will be folks down at the state Department of Community and Economic Development, which saw their budget whacked by
$707.9 million, and boosters of the state Department of Environmental Protection, which is looking at a 27 percent cut.

Among those unhappy is Delco state Rep. Greg Vitali, D-166, one of the state’s biggest environmental activists. Vitali believes the spending play will result in dire environmental harm across the state.

But perhaps the biggest effect of the new budget is to clear the way for table games to be added to the state’s new slots parlors.

The Senate has already signed off on the deal. The House is likely to do the same this week. The move is expected to add $200 million a year to the state coffers, including a $15 million license fee that will be slapped on casinos for the right to offer poker, blackjack and roulette.

There’s something troubling about the state’s increase reliance on what very often is its own residents’ heartache in building a budget on money from legalized gambling.

Then there’s the idea that business at some of the new slots parlors, in particular Harrah’s in Chester, has been off for some time now.

Maybe table games will spark business. Then again maybe it will just ruin more lives.

Our representatives in Harrisburg did their best to run the state into the gutter over the past three months, as they again looked no less than foolish in putting together a spending package.

For better or worse, it’s now done.

Maybe they should start on the next one now. Maybe then they might actually have a spending plan in place when they’re supposed to, on July 1.

What do you thin the chances of that happening are? As they say more and more in this state, don’t bet on it.

Any Given Sunday? Not anymore

At the front end what turned into a long day’s journey into night for Philly sports fans, we have to start at Lincoln Financial Field and the Eagles, who kicked off the day under gorgeous sunshine against the Bucs.

And after spending three hours in front of the TV wondering once again why I was squandering such a gorgeous day, I was left with this
question: What the hell happened to the NFL?

It used to be every Sunday was a battle, pitting for the most part two evenly matched teams. It always was the backbone of the league, the notion of parity and that on “any given Sunday,” any one team could beat another.

Not anymore.

The Eagles now have three wins. Any idea how many wins combined the three teams they have beaten have? That would be one, and only because Carolina yesterday eked out a win against the equally hapless Redskins.

Aside from the Saints, the Eagles have not yet played a good team. Hell, I’m not even sure they’ve played professional teams, despite the spiffy uniforms. On successive weeks, the opponents have managed to get worse.
They started with Carolina, and the turnover machine named Jake Delhomme. Then they promptly got waxed by the one quality team they have played, the Saints. The Chiefs were dreadful. But they looked good in comparison with what the Bucs were doing yesterday.

Can someone explain to me what exactly rookie head coach Raheem Morris was doing in the first half, when he eschewed going for the field goal on the road in a tough stadium? I’m sure his team appreciated his giving away nine points.

On the upside, Andy Reid collected his 100th victory, and the Birds unveiled their “Mac Attack,” with Donovan McNabb hooking up with rookie wideout Jeremy Maclin for two long TDs.

It’s not going to get a lot better from here. Next Sunday the Eagles fly to the West Coast to play a winless Raiders team. Then they’re in the nation’s capital to play the struggling Redskins, the new doormats of the NFC East. The Eagles will likely be 5-1, and to be honest, I still don’t think we’ll know if they’re any good.

We should finally get a better read on the team Nov. 1 when they face the Giants.

In the meantime, the notion of “any given Sunday” in the NFL now means that on any give Sunday, you just might get a bye week without realizing it, playing one of the increasing patsies in a lopsided league.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

We interrupt the Phillies post-season for the return of your Birds.

That's right, after a bye week, the Eagles are back in action Sunday at the Linc against the lowly Bucs.

If you liked the Chiefs game, you'll love this one. The Bucs just might be the worst team in the NFL.

The game also will mark the return of Donovan McNabb as starting QB after watching Kevin Kolb throw for more than 300 yards in both of the last two games.

Amazing how that will make a fractured rib feel better. The Eagles don't realy need McNabb to win this gmae, and I'm not sure Andy Reid should be risking McNabb further banging up that ouchy rib. But Donovan made it clear this week that he's ready to go.

What we don't know is whether he's ready to share the stage with Michael Vick in Reid's 'Wildcat' formations.

It will be very intersting to see how long it takes before McNabb loses his patience and goes Wildat himself - all over his head coach.

At least it will be a lot more interesting than watching the Eagles dismantle the Bucs. But hey, we need something to talk about while waiting for a 10:07 Phillies start in Denver.

Make it Eagles 33, Bucks 13.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 9

The Daily Numbers: 9:07, starting time of Saturday night’s NLDS Game 3 between the Phillies and Rockies in Denver.
10:07, first pitch Sunday night in Denver. It’s going to be a long sports weekend.
46,528, attendance Thursday at Citizens Bank Park, breaking the 1-day-old record of 46,452 the day before.
19, age of suspect charged in the brutal death of Cuddles the cat.
2 archciocesan high schools that will close their doors at the end of the year.
642 students enrolled at Cardinal Dougherty High School this year. At its peak, 5,944 students went through the doors each day in 1965. The school opened in 1956.
551 students at Northeast Catholic High School. In its heyday, 4,410 students attended in 1953.
5,000 dollars a year tuition to attend a parochial high school in the archdiocese.
2 parochial high schools now battling H1N1 flu. First Archbishop Carroll in Radnor closed for two days, yesterday students were sickened at Bishop Shanahan in Chester County.
3 people stabbed yesterday at a retirement community in South Jersey; an 88-year-old woman was killed.
32 percent of workers who say they call in sick whey they’re not, according to national study.
8 percent sales tax now in place in the city of Philadelphia. That’s 2 percent higher than the levy here in Delco.
4 people killed in 2 different murder-suicides in Philadelphia last night.
3 people who pleaded guilty yesterday to ripping off the LIHEAP program that helps those in need pay their heating bills. They stole between $350,000 and $500,000.
41 months in jail for a Philadelphia man who pleaded guilty in a $98,000 bad check scam.
20 million dollars, what some experts say a long Phillies run in the playoffs could mean to the region’s economy.
5 innings for Cole Hamels, who gave up 5 runs on 7 hits and got tagged with the loss.
1 hour after he left the game, Hamels’ wife, Heidi, gave birth to their first child.
10-8, record of Jason Hammel, slated to start Game 3 for the Rockies Saturday night.
5 goals surrendered by the Flyers as their 3-game win streak was snapped by the Pens, who posted a 5-4 win.
2, where Philly fans are ranked in a new national poll. And who might be No. 1? That would be Pittsburgh. Honest.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Can someone tell me how starting a playoff game at 10:07 p.m. is a good idea. The game should end somewhere around 2 a.m. Nice.
I Don’t Get It: A 19-year-old has been charged with the vicious acts that led to the death of Cuddles the cat. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Hey, it might be late for those Phils games Saturday and Sunday. But at least we’ll be toasty camped in front of the TV. It’s supposed to be in the low 30s with snow showers in Denver.
Quote Box: “Alleluia … three cheers for the Chester police.”
- Animal Control Officer Dave Schlott, on hearing of an arrest in the death of Cuddles the cat.

The death of Cuddles

We now know who is responsible for the death of Cuddles the cat.

Or at least who police allege is the culprit.

Yesterday they arrested a 19-year-old and charged him in the heinous crime. Took him right out of class at Chichester High School.

You can read more about it here.

Police say this young man threw rocks at the little kitty, then held it down and set it on fire.

Maybe someone can explain this to me. I just don’t get it. What are we doing wrong that someone so young is capable of doing something that horrific?

There is one glimmer of good news in this story. Police indicate they were inundated with tip calls that led them to the suspect.

Funny how an attack on a pet will do that to people.

Not so funny is that deadly attacks on humans sometimes do not get the same response.

Closing the door on 2 more parochial schools

It’s the same sad song being sung at the funeral Mass for two more parochial schools in the archdiocese.

Declining enrollment, increasing costs.

It’s what led to the very unpopular decision a few years back to close St. James High School in Chester.

It’s what led to one parochial elementary school after another in eastern Delaware County to close its doors. St. George in Sharon Hill.
St. Charles Borromeo in Drexel Hill. Our Lady of Peace in Milmont Park.

Now the ax has fallen on two high schools in Philadelphia. This one came as a thunderbolt, in part because of the names involved.

The archdiocese announced yesterday that both Cardinal Dougherty and Northeast Catholic high schools will close their doors after the current school year.

At one point, Dougherty, which opened its doors in 1956, was the biggest Catholic high school in the country, with more than 6,000 students. This year there are 642 students enrolled.

Northeast Catholic was built for 1,700 students. Its peak enrollment was in 1953, when 4,410 students went through the doors each day. This year’s enrollment is 551 students.

No one is going to like the archdiocese’s decision. But it’s hard to argue with it. They are now focusing their education efforts on where the students are, which is not in the inner-ring suburbs, nor in the city.

Still, that’s a lot of history and tradition to simply close the door on.

But the archciocese does not have much of a choice.

Some questions for Charlie

There is still one more number surrounding the Phils that is floating through my head.

29. As in 29 degrees. With a chance for snow flurries or freezing rain.
That’s the forecast for Saturday night in Denver.

And if Charlie Manuel thinks he’s getting a frosty reception in Denver, it’s a good thing the team flew out of here late yesterday. Fans are still giving Charlie the cold shoulder after some of his pitching decisions yesterday.

I like Charlie. I really do.

But I was scratching my head yesterday as to why exactly he decided to use both J.A. Happ and Joe Blanton in relief roles against the Rockies.
They were both potential starters for Game 3 in Denver. Topping things off, Happ immediately takes a line drive off his knee, making him even more questionable for Saturday. Charlie’s response was that he was trying to win yesterday’s game, not worrying about Saturday night.

I thought the whole point of this series was to line up all the Phillies’ left-handers against the Rockies’ lineup, which is vulnerable to left-hand pitching.

Now it appears that Manuel’s choice to start on Saturday is coming down to Blanton (fresh off his relief appearance) or Pedro Martinez. What do they have in common? They’re both right-handed.

I don’t get it.

The Late Show with the Phillies

I’m going to start today’s blog with some Daily Numbers, which usually come at the end. That’s because I have a bunch of numbers going through my head right now, but two in particular.

9:37 and 10:07.

Those aren’t the jackpots in the Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots.

Those are the starting times for this weekend’s Phillies games in Denver on Saturday and Sunday nights.

I already was trying to make plans for the kind of problems the 9:37 start Saturday night was going to cause when I awoke this morning to be slapped in the face with that 10:07 time.

For a newspaper editor, it’s something only Charles Dickens could understand. It’s the best of times, and the worst of times.

When the Phillies get into the post-season, it’s good for newspapers, especially when they’re winning.

But that assumes the paper you pick up in the morning will actually have the score of the game in it. This weekend we will be challenged to do just that.

We got fooled a bit on Wednesday, with Cliff Lee working very quickly in winning Game 1 of the NLDS. Wednesday’s game was played in 2 hours, 48 minutes. That’s pretty quick by today’s Major League standards.

Yesterday was more like it. Lots of pitching changes and lineup changes led to a game that spanned 3 hours, 41 minutes.

Tack on the fact that the weekend games are being played in Denver, where long games, featuring a ton of offense in that mile-high thin air, are the norm. I’m guessing that 3 hours, 41 minutes is more like what we will see, if not worse.

So take 3 hours and 41 minutes and tack it onto a first pitch at 9:37.
You’re close to 1 a.m. Our normal deadline at night is 11:40. Yep, that’s a problem.

If that’s a problem, Sunday night is just a flat-out nightmare. Three hours and 41 minutes tacked onto a first pitch at 10:07 is approaching 2 a.m.

The last thing we want to do is print newspapers without the score in them. And if you’re like me, you know how aggravating that little box is that informs you that “last night’s game ended too late for this edition.” Then we twist the knife a bit by telling print readers they can get full coverage by going to our Web site.

Let’s just say it’s going to be a long, late weekend.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 8

The Daily Numbers: 1 down, 2 to go for the Phils after winning Game 1 of their NLDS against the Rockies.
2:37, first pitch this afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.
46,452, a record crowd that packed into the yard yesterday. Let’s see if they can break it this afternoon.
700 dollar reward now posted for information on those responsible for the cruel death of Cuddles that kitten.
20, age of Rachael Jankins, who waived a hearing yesterday and will face trial on charges connected to a fatal crash in which the car she was driving slammed into two women outside Delaware County Memorial Hospital.
38 percent of student who were out sick yesterday at Archbishop Carroll High School in Radnor. 1 student has a confirmed case of H1N1 flu; 2 others are suspected. The school is closed until Monday.
45,000 dollar fine slapped on Harrah’s Casino in Chester by the state Gaming Control Board for improperly dealing with an unruly patron.
1,000 jobs lost in Gloucester County in 2 days, with word that first Sunoco would shutter its Eagle Point refinery. That meant furloughs for 400. Then word came of the closure of the U.S. Postal distribution center in Logan Township. That will mean another 650 jobs.
3 alarm fire that roared through a pharmacy in Willingboro, N.J., this morning.
8 percent sales tax goes into effect today in Philadelphia.
2 banks held up yesterday in Philly. Police believe it’s the work of the same serial bandit.
10 dollar surcharge that several major airlines are planning on slapping on fares this coming holiday travel season.
75 percent of Americans in new poll who say they likely will work past their retirement age.
8.8 percent jump in traffic reported in September by Southwest Airlines.
1,700 slot machines planned for the SugarHouse Casino on the Philadelphia waterfront. The official construction groundbreaking takes place today.
31, age of soccer mom who gained notoriety when she took her pistol – on her hip – to youth game in Lebanon, Pa. The woman and her husband were found shot to death yesterday. Police say it appears to be a murder-suicide.
0 winning tickets in last night’s Powerball. The Saturday drawing is worth $25 million. 145 million dollars now up for grabs in the Mega Millions lottery drawing Friday night.
100 days without a state budget in Pennsylvania, land of giants.
40,000 dollars each, what those who lost everything in that massive Riverwalk apartment complex in Conshohocken will get in the settlement of a lawsuit.
5,000 drivers cited for speeding during a crackdown on aggressive driving in Delaware.
191 arrests made by Troop K, including Delaware County, state troopers in the past 12 months.
6 hits and 1 run surrendered in complete game win for Cliff Lee in Game 1 of the NLDS.
2 hits and 2 RBIs for Raul Ibanez to power the Phils.
2 straight wins in the exhibition season for the Sixers and new coach Eddie Jordan. The beat the Raptors again, 84-79.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Cliff Lee and Raul Ibanez, stars of the game. And two of the big acquisitions for rookie GM Ruben Amaro Jr. Not too shabby.
I Don’t Get It: Brace yourself. H1N1 is here, and it’s going to stick around for awhile.
Today’s Upper: A big win for the Phils, all’s right with the world.
Quote Box: “To lose all those jobs in one shot, it’s very hurtful.”
- Stephen Sweeney, freeholder in Gloucester County, N.J., where more than 1,000 jobs were lost in two big plant closings the same day.

Easi-Lee for the Phils

That Charlie Manuel doesn’t have a clue, does he?

Cliff Lee as his starter in Game 1 of the NLDS? After Cole Hamels put two MVP trophies on his mantel last post-season?

Uh, never mind.

This morning Manuel once again looks like a country genius. Lee blew away the Rockies yesterday. And that would have been the case even without the 40 mph gusts that made every fly ball an adventure.

On a sun-splashed afternoon, General Lee took the hill and took command, dominating a very potent Rockies lineup. Lee went the distance, scattering six hits, giving up just one run in the ninth. At one point he retired 16 straight batters.

No one was questioning Manuel’s decision after the game. And no one was asking him about his closer either. He didn’t need one yesterday. Lee made sure of that.

Now it’s up to last year’ MVP, the wildly inconsistent Hamels, to provide an instant replay today.

It is sure to be another gorgeous afternoon in South Philly. The Phils better enjoy it. A quick look at the forecast for Saturday night in Denver is calling for game-time temperatures in the 30s, possibly dipping into the high 20s during the game.

But yesterday, Cliff Lee brought the heat. And he gave a record crowd of
46,425 a Rocky Mountain High.

An economic knockout punch

Times are tough all over.

But nothing quite compares to the economic knockout punch that rocked our neighbors right across the Delaware River in South Jersey yesterday.

In a killer one-two punch, Gloucester County learned it was losing 1,000 jobs.

First came the thunderbolt from Sunoco, which announced it was continuing its cost-cutting by shuttering its Eagle Point refinery in Westville. That will mean 400 workers getting furloughs.

Then came a second knockout blow. A U.S. Postal Service distribution facility is closing its doors in Logan Township. The ax will fall on 650 workers there.

No doubt the people of Marcus Hook can feel the pain of what is happening across the river.

Already there is talk that the Eagle Point facility will never reopen.
In a cruel twist of fate, Jersey’s pain might be Marcus Hook’s gain. The work done at the Jersey refinery will be moved to Sunoco refineries in South Philly and Marcus Hook.

That doesn’t mean workers here don’t sympathize with their neighbors across the river.

The refinery becomes part of your life. It marks the landscape of the town, and it becomes its lifeblood, much like the petroleum that’s refined inside becomes the lifeblood of the economy.

When the economy slows down, so does the refining.

Everyone keeps saying the economy is turning around, that we’re coming out of the recession.

Try explaining that to all those Sunoco and postal workers who find themselves out of a job.

Red October? Yeah, blood red.

Big day for gambling, but not for Harrah's

Gambling in Pennsylvania will mark still another milestone today.

And it has nothing to do with our elected representatives continuing to debate adding table games to the mix.

No, this afternoon a group of officials and dignitaries will no doubt don silly hard hats and stick a bunch of fancy shovels in the ground in one of those classic photo ops.

It will mark the official groundbreaking for the SugarHouse casino on the waterfront in Philadelphia.

There’s no truth to the rumor that they will toss the dirt on Harrah’s down in Chester.

The folks at Harrah’s no doubt will not be cheering the start of building of one of the two casinos planned for Philly. Harrah’s doesn’t exactly need the competition. They’ve now posted eight straight months of lower revenues from their slots operation. They’ve got NFL parlay betting to contend with just a few miles down I-95 in Delaware.

And yesterday it was announced they were being hit with a $45,000 fine from the state Gaming Control Board in connection with an incident involving the way they handled an unruly patron.

But nothing poses a bigger threat to the gravy train at Harrah’s as casinos on the Philly waterfront. SugarHouse will put 1,700 slot machines just off I-95. Many of the people sitting in front of those machines no doubt are people who right now drive down I-95 to Harrah’s.

Trouble on the horizon. Maybe. Then again, they’re banking that the addition of table games can ease the pain.

In fact, you can bet on it.

100 days in Harrisburg

100 days.

No, that’s not a new book about the fledgling Obama Administration.

That’s how many days Pennsylvanians have been waiting for their elected officials to put a budget in place.

The state is supposed to have a fiscal plan in place by July 1. But it almost never happens. Then again, it almost never wanders into the middle of October before getting a deal done either. Even in the political swamp that is Pennsylvania, this standoff is entering some rare territory.

There was some progress reported yesterday, with a couple of sticking points remaining over drilling for gas on state land as well as adding table games at casinos.

One of the voices still decrying the budget is our own Rep. Greg Vitali, D-166, of Haverford. Vitali has made the environment his own personal crusade, and he doesn’t like what he sees in this budget.

“The viciousness of the cuts to the Department of Environmental Protection reflects more an attitude, a contempt for environmental protection, than it does a need to marshal scarce resources,” Vitali complained.

I still think the guy who most wants to see this thing resolved just might be veteran state Rep. Mario Civera, R-164, of Upper Darby. After all, it’s the last state budget the longtime state rep will put his signature on as the minority Appropriations Committee boss.

Civera is leaving Harrisburg, running for a seat on County Council.

Now, no one expects a Democrat to actually win a seat on the all-Republican council. But Civera can’t exactly be out there campaigning when they’ve yet to sign off on a budget in Harrisburg.

Anyone care to bet if there will be budget in place before election day?

Too bad all these guys aren’t on the ballot, so we could vote all of them out for this shameful mockery of the citizens who employ them.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 7

The Daily Numbers: 2:37, first pitch of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park for Phils vs. Rockies.
223 bucks, average price being paid on for tickets to NLDS games in Philly.
200,000 dollars raked in by Republican Pat Meehan since announcing his bid for the 7th District Congressional seat.
250,000 dollars that have come into the coffers of Democrat state Rep.
Bryan Lentz, and he hasn’t even officially announced his candidacy yet.
1,839 citations issued by state police during a crackdown on air brakes on state roads recently.
17, age of Collingdale teen who faces trial in connection with a stabbing incident. A charge of attempted homicide was been dropped after his preliminary hearing.
2 Target stores now located just about a mile apart on Baltimore Pike in Springfield. The new store at Springfield Mall opened this week.
9 local men charged in a national crackdown on the Pagans Motorcyle gang.
400 workers being furloughed as Sunoco looks to shutter its Eagle Point refinery in Gloucester County, N.J.
145,000 barrels of petroleum a day that was refined at the site. That work will now be handled by plants in South Philly and Marcus Hook.
600,000 dollars that Cherry Hill, N.J., will have to pay to a local business owner who tried to open an adult video store in the town but was blocked by local officials.
12 million dollars in WAMs, or Walking Around Money, that now seems to be holding up still another deal to solve Pa.’s budget mess.
2 busted and 1 more being sought in a road rage attack in Philly in which a man was repeatedly run over by a group of thugs on ATVs.
5 people arrested during a protest yesterday at the entrance to Cigna Insurance in Center City. The group was there to push health care reform.
19, age of DUI suspect in Montgomery County who faces new drug charges after police say they found heroin in her bag as she entered the courthouse.
1, as in No. 1, where Philly ranks in terms of being least attractive, according to one national magazine.
174,000 dollars, how much a wedding photographer in Burlington County, N.J., admits ripping off from couples.
145 million dollars now up for grabs in the Mega Millions lottery drawing Friday night.
1,000 jobs slashed by Atlantic City casinos in September.
7 goals rung up by the Flyers last night in running their record to 3-0 with a win over the Caps.
3 goals in the second period for Mike Richards as he goes for the hat trick.
2 goals for Capitals’ superstar Alex Ovechkin.
107-98 win for the Sixers as they kicked off their exhibition season with a win over the Raptors.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Remember when everyone was irate that the Phillies selected Charlie Manuel as manager over Jim Leyland? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
I Don’t Get It: How exactly can you show up at the courthouse for a hearing on a DUI charge and get busted for having heroin in your purse?
I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Let’s hear it for Red October. Go ahead, admit it. You can just feel the elecricity today.
Quote Box: “Everyone benefits when the Phillies, Eagles or Flyers are winning.”
- David Wiesen, owner of Clothes Quarters on MacDade Boulevard.

Paint the town red

Welcome to Red October II, the sequel.

Dear Boss: Don’t expect a lot to get done around the office after about 2:30 this afternoon. That’s if workers have showed up at all.

The region, fueled by two afternoon starts to kick off the NLDS between the Phillies and Rockies, has come down with a severe case of Phillies Fever.

Or you just might call it an “afternoon delight.” Just be careful how you phrase that to your spouse or significant other. Talk of an afternoon delight at the office has been known to spark emotional reactions.

I’m struck by a couple of thoughts as we count down to the first pitch.

Much is being made of the fact that the Phillies, the defending World Series champions, have been saddled with playing two afternoon games.

Fans are complaining, especially those who forked over big bucks for playoff tickets and now realize they can’t get off work to attend.

Bar owners are saying they won’t do nearly the business they would with a night game.

I could have sworn that we have lamented for years about the dearth of afternoon playoff baseball, something that took us back to our youth.

Now we’re insulted because we’re not considered ready for prime time.

This no doubt comes as somewhat humorous to Rockies fans. Take if from someone who lived several years in the Denver-Boulder area. They’re used to it. As anyone who works in network television can tell you, no one lives in the Mountain Time Zone. That’s why they are given very short shrift when it comes to scheduling games. They seem to have survived just fine.

Then again, when the Phils and Rockies meet Saturday night in Denver, don’t be surprised if you see a few flakes and temperatures in the high 30s during the game.

By the way, just in case you missed it, you can catch up on your partying Saturday night, because the Phils game will start at 9:37 here.
That would be 7:37 in Denver. Fans can party right through the night up until Sunday’s 1 p.m. kickoff of the Eagles game at the Linc vs. the Bucs.

Then there is this. I distinctly remember the moaning, griping and general fan outrage when the Phillies selected Charlie Manuel as their manager.

The popular choice at the time was Jim Leyland, the former manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He eventually took a job with the Tigers.

Last night Leyland’s Tigers lost a one-game playoff to the Twins. In so doing, they completed a collapse that just might eclipse the Phillies of ’64.

The Tigers were three games up in the AL Central with four games to play. And blew it. They will be watching the playoffs on TV.

And Manuel? He’s the manager of the defending world champions, who will defend their title starting this afternoon.

We knew it all along! Paint the town red. Or red-faced, as some “experts” no doubt are.

Fantasy Island in Harrisburg

The only thing missing in Harrisburg these days is a little man standing on the steps of the state Capitol, declaring “de plane, boss! De plane!”

These people are living on Fantasy Island.

We are now more just about 100 days into a budget impasse. Remember, the state is supposed to have a fiscal plan in place by July 1.

But in the wink-wink, nod-nod world that is our state Capitol, those kinds of deadline pressures, the kind that almost every citizen of this state faces in real life every day, mean very little.

They live in another world, a fantasy world.

In just the last two weeks, no less than three separate deals have appeared on the horizon, touted as bipartisan efforts to climb out of this budget morass.

And slowly but surely each one has collapsed.

This morning there is word that the latest effort might be in trouble as well.

And right there in the middle of it is an old friend, one of the great examples of the way business gets done in Harrisburg.

They are called WAMs, or “Walking Around Money.” A few years ago they changed the name of these legislative grants to Legislative Initiative Grants.

Sounds pretty spiffy. They very often are used for very good projects in communities, including many across Delco. But that they cannot mask the fact that they amount to little more than a slush fund controlled by the Legislature and often doled out and winding up on the turf of incumbent legislators.

Now they’re in the middle of the budget impasse. State House Democrats are balking at a plan that includes $12 million in WAMs. They’re vowing to strip them out of a $27.8 billion spending plan approved by the Republican-controlled Senate.

In the meantime, talks are continuing.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, there is this little item that did not escape notice.

Day care centers and other crucial social service agencies that have seen their lifeblood state funding dry up over the past 100 days of this standoff are getting close to the point where they will need to close their doors.

Not that such real-world issues ever intrude on Harrisburg. On Fantasy Island, everything remains hunky-dory.

It's oil over for some Sunoco workers

Last week we presented a story on just how tough things are out there, as the fallout from a battered economy continue to fall all around us.

This morning we have still another example. Times really are tough all over.

Even the oil business is not immune. It was not that long ago that the petroleum/refining business was riding high, racking up record profits as people emptied their piggy banks at the gas pump.

Now it’s some of the companies with their hat in their hand. And of course it’s workers who are paying the price.

Sunoco Inc. yesterday cited a worldwide slump in demand for its fuel products and decided it needed to tighten its belt.

They did so by tightening the noose around the necks of about 400 employees.

The petroleum giant announced it would shutter its Eagle Point oil refinery across the river in Gloucester County, N.J. It is also slashing its dividend in half. Four hundred jobs are being eliminated.

Oddly enough, this latest cloud on the economic front has a bit of a silver lining for Delaware County. Much of the work that was done at Eagle Point will be moved to Sunoco facilities in South Philadelphia and Marcus Hook. That will come as good news to workers at the sprawling plant down in the Hook, where the union continues to fight a move to ax about 50 workers whose jobs went up in smoke after an explosion and fire rocked the plant’s ethylene unit last winter. The company decided not to rebuilt the unit, citing weak demand.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 6

The Daily Numbers: 6 weeks old, age of Cuddles the cat, which succumbed to injuries suffered over the weekend when a group of men threw stones at the cat and then set it on fire.
1 of 2 dogs that was shot and killed after it charged at police in Upper Darby. The dogs chased 1 homeowner and killed 1 raccoon.
447 fugitives who took advantage of the Safe Surrender program and turned themselves in at a Chester church last week.
27,000 dollars in cash found in garage of man in Darby Borough, along with a stockpile of weapons and suspected drugs. The man faces a slew of charges.
235,000 dollars believed ripped off from the Concord Surgery Center by an employee from Ridley Park. The man pleaded guilty Monday. He used the money to pay for a variety of bills and shopping sprees.
1,500 deer that officials at Valley Forge National Historical Park are hoping to kill in a hunt to thin the herd.
110 mph, how fast Acela trains go through Folcroft, where a woman was struck and killed yesterday.
12, age of girl in Moorestown, N.J., who reported a man in a white van tried to lure her into his vehicle. It’s similar to an incident reported in Perkasie last week.
26 guns found when police raided a home in the Port Richmond section of Philly. They also uncovered $26,000 in meth.
59, age of Philly officer who was attacked by a juvenile suspect who was stopped after police say they spotted a bulge in his shirt. A pellet gun was found at the scene.
2 teens in Philly under arrest in a rash of robberies that police believe are linked to listings on the Web site Craiglist.
600,000 doses of the H1N1 flu vaccine that are supposed to land in the region this week.
6.4 percent decline in boardings reported by US Airways. 3.85 million got on flights in September, down from 4.11 million the same month last year.
2 afternoon games on tap between the Phils and Rockies on Wednesday and Thursday.
9:37, start time of Saturday night’s game in Denver.
40 mph wind gusts expected for tomorrow’s game, but the overnight rain is supposed to clear out by game time.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Look for the Phils to go lefty-lefty-lefty against the Rockies, with Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and J.A. Happ filling the bill. Liberals have to love the Phils.
I Don’t Get It: Why are we still talking about Jon & Kate Gosselin. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Let’s hear it for the Philadelphia Zoo, which is partnering with the Chester Upland School District for free visits.
Quote Box: “It was an atrocious act of cruelty.”
- Chester Police Capt. Joe Massi, on the death of Cuddles the cat, which was stoned and set on fire on a city street last weekend.

The death of Cuddles

Cuddles the cat is dead.

The tabby was found in Chester over the weekend. A group of men were seen throwing stones at the kitty, and it had been set on fire.

It was rescued and rushed to a local veterinary hospital, where initially it appeared to be doing well. But it suffered a setback Sunday and died of its injuries Monday.

I am not going to try to equate what happened to Cuddles with what too often happens to humans. I don’t know how society can tolerate either one of them.

I know this. Someone out there is responsible for what happened to that cat.

And there are people who know who those people are. Police would like to talk to you. You can reach them at 610-447-8431, or the Anonymous Tip Line at 610-447-7810.

For the persons responsible, I have just one question.

How do you sleep at night?

Look out, Bambi

As a person who does a daily early-morning dance with the deer that seem to be overrunning so many of our roads, I took special notice of a story making the rounds this morning.

I’m always amazed at the way people react to animal stories. Here’s a little secret. It’s not exactly an accident that the story on the death of Cuddles the cat is plastered all over today’s front page of our print edition.

People have a visceral reaction when bad things happen to animals.

Then there are deer. I do not exactly hold them in the same high regard as, say, cats or dogs. Not that I wish them any harm. I’m not a hunter.
I could not look down the scope of a rifle, see one of those gorgeous animals in the crosshairs, then pull the trigger. It’s just not in my makeup. But I don’t hold any real grudge against people who do.

That’s in part because of the amazing ability of deer to collide with cars. Yes, I know that’s because of the way we have over-developed so much of their natural habitat.

It’s a little hard to think of that as I’m swerving to avoid Bambi, which seems to happen several times a week.

So I am guessing the plan to thin the herd in Valley Forge National Historical Park is going to get some attention.

Officials there say they will bring in federal employees or private contractors to cut down the size of the herd – with rifles. They want to kill 500 deer each of the next two years, then maybe 250 to 300 in the next two years.

Overall, they’re hoping to reduce the herd from the present 1,277 to between 165 and 185. Ouch!

Or, as they say on the copy desk where they craft the headlines that appear in the newspaper every day, “Deer me.”

Expect protests. Expect counter-protests. Expect lots of talk about other ways to get the job done, including using contraception.

But it won’t change the bottom line. Fewer deer in the park. A lot fewer.

Now if we could just do the same for the roads around here.

Another budget deal? Sure

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

They think they are close to a budget deal in Harrisburg. Honest. Try not to laugh.

It’s only the third or fourth time our elected officials have made such a statement.

Hey, what’s the rush? I mean, the budget is only now more than three months overdue. Lots of people have been inconvenienced. Critical social agencies across the state have gone without the state aid that makes their work possible.

Gov. Ed Rendell, who was last seen over the weekend chastising members of his own party for throwing a wrench into the latest deal, yesterday once again said he believes a deal is close.

My guess is the governor plays horseshoes. “Close” works in that backyard game. It’s not nearly as effective when it comes to the work of crafting a state fiscal plan.

Rendell yesterday urged lawmakers to “take a deep breath” and meet with him today to close the deal.

We have a better idea. Why don’t they try holding their breath. Like much of the rest of the state has been doing for the past 100 days.

When they’re as red-faced as the critical care agencies whose work has been paralyzed, maybe then they’ll get a deal done.

Just don’t be surprised if you hear about the deal falling apart later this afternoon.

Afternoon delight for Phillies fans?

There is no truth to the rumor that the Phillies have become the official team of the nation’s liberals.

But you wouldn’t know it by taking a gander at their likely starting rotation for the National League Division Series that kicks off Wednesday afternoon against the Colorado Rockies at Citizens Bank Park.

Lefty, lefty, lefty.

Officially, Charlie Manuel has not yet shown his hand in terms of his starters. He is expected to meet the press and divulge that bit of information this afternoon.

But it’s a pretty good guess that Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee will be 1-2, although not necessarily in that order. After that it gets more interesting.

The Rockies are vulnerable to left-handed pitching. Their regular season record against lefties was under .500; their left-handed bats were far less effective than whey they dig in against right-handers.

That’s why a lot of people believe J.A. Happ could find his way into the Phils’ starting rotation, maybe even as soon as Saturday night in Denver.

In the meantime, the region’s economy is expected to come to a screeching halt about 2:30 both Wednesday and Thursday afternoons.

It seems there’s no shortage of opinion about the fact that the Phils have been relegated to the afternoon games – not exactly prime time status – despite the fact that they’re defending World Series champs.
Instead, we’ll get a steady diet of Red Sox and Yankees at night.

Don’t look for me to complain. Afternoon games work very well for newspapers. If you have an hour, I’ll try to explain the problems that Saturday night’s 9:37 p.m. start in Denver creates.

In the meantime, a lot of Phillies fans are grumbling. Many people with tickets now realize they cannot get to the game, stuck in their cubicles. Bar owners are not exactly giddy about the times, either.
They’d do a much better business with a night game than late afternoon.
I’m guessing it could put a little juice in Happy Hour.

And if by any chance you’re off and considering actually going to the games, there’s an added bonus. In part because of the afternoon starts, there are lots of tickets available, and for a lot less than you’d expect.

You can score tickets on the site for as little as $134. It is believed that as many as 3,000 tickets are available for the sold-out game at various Web sites.

In the meantime, don’t look for a lot to get done around the office Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. Expect crowds to form around the TV.
Office Internet networks are likely to get a workout as fans/workers go online for information about the game.

Welcome to Red October, the sequel.

Just don't call it an afternoon delight, at least for some fans. Unless of course you lean to the left.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 5

The Daily Numbers: 2:37, starting time for the first two games of the NLDS between the Phillies and Rockies at Citizens Bank Park.
9:37, time of Saturday night’s game in Denver.
6 week old kitty that was set on fire before being rescued on a Chester street over the weekend. The cat is recovering.
108 years old, St. John the Evangelist Church in Lansdowne, which will close its doors next Sunday after one final service.
26, age of man who apparently drowned after falling into Darby Creek in Folcroft Saturday night.
4 people killed when a car went out of control on I-95 in Philly early Sunday, slamming into a tractor-trailer.
240 million dollars, what Pa. hopes to rake in each year on taxes on table games that could be added to the state’s slots parlors.
20 million dollar fee to be paid by slots parlors for the right to add table games.
23,685,222 dollars in gaming revenue at Harrah’s Chester Casino & Racetrack in September. That’s down 3.29 percent from the same month in 2008.
2 adults and a child rescued by 2 Good Samaritans from their burning car on Route 141 in Newport, Del. The adults were charged with suspicion of driving under the influence and reckless endangering.
67, age of man in Delaware arrested for indecent exposure after police say he exposed himself to neighbors in an apartment complex.
350 pound bear that fatally mauled a 37-year-old woman who was keeping it as a pet in Monroe County, Pa.
6 cars recovered from the muck of the Schuylkill River by dive teams, but none of them belonged to the Chester County woman who has now been missing sine Aug. 23.
3 people wounded last Saturday when gunfire erupted on a Wilmington street.
2 Flyers fans who were stabbed by another group of Flyers fans when they returned from Saturday night’s game in North Jersey. They were accosted when their bus arrived back at a bowling alley on Roosevelt Boulevard.
8 U.S. soldiers killed in a firefight with Taliban forces in Afghanistan.
9.8 percent jobless rate in the U.S. Companies dumped another 263,000 jobs in September.
1 winning ticket, sold in Florida, for that $189 million Powerball jackpot Saturday night.
69, age of former WFIL “Boss Jock” Jim Nettleton, who died over the weekend.
2.49 a gallon, what we’re paying on average for gasoline in the 5-county Philly area.
93 wins and 69 losses for the Phillies in winning a 3rd straight NL East crown.
2 straight wins for the Flyers to kick off the season. Saturday night new goalie Ray Emery outdueled longtime Flyer killer Martin Brodeur of the Devils.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.How much do you think is going to get done in offices across the region Wednesday and Thursday afternoons during the first two games of the NLDS between the Phils and Rockies?
I Don’t Get It: How exactly a human being can pour an accelerant on a cat and then light it on fire. It’s just not human. I really don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: There is a little good animal news today. The Philadelphia Zoo is welcoming a new orangutan, born to 16-year-old Tua on Friday. It’s the first primate born in the zoo’s new Primate Preserve.
Quote Box: “We’ll bring it up to them, just for the hell of it.”
- Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel, on memory of being swept by the Rockies in the NLDS in 2007.

Another abused animal

UPDATE: We have learned this morning that Cuddles the cat died of its injuries. Which only makes me that much angrier about this whole thing.

It’s always the photo that grabs you.

And one glance at the photo in question reveals the terrible truth: It has happened again.

The damage to a 6-week-old kitten found on a Chester street is unmistakable. You can see it in the singed whiskers.

It was no accident. Police and rescue officials believe someone deliberately poured some kind of accelerant on the kitty and then set it on fire.

If that was not enough for their sick amusement, they then proceeded to throw stones at the helpless kitty.

Police responded to the 700 block of East Fifth Street in Chester, where they rescued the cat and rushed it to Marple Animal Hospital. It was treated for second-degree burns to one ear, a 1-inch wide burn patch of singed fur that went the length of its body, and smoke inhalation.

The cat, nicknamed “Cuddles,” is expected to recover.

In the meantime, the hunt is on for the person responsible for such a barbaric act.

It makes you wonder exactly what people are capable of doing, and where we went wrong as a society that this kind of animal abuse keeps happening.

I just don’t get it.

More budget blues

I could hear the exasperation in Mario Civera’s voice.

The longtime state representative from Upper Darby called me from Harrisburg to let me in on a little news – the much ballyhooed deal announced just a week before to end this state budget farce was crumbling.

And Civera made it clear who was to blame. Democrats were changing the deal, shifting the agreed-upon taxes.

Civera had visited our office about a month ago to talk about the budget. At that time he indicated that he was having difficulty trying to figure out exactly what Gov. Ed Rendell was trying to accomplish, and that in general Democrats did not seem to have much of a sense of urgency on the budget.

Now, it appears Democrats can’t even agree among themselves what to do.
Rendell had signed off on the budget deal, which included very unpopular moves to start taxing small games of chance, as well as tickets sold to concerts, theater and admissions to museums.

But on Friday Democrats started shifting the sands again. Even Rendell came forward on Saturday to admonish those in his own party for going back on the budget deal.

Let’s make something clear. Nobody likes tax hikes. But in the worst economy since the Great Depression, and the state looking at a $2.5 billion spending gap, it was clear some tough choices were going to have to be made. Rendell made it equally clear that education was off limits for cuts.

That didn’t leave a lot of wiggle room.

The House spent much of yesterday debating table games, another move being made in attempts to bring in more revenue.

The budget appears now to be at least a week away.

The entire state budget process, for the most part something of a joke in that it never happens by the July 1 deadline, has now morphed into something a lot uglier.

Our representatives and senators are now 90 days into this thing, and they’re still playing with the numbers.

Civera is right to be exasperated. He should be something else, along with every other elected official in Harrisburg. That would be embarrassed.

Betting on table games

Table games are on their way to Pennsylvania’s slots parlors, and it could not come soon enough for our pals down at Harrah’s in Chester.

The revenue numbers for the state’s new gaming parlors for September are out. And once again Harrah’s is reporting a decline in revenue. It’s not as pronounced as the 10 percent dip that hit in August, but it’s still down nonetheless.

Harrah’s reported total revenue in September of $23.7 million, a decline of 3.3 percent from the same month in 2008. In the meantime, action at Philadelphia Park, which also suffered a hiccup in August, was up in September. Philly Park took in $28.7 million in September, a 6.65 percent spike in action from September 2008.

Harrah’s still ranks No. 2 in the state in terms of slots revenue, trailing only Philly Park. But revenue has been down each month now for almost a year.

And competition continues to increase. Bettors who also would like some action on NFL games can now drive right past Harrah’s and head another 20 minutes down I-95 to place parlay bets at Delaware Park.

And they finally broke ground for one of two slots casinos planned for the city of Philadelphia. SugarHouse is hoping to be in business on the Delaware River by next summer.

It hasn’t exactly been a secret that most people in the state believed table games were in our future. Even state Sen. Dominic Pileggi, R-9, of Chester, indicated recently it was simply a matter of when, not if.

When apparently is now. The state is 90 days into a budget impasse, with Republicans and Democrats still unable to agree on a package of tax increases to close a yawning revenue gap. That’s where table games come in.

They’re expected to infuse another $240 million into the state coffers from slapping a 34 percent tax on casinos’ take from the games, in addition to a $20 million license fee that casinos will fork over for the right to host the games.

The state House was in session in Harrisburg yesterday in a rare Sunday meeting to try to hash out the OK for table games. They’re still talking.

Don’t bet on them turning it down.

Bet the house on the folks down at Harrah’s welcoming table games with open arms – and open wallets on the part of patrons.


Friday, October 2, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 2

The Daily Numbers: 5 men under arrest in what police say was a theft ring that specialized in motorcycles and ATVs to the tune of about $250,000.
116 people who have now turned themselves in on the first two days of the Fugitive Safe Surrender program at a Chester church.
166 bucks, what you can expect to shell out on average for a Phillies playoff ticket.
9 months of talks between Penn-Delco School District and its teachers that’s resulted in a contract deal.
3.5 percent pay hike this year, and 3.75 increases the next 3 years for Penn-Delco teachers under the tentative deal.
186 million gallons of gas saved by Pennsylvanians who turned to mass transit in 2008, according to AAA.
1.7 million dollars that will be funneled into an improvement project for Baltimore Pike and Springfield Road in Clifton Heights.
628 people who rolled through a drive-through flu shot clinic yesterday in Tinicum. You can also get a shot there today, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
at the Tinicum Volunteer Fire Co. on Wanamaker Avenue.
237,000 dollars in lost revenue to Rose Tree Media School District because of a reassessment for Granite Run Mall.
2 child luring attempts being investigated in Bucks County.
29 cats poisoned in Montgomery County. A woman now has been ordered to stand trial in the case. She was despondent over financial problems and was suicidal.
1 point lead for Pat Toomey over Arlen Specter in what could be a very tight Senate race. Of course that assumes Specter beats Joe Sestak in the primary.
81, age of dementia patient in Montgomery County, who was allegedly abused by a licensed practical nurse who was supposed to be caring for her.
58,000 dollars a week now being wagered in Delaware on NFL parlay bets under the state’s new sports gambling law.
1,000 dollars scammed from a woman in Brandywine Hundred who was duped into thinking she had won a sweepstakes.
600,000 doses of nasal spray FluMist that will be split up among 21 states.
5 shaky innings and change for Phillies starter Cliff Lee, who took the loss last night.
4 runs, 3 earned, surrendered by Lee, who gave up 7 hits and struck out 6.
1 inning pitched by Brett Myers, the first time he’s pitched since Sept. 12.
.5 games behind the Dodgers, where Phils sit for best record in National League with 3 games to go this weekend. The Dodgers and Rockies will face off for the NL West crown.
0 games this weekend for the Eagles, who have a bye.
1, as in the first game of the season tonight for the Flyers as they kick off the NHL schedule in Carolina.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Well, Cliff Lee didn’t exactly engender a lot of confidence. The whole Phils’ squad played like a team with a hangover. Oh.
I Don’t Get It: The whole David Letterman “creepy things” he did last night. Yukking it up about his affairs and an extortion attempt? I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Kudos to the folks running the drive-through flu shot clinic in Tinicum. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
Quote Box: “I think the Phillies, dollar for dollar, are one of the best buys you can get and we have tickets for every type of fan.”
- Jim Bell, president of Sherry’s Ticket Office in center city Philly.

Front-page news

It has happened again.

There was another front page adorned with the photo of a person who had been charged with a crime, and a familiar headline: Not Guilty.

A few months ago it was Dr. Jerry Lazaroff. He was the child psychologist who had been accused of inappropriately touching several young patients.

Last week it was Lisa Scott. She’s the Lower Chichester woman who had been charged with having sex with a group of teen boys.

The jury didn’t buy the boys’ story. They had more than a few issues of their own. At least one of them now faces rape charges. They changed their story. At one point they told authorities they wanted to recant their version of what happened.

But the case went to trial anyhow. Lisa Scott was on the front page of the newspaper when she was charged, her hands in handcuffs.

She appeared again on the morning that the jury was mulling her fate. It did not take them long. They returned the same morning and acquitted her of all charges.

I certainly wanted to be sure that we gave her acquittal equal treatment as we did to the story of her being charged. But I did not want to run that photo of her in handcuffs. I dispatched reporter Rose Quinn to Scott’s Lower Chichester neighborhood to see if she was willing to sit down for an interview as well as a new photo.

That’s when I found another still another seeming indignity of how the system works. Lisa Scott was acquitted, but she was going back to jail.
That’s the way the system works. Since she had been transported to the courthouse from the prison (that’s right, she was in jail since March for a crime a jury did not believe she committed), she had to return there before being released. She was finally set free sometime after 9 o’clock last Friday night.

Quinn managed to make contact with family members, and got a new photo of Scott that we used on the front page Saturday. She has declined requests for interview.

I have been struck by how polite, even kind, her and her family have been through this ordeal. She even posted a note on her door indicating she was not doing interviews at this time.

I don’t blame her a bit.

Several readers called to indicate they were troubled by the fact that these people were splashed all over the front page, only to be cleared.
At least in court. Clearing themselves of the stain of their ordeal is another matter. It’s a perfectly legitimate point, one I think about more and more all the time.

On Thursday, columnist Gil Spencer sat down with D.A. Mike Green yesterday to talk about the recent string of those acquitted in these sex cases and how his office handles such issues. You can read about it here.

In the meantime, should Lisa Scott change her mind and decide she wants to tell her story, I’d love to tell it.

Seems like the least we can do.

Creepy things

“Late Show” host David Letterman decided to talk about “creepy things” last night.

Well, he certainly creeped me out.

In a bizarre 11-minute talk, he turned a confession that he had sex with several female CBS employees and was the victim of a $2 million extortion plot into a comedy bit.

Spare me.

A clearly confused audience yukked it up with Letterman as he sat at his desk after his normal monologue and laid out the strange story.

Not until well into the “confession” did it appear that the audience caught onto the fact that Letterman apparently wasn’t joking.

Letterman drew guffaws from the audience when he admitted “the creepy stuff was that I had sex with women who work for me on this show. My response to that is yes, I have.”

At that point the audience erupted in laughs. Funny stuff, no?

But Letterman wasn’t done.

“Would it be embarrassing if it were made public?” he said. “Yes, it would, especially for the women.” More chuckles from the audience.

Eventually the audience caught on that despite his schtick, Letterman was not joking.

Another CBS employee has been charged with trying to extort $2 million from the TV host by threatening to expose his relationships with the female employees.

“It was a very bizarre experience,” Letterman told the audience. It certainly was.

Creepy, you might say. But, at least to me, not in the way Letterman imagined.

A weekend without the Eagles

With the Flyers opening their season tonight, the Sixers in training camp (complete with throwback spiffy new uniforms), and the Phillies looking a lot like stale champage last night, a real Philly sports fans is left with only one thing to do.

Let’s talk Bye Week.

Yes, I hate it, too. A fall weekend without the Eagles just does not seem natural.

Without a game this weekend, there will be no “dreaded Saturday Eagles pick.” You’re crushed, I’m sure.

But that does not mean I don’t have some thoughts about the Birds. I do.
In fact, I fully expect them to run their current 2-1 record to a sparkling 5-1 by dispatching, in order, Tampa Bay, Oakland and Washington.

And we still won’t know if they’re any good. That answer likely will come the following week, when they tangle with the New York Giants on Nov. 1.

The Eagles have manhandled two very bad football teams, the Panthers and the absolutely dreadful Chiefs. They got smoked by the Saints, who stand at 3-0 and have a showdown of their own this week with the Jets.

Probably the biggest question hanging over the Birds the next few weeks will be the return of Donovan McNabb and how he will react to Michael Vick ocasionally trotting onto the field in various Wildcat formations.

Stay tuned.

If you absolutely have to have a pick, here’s an upset special. Take Rex Ryan’s guys to upset the Saints in the Big Easy.

And try not to fall asleep during these final three Phillies games as we all await the arrival of Red October next week. We still don’t know who or where the Phils will play, and likely will not until Sunday afternoon.

Oh, and one final thing. Let’s go, Flyers!

How ‘bout dat Chris Pronger, eh?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 1

The Daily Numbers: 3 straight National League East crowns for the Phillies. Not it’s on to the playoffs.
62 people who turned themselves in on the first day of the Fugitive Safe Surrender program at a Chester church.
175 warrants were processed, including 5 people on felonies, 13 misdemeanors and 25 summary offenses.
1 of 5 suspects nabbed in West Philly who is believed tied to the hijacking of a truck making deliveries to a Long Lane pharmacy in Upper Darby last Friday.
5 through 9, ages that will be targeted for the first doses of H1N1 flu vaccine in Pennsylvania.
2 drive-through season flu shot clinics being held today and Friday in Tinicum Township.
5 Saint Joe’s students who are believed to be fighting swine flu.
44 to 25 percent, the margin by which Sen. Arlen Specter continues to lead Rep. Joe Sestak in the U.S. Senate race, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll.
42 percent of people in the same poll who approved of the way Gov. Ed Rendell is doing his job.
20 animals seized from a filthy home in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia.
2 grenades strapped to a belt on a man entering a movie theater at the Franklin Mills Mall, setting off a panic. The man faces charges.
2 people, a mother and daughter, found slain in their home in Egg Harbor Township, N.J.
10.5 percent unemployment rate in August in Philadelphia; 8.3 percent in the five-county region.
7.8 percent jobless rate in Delaware County.
300,000 dollar fine to be paid by Verizon to resolve a harassment complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission by a woman from Media.
18 percent vacancy rate across the region when it comes to office space.
2 frats now suspended at Penn State in connection with the accidental death of a student.
5 weeks, how long Winterthur Museum in Delaware will close its doors because of the economy. It will go dark from Jan. 31 to March 8.
193 million dollar Powerball jackpot up for grabs Saturday after no one hit again last night.
16 states, including Pennsylvania, where drug deaths now kill more people than traffic accidents.
2.52, what we’re paying for gas in the region. That’s down another penny.
1 out recorded to Brad Lidge to seal the deal last night as the Phils won another NL East crown.
34 home runs for Raul Ibanez, who went yard again last night.
0 playoff game this year for Jamie Moyer, who will undergo surgery on his groin and miss the post-season.
32, age of new Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter. Why does he seem older than that.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Ya gotta love Charlie Manuel, and what he did for Brad Lidge last night.
The guy’s a class act.
I Don’t Get It
: A man is on trial in Philadelphia in a murder case that police say escalated from a snowball fight. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Kudos to the Phils for pumping up the entire region. You could just feel a different mood this morning.
Quote Box: “You shouldn’t have to walk around wondering whether you are going to come home at night. I had a warrant and there was no telling when they were coming.
- Suspect who turned self in at yesterday’s Safe Surrender program in Chester.

Manuel manages to be class act

Good for Charlie Manuel.

He gets second-guessed for his strategy. He gets mocked for some of his country-bumpkin mannerisms. They even make fun of the way he talks and the way he sometimes mangles the language.

But you’ll never hear his players say a bad word about him. And last night’s win over the Astros provided a perfect example why.

The Phillies were about to put the finishing touches on their third straight National League East crown. By the way, if you don’t think there is a connection between the players’ feelings for Manuel and those three titles, you can stop reading now. You obviously don’t get it.

Scott Eyre had been summoned to get three outs in the ninth to slam the door and put the icing on a 10-3 Phils win, popping the corks on all those champagne bottles that have been awaiting the clincher.

But Manuel had one more move left to make.

With two outs, Charlie made the slow walk to the mound. Then he summoned Brad Lidge.

Last year Lidge was “Lights Out,” going a perfect 48 for 48 in save opportunities. This year he’s been “Lights Off,” racking up no less than
11 blown saves.

It would be easy to simply throw dirt on Lidge and move on. That’s what most of the fans have done. Last year is history. What have you done for us lately? In Lidge’s case, provide agita, for the most part.

But that’s not Manuel’s way. He called on Lidge last night, and the fans responded with a standing ovation.

Lidge secured the final out on a grounder to first, then took in the adulation of another sold-out Citizens Bank Park throng.

I suppose you can question some of Manuel’s strategy. Hell, I’ve already heard some people trying to figure out just what he was doing with Lidge last night.

What he was doing was being a decent human being. And thanking a guy who carried this team to a World Series Championship on his back last year.

A lot of people seem to have forgotten that. Charlie Manuel hasn’t.

I don’t know who Manuel’s closer for the playoffs is going to be.

I do know this. He’s a class act.

And he proved it again last night.

Times are tough all over

How bad are things out there?

Real bad.

In Wednesday’s paper we reported an increase in the number of Delco families using food stamps. In 2007 those getting assistance stood at
6.1 percent. In 2008 the number rose to 6.3 percent.

Linda Freeman, the director of the Loaves and Fishes Pantry in Prospect Park, one of the largest charity food operations in the county, said they have seen requests for help rise 25 percent. And they are staring at bare shelves at the pantry, in part because of the ongoing budget standoff in Harrisburg.

Today the hits just keep coming. The new jobless numbers are out. They are not pretty.

Unemployment in the five-county region jumped another 0.1 percent in August. It’s now at 8.3 percent, up from 8.2 percent in July.

In Delaware County, the jobless ranks also swelled, going from 7.6 percent in July to 7.8 percent in August. Of course, things could be worse. You could be in Philadelphia, where the rate is now in double digits, at 10.5 percent.

Or you could work at Winterthur Museum, down in Delaware. They are about to do something they have never done in their history. The museum will close its doors for five weeks starting on Jan. 31.

Officials says it’s a money-saving move, and coincides with what is traditionally a slow time for visitors to the museum.

Finally, if you own a Saturn, you’re about to own a collector’s item. GM yesterday said they are pulling the plug on the car line after a deal with Roger Penske fell through.

There used to be a Saturn dealership on Baltimore Pike in Westbrook Park. They closed their doors months ago and merged operations with a dealership out on Route 202.

Yep, like the front page said yesterday. Things are tough all over.

Michael Vick's $alvation

UPDATE: Nike now is contradicting VIck's agent, saying they do not have a deal with the Eagles quarterback.

Then again, some people are making out OK in this lousy economy.

Take Michael Vick, for example.

Sure, he did two years in the slammer on a dogfighting rap. He lost his
$15 million contract. And his old team came after him for millions they paid him up front in bonus money when he was in the slammer instead of the huddle.

But Vick is on the rebound.

He signed a deal believed to be worth $1.5 million with the Eagles. In terms of the NFL, that’s chump change. Vick proved to be a bargain. He’s no doubt hoping to parlay this situation with the Birds into another starting job somewhere, and another big-bucks contract.

Then yesterday, his agent announced Vick had signed a new deal with Nike. I’m not making this up.

It’s one thing for Vick to return to the playing field. That’s what he does. I have no problem with that. He did his time. He seems contrite.
He’s saying all the right things.

But I’m not sure I see the wisdom in Nike throwing a new deal at a guy who remains in many people’s minds connected to the brutal killing of dogs.

Vick was once the brightest star in Nike’s galaxy. Then came his guilty plea in the dogfighting case. The company halted the release of a new Vick shoe and called cruelty to animals “inhumane, abhorrent and unacceptable.”

That was then, this is now. Yesterday Nike welcomed Vick back to the fold. Vick’s agent would not reveal the terms of the deal. Nike is not talking.

Actually, they’re saying plenty.

The Redemption of Michael Vick continues. We should all be so lucky.