The Voice We Knew and Loved

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To many of
us Philadelphia Phillies fans, the loss of Harry Kalas is like losing a family
member. What makes losing a family member so difficult is the fact that we can’t
imagine our lives without them. You go to sleep every night confident that they
will be there when you awake. When they aren’t, it’s an uneasy feeling that can’t
be described. That’s the best way I can explain the emotion that Philadelphia
is feeling right now.

A signature
broadcaster is a rare thing in sports. We think of names like Harry Cary, John
Madden, Marv Albert and – at least for Phillies fans – Harry Kalas. Made famous
by his child-like excitement for the game and his signature catch phrase – “it’s
‘outta’ here!” – Harry Kalas was more than just a voice to so many. In
Philadelphia, he was synonymous with baseball.

He was there
to announce the two Phillies World Championships, first in 1980 and just this
past season.

It’s an old cliché
in baseball to ‘play every game as if it were your last’ and that’s exactly how
Harry announced. Even those who knew him well could hardly tell the difference
between a loss or a win by Harry’s voice, because he was equally excited no
matter what the outcome was. It didn’t matter if the Phillies were in a hunt to
win the division or they were suffering their ten thousandth franchise loss. To
Harry, time stopped with every fly ball deep to right field.

It’s hard to
imagine what life will be like when Philadelphia wakes up tomorrow morning and
Harry isn’t there. He sat in that booth for so many years; most of us assumed
he always would. It’s hard to imagine what will happen the next time Ryan
Howard hits a fly ball deep to right field. Ryan hasn’t hit a homerun yet that
Harry hasn’t called, just like so many Phillies.

In the minds
of many of us, the Phillies won’t quite be the same. For nearly 40 years, the
Phillies hit a lot of long fly balls deep to right field and it was Harry’s
voice that willed them ‘outta here.’ Now, those hits will simply land safely in
the crowd. They’ll count for just the same, but they won’t feel the same.

To Harry:
our voice, our legend, our soul, but most of all, our friend.

We will
always remember the joy you brought to all of our hearts.

We will forever
miss you.

Godspeed,
old friend.

Kalas.jpg

Harry Kalas

1936 – 2009

Shame

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, children of MLBlogs.com; I come to you now with great humility and regret. After weeks of careful consideration and deliberation with my attorneys, advisers and family, I have decided to come clean.

Shame-award-1.jpgI, William Scott Lentz of Reading, Pennsylvania, am guilty of using performance enhancing substances…

I know. I know.

“How could you?” you may say. “How could you tarnish yourself?”

While my original blog featured on the front page of MLBlogs.com last November was clean, I must plead guilty to using performance enhancers in December of 2008.

When I wrote “The Best Idea I Ever Had… Maybe” where I suggested Donovan McNabb join the Phillies bullpen, I tested positive for… gulp… SPELL-CHECK. I don’t know what I was thinking, it was just the pressure of the moment I suppose. I hadn’t written a blog in weeks and I knew that if I didn’t post soon, I may be lost in MLBlogosphere obscurity. The blog started off well, but in the second full paragraph I tackled the word “arbitration” which I butchered. So I paniced. I right clicked on the word and selected the correct spelling, a spelling – I must sadly admit – that was not my own.

It doesn’t stop there.

Name_change_for_Jose_Canseco_Street.jpgA few days later when I posted “C-C-C-Ya Real Soon!” I was on a kick. My McNabb blog drew critical acclaim and I liked the feeling, so I asked Jose Canseco to grease my keyboard with a thin layer of vasoline so my fingers could type faster and thereby allow me to blog faster. The post went by like a blur and before I knew it, it was posted. I wish I could take it back, but I can’t. I was just lucky I convinced Canseco to leave me out of his next book. Don’t ask me how I did it.

It all just happened so fast.

My third and final “enhanced” post was the fatal “Everything Baseball Should Be: And Everything Baseball Is Not.” At this point, I was so engulfed in the ways of dishonest blogging I had no idea which way was up. I took all of my blog-rage out on the Yankees who were an easy target at the time. The blog was full of vasoline-enduced rants and spell-checking that allowed me to use words such as ‘allegiance’ and ‘romanticised.’ Words I would have never been able to spell naturally. And – as much as it pains me to say – the meatball line is from Seinfeld.

zimmer_don1013.jpgI am a fraud and I have put myself to shame. I’m embarrassed for myself, I’m embarrased for the Yankees and I’m embarrassed that I just stole another line; this time from Don Zimmer.

I must apologize to all of my fans. You all had faith in me and I let you down. I would like to announce that I will spend the remainder of my blogging career educating young writer about the dangers of spell-check. Children: ‘spell-check’ is unnatural so rely on your own spelling talents and do not take the easy way out.

I must also apologize to Jane, the most prominent member of Yankee-nation. I should not have taken out my blogging rage out on the Bronx-bombers and I am truly sorry. Let this be a lesson to you… Vasoline kills people.

Mark my words dear blogging friends, my resolve has never been higher than it is on this day. My blogging career is far from over and I promise you I will spend the rest of it proving to you that I can blog clean. You may see a few more spelling errors and a few less alliterations, but darn it, it’ll be clean. Have faith in me!

Spring Seems So Far Away

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January is a
tough month for Major League Baseball. The players have had a good month or two
off depending on when their respective seasons ended and they’re starting to
get that pre-Spring Training itch to get out there and play. Fans – not unlike
all of us on MLBlogosphere – are feeling the full effects of baseball-withdraw
and beginning to lash out at each other.

sad-tribe-fans.jpg

My
girlfriend is a psychology major and she told me about a recent report on
“winter-depression” that Americans suffer from around this time of year. It
seems the human psyche is effected by the amount of sunlight we receive on a
daily basis, and as the daylight of the winter season becomes shorter and
shorter, we become more and more depressed.

The
solution: More light!

This study
reminds me of what we on the ‘sphere’ are suffering from this wintery season. I
live on the east-coast in Reading, PA and we have been experiencing record-low
temperatures. Tuesday night we had a high of 10°F and a -2°F wind-chill.  That’s cold enough to make anyone forget
about the green grass and the boys of summer.

So if the
solution to “winter-depression” is more
sunlight
, perhaps the solution to winter baseball-withdraw” is more baseball. Unfortunately they don’t
make special incandescent light bulbs that make us feel like we’re at the
ballpark, but at the very least, I think we can all perk up our baseball
spirits a bit with a few old-fashioned remedies.

PHILLIESSWEAT.jpg

1.       WEAR YOUR
TEAM GEAR WHEREVER YOU GO!

Now, maybe I’m a little biased because my
team just won the world series, but I still wear my ‘MLB Playoffs’ sweatshirt
and ‘NLCS Champions’ wherever I go. No matter where I am, I am reminded of
baseball and my favorite team.

 

My suggestion to us Northeasterners is to buy
some winter team gear – a beanie or a jacket perhaps – and make sure you wear
it every time you go out to shovel the driveway or pick up the mail.

 

opening day.jpg

    2.       GET YOUR
TICKETS NOW!

It may ne early yet, but it’s never too soon
to get your tickets. Personally, I already have my opening day tickets to watch
the Phils get their Championship rings. No, this idea won’t make opening day
come any faster, but it will give you something to look forward to doing. All
you teenage girls can start making red ‘X’s’ on your calendars until the big
day arrives and start crafting your puffy paint ‘Grady Sizemore’ t-shirts.

 

3.       PLAY GOLF,
AMERICA!

Ok. Maybe those of us who are being bombarded
by arctic storms can’t take part in this idea, but those of you who live in
warmer climates have the opportunity to get out on the links and play a game
that is a little bit like baseball. There’s green grass, a few bunkers that can
be confused for an infield and while the rest of your four-some is looking away
you can call your shot over the left field fence.

 

Many of your favorite major leaguers take
advantage of the same opportunity.

Chipper Jones
chipper jones.jpg
John Smoltz
july_smoltz_299x228.jpg
Jason Varitek
varitek golf.jpgDerek Jeter
jeter golfing.jpg

The Blame Game? Really?

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Does anyone want to share with me
a possible legitimate reason for former MLB trainers coming out and slandering
a former player’s name? Maybe I’m a little out of touch sitting at a computer
desk in the snowy, snowy northeast, but I don’t see what anyone could possibly gain
from publicly “blowing the whistle.”

 

McNamee_Radomski.jpg

Let’s be honest here. Brian McNamee and Kirk
Radomski
are nobodys.

 

Maybe they face a little trouble
with the law for possession of steroids and they want to take someone down with
them. Maybe they are taking all the blame for a steroids ring and they want to
point the finger in another direction. Or maybe they have realized that they
are culturally irrelevant to baseball and they want to make a name – albeit a
bad one – for themselves. Either way you slice it, they’re both cowards and
they don’t deserve to be written about.

 

selig.jpg

It’s no secret that I could care
less about baseball players taking steroids, let alone former players. My question to you, though, is this: If Bud Selig is so dead-set on removing steroids from
baseball, why is all the media attention revolving around former players?

 

Whatever happened with David Justice, Dwight Gooden,
Mark McGwire, Roger
Clemens
and Barry Bonds happened a long
time ago in baseball years. All Selig can do now is humiliate them and take
away a possible Hall-of-Fame enshrinement, which is not really that big of a
punishment. Selig can’t remove the games that they played from history.

 

If Bud really wants to punish
someone and make a difference, he would focus on players who are still on a
Major League roster and take games away from their career. Denying a potential
Hall-of-Famer absolution really makes no impact on the game itself and it
upsets more fans than it does players.

 

So why do trainers who aren’t so
much as a blip on the baseball radar feel the need to do this? Why any of us
ever feel the need to do this?

 

If you’re that miserable with
your own life it’s just plain cowardice to blame other people. We are all
responsible for our own lives and our own mistakes and we need to accept that
responsibility.

Where’s The Brotherly Love??

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p1_mark_mcgwire_ap-1.jpg

I fully
understand that I am an idealist and as such I can sometimes be accused of
being a bit naive. I may look at situations and see the issues that most of us
miss, but I assure you, I ignore nothing.

Last week I made the best case I possibly could for Mark McGwire’s Hall-of-Fame
vote. It’s not easy with all of the speculation surrounding him, but instead of
denying that he took steroids (because I have no idea if he did or didn’t) I
tried to analyze what is and is not a legitimate reason for voting someone into
the Hall-of-Fame. I pointed out that we are not criminal investigators and even
though we think we may know everything about a steroid user, I don’t think we’ve
even scratched the surface.

As much as I
love baseball, I am willing to let a one or two time steroid user off the hook;
even if that steroid user is a legend or a potential “Hall-of-Famer.” Most of
us writing about sports will never understand what it’s like to compete at that
level and I don’t think anyone who doesn’t has the right to call any of them
cheaters. Sometimes professional athletes resort to drastic measures and make
mistakes. They’re not perfect just like we aren’t perfect, and I don’t think its
right to hold them to such impossible standards.

That aside, I think I did a pretty good job. I may not have changed anyone’s
minds about the slugger but at least I made my case and I got my point across.

What more could a writer ask for?

This
morning, however, I wake up at a crisp 7:45AM to a SportsCenter report that
Mark McGwire’s brother, Jay, is trying to publish a book about Mark’s alleged
steroid/HGH use. Needless to say, the brothers are not on speaking terms.

It’s times
like this, I am glad I do not have a brother. Sisters are better anyway. (She’s mine!)

tracy.jpg

My family
comes from a town which has been aptly named “The City of Brotherly Love.”
Growing up, I was always taught it was unforgivable to do something negative to
your family. We fight just like every family fights but it has never resulted
in anything beyond a week or two of the cold shoulder.

Jay McGwire
should be absolutely ashamed of himself for so many reasons right now, I don’t
think there is enough room on the MLBlogosphere for me to write it all.

First of
all, he is following in Jose Canseco’s footsteps as a whistle-blower (they’re
not worthy of being called ‘authors’) who just wants some money. So they
publish a collection of pages bound together (they’re not worthy of being
called ‘books’ either) that basically point fingers in every direction until
someone end up getting a phone call from congress.

Second of
all, the fingers are all pointed directly at his brother Mark.

brothers_fighting_LARGE.jpg

I understand, Jay, that you might be a little
bit jealous of your bigger bro. After all, he
had a career and no one even heard of you until this morning. I know I didn’t.
But that’s no reason to play the blame game and basically destroy what was left
of your brother’s image.

I don’t know
the degree of validity Jay McGwire’s accusations have and I don’t care. If they
are proven true, I don’t really have a leg to stand on when I argue for his
Hall-of-Fame vote other than ‘1998 saved baseball,’ but that isn’t much. If
they are proven false then it confirms that people will do absolutely anything
for a quick buck, even if it means tarnishing the reputation of your own
brother,

Either way,
Jay McGwire committed a crime that even some of the worst serial killers wouldn’t
do.

Grey’s Anatomy

I’m an avid follower of the three big medical dramas on TV. ER, House and Grey’s Anatomy.Earlier this evening on the latter of the three, an interesting concept arose about the “grey” areas of life. Fitting for the show to have a subject line that connects to the title, it also fits well into our every day lives.

greys_anatomy_ver4.jpg

Growing up, we are all familiarized with the essential ‘black and white’ concepts; right or wrong, true or false, good touch/bad touch, and fair or foul. As we grow older, however, we begin to realize that not everything is as transparent. This is a part of life and a part of growing up that everyone goes through at different rates. To me, though, I find that far too much emphasis is placed on the ‘what’ in this world and not enough is placed on the ‘why.’ 

“WHY” is the greatest question mankind has the difficult opportunity to answer. In most cases, the question of ‘why’ simply cannot be answered, but is still the only question worth tackling.

Our world is based heavily on black and white and we have become a society that depends on the answer being decided for us. Baseball, for instance, is a system that clearly defines the black and white concepts such as fair/foul and out/safe, but also provides some of the gray areas such as the moving strike zone. No two strike zones are the same, even though they are supposed to be. Some umpires call ’em low, some call ’em high. Take also, for example, the different strategies of base running. A lone runner on second can advance at his own will and has to make a judgment of whether or not to stay at third on a base hit or try to beat the throw home. It’s a grey area.

LoDucaIsAnAngryLittleDoofus.jpg

In baseball, as in life, there is no escaping the grey. A batter can’t demand a different umpire for a different strike zone, just like we can’t demand a different system to suit our needs. A good hitter has to adapt to the umpire they are given and use that knowledge to their advantage.

My advice to you all is to try and become comfortable with the grey’s on our lives. Clinging to the black and white is a safe bet, but we really don’t learn anything about ourselves or each other. If we all learn to accept the grey areas, maybe we can find some peace.

Why not?

Letter to the Editor

I had a comment on my last post and my response to it became so long that I figured I may as well make it another post.

The comment came from Julia over at Julia’s Rants. Here’s the comment:

Scott – I
don’t think you can compare the possible use of PEDs (a CHOICE someone
makes) with someone who struggles with alcohol abuse (NOT a choice). I
have to agree with those who feel that McGwire, Clemens, Bond and
others don’t deserve to be in the HOF because of use of PEDs. I also
agree that Pete Rose doesn’t belong in the HOF because of gambling.
When a player makes the decision to do something that violates the
rules of Baseball then they have to live with the consequences. There
is a difference between behavior that we might not approve of – but
doesn’t violate MLB policy – and behavior that does.

~Julia

Here’s my response:

DISCLAIMER!: Julia, this is not an attack on you and please don’t take it that way. My response was just so long I wanted to make it a post. I respect you and your opinions, this is just my response.

Jules,

I can certainly see why the majority of people don’t believe accused steroid users belong in the hall of fame, and their argument is certainly legitimate, as is yours.

But I have to disagree with you when you say we can’t compare steroid use with something like alcohol abuse. First of all, everything is a choice. Addiction – whether it is alcohol, gambling or tobacco – is no exception. We make our choices in life and when those choices become too overwhelming, we are quick to write it off as “not our choice” so we feel like it’s not our fault. It was always our choice, just like using steroids is a choice.

I never liked the term “Performance Enhancing Drugs” because it doesn’t tell the whole story. A lot of things can be considered “performance enhancing” – coffee, red bull, cigarettes, even Gatorade – but steroids has medical risks if not used properly, which is why everyone is in such an uproar. But somehow, we label anabolic steroids as “Performance Enhancing” and they sound like a forbidden fruit instead of a medical necessity, as it sometimes is. There are plenty of major leaguers playing today only because they were prescribed steroids to help them return to play. Everyone who ever had Tommy John’s surgery has steroids to thank for the rest of their career. Should we consider all of the stats they accumulated afterward as “cheating.” No, because they have a doctor’s note, McGwire, Bonds and Clemens don’t.

There’s still way too much smoke around steroid use in baseball to let it effect Hall-of-Fame voting just yet. Some say that steroids enhanced Mark McGwire’s performance “significantly,” yet there are no positive tests, no court ruling, nothing, just a suspicious statement at a congressional hearing five years ago and the word of Jose Canseco. Damning as it was, I don’t think it’s right to keep Mark McGwire out of the hall because we suspect he used steroids.

My point is, Hall-of-Fame voting should be based upon on-field performance and nothing else. There are a thousand different things athletes use to enhance their performance, anabolic steroids is just one of them. Mark McGwire supposedly used steroids when there was no steroid policy, so he broke no rules. Yet, we continue to act as a society who judges people on standards we ourselves can never meet. At our jobs, we use all kinds of things to “enhance” our performance. But should a business person be denied a raise because he used a caffeine pill to stay up all night and finish the presentation? Should my writing be considered “phony” because I use spellcheck?

Don’t get me wrong. I am definitely against steroid use in baseball, but not because I’m afraid of someone hitting more homeruns than someone else. I’m concerned because of the danger of their use. Plain and simple. Without doctor supervision, steroids can be dangerous or even kill you, and that’s why I want to keep them out of sports. 

The crusade against steroids is something I support but not if it is going to be a witch hunt against former players. We aren’t going to remove the numbers from the record books so we can’t take them away from the player either. Major League Baseball is going to keep McGwire out of the hall but they have no qualms about celebrating the magic of the summer of 1998 at the same time.

I support the cause, but I won’t support hipocracy.

~Scott

P.S. Pete Rose gambled when he was a manager, not a player. He broke the rules after he put up the numbers and played the game. Ban him from managing, ban him from commentating, that’s all fine, but you can’t keep the all-time hits leader out of the Hall-of-Fame because of something he did as a skipper.