Sunday, August 18, 2019

That's Enough

Passing through here sometime tomorrow (Delaware)
I called this post "That's Enough" for two reasons:

1) I'm leaving for vacation tomorrow in North Carolina. Realistically I can't afford it and will do everything in my soul to make it affordable. But I have to go for several reasons, not the least of which is I'm George Jetson walking Astro the dog and saying, "Jane! Stop this crazy thing."

So we'll come back to that.

But then there's...

Nah. Umpire Ben May is just looking to make dinner plans and thought the Yankees wanted to join him.
2) And the truth is, I had a whole rant written about the Yankees kerfuffle in their game against the Indians with the umpiring crew. I've changed it. I said what I needed to say on social media and will let others continue to ramble on.

Those who think they know better as they sit in their towers.

The truth is, I'll change no minds, so why bother writing? Yankees wrong (oh, and I'm biased of course). Umpires right. Brett Gardner is the first to ever throw a fit.

We're good.

Enjoy this lovely collection of baseball tantrums instead (Gardner included, along with St. David Ortiz).

*****
The part of Astro will be played by Sonic the Hedgehog
With that said and put to bed, as I will not be taking questions (just like all umpires), I will move onto trip planning.

I love to travel. Like, love love love it.

But I'm not great at just throwing stuff in a bag and going. Can I do that? I guess, but it's not my style.

More often than not, I'm the planner of the whole thing. Find the hotels, restaurants, what roads, and on and on and on.

I spent most of the day in some form of travel mode. Pack. Make the proper arrangments for Chico (the large gray cat). Get dissatisfied with my choice of luggage. Pack again. Do any necessary laundry. Check that the car is ready.

Think about which route I want to take. Can I get to the now-completed Interstate 95 from New Jersey into Pennsylvania? Will I hit Philadelphia at rush hour?

We're staying over tomorrow night, a concession to making things easier, and not normally my style. I love the challenge of the one-day drive. I love writing down the times and mileage, and seeing how it all stacks up. I can draw from six previous drives, and have a spreadsheet to back it all up.

Missing from this edition of the trip will be the 5:30 a.m. start time from New York. However, we'll do that on Tuesday morning when we leave the hotel, so instead of concerning myself with New York and Philadephia morning rush, it will be Baltimore and Washington.

I was taught as a kid to fear Washington D.C. rush hour with all proper respect and might. I still do.

I'll be pondering it and relying on the Waze app, as well as WTOP Radio for constant updates.

It's like sports to me. There's a strategy involved. It can be very cerebral. It can be grueling (up early, drive all day).

If it all goes well, I'll be sitting in my niece's house by sometime Tuesday afternoon. We'll also make every effort to keep our Project 365 alive.

Waffle House awaits!

I'm bringing just enough radio equipment to do a show if we get the urge.

Otherwise, I'm out of here.

That's enough.

*****
Two last notes:

- The wonderfully eloquent Jack Whitaker died today. He was the last living TV voice from Super Bowl I, calling the game on CBS. In fact, he was the only living TV voice from the first 21 super Sundays.

He made his way over to ABC where he continued to be a voice of grace. He was at Normandy just after D-Day.

He was foolishly banned from The Masters for five years after uttering the words "mob scene."

He described the exploits of Secretariat.

He was 95.

- FIOS1 News is shutting down in November after being unable to reach a contract agreement with Verizon, and thus putting roughly 150 people at RNN out of work. I'm saddened to see local journalism suffer yet again, and even sadder to see friends and good journalists and good people behind the camera out of work. Respect and best wishes to all.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

"Exit 55" Turns 13

Fayetteville, NC (Aug 30, 2018)
It was the summer of 2006 and all the cool kids were doing it.

Friends Sean Kilkelly and Matt Hamilton were among them. So was the actor Zach Braff.

I was 37 and felt like I wanted to be a part of the fun, though trend-following has never really been my thing.

Sean was somewhere in the house that we had bought only a few months earlier. We had a pool in the backyard and a lawn that I dutifully mowed.

On TV, the Yankees were breaking ground on building the replacement for Yankee Stadium across the street.

It was time. I started writing a blog.

(I wrote the first post on Aug 16 and put it online on the 17th at 7:00 a.m. I forgot about that.)

Like basically everything I do, I didn't just jump in headfirst. I needed a name for the blog and a web address and I needed to be certain it wouldn't exist for a few months and die (and no, my podcast won't meet that fate either. There's just a different level of work to that).

I decided to use Blogger as my home and went with steelyankee as part of the address. I've used that as a faux production company name for years (and, yet, somehow it isn't SteelYankee Radio instead of Robcasting).

Next came the name. I agonized over it. How could I represent myself?

Baseball? Football? TV? Radio? Music?

Roads won out. The term "exit" hit my mind, thinking of that as a metaphor for escape. Fifty-five has long been my favorite number. Exit...55. Bingo.

I wrote about how I came up with it in the third post.

I had no illusions about what the blog would be at first. I thought it would be great if writing led to opportunities, and I think that's happened in some small ways.

It would be great if it could find an audience, and it has, again in small ways. But, as in broadcasting, I had to remind myself to do my best regardless of audience size.

I hoped it would create conversation and reasonable debate. Again, sort of.

I hoped it would strike emotions.

It's well known that, as in life, there have been ups and downs with the bloggity. I hit a high point of 464 posts in 2009 when I was willing to log on to write only a few sentences and post that.

Well, that's what Twitter is now.

So the social media aspect of it, and my very behavior has changed as the years have gone on. We have certainly ebbed and flowed.

The blog has often felt like an extension of my broadcasting, in that I find myself saying, "Wait. You read/listened?" I guess people will come (to the radio/video/blog).

But it's still shocking and a little embarrassing.

Still, there were ruts in the road. When the blog was used against me (and, trust me, it was) I wondered about shutting it down. Not because the criticism bothered me, but because...well, take my word for it. In the process, the posts became more vanilla(ish), less risky or opinionated, and most of all, less frequent.

The worst is having to explain posts or having the posts be misunderstood. It's an awful feeling to be a communicator and explain what the heck you mean so often.

That's when I'd ponder posting a "Gone Fishing" or "Sorry, We're Closed" sign.

Or I'd ponder a goodbye post.

Or I'd just stop and leave it like the end of "The Sopranos."

Maybe "Don't Stop Believing" would play on a shot of me, just sitting at the keyboard, looking perplexed.

Then, as I often do, I found a little energy at the end of last year. Normally, the turn of the calendar got me to do a few posts every year and this year was no different. Then I'd promise that I'd do one post per day.

Then I'd do nothing, often lamenting that nobody cared, even if they did.

Mick would yell at me. Susan would gently tell me she liked my writing. Others would ask why I hadn't written. This wasn't exactly Harper Lee level, mind you, but I appreciated the sentiment.

Then came John Nash and the challenge to do #Project365.

I've documented the long nights, where I'd be sitting on the side of the road to just get a post online.

I've also put a few "evergreen" posts in the drafts folder, just in case. Some will likely never see the light of day (I hope).

I've bled with you. I've been honest with you. I've gotten emotional with you, and that's probably when I know those are my better posts. If I can feel an emotional nerve -- mostly, choking up -- then I know I've got something, and have to always be prepared for the all-important clicks* to be low.

*The whole "click culture" is an insult to journalism. "Hey -- do a story on the Elvis impersonator who is a greeter down at the Walmart in Norwalk!" Yeah, great journalistic instinct there, bub.

Writing has always fascinated me, from the work of famed sportswriters such as Mike Lupica, to the great authors (Fitzgerald, Lee, Steinbeck). I can barely do any of these people justice, just as I'm likely an insult to the great journalists I know (Susan, Paul, the Game Time gang, etc). As always, I can't name everyone.

A professor I had in my first year at Westchester Community College -- and, to this day, I can not remember her name -- once stopped me in the parking lot to ask me if I was interested in tutoring a student.

On writing.

I looked at her, said I wasn't available, and let her walk away. I wondered if it was a missed opportunity. But I figured she had the wrong person. Seriously, me? A Writer? I headed towards my next class, stunned. Nah. I'm just a voice.

I'm still just a voice. But a voice who keeps trying to write and report.

Thanks for reading, all. I raise my glass to you -- especially those who who have inspired and supported me for 13 years.

I make no promises, but we're still here.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Just a Kid

Life moves pretty fast, as Ferris told us, but there would have been consequences had he really gotten busted.

Life makes you grow up pretty fast sometimes.

There are, of course, circumstances in which one can, and should, be young. You know, act their age.

But there comes a point where the saying "just a kid" needs to fly out the window.

I'm a pretty tough but fair dad. I've worked with Sean on being respectful and appropriate.

Not saying "thank you" at virtually any age brought a swift rebuke.

Sorry. but "just a kid" doesn't fly there.

So when he steps into "big boy" circumstances, there are no excuses.

When he went on the air with me at the Greenwich Town Party, criticism would have been totally fair. The reviews were kind.

Yet I knew that stepping into that arena (pardon the pun) opened us both up. It would have been justified if he was bad, and I would have had to deal with it.

In fact, I was prepared for our Operations Manager at WGCH, Bob Small, to criticize him. Bob is not known to hold his thoughts -- good and bad. We've had our share of disagreements for sure as we've voiced our opinions.

Fortunately, it was not a problem.

So that's the thing. "Just a kid" becomes a crutch. It should be fair game to criticize when the "kid" steps into the big arena and, yet, they get the treatment of diplomatic immunity.

Or, more often than not, whispering goes on behind backs because no one wants to overstep the Just a Kid Treaty.

I try to build reality with Sean. He doesn't have certain advantages, and that actually includes me.

He was in a radio "club" in high school that had literally nothing to do with radio, and he quickly became disillusioned with it. There was nothing I could do about it.

He's going to earn everything in life. Just as I have.

That's not always the case, as advantages (read: money) buys opportunities. It's frustrating, but there's little that can be done about it.

Not everything deserves a trophy.

It's just real life.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Bureaucratic M. Nonsense

(Photo: Peter Carr/The Journal News)
On our way home from Yankee Stadium Monday night, Sean noticed the lights of a bridge overhead.

Shining over the Hudson River, the bridge -- stretching over the Tappan Zee area of the river, at its widest point -- is known to most of us by its original name.

The Tappan Zee Bridge, or more formally, the Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge. Wilson was governor of New York in 1973-1974.

Of course, officially, the Tappan Zee Bridge is gone, replaced with what was codenamed "The New NY Bridge." That moniker struck me as weird, but it all made sense when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a last-second legislature push to name the bridge after his father, Mario Cuomo.

Mario M. Cuomo, to be exact.

The signs went up along with the collective blood pressure of the Hudson Valley.

As we often find out, what's in a name is quite a bit. A few crossings in New York City have been renamed, including the (Robert. F. Kennedy) Triboro Bridge, the (Hugh Carey) Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, and the (Ed Koch) Queensboro Bridge.

Those newer names haven't been accepted so kindly.

On the other hand, there was once a place called Idlewild Airport. We now know it as John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Names are funny things. We have a deli on Secor Road in Mahopac that older folks still call "George's." I don't think George has owned the deli since the 1980s.

To some of us, Franklin Delano Roosevelt State Park is still "Mohansic," which was its given name.

Among a large portion of my road friends, the bridge renamings haven't gone over well.

There are others, however, who think "we" need to get over it. I get it. I respect it.

But I'll readily admit this is one that I've dug my heels in on.

The Journal News is adamant that their stylebook says they must call it the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.

On the radio, I've made it clear that I absolutely refuse to do so.

For the record, part of the West Side Highway in Manhattan is known as the Joe DiMaggio Highway. Nobody -- me included -- calls it that.

Despite efforts to rename it as the "Tappan Zee Bridge," or compromise as the "Governor Mario M. Cuomo Tappan Zee Bridge," the Cuomo name has stayed in place.

And that's where the story has taken its dumbest turn. Earlier today, reports -- including from the Journal News, via LoHud.com -- have indicated that crews will be adding a single letter to previously-installed signs.

Where the signs said "Mario Cuomo Bridge," they now will be corrected to "Mario M. Cuomo Bridge."

You can't make this stuff up.

The pure arrogance of this situation is astounding and embarrassing.

And better yet? We the taxpayers get to foot the bill for Andy's Folly.

"We are currently in the process of installing overlays on existing signs for the sake of uniformity across the state highway and Thruway systems, and to ensure every sign reflects the official name of the new bridge," spokesman Joseph Morrissey said in a statement.

I mean, are you kidding me? This is Andrew Cuomo thumbing his nose at everyone, money be damned.

And it's not Cuomo's first sign screw up. He cost the state $14 million 514 signs that were against the standards of the Federal Highway Administration.

But New York pays the price. Literally.

It is a stunningly beautiful crossing. A gorgeous twin cable-stayed span that replaced the 1955 original. It is fantastic to see as night, as noted by Sean.

But it will remain known as the Tappan Zee Bridge, crossing the Tappan Zee of the Hudson River.

Now More than ever.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Philadelphia

(WPVI/6 ABC Philadelphia)
I'm tired tonight and need to be up early tomorrow to teach at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting.

And I'm sickened watching what happened in Philadelphia tonight.

We're seeing New York City police officers kill themselves. Eight of them have taken their own lives in 2019. (UPDATE: NINE)

Earlier today in Philadelphia, police went to serve a warrant on N. 15th St. in the Nicetown-Tioga area of town. Then gunfire erupted.

Six officers have been hit by bullets. Fortunately, their wounds are said to be minimal.

There was once a time when this would have been a pretty major story for our "Big 3" networks (ABC/NBC/CBS), but continuing coverage of such things has migrated over to CNN/MSNBC/FOX News and so on.

Except, the last I looked, it was full Trump obsession talk.

So my kudos goes to KYW Newsradio 1060 AM.

Yes. Radio. AM Radio.

For the win.

They sound exhausted as they've been on the case for hours.

My hat is off to them.

This does not take away from any previous story. Gilroy, El Paso, Dayton, and every other shooting deserves attention.

But there are people actively celebrating the NYPD cops who have killed themselves. There will be those saying, "Good," for this situation tonight.

Without climbing on any soapboxes, I'll just offer that it's sad.

There were shots being fired at police on a city street. It was frightening to watch.

It's terrible to watch.

Thank you to KYW Radio for their continuing coverage, as well as the Philadelphia police scanner via Broadcastify.

Radio still matters.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Mick

Picture of one of my baseball cards

Mickey Mantle died on this day in 1995.

I'm quick to recognize The Mick was an amazingly flawed person.

A drinker? Check. Womanizer? Check. Occasional grump? Check.

But he was also full of Oklahoma charm and boyishness, with a talent for sports that can only be described as "God-given" (or "Ruth-given").

Flawed? You bet.

He first appeared on the scene in 1951, but he worked his way through an un-Mantle-like .267 average with 13 home runs. It was the lowest home run total of his career.

Playing across the Harlem River was another rookie who would go up against Mantle in the '51 World Series. His name was Willie Mays. That's a lot of talent in the span of barely a mile.

Mickey would give baseball fans 18 years of thrills. A triple crown in '56. Three MVP's. All-star appearances every year except 1951. A fine defensive play in left center field that kept Don Larsen's perfect game alive. Myriad big hits. A career-high 54 home runs in 1961, when only a kid from North Dakota named Roger Maris could outhomer him.

Nobody hit more World Series home runs than him. Facing a 38-year-old knuckleballer named Barney Schultz in Game 3 of the 1964 Fall Classic, Mantle allegedly told catcher Elston Howard to head to the locker room, because the game was over. He was that confident.

"Forget about it," said Curt Gowdy on NBC Radio.


Watch Mantle run. Always with his head down, because he was -- at heart -- a shy kid who didn't want to show anyone up.

But those flaws. Those injuries. No Mantle man -- his father included -- lived past 40. Hodgkins Disease is awful. Mickey felt guilty about that and a lot of his behavior -- his demons -- were a result of that.

Joe DiMaggio didn't help things, but so was the fractured psyche of Mickey Charles Mantle.

When Mick was sent back to Kansas City during that '51 campaign, he called his father and told him he might not have what it took to make it. His dad drove to where Mickey was staying, busted into his room, and began packing a suitcase. "I thought I raised a man," 'Mutt' Mantle said. "I see I raised a coward instead."

That did it. Mick got it together, and Cooperstown awaited.

That fall, Mays hit a fly ball to right center. Mantle, playing right, charged in before being called off at the last minute by DiMaggio. Mick stopped, caught his spikes in a drainpipe, and wrecked his knee.

Mutt helped his son into Lenox Hill Hospital before having to be admitted himself. They watched the rest of the Series together in the hospital before Hodgkins claimed Mutt in early 1952.

Then there was the mythicism. Besides the on-field exploits for the most-famous, and most-successful team, there was the off-field impact. He was a Madison Ave darling in a golden era that would later add Frank Gifford and Joe Namath and Tom Seaver. Those boyhood looks were good, and many a baby was born to the name.

One of my closest friends will never be known by his given name. In fact, don't even call him that. It shows up on his legal paperwork, but not for a day is he known by his birth name.

He's known by his middle name: Mick.

He finished with 536 home runs, and one can only wonder what he could have done. But look around Yankee Stadium to this day, and you'll still see plenty of number seven jerseys patrolling the concourse.

His death in 1995 brought baby boomers to their knees. Just 63, years of drinking ravaged his liver. Though he received a transplant, cancer had ravaged his body. At a press conference that year, he said, "This is a role model: Don't be like me."

Though controversial, organ donations increased as a result of Mantle.

The funeral was carried on ESPN. Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Bobby Murcer, Hank Bauer, Moose Skowron, and Johnny Blanchard were the pallbearers in the greatest of Old Timer's Days. Bobby Richardson officiated in the most graceful way I've ever seen. I'd be honored to have such class do the same.

Roy Clark sang "Yesterday When I Was Young."

Bob Costas gave the eulogy of eulogies.

I listened to it on the radio at work and watched it when I got home.

1988
For the record, I met Mickey Mantle once, in the last '80s at a card show in White Plains. He could not have been more gracious and kind in the briefest of encounters. The story was memorable enough to Sean that when we talked about it last night at Yankee Stadium, he remembered it.

"You met him at the place where the (New York) Streets play," he said, recalling that I told him about it when we were at the Westchester County Center watching an arena football game.

(For what it's worth, the Yankees/Orioles last night game helped rekindle some love of being at the ballpark.)

*****
It's taken roughly 800 words to get to the real point of why we're here, in the worst case of burying the lede.

I was exchanging tweets with my friend Mark Del Franco about Mantle and baseball cards when I was reminded of my own cards. The Mick published a book of the same name in 1986 that was a huge hit. To promote the paperback edition of the book, the publisher printed baseball cards that were free giveaways. I snagged a few of them from the Waldenbooks in Jefferson Valley Mall. I still have them.

Except for one.

My father died in 1989, and that's no secret to those who have read this effort on the interweb. As he was being laid to rest, it was decided that there were going to be items that would be buried with him. I recall his Teamsters jacket being included. Feeling like I should add something to this time capsule, I began to think about exactly what.

Clearly, you can figure out what it was. With minimal notice, I grabbed one card from its sleeve, delivered the eulogy at his funeral that Tuesday, turned around, and placed it in his casket.

The Mick. With my dad for eternity.

To quote Costas: "I just hope God has a place for him where he can run again. Where he can play practical jokes on his teammates and smile that boyish smile, ’cause God knows, no one’s perfect. And God knows there’s something special about heroes.

So long, Mick. Thanks."

I hope my dad is running again as well, but that's a different story for another time.

You were flawed, Mick. You were also one in a million.

"Thanks" doesn't seem sufficient.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Almost Going Home

Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

It's been four years.

In fact, it's been 1,516 days.

For me, that's a lifetime. Sort of like not winning a World Series in 10 years.

In a Yankees fans life, we count things like this.

So, for the first time in those precious 1,516 days, I'll walk back into Yankee Stadium tonight, thanks to my son.

Sean took a class in sports history and competition in the past school year. Included in the class was a field trip to Yankee Stadium.

"I want to go with you," he said.

You don't understand what that meant to me. Like, it's almost indescribable. We barely have a sports connection. He'll ask how a game went occasionally, but this class -- taught by a hockey coach who I know -- has given us a whole different bond.

I didn't forget his request to go and finally made good on it.

Orioles/Yankees tonight at 7:05 p.m.

Yankee Stadium has always been my home. The old stadium was it. Old or refurbished, it was heaven. My field of dreams.

The new one is...fine. Nice. It's just not the old one.

Being a Yankees fan is...well, it's whatever. Most hate us. Detest us. Despise us.

Winning makes a fanbase an arrogant lot, and I know that.

It's funny to remember that this franchise -- born out of the dregs of the old Baltimore Orioles in 1903 -- was a joke when it first came into the American League.

Though they battled to the last day of the 1904 season, before a team from Boston -- yeah, them -- won the pennant on a wild pitch, the Yankees* of 1903-1919 were actually pretty middling to bad.

* Yes, I know they were also the Highlanders, but as Marty Appel pointed out in Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees from Before the Babe to After the Boss, the "Yankees" name was fairly prominent before becoming permanent around 1912.

So when the Yankees -- the little brother to the Giants -- acquired George Herman Ruth in December 1919, the world immediately changed.

They made their first World Series in 1921. They won their first title in 1923, which is the same year that the REAL Yankee Stadium opened.

There have been 26 more titles since then. They didn't go very long without winning, so to a Yankees fan, the years of 1962 to 1977 and 1978 to 1996 were purgatory.

It's been 10 years. They've haven't gone a decade without a World Series appearance since the 1910s.

And if they don't get better pitching, that's going to happen in the 2010s.

So they need to continue to feast on the Orioles, which they'll do tonight at 7:05.

Thanks to Sean.