Saturday, December 31, 2016

Man of the Year (and goodnight, 2016)


Honestly, in my world, who else could it be? The sweetest swan song of all.

Thanks, Vin Scully, for everything you taught me, and for demonstrating grace. Long may you live and may a microphone wind up in your hand again.

We'll see you in 2017...wherever you may be.


It's Just Another Day

Onto '17 we go (Charleston, SC. 2012)
We've dealt with our hatred of this night many times, so no point in dwelling.

There's also no point in dwelling on 2016. It had highs. It had lows.

I mean, that's simply life.

I'm saddened that I only posted 44 times this year, but all I can do is just move on.

I'd rather just look forward. To that end, I have a resolution!

I'm going to wake up tomorrow.

That's probably the best approach.

When you get right down to it, this is a similar post to what I wrote a year ago tonight.

In a lot of ways, not a thing changed. In others, they most certainly did. I wish for the same things that I've been wishing for some time. I wished the same when I blew out the candle on my 48th birthday cake in November (of which I was touched by).

But I learned more about myself. I learned more about how I have to be in certain ways.

It was an eye-opening year. It is what it is, as the saying goes.

I'll endeavor to keep waking up every day. Simply put, as always, to keep moving forward.

We need unity. We need peace. I'm quite doubtful we'll find either, so getting excited and optimistic about the flip of the calendar is sort of difficult.

My apologies for the cynicism, but I'm a realist.

Sean and I wish you well - tomorrow and each ensuing tomorrow.

I'd like 2017 to be a big year.

Beyond that, it's just another day.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Celebrities and Grief (RIP, Carrie Fisher)

Tough but tender. Princess Leia. Though there was that "kiss her brother" thing.

We don't know these people. I know that.

Carrie Fisher, the iconic Princess Leia of my youth, died today at the age of 60, after suffering a heart attack last week.

And we grieve for these people. Many don't understand why.

Look, I get seriously tired of the martyrdom for Prince, George Michael, etc.

But I get why it happens. I get why there are those who mourn.

Because it's a loss of our innocence. It's a reminder of our past, to a large degree.

For me, Carrie Fisher takes me back to bring a kid. It takes me back to the first move I ever saw twice -- called Star Wars (not "Episode IV" or "A New Hope" or whatever). It reminds me of driving down the Taconic Parkway with my cousins -- me, the oldest of the kids in the car -- as my dad teased us about the names of the Star Wars characters.

Princess Leia was Princess Lulu.

This is why we mourn. Not because we think we know them. We don't. I'm somewhat certain I've never been in the same zip code as Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, or Carrie Fisher.

But I think my point is clear.

Anyway, I'm babbling.

Without being cheesy, may the force be with Ms. Fisher.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Mel Stottlemyre is 'Fighting For His Life'


Off the news of Carrie Fisher having a massive heart attack (USA Today) comes word that Mel Stottlemyre, once the heart and soul of the Yankees' late-60's/early 70's pitching staff is "fighting for his life."

Mel's son, Todd Stottlemyre, passed along the news early today on social media (ESPN).

Mel came to the Yankees in 1964 and went 9-3 before losing to Bob Gibson (hardly a crime) in game 7 of the World Series. Gibson pitched on two-days rest and went the distance. Different times. Stottlemyre threw a complete effort to win game 2, beating Gibson 8-3.

Sadly that would be Mel's only postseason, as the Yankees faded badly over the next decade.

Mel would remain the ace of the staff, and become a five-time All-Star. In 11 seasons, he pitched to a 2.97 ERA, while winning 164 games. Unfortunately, he led the league in losses twice (1966, when he dropped 20 decisions, and 1972, when he lost 18).

His best years were clearly 1968 (the year of the pitcher), when he went 21-12 with a 2.45 ERA. But 1969, with the change in mound height, was his absolute best. Mel went 20-14 with a 2.82 ERA and a league-high 24 complete games.

Mel had arm problems that ended his career at just 33. He was released in early 1975, and eventually reemerged as one of the best pitching coaches in the game. It was Stottlemyre who was alongside Davey Johnson as the Mets won it all in '86. Then Mel went to the Astros and before he rejoined the Yankees. There, with Joe Torre, the Yankees had one of their best runs in history, grasping four more rings between 1996 and 2000.

Mel was a favorite of mine, along with that Murcer guy in the early 70's.
Mel and Bobby Murcer, Old Timer's Day.

I don't have words without being trite, other than best wishes. I wish I had more.



Monday, December 19, 2016

Public Service Announcement

The County Line (courtesy Google)
The intersection of US 6, Baldwin Place Road, and NY Route 118 at the Westchester/Putnam County line has evolved over the years.

I can remember - barely - when there weren't traffic lights there. That would be in the early 1970's. Then they put lights up, and the movement meant leaving Baldwin Place Road, making a left onto US 6, and then bearing right onto NY 118.

That's just an example, and this stayed as so for a long time. Minor adjustments were made over the years, but the problems remained.

I remember the family friend who got knocked off his motorcycle in an accident there.

Of course, commerce necessitated the measures to keep things safe. Our "mall," THE Baldwin Place Mall was right there. Our McDonald's was there. The Mobil station that, so long as your horn worked, you passed your NY state inspection (minor exaggeration, but not by much). The County Line Pub (now PJ's) was nearby. Kinney Shoes, Robert Hall, Sears (the catalog store!), Book and Record, Studio Deli, Embassy, ah...the memories!

Up the road was another shopping center, with Shopwell, Arthur Treacher's, King's (a brief Caldor-type knockoff), and more.

The shopping centers are all still around, but things have changed.

And so has the corner of Baldwin Place/6/118.

Including the pattern of the traffic lights.

The intersection was reconstructed over the summer, eliminating the necessity to make the left from Baldwin Place Road before turning onto NY 118. It's now a straight movement. New traffic lights were installed.

And a new traffic light pattern was put in place last Monday.

So as I'm driving to Greenwich this morning, I moved along Baldwin Place Road, and had the foresight to recognize that not everyone got the traffic light change memo.

It's a simple concept: for you to turn left on US 6 West (from 118), you need an arrow. Or no oncoming traffic.

Like me.

Had I not been at least a little smart, a young lady driving a small SUV would have given me a holiday gift. The sound of my horn (a rarity) did nothing to deter her.

I growled and moved on.

She's undoubtedly impervious to her utter stupidity.

Thankfully, all is well.

But look out, should you travel through the area.

The preceding has been a public service announcement.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

An Embarrassing Admission


Thanks to the snow, freezing rain, and anything else hitting the Pac, I'm chilling out.

I've shoveled the snow, and I can hear the ramblings of Sean and his friend Will, who are playing some computer game...and have been since yesterday.

With Sean and Will both here, I decided to give my up room to them. So that has me in a room of a distant lifetime. Or a glass case of emotion.

With no TV, but of course, in modern-day times, if one has technology, one can survive nicely.

(Or read a book, but let's not lose the point.)

OK, I'm burying the lede (or lead - your call).

So onto Netflix I went. I looked around and came across a classic.

Jaws.

Which I've never totally seen.

And that embarrasses me.

I thought about why. For one, horror never did a thing for me. Until I read the great works of Susan whats-her-name, horror wasn't something I'd read. Like. Ever. It normally took friends to get me to watch a horror flick. So, sure. I've seen Freddie and Jason, etc. I remember having a sleepover at Jeff Terranova's house, circa 1984, and we watched...something.

We also watched Scarface. "Say hello to my little friend," indeed!

More than that, the movie came out in 1975. My siblings, assuming they saw it, were both teenagers, and they wouldn't have dragged their dopey little (six-year-old) brother.

Therefore, a combo of circumstances led us to this.

So let's grab out bigger boat, and jump in the water while listening to Olivia Newtown-John sing "I Honestly Love You!"

Incidentally, I did have the 45 (and still do) of Mr. Jaws. So I've got that.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Write The Story, Rob



I'm sitting here with a story to write for the Greenwich Sentinel. It's nice and pleasant and will (hopefully) be enjoyable to read.

And I can't seem to get started.

I will -- I always get the job done -- but I'm dragging.

The Rangers lost.

Alan Thicke died.

Paul is texting me and we're reciting Big Bang Theory lines to each other.

So I thought I'd throw a blog post together.

Back in the days of writing for the Wilton Bulletin, I would write a blog post to get my creative juices going. Someone I knew questioned why I would do so, and where did I find the time? The truth though is that the blog gave me the kick to get the story done.

It was a win-win.

Anyway, back to the story. I've conducted my interviews, sent a picture in to be used, and have my quotes ready.

Now I just need to write.

In other news, John Nash posted a heartbreaking story.

We still see, all too often, that life is way to unfair. Constantly.

OK, now I have a story to write.

Monday, December 12, 2016

2016 CTHSFB: Fin

Greenwich warms up before their tilt with Darien in September.
High school football came to a conclusion in Connecticut on Saturday. Locally, Darien and New Canaan were the only two teams to bring the top prize home (not surprisingly). Kudos to Ridgefield and St. Joseph for reaching the title game. Hillhouse and Ansonia (only their 20th title) round out the champions.

Chris Erway and I were back in Greenwich on WGCH and, with the help of Shawn Sailer, Matt Hamilton, Sean Kilkelly, Ian Barto, Phil Giubileo and others, we brought the sounds of Cardinals football to the radio. I'm grateful to each person who helped make the broadcasts palatable. It's always been a labor of love.

Thanks to GHS head coach John Marinelli and his team for welcoming us, and coming on the air whenever I asked. A special nod to Connor Langan, who I talked to off the air a few times, especially after hearing a knucklehead bad-mouthing him. Not cool.

I also did a bunch of games for Brunswick, and thank Joe Early, coach Jarrett Shine, and their team (and fans) for welcoming me -- along with the aforementioned Shawn Sailer, as well as Sean Adams, and AJ Szymanowski. A shout out to Camille and Carlos, who ran things for us from Bleachers.

We battled bad wifi, lack of internet connections, occasionally failing equipment, cold weather, rainy weather, a wobbly scissor lift, and so on. In other words, it was an average season.

In the end, Darien won a thrilling FCIAC...er...Turkey Bowl* game. New Canaan raced back to tie that game. I only wish they could have met again for a state title, like they did in 2014.

* I still think it should have been called the FCIAC Championship Game because, in the end, they really were the two best teams. But I like traditions.

Once again we saw countless outstanding athletes, and really good people. We laughed with the fans and hopefully demonstrated that we love what we do.

As always, every broadcast went through the ringer that is my brain. Overall, I walked away content from 2016.

Onto winter.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Happy 87th

Father and son. Best Western Tahitian Gardens, Holiday, Fl. Feb. 1986.
I was going to write about my father's 87th birthday yesterday.

Then yesterday happened. The less said, the better.

Then yesterday afternoon/evening happened, and I attended my cousin Ron's 70th birthday party (his birthday is actually in January, but oh well). Ron's father -- my Uncle Bill -- would have been 92 today.

We wound up spending just a moment talking about it, and pondering how strange it would be. To us, my dad ("Uncle Don" to him) is always going to be frozen in time in his late 50's. My Uncle Bill will be frozen in his 60s, at least to me.

It was a passing thing. Then he began looking forward to strawberry shortcake.

Which I don't eat. Not surprisingly.

Anyway, I digress. No matter what, they would have enjoyed the party. At least I think so.

We never really know, do we?

Thanks, Shawn

A Sailer Selfie at WGCH.
My friend Shawn Sailer tweeted a few minutes ago...
Yes. I quite get that.

Shawn started his own blog a few weeks ago and, in the grand Exit 55 tradition, we will write about it here. Now we hope that, unlike myriad other blogs that we've promoted here, Shawn will stay with it.

I've needed to remind myself that there are no rules about how many times one must post when doing this, unless you're getting paid for it. I'm not -- and have never made a dime off this effort -- so I shouldn't put the pressure on me that I have in the past.

Therefore if, oh I don't know, a blog (Creative Conjurings, for example) is quiet for a stretch, fear not. They'll be back. Too smart. Too talented. Too many things to say still.

The creation of Shawn's blog, coupled with his writing over at The Spectrum (Sacred Heart University's newspaper) has encouraged me to ramp things back up here. Every now and then, we get a friendly reminder. I'm glad.

Oh. Wait. I didn't use the "ramp" line with the intention of it being a road metaphor. You know: ramp. Exit 55.

No. I'm not that smart.

OK, digressing badly.

Getting into this kind of writing -- the very kind I've always wanted to do (that is, columnist-style writing) -- is fraught with peril. When I started here in August, 2007, I was largely fearless. I used (generally) common sense and had a lot of fun with it. The topics were all over the place, because I wanted to be more than a one-note band.

We're still that way, but things have changed. The topics are often running around in my cranium. Steelers, Yankees, music, politics (very little politics, but still), roads (and travel), pop culture, and on and on and on.

Along the way, my voice has had to adjust. I realized that that more people read this than I ever thought, and while I want discussion and even debate, I left things open to interpretation.

Am I still willing to tell you that, for instance, American Idol destroyed American popular music? Why yes. Yes I am, though I don't know if I want it to be at the cost of hurting those close to me. Anyway, that's the minefield we traverse.

Early on, I got a private message from someone who thought I was writing about...someone else. Truthfully, I wasn't. In fact, whenever I really wanted to dig in with something, I posted a video. Thus Rule 55 was created (thanks, Sean Kilkelly, for the name).

But back to Shawn (Sailer, that is). This guy has a voice (and he's among the best Twitter follows you'll find), and he's figuring out that he's not afraid to use it. We have talked various and sundry topics, and I hope he starts writing things like that for you. Yes, that's me in the picture on his Nov. 30 entry, but this is not about me.

I promise.

OK, so we need to ramp up Shawn's non-sports interests (he knows I'm slightly kidding as I write this), but I know you will enjoy his thoughts.

Once he starts writing them.

And boom. As I write, he has just posted something about his beloved Packers.

In which he referenced Green Bay's Super Bowl XLV victory.

Over the Steelers.

My Steelers.

Forget everything I just wrote.

Monday, December 05, 2016

What a Picture Says

The meeting point of three states. Sort of. Not really. But go with it.
I'm in the WGCH nerve center (or broadcast center), finishing a few things up before I head for home.

My mother and sister wanted to do a shopping trip over the weekend in Pennsylvania, and as I enjoy such things (and like to drive), I was drafted as chauffeur. It's a good gig. Rounding out our foursome was the always-affable Sean Adams. Yes, a fourteen year-old boy enjoys such goofiness.

We went last year and had just a great time. We grabbed a hotel room at the last minute off of Priceline and made a weekend of it. To be honest, a repeat in 2016 looked unlikely, mostly due to the still-not-so-grand economy (yes, I understand the unemployment rate has dropped. That doesn't mean we're all rolling in money). To be honest, things are...well...that's not why you're here.

However, things improved enough to where, with some savvy budgeting, the trip could take place. We shopped, we Christkindlmarkted (if I can create such a word), we laughed, we ate.
Later in the day, one of us would be happen (answer: me)

We teased Sean. Lovingly.

My boy continues to grow and, truth be told, I suspect he will surpass me in height if there is a 2017 trip. To that end, I had to buy him no jeans to replace the ones that had become "capri-length."

We meandered a bit over the two days, going through a few different antique stores before moving back towards New York. For Sean, our beloved son, grandson, nephew, I made good on a tradition: visiting the old Erie Turntable in Port Jervis, NY.

It's a small thing, but something that train fans like. It costs nothing and sits in back of a Rite Aid, Burger King and (currently) abandoned plaza. But there's always hope!

To an extent, I think Sean liked playing tour guide to his aunt. He also wanted to check on his rock that he left outside of one of the old trains that sits on site (he's convinced it's still there, and I think he's right).


Then we moved over to Tri-States Monument, a spot where an honorary marker notes the meeting place of New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

No, it's not the actual tri-state point (that would be in the Delaware River, but why ruin this with facts?). Still, after driving through a cemetery and parking underneath the dual bridges of Interstate 84, and weaving around the trash, can you blame us for wanting the monument to be THE point?

Anyway, I'm babbling along. I've taken Sean a few times to the point, and I've been there on my own as well. I find it enjoyable, especially when it's quiet. Laura wandered around, taking pictures, and Sean and I found ourselves in our own world.

In fact, I realized that I didn't take a picture of him "standing in all three states," as I did in previous trips, dating back to when he was quite young. So, a failure on Dad.

As Laura returned to the car to rejoin Mom, Sean and I stood on the edge of the Delaware, skimming stones. Sean struggled to find the arm angle, but instead of getting frustrated, he took some of my instructions and practiced.

Years of imitating Dan Quisenberry and Kent Tekulve paid off for me.

Unknown to us (until later), Laura took two pictures of us as we finished up by throwing larger rocks into the river. The goal, of course, was to have a large splash as we climbed back to the car (and reality).

The anatomy of the picture is basic: father hurls rock into river. Makes fool of himself (as usual) by mock-showboating for his son to further mock him. Thus the outstretched arms in the first photo, and the fully-victorious "touchdown" pose in the second. Also, the boy reaches for another rock in the second photo so that he may try to create his own splash (while saying "Kobe" as an exclamation point, even if he has no clue who Kobe is).


Oh but there's so much more. There's an entire father-son relationship in there. There's a bond of two "pals" (yes, we know that the one wearing number 84 is supposed to be the respected authority figure). This is, honestly, about the closest to athletics that we share between us here. But wait -- there is more. There's love and the enjoyment of the splash (visible in both photos). There is simplicity. There's no pressure here. It's nature, and it's natural. It's water and earth. There's the setting sun. You can't hear the trucks rumbling overhead.

It's the very essence of Sean and his proud/loving dad, with the hope that the sun isn't setting on anything.

Yet.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

300 Football Games


I will call my 300th football game later today, as Williston Northampton takes on Brunswick at Cosby Field in Greenwich. The game is available via the Brunswick School and Go Bleachers.

This actually means nothing, nor should it. It means something to me because I've tracked this stuff since 1999. It also means I'm 30 games away from 1000 total, between all sports (and yes, I'm including Cheerleading, so deal).

Anyway, it's always been kind of staggering to me that I've gotten here. As we might discuss when (or if) we reach 1000, I didn't call my first game as a professional broadcaster until I was 30. So I'm not exactly jaded. I'd love to have the opportunities that have presented themselves to the young broadcasters of today, but it just didn't happen that way for me. Again, another post for another time.

I wasn't necessarily sure I'd survive game 299 last night, as Greenwich fell to Ridgefield 30-21. The game time temp was 38 degrees at Tiger Hollow, and we weren't in a toasty press box. Chris Erway, Ian Barto, and I were outside. That's the way that it is at Ridgefield. The press box is simply too small for any media.

My back tightened up and, even today, I still feel pain. But obviously, we do what we love, so there's no complaining. Plus I can still taste that postgame chicken and rice soup from Orem's Diner in Wilton, so there's that.

Three hundred. A lot of partners. From Ron Lyons to Sean Kilkelly to Mark Rosen to Tom Kane to Ricky Fritsch to Chris Kaelin to Chris Erway to Ryan DeMaria to Paul Silverfarb to John Kovach to AJ Szymanowski.

Wait. There are more names. Ian Handwerger, Tommy Dee, Tom Pollina, Dave Rothenberg (yeah, that one from ESPN), Matt Hamilton, Ron Warzoha, John Collins, Amanda Romaniello, Nick Angotto, Zach Fisher, Tim Parry, Jason Intrieri, Rob Crowley, Nick Fox, Scott Gentile, Max Barefoot, Tom Prizeman, Eric Gendron, Mike Suppe, Phil Giubileo, Kevin Coleman, and Shawn Sailer.

I think - I hope - that's everyone. At least that's what my spreadsheet says (for football).

We've had countless special guests, from my own son to John Sullivan to Sam Rutigliano and many more. I remember interviewing the late David Theis on opening day in 2000 as they dedicated the Cardinal Stadium scoreboard.

To many, 300 isn't a big number. Nor will 1000 be eventually. To me, it's just a moment to reflect and say thanks to everyone who have supported the broadcasts, and gave me the opportunity to do the one thing I love (and am hopefully halfway good at).

We've gone from Cardinal Stadium to Staten Island to the Carrier Dome to Ken Strong Stadium to Arute Stadium to Boyle Stadium and to Naples, Florida.

And more.

As Shawn Sailer always reminds me, one of my favorite sayings is "Have headset. Will travel."

I have a game to call.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

It's Almost Over: Election 2016

Just having a little fun. Thanks to Shawn Sailer for the nomination.

I've been pondering a lot about writing, and whether or not to do an Election Day post. Well here we are.

About a month ago, I was scorned by a few* (and lauded by others) for reposting an article from another writer on Facebook. In it, the writer suggested that everyone just stop with the social media rhetoric.

* Those few were of one side of the aisle, for what it's worth (yes, we sports people like stats).

Let me elaborate. I like discussion and debate. Hell, as a sports broadcaster, and more so, as a sports talk show host, I have to welcome it. There are a lot of people that I politely bite my tongue with, and those who I like and respect (and can handle it) get my two cents. Thus if you tell me, for instance, that Game 7 of the 2016 World Series was "The Greatest Baseball Game of ALL TIME!," you're likely to get rebuked.

Game 6, 1975...Game 6, 2011...Game 7, 1960...almost any game in the 1991 World Series. Plus games in 1912 and 1924 and on and on. I mean...just...do...not.

With regard to the political stuff on Facebook, I frankly gritted my teeth a lot, ignored all, blocked some, and just kept pressing on. I would welcome the discussion, but few are willing to do so without it turning into mud-slinging. So I posted that and got slightly insulted in the process (you know, as in "you can't handle this, so here's a rainbow"). Ergo, point proven.

Let me tell ya something, nobody despises rainbows and unicorns more than I do. But you didn't ask. So we digress.

Anyway, that brings us back to Election Day. As I'm a broadcaster once again Election Night, I don't feel right telling you who I'm voting for or against. However I will tell that I'm with...

a person.

That's right. Although I could write in Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny, or something else, when I vote, it will be for a person. Might be male or female. There will be none of that gender-driven agenda.

I'll vote - as always - with my conscience.

And yet, despite what you're seeing, voting is a choice. What I mean here is that, if you CHOOSE to not vote, then you have voted. If you're too lazy, well then we're done here.

What I'm saying is, if Trump or Clinton aren't what you want -  or Johnson or Stein - then you're doing your duty by saying, "None of the Above."


I'll be at Greenwich Democratic Headquarters tonight, with Shawn Sailer, watching it all unfold. Follow me all day on Twitter, Facebook, in the Greenwich Sentinel, and on WGCH.

In fact, I'll be on WGCH several times, including a Greenwich Sentinel Doubleheader at 3 p.m., visiting the Lisa Wexler Show sometime between 4-8 p.m., and as part of the Election Night coverage beginning at 8 p.m.

Let's keep it civil. Is that possible?

I'll see you in print and on the air.

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

#NationalDogDay

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.
Scrappy.

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.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Thinking About 10 Years

I could have used Phil Rizzuto or Rick Cerone or Celerino Sanchez or Tony Kubek or Jim Zorn...
Next Wednesday, I will likely write from North Carolina to recognize the 10th anniversary of this little place in blog land. Here we are, still on Blogger (I work in WordPress a lot, but it seems like too much work to migrate the whole thing over to there - right or wrong?), and many (OK, all) of those who started blogs around the same time have stopped. They, however, were the ones who inspired me to start doing this.

So thanks to Sean Kilkelly, Matt Hamilton, even Mick the Great, and the others who gave me the drive to start Exit 55 (yes, that rhymed, but I'm hardly a poet).

Incidentally, want to know the back story of the name "Exit 55?" Go back in time, and forgive the MySpace reference! (Short version: I like to drive and my number is 55.)

Anyway, it got me wondering if there's a favorite post (or I guess even a least-favorite post). I guess what I'm saying is: what are your thoughts on the past 10 years? It could be about the blog, your life, our friendship, whatever.

A lot has changed in 10 years. Some things have stayed the same. I wish I could tell you every story, but I just can't. There are things that I truly chomp at the bit to write about. Some happy. Some not. Some infuriating.

For as much as I've revealed, you can bet there is plenty that I haven't.

When thinking about the posts, I recall Yankees Heaven, McCartney, the Taconic Parkway and a lot more.

I also found myself thinking today about a segment of the TV show Modern Family, in which Gloria, played by Sofia Vergara (must be said with the proper accent) tells her husband Jay (Ed O'Neill), essentially, that she's a bit of a fiery wildcard, and to suck it up (more or less) because they can work through anything. It made me smile. I'm a bit of wildcard myself.

I'm babbling. It feels good to write.


Sunday, August 07, 2016

Scent of a Neighbohood

Just a boy in Christmas pajamas and a Santa hate with a white reindeer. In Florida. Move along. (1970)

It's a bright, sunny, still somewhat humid morning here in the 845.

I stepped outside just now, getting ready to do some stuff on this Sunday, and to stroll to the end of the driveway to pick up the newspaper.

Yes, some people still get a newspaper. Yes, some people still get a newspaper delivered to them.

And I'm really glad they do -- for myself and my friends. For people who still respect print, newspapers, and journalism.

I digress.

The reason I stopped at the computer to write before I go back out is that, as I got back near the garage door, a smell jumped into my nose. I can't describe it - maybe slightly floral, a combination of the humidity and who know? But it took me back to a long-ago address in a long-ago life.

It was the smell of my grandparents' house in Florida.

I can tell you the address -- 1611 Forest Hills Drive, Holiday, Florida -- but they don't live there anymore. In fact, the house isn't even at that address anymore. The town renamed the side streets and gave out new addresses years ago.

But I can tell you this: in that brief nanosecond, where I could smell their yard, and their house, and see them sitting in the Florida room, with my parents and my siblings, and maybe a cousin or two, life was pretty great.

The scent quickly disappeared, and that was that.

But it was sweet.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Son of Sam and #Journalism


Depending on who you talk to, I'm a journalist.

Anyway, that's what Paul Silverfarb and Susan Shultz and a few others tell me.

Regardless, it's not a secret that I'm passionate about media - not just radio. I love TV and newspapers and journalism, and how we cover big events. I've said - openly - that how we handle breaking news is shameful in today's world. The use of a breaking news slate (that static image you see on your TV screen that said "NBC News SPECIAL REPORT") and the dramatic music was jarring to your senses. It spoke to something BIG.

Now we use it if a Kardashian has liposuction.

Anyway, I read a story by Cady Drell in Rolling Stone this morning. The story: "How Son of Sam Changed America" - highlighted the crazy tabloid journalism that exploded in the summer of 1977. But it further suggested that, perhaps, it was the beginning of the movement to evolve towards something none of us knew in 1977: clickbait.

I remember that summer quite clearly. I remember the fear that the story struck around New York City. I read the papers - my father brought the New York Daily News and the Peekskill Evening Star home every night. I was a radio and TV nut. Even then, I was the budding media historian.

Plus the Yankees won a title that October. So there was that.


We were just a few years beyond the incredible work of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Yet here we were, giving a whole new meaning to "ink-stained wretch." Because of my naive world view of an eight-year-old in 1977, I wasn't quite aware just how low the media went that summer.

This story highlights it.

Incidentally, #journalism (yes, that hashtag is there for a reason) still really matters, and there are great journalists doing remarkable work, on a local, national, and international basis. I've mentioned a few who deserve respect  (hello, Susan). Scott Pelley on CBS gives me reason to believe that the story is still the thing.

I digress.

The Rolling Stone piece is a worthy read. Worth a click for sure.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Dates


There are days in our lives (I used to watch that soap opera with my grandmother) that are significant. For better or worse, we know those dates. Sometimes we let them go because of changes over time. You probably don't keep track of a past flames' birthday, if you know what I mean.

But for me, dates like March 17, February 23, June 25, and I suppose even November 22 are significant. Each for better and/or for worse.

And today: July 31.

We have reasons for these days. July 31 is baseball's trade deadline. It speaks of promise and change. That's what July 31 means to me. It's exciting and promising.

If you have a passing interest in things around here, you know that I've been very quiet. I went through some changes over the past month, and I'm still figuring things out. I have a new show that I'm hosting, "Greenwich Sentinel's Doubleheader", currently with Paul Silverfarb, Andrew Frattaroli, and Andrew Mitchell. The Andrews will depart for college in August, leaving Paul and I on our own*.

* I'll have an opening for anyone who would like to co-host on Wednesdays. Inquire within.

Oh, and the show is on WGCH (1490 AM, Greenwich) and wgch.com weekdays from 3-4. It's what you would expect from me: loose. Fun. Firm. Wide-ranging. Unpredictable.

According to those I've spoken to, it's also a hit, and I'm pleased to hear it.

Anyway, change is daunting, as we know, and I'm the flipping Cowardly Lion.

The moves I've made certainly weren't easy, and some were made sort of on the fly (and are still on the fly). So we're adjusting as we keep moving forward.

The blog is frequently on my mind. I've lamented many times about not writing enough, and I try to remind myself to go easy and cut myself some slack. This isn't a paid gig, but I've always been grateful to each person that has taken the time to read, and so I believe in putting content out.

Yet, if you look, I've changed. On August 17th (another date of significance for me), we'll hit 10 years of Exit 55. I don't write as much as I used to, and I don't write the way that I used to.

There was a fearlessness here at one time. I wrote, hoping to inspire, and create conversation. Instead...I...just...don't...write. It seemed like this had become Exit to Scrutiny, and yes, when one uses a vague writing style, one opens themselves up to interpretation.

I never wanted this to simply be about the Yankees. Or the Steelers. Or Vin Scully. Or Huey Lewis. Or roads. I didn't want to write about just one topic.

I wanted to take a stab at seeing what I could write about. Did I have some Mike Lupica in me, or some other writers whose style (but maybe not their content) I've admired?

In some ways, I'm writing the 10th anniversary post now, though I hope maybe, come the 17th (I'll be on vacation then...at least I think so), I can put a few thoughts together.

I still have lots of thoughts, but sometimes there's a price to be paid, and I'm trying to decide how to pay that bill, or if it's worth it.

So we cycle back around to July 31st. The Yankees made a few trades earlier today -- sending Andrew Miller to the Indians might be a watershed moment for the franchise -- so there is promise for the future. It reminds me of a message I sent out once on July 31:

"You need to get out of there."

I'll always be glad I sent that.

Tomorrow we swing into August. The days are growing shorter. Football training camp is underway. Sean is roughly a month away from being a high schooler.

I'll call my first Greenwich Cardinals football game on September 10.

Times change. We all move on.

Promise. Excitement.

July 31.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

A Pocket Protector


Yes, that's a pocket protector. It's on the windowsill in my mother's kitchen. Those are indeed pens and pencils in that pocket protector.

Not very highbrow stuff, is it? I mean, there is likely zero interest to any of you about a pocket protector and a few writing utensils.

*****
Some really bad stuff happened in the wee hours of this morning in a place full of joy and excess: Orlando, FL.

There is a club there called Pulse. It's billed as a gay club, and that's relevant, sadly. Early this morning, a man walked in and essentially executed 50 people.

Out of what is now being called the worst mass shooting in US history, we are getting the usual rhetoric. People are angry and, in this Presidential election year, going to social media to let loose.

To which I say no. Hell, no. Not today.

Oh I reacted also. I read things and then I sat down and wrote, quite honestly, one of the angriest posts in the nearly 10-year history of this blog.

Yet I keep coming back to the same thing: not today.

But I get it. I really do. You're mad and disgusted.

You're angry. Horrified.

Fifty. More injured.

It seems like it is a form of terrorism. Is it because it was a gay nightclub? ISIS? Some other group? Just random hatred? All of the above? None of the above?

At the moment, it's not important.

Again, fifty are dead. At least that's the report.

We know nothing, but we think we know it all.

We don't.

Fifty. At last count.

Leave politics out of it today. I don't care if you're proud you voted for Chris Murphy, if Trump sucks, if it's Obama's fault, if you're a Tea Party member, or if you want to somehow go back and lay it at the feet of George Washington.

Right now, I'm thinking that fifty families aren't concerned about the politics of it all .

Not yet. There will be plenty of time for that.

But. Not. Today.

Think of Mina Justice, whose son Eddie was there, and according to the Associated Press:
He told her he ran into a bathroom with other club patrons to hide. He then texted her: "He's coming." 
"The next text said: 'He has us, and he's in here with us,'" she said. "That was the last conversation."
I don't think politics are on her mind.

UPDATE: Per the list of victims from the City of Orlando website, Eddie Justice has died. He was 30 years old.

Friends (I'd like to believe I can call you that), today is not about you. It's about those in Pulse Nightclub in Florida.

A gay nightclub.

Where 50 people died this morning.

Fifty.

Focus on that.
*****

So we're back to the pocket protector. It's still not making any sense to you, is it? You see, that pocket protector was likely last used in early 1989. Those pencils and pens no doubt worked off some kind of paperwork from a plumbing supply company in Yonkers.

My mom put those out just recently. They belonged to my father.

I'd rather look at a dirty old pocket protector then think about politics or gun control right now.

It's a terribly sad day in our country, and I don't say that to be trite. We've seen bad things in recent years, and sadly we've become immune to it until we realize it's worse than normal. Then we go into either blatant phony outrage, or "thoughts and prayers."

It's all about "me me me."

Blech.

Not today.

Reflect. Pause. Tell someone you love them. I just did, simply because we never know.

Think about those fifty people.

Or find a pocket protector that makes you smile.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Ali: The Self-Appointed Greatest

Before he was Ali, Cassius Clay met four British lads in Miami in 1964.
I wasn't going to write about Muhammad Ali. I just wasn't. Like Prince, I was just going to let it go.

You know Prince died, right? Not Elvis or John Lennon or McCartney or Dylan, but Prince. Huh. OK.

Anyway, that's my point, even if you liked the person who has passed (I had some regard for some of Prince's music, and liked Ali), you're a horrible person (and likely accused of being a racist) if you dare to show any warts. At least according to comedian and "radio personality" Jim Norton.
Well thanks there, pal.

Then I read the most brilliant obituary in the Wall Street Journal by author Jonathan Eig. FULL DISCLOSURE! Jonathan has been on Nutmeg Sports with me and is a Facebook friend whom I've interacted with. We haven't had tea at the The Plaza. I've never met the man in person.

That being said, this obituary is so amazingly outstanding that it must be shared.

It allows us - the reader - to not simply think Ali was "The Greatest" but that he was mortal. Flawed.

So many people have taken to social media today to laud the great Ali, and deservedly so. Ali was a tremendous boxer, but I hasten to say he was the greatest ever. Sugar Ray Robinson and Joe Louis immediately spring to my mind. My dad, who enjoyed boxing (one of the last things I ever remember watching with him was a Mike Tyson fight) said he felt Rocky Marciano was the best.

I'm not saying Ali wasn't the greatest. I'm not saying he was either. I'd probably take Sugar Ray Robinson, but boxing is not my area of expertise.

Ali was The Greatest (see what I did there?). Why? Because he told you so. He was a brilliant marketing showman. He defined it. He was crazy quotable. The interwebs are littered with his quotes today. Heck, even baseball's poet laureate announced the news.

Oh but back to the work of Mr. Eig. You see, I was born around the time of Ali's conscientiously objecting to going into the Armed Services. I lived in a house with a father who wanted to serve his country in Korea and couldn't due to his debilitating arthritis. So we had the two-headed monster of recognizing Ali's brilliance as a boxer, but also the very-common feeling of him dumping on the country.

Amazing how time, the great equalizer, can soothe that. If any quote stunned me in Jonathan's obit, it was this one:
In a career full of seemingly magical feats, Ali’s greatest trick may have been his transformation—from one the nation’s most reviled characters to one of its most beloved. 
Bingo.

Read on and discover how Ali was critical of Dr. King. Can you imagine?

But Ali was the most gifted of people, in that he worked magic to make Americans of the 70s and 80s begin to forget his objecting and embrace him as a boxer, humanitarian, and personality. He was a nearly one-man PR crew, although he had plenty of people by his side (and no small assist handed in by a certain Mr. Howard Cosell, speaking of sports).

Indeed, with the exception of Michael Jordan, he's the most famous face in the history of Sports Illustrated. It's without question that he's one of the most famous people in the world.

Who was better to light the cauldron at the Olympics in Atlanta in '96?

But he was also very real. That attention he craved through his bombast carried into a personal life of failed marriages and myriad affairs.

That's why I love this obituary so much. It allows us to see Ali for all that he was. Civil Rights activist? Yes. Conscientious objector? You bet. Great boxer? Oh my yeah. Funny man? Hahaha, of course.

Flawed? Without question. The truth is, despite the politically-correct bluster of today, we are a nation who likes our heroes slightly flawed. Save for a Lou Gehrig (please read Eig's brilliant biography of him, Luckiest Man), we can generally find some warts in everyone (and Gehrig was habitually cheap, by the way).

Mickey Mantle once told Billy Crystal to be truthful when it came to portraying his story. Mickey told us all he was no role model. The end of his life, when he told us that, were his finest hours.

So rest in peace, champ. Thanks for the many moments of making a young boy laugh, but also for teaching me hard lessons about heroes at an early age.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

No-Hitters

Jake Arrieta, working on his no-hitter in 2015 in LA. (Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

I just finished watching Jake Arrieta of the Cubs finish no-hitting the Reds.

I love love love love no-hitters. Of course, they're the less exclusive brothers of perfect games (295 vs. 23 as of tonight), but I love them both.

I've watched or listened to too many to count (both perfectos and no-no's).

David Cone. Dwight Gooden. Felix Hernandez. Johan Santana (what a farce). Dave Righetti. Jack Morris. The list goes on.

I remember sitting in the parking lot at Stew Leonard's listening to Jon Miller cal the end of Tim Lincecum's in 2014.

I remember missing every pitch of David Wells' perfect game in 1998 (the first one by a Yankee since Don Larsen - of course - in 1956). I was at a convention in Las Vegas, and found out via TV, and literally yelled.

I caught Cone's in 1999 while in a friends' car, and refused to change the radio. That drive from Albany to Danbury was something to remember.

As social media began reporting tonight's gem, I began to pull myself together for where I would watch the event. Of course, I would also address the so-called "curse."*

* It's said that if anyone says the words "no-hitter" or "perfect game," it curses it. This includes fans, players, coaches, concessionaires, taxi cab drivers, clubhouse attendants, and kindly little old ladies.

And broadcasters. Most of all.

Yet there's this guy - name's Scully - and he's called 20 no-hitter and three perfect games. Somehow, he has said those dreadful words in just about all of them.

Just saying.

So whenever I watch one, I'm reminded of a rainy Saturday: September 4, 1993 at Yankee Stadium. I didn't think the game would be played, and there were only 27, 125 on hand at the glorious old House.

I was there, in the lower deck right field seats. Jim Abbott - born without a right hand - worked his way through a talented and upcoming Cleveland Indians lineup. A group that, in fact, would be in the World Series in both 1995 and 1997.

The rhythm of a perfect game or no-hitter carries is as such: You largely downplay the first couple of innings. In fact, you might not even know what's going on. Innings 4-6 are when things start getting real.

After the sixth inning, people know**. Now the nerves kick in.

** Except for some of the people I was with that day.

In the seventh inning, the buzz builds. The stomach begins to churn.

In the eighth inning, the knuckles get whiter. Get through the eighth, and it's probably time to text, call, or contact your friends via social media.

To the ninth inning. You're jumping at every pitch. You're growling at Kenny Lofton for trying to bunt (BUNT! You wuss!) his way on. To paraphrase Mr. Scully: you're seeing the game with your heart, and not your head.

Two outs to go. This is brutal.

One out to go. Just throw the damn ball.

Then it happens. The ball hangs in the air for an eternity. The umpire calls a third strike. Wade Boggs strikes out swinging.

It's over.

In the ballpark, you're high-fiving strangers, because you now share something that millions will say they were at, but only (in my case), 27, 000 were. You're glowing. You never want it to end.

Of course, assuming your team won.

I smiled all the way home that day, and watched it again on TV later. On the other hand, I glared at the screen when six (yes, SIX) Astros pitchers combined to no-hit the Yankees in 2003.

Interesting side note: the Yankees still have no been no-hit by one single pitcher since September 20, 1958, when Hoyt Wilhelm beat them 1-0.

For me, I'll always have Jim Abbott. Along with the scorecard.