Saturday, September 24, 2016

Thank You, Vin

We're beginning to say our farewells in the final inning of Vin Scully's career. Tonight, the Dodgers held a ceremony to honor our hero in the fading twilight of the 67th year. We are now faced with oncoming reality of 1 A.V. (After Vin, of course).

For one thing, I won't be watching Dodgers games anymore, but I digress.

He's been everything. Mentor to too many broadcasters to count (that's me raising my hand). He's been friend to fans everywhere -- most of whom will never so much as be in the same room as him. He's been dad to those who have lost. Or grandfather. Or uncle.

We think he belongs to us, and we're not entirely wrong. From Brooklyn to Los Angeles and the transistor radios, he's been a part of the world of the Dodgers.

We nearly brought him back to New York in 1965 as a replacement for Mel Allen, but we were able to hear him on each of the major networks at one point or another. He showed up on NBC for a few World Series before becoming the lead baseball voice in the 1980s.

He was on CBS for golf (including the Masters). Check out this funkalicious bit from 1978.

He also did tennis on CBS (yes, tennis). Of course, he called football, including a little something called "The Catch." Incidentally, he's brilliant (duh) and has the great Hank Stram alongside of him.

It all turned out well, but his road nearly changed. If CBS didn't pair Pat Summerall with John Madden, it would have been Vin. Oh my indeed. But we were the lucky ones, and Vinny moved onto NBC.

The icon and legend grew.

Vin and I were once in the same ballpark. It was Old Timer's Day at Yankee Stadium in 1983, and wouldn't you know it - I found video of the opening of that broadcast!

Yes, young Rob was in there, in the right field seats, for Bobby Murcer's first Old Timer's Day (my first also), and for the Yankees and Rangers to meet in the regular game.

We didn't meet that day, though I did take a picture of the booth (yup, even then).
Joe Garagiola, Vin, Phil Rizzuto, Frank Messer, Bobby Murcer, John Gordon, and Bill White (RA photo).
Anyway, at this point I don't ever expect to meet him or interview him, but I am grateful to him. Grateful for everything he has taught me. In a time when we need heroes (however insignificant), this red-headed kid originally from The Bronx and then Washington Heights taught me the most about sculpting the narrative of a whole lot of sporting events for listeners and viewers.

But there's more to Vin.

He hosted a game show in the 1970s. Yes. A game show.

There was also a talk show. And later, on ABC (this was in the 90s) he was back to doing golf.

Oh wait. Did I mention the Tournament of Roses Parade?

Of course the top calls are being ranked. Shall we rank the work Oscar Wilde or Emily Dickinson or Stephen King? I suppose that's what we do. Most are going to say number one is the Kirk Gibson home run, and I don't blame them.

Oh it's brilliant, of course. Heck, the back story is that Scully himself unknowingly propelled Gibson to hit because the latter heard the former say that Gibson wouldn't play. There are a litany of great lines in it "Not a bad opening act," "You talk about a roll of the dice," and the best of all: "In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened."

I love it. But for me, technically, it's simply not the best ever.

That, of course, is saved for "Twenty-nine thousand and a million butterflies."

"You can almost taste the pressure."

I've explained it to students. It's been reprinted verbatim. It's not a single moment like the Miacle on Ice or the The Shot Heard Round the World. But it is everything. It's perfect. Vin and Sandy - forever intertwined in that regard.

Oh my there are others. Hank Aaron's 715th. Fernando's no-hitter. The Twins walking off against the Braves in 1991. Larsen in '56. The comments following September 11th. Mookie Wilson in '86.

Countless moments -- big and small. The narration of a brawl or an argument with an umpire. The little moments of watching children in the stands. The meticulous preparation and the use of such things like explaining Socrates (the philosopher) while Socrates (Brito, the Diamondback) was at home plate.

Yet sometimes it's the brilliant subtlety, where nothing needs to be said. Until tonight, I've never heard his call of Joe Carter's World Series-winner in 1993.

"Home run!" Then silence. Wonderful.

Perhaps my favorite, past Koufax, is the last out of the 1996 World Series. The crowd noise. The utterly insane euphoria. Vin's inner-child saying "Is this something? I mean do you loooooove baseball? There's not a thing the Yankees can do. They can't the quarterback kneel down on the ground. They can't freeze the ball. Sooner or later, they've gotta throw it."

That's on my collection of highlights that I put on my archive page several years ago. That's how we'll finish here. Thanks, Vin.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

September 11, 2016

Normally sometime on this date, as I've done every year for the last decade, I post some kind of thoughts about September 11 -- the date that rattled us like few ever have.

Normally I play my montage of audio that I pulled together from various news sources. I've posted it here.

After that, I normally play Bruce Springsteens' The Rising. It's the only time I play that album. It's not my favorite.

Nope. I just don't seem to have it in me this year.

Yes, I have MSNBC on (the only time in the year that I ever watch it) as they play NBC's coverage of September 11, 2001. As always, I want to relive it. So despite what Slate tells you, I want MSNBC to continue to play it. Every year.

Don't like it? Change the channel. It's Sunday. Watch the NFL preview shows (there are only about 30 of them). Or go do something else.

As for me? No. I don't have Springsteen in me this year. I don't even know that I have the energy to write a lengthy blog post.

A few days ago, Sean asked to interview me for my thoughts on September 11 as we reach the fifteenth anniversary. It reminded me that I wrote a letter to him, while still unborn, a few months after, and just a little over a month before his birth.

I just reread it, and was reminded of where I was in my own life. Yes, a lot changes in 15 years. You can read some of the obvious changes in my life in there.

We all #NeverForget. Good for us. Now how about we unite and make it all better, instead of being a bunch of flag-waving phonies who focus more on making our social media pictures all about what great patriots we are?

So I'm posting the link to Remembrances of September 11. I wrote it on January 14, 2002, and placed it on the blog on September 11, 2006.

Never forget, indeed.

Friday, August 26, 2016


One of the best ways to wake up.
Full disclosure: I've never really owned a dog.

That's largely true. My mom briefly owned one after my dad died. My niece, Laura, brought two dogs when she moved in with me for a stretch in 2009-10. She brought Grim (fairly bratty little thing that still freaks out Sean at the mention of his name) and Roxy.

Roxy. In my lifetime, I can think of two dogs who have ever had such an impact. Not to say there aren't other dogs I adore (cousin Kris and wife Lori have Bailey, who is super cool, for instance), but Roxy and my dearly-departed friend Scrappy (he of the Harold/Tracy/Cameron/Katie household) are the two.

I wrote about Scrappy once. We (and I'm not part of their family, but I feel comfortable saying "we" when it comes to Scrappitydoo) lost the sweetest corgi in 2011. Hard to explain, since I was just a visitor, but man we had a friendship. That dog was always thrilled to see me, and vice versa. I'd think "nah, just a coincidence," but I realized I had to give myself a little credit. He always had to show me the toys and then play with me, and god forbid if I didn't. The barking would commence. He'd flop right down on his side for me to pet him every time.

Roxy, as she lived with me, is a whole different story. Sean and I have a running gag, that when we go to Fayetteville to visit her (oh yeah, and our human family also), she'll bark furiously at us, the realize who she's barking at.

"Bark! Bark! Bark! Bark! Bark! Oh, it's you."
"America's Dog," Roxy
Roxy has visited us for sleepovers and hogged the bed and faithfully snuggled, and laid on my feet as I worked, and walked and peed and pooped and barked and played and done a whole lot of dog activities.

We once made up a breed for her when someone asked: A Red Heeler Hippadooda. OK, Red Heeler's are real. Hippadooda's aren't.

Then there's Harry The Wonder Dog (The Wonder Dog part is mine, trademark circa 2014) who died (we're journalists, so passed away is a short story in our world) late last year. He's still very much missed by his family.

I only knew him by his bark, but he was a faithful, adorable dog.

So whether it's Mason, Max, Diggy, Daisy, Elmo, Gracie, or some other four-legged canine pal, Happy National Dog Day. A little extra Chuck Wagon is yours tonight.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Moment of Bliss

North on I-95, preparing to cross the James into Richmond (My photo)
The photo above likely means nothing to you, unless you're a road nut.

To me, it represents sheer joy.

Let me explain.

We began the rather arduous drive home at the back end of another fun and fabulous time in Fayetteville (and Raleigh), North Carolina on Sunday. We left Raleigh at 7:30 that morning, with the stated goal of trying to reach Fishkill, NY by 6:00 to drop Sean off. My son, rising freshman, needed to be at Orientation at John Jay High School the following morning.

We coasted over to a Sheetz in Rocky Mount, NC for a break before hitting I-95. I promised Sean that this would be a long stretch without a break, though I tend to stick to breaking after approximately three hours. Yet I got on a roll, and had every intention of steamrolling past Washington, DC.

I did. We didn't stop until we hit Gettysburg, PA* on US 15 roughly four and a half hours later. Only the need for food and gasoline stopped me.

* Incidentally, we also stopped at Sheetz in Gettysburg for sandwiches. Don't get me wrong -- Sheetz is just fine and dandy -- but Wawa wins by a landslide.

North of Gettysburg (I took US 15 to get away from the coast and the beach bums heading home on Sunday), the ride became a quagmire of rain and slow cars. What looked like a possible 9.5 hour drive became 12.5 hours. I got Sean home just before 7:30 that night.

But back to the picture. My affection for Richmond, Virginia is quite obvious if you've read Exit 55 since the beginning. One of my closest friends, the great Jon (and Rebecca and their amazing daughters) live there, as do a few other friends. It's why I've long-considered it a place I would move to if the chance arose. It's comfortable.
Getting closer to the James River Bridge, with RVA in the background (My photo)
So now take that and add in the view beyond that sign. Crossing the James into downtown Richmond is truly one of my favorite entrances into any city. While it doesn't beat the WOW moment of emerging from the Fort Pitt Tunnel in Pittsburgh, there is something magnificent about how the city of Richmond just sits right in front of you.

Now cue the music. I still enjoy turning the dial to hear what local radio plays, and was doing just that when I found one of RVA's classic rock channels. While a lot of the usual stuff played, it was the sounds of "Come Together" by The Beatles that made this moment complete. It was the right groove for my 70 MPH drive through a favorite city, thinking about the friends I have there.

It was bliss.

That's rare.

(One last note: my road photos were used on a web page. Go here to see the work that Robert Malme put into making my pics of the Fayetteville Outer Loop look good.)

Friday, August 19, 2016

Fayetteville Market House - Then and Now

My thirst for history got me looking around he interwebs this morning, since it's only nephew-in-law Hector and I sitting at the kitchen table in Fayetteville while everyone else sleeps.

We went downtown yesterday to have a look at their Transportation and Local History Museum (the potential for road geeking -- and train geeking for Sean) was too much to pass up.

Well it wasn't entirely that, but it is still a museum that it is worth your time and effort (it's a quick visit). The people are wonderful and full of information, and the price is...well...perfect: free.

As we walked, I kept reading references to the Market House, and came to understand that the building -- where Hay, Gillespie, Person and Green Streets come together -- also played a little role in road lore.

Indeed, this was once the intersection of US 15A (since deleted) and US 301 (since moved). So I trolled around online and came up with this image from NCSU Libraries:

Business-bannered US 301 shield at right (NCSU Library)
They're marking that picture as "circa 1955," but I don't think I agree, given the US 301 sign and some of the cars in the picture, but I suppose it's possible. I'll leave that to those smarter than I.

Anyway, it seemed nobody else in my traveling party took note of the references to the Market House, so after we left, I decided to drive around downtown Fayetteville. Sure enough -- and it didn't take long -- I found it.

Fayetteville Market House, 2016 (My photo)
Before we wrap up, here are a few other nuggets from our visit to the Transportation Museum. I found an old white North Carolina guide sign hanging in a window.

I turned the camera so it would look right on in the picture.

An old street sign blade.
Incidentally, the kind man in the museum couldn't answer Hector's question about when stop signs switched from yellow to red. I didn't have the exact answer (the gentleman mumbled something about "local laws" or something), but Richard C. Moeur's Manual of Traffic Signs has the answer (1954).
Pretty cool yellow STOP sign, pre-1954.
And a license plate with "55" in it. Just. Because.

Anyway, give Fayetteville some love, for a variety of reasons. Cool downtown museums (with minor league baseball on the way as early as next year, so I hear, per the Fayetteville Observer), Fort Bragg, some shopping, restaurants, and more. I've come to really like it here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Exit 55 at 10

This is my place in Blogland, but this sign is from Robbie's in North Carolina.

So here we are. We've done 2241 posts over 10 years, with this being number 2242. It seems like just yesterday we began with a post about the beginning of the long goodbye to Yankee Stadium.

That was 10 years ago today: August 17, 2006.

We've talked about rubber bands, Paul McCartney (even if we weren't really talking about Macca), an ode to baseball, and had a drink at the Yankees Saloon.

We've talked about love. Life. Football. Politics. Roads. Music. Movies. Broadcasting. Vin (just Vin).

We've done a lot, yet I never felt like I've done enough. But I'm glad I've continued doing it.

It didn't make me famous. It never had a huge readership. But we made friends (Hi, Tim! Hi, Paul!) and enhanced other friendships.

We also ticked a few people off.

My life has changed immeasurably from that day. I'd love to go smack my 37 year-old self in the head but we can't change things, so why think about it?

Only one post hasn't been published, and still sits in my "draft" folder. A few others -- maybe 10 -- got deleted before I ever published them.

Too many stories. Too many memories.

I hope I'm a better writer than I was 10 years ago. I hope I'm a better person than I was 10 years ago.

I hope I'm a better father, friend, son, brother, uncle, and more.

I, like this blog, will always be a work in progress.

We've done this for 10 years, and I've mostly loved it.

I've wanted to open doors to conversations. Debates were always welcome, and still are.

I've felt nearly every emotion imaginable over the past decade. I pondered hanging the going out of business banner when I reached today. But there are still stories to tell and, as I type this from my nieces' house in North Carolina, I feel reenergized.

Thank you for reading and supporting. It's truly an honor.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Blog Best: Oniontown and the Big "Hit"-ters

It's right off NY Route 22, and they're content to be left alone.
It's the most-read post in the history of this effort. Posted on July 5, 2008, I examined a small enclave of Dover, NY called Oniontown. Sadly, a few idiots from my own hometown decided to go for a joyride in there and folks weren't too pleased.

I've long been content to let the town (and their residents simply be), but I did write the post, and indeed, Google "Oniontown" and there it is, just a few notes from the top. It continues to get hits everyday.

So there's that.

Incidentally, this piece from Vice referred to Mahopac as "wealthy." Huh. If that's the case, I've really been doing this wrong for a long time. A little research goes a long way.

Anyway, local radio station WRKI, "I-95" (no, Interstate 95 goes nowhere near it) did a bit on it, and there's a video embedded in there, so have at it. I'm sure they'll like the clicks.

Other posts that got the most hits were...

Basketball on TV (which was about my joining Tom Prizeman to call some hoops on local TV in Pleasantville, NY)

Red Barber and Harry Caray in the Same Post! (which, in my opinion, shouldn't happen)

Linda Cohn Plays Captain Obvious For Us (for the record, I like Linda a lot. We watched hockey together at Yankee Stadium)

Diane Schuler: The Continued Outrage (a story that still confounds and outrages. A story that grew into something national, and a spot that pass quite often on the Taconic State Parkway. A story that didn't need to be)

Yet these aren't the posts that a few (very few, mind you) people told me were the best of the best. We'll try to get to that tomorrow. Perhaps.