Tuesday, August 31, 2010

ALMOST TORN DOWN IN '80s SCRANTON'S LACKAWANNA HOTEL PROVIDES HOPE FOR CIVIC ARENA PRESERVATIONISTS



Today, "PITTSBURGH: THRU THE LENS OF GARY GAYDA" makes its' triumphant return to the computer airwaves of "Pittsburgh's Black and Gold" and in this re-inaugural segment our intrepid photographer, Gary Gayda, was given an assignment: Go and find the most beautiful old building in the state that was almost torn down.

I figured this would accomplish two things: First, it would help drive home my point about saving the Civic Arena. Second, it would create a good excuse for going to Scranton, PA. (that's where he found the building).

For those of you who are unknowing of the exact whereabouts of the home of the Baby Penguins, let me first tell you that it is located in one of the most scenic sections of this beautiful state of ours. Scranton is about six hours away from the Burgh, but it is among the most relaxing six hours you'll ever drive anywhere in the world.

LEFT: Tucked into the Northeastern corner of Pennsylvania lies the Wilkes Barre-Scranton area, home of the Baby Penguins and the Pocono Mountains.

Driving through State College and further east through the Pocono's and "Pennsylvania Wild" territory, you will see parts of the Keystone State that haven't changed much since William Penn first was given ownership. The forest, on these steeply-climbing mountains is very dense. I couldn't help but imagine what it would be like to be lost in them. Ah, never mind... cancel that thought.

Scranton itself is a very old town with many grand old buildings with dates on them from the mid-1800s. It is a very quiet, clean, well-maintained town that has the University of Scranton nestled right in the heart of the city.

Just adjacent to the University sits one of the grandest buildings in the state or anywhere, the Lackawanna Hotel (now a part of the Radisson chain).

                                        PB&G photo by Gary Gayda
ABOVE: Built in 1908 and once a former train station for the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, the six story Lackawanna Hotel has been fully restored to its' original splendor. It took a few million bucks, but at least the people here figured out what they had! Those eagles on top are just spectacular!

                                                            PB&G photo by Gary Gayda
 ABOVE: Picture this: This beautiful floor, with some 300 pound construction worker with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, jack-hammering it up. Yeah, that makes sense!


                                       PB&G photo by Gary Gayda
ABOVE: The main lobby of the neo-classical former train station has been transformed into an elegant lounge area. On the day we were there, the Lackawanna was getting ready to host a wedding reception to be held in this area. Now there's a different use for an old space! ATTENTION PITTSBURGH PENGUINS, SPACES CAN BE REUSED!!!

                                                    PB&G photo by Gary Gayda
ABOVE AND BELOW: This is one of many exposed rivited trusses in the rear deck of what was the former train boarding area. This section has now been enclosed and converted into a bar. Notice the iconic exposed beam concept that has been preserved Pittsburgh! In Scranton, people aren't afraid to reuse old buildings with character. It takes money, but they do it.

                                                                PB&G photos by Gary Gayda
ABOVE: Beautiful frescoes line the main ballroom bathed in warm light. Picture this: A wrecking ball slamming through the middle of this artwork. This nice image brought to you by the Penguin's President, David Morehouse.

                                                        PB&;G photo by Gary Gayda
ABOVE: A gorgeous ceiling capped off with a mosaic of windows. Yeah, I'd tear this down, sure. Let's put a mall here, that's a great idea! Especially if some developer pays us millions to do it! Hey, it's valuable property!!!

EPILOGUE: The people of Pittsburgh can learn a lot from the lesson of the Lackawanna Hotel. This place was almost torn down back in the 80's! We cannot let that happen to another grand old iconic building...The Pittsburgh Civic Arena. The Lackawanna was saved, and the Arena can be too. But it will take creativity and Pittsburghers letting their voices be heard!!!

Monday, August 30, 2010

PIRATES, STEELERS STINK UP THEIR RESPECTIVE JOINTS

LEFT: Let's just be kind and say that there was nothing sexy about the Pirates (or Steelers) losses yesterday as both teams were "doubled-up" as the phrase goes. "Yer Buccos" lost their 13th straight on the road 8-4, while not to be outdone, "Yer Stillers" stunk up Denver for a 34-17 shellacking.

If you are a fan of Pittsburgh sports, let's just say that yesterday was not your day.

In the first half of this miserable Sunday twin bill, the Pittsburgh Pirates trotted out hapless Charlie Morton, he of the +9 ERA and 1-9 record and the look of a "deer in the headlights". When it was all over, the Pirates had lost another one, this time by an 8 to 4 score and Morton now had a +10 ERA and 1-10 record. The Pirates now have a road record of 13 wins, one million losses.

I am at a point with Morton where I feel that he has now joined Zach Duke as a batting practice pitcher in the rotation. After being relegated to Triple-A, Morton came back and in his first opportunity failed to challenge hitters, instead trying to finesse pitch counts. Here’s a good question: where is the manager in between innings or even the pitching coach for that matter? How can they sit still for this???


The rest of the team also seems to be becoming more and more detached from the reality of what winning baseball really requires in the majors. Of course, I believe that like anyone else, human nature takes over in these types of situations. The players themselves get so demoralized having to back up pathetic pitchers (such as those that the Pirates routinely send out to the mound) that their own performances begin to suffer as a result. Charlie Morton has been such a supreme disappointment that if I were Neil Huntington, I would not wait until the end of the season, I would cut him today. This would also send a valuable message to the rest of the underperforming members of the Pirates that their actions do indeed have a consequence. I would then install Daniel McCutchen into Morton’s spot in the rotation. At least McCutchen, to his credit,still seems to be interested in competing.

As if another loss wasn’t bad enough, reliever Evan Meek was injured when a line drive hit his right wrist. What initially looked like may have been a broken bone apparently is nothing worse than a very bad bruise. It’s pretty bad when that’s the best thing that you can point to as a result from an entire ballgame.

In the nightcap of Sunday’s dismal double-header, the Pittsburgh Steelers, in a, “full dress rehearsal,” according to coach Mike Tomlin, looked more like trick-or-treaters masquerading as a Halloween Pittsburgh Steeler team in their Sunday night tilt against the Denver Broncos. The Black & Gold suffered a very disappointing 34-17 loss in the Mile High City.


From the opening kickoff (that was knuckleballed out of bounds by kicker Daniel Sepulveda by the way) this game was a comedy of errors the likes of which the Steelers have not foisted on their loyal fan base since at least last year’s losses to Kansas City, Oakland, or Cleveland. It was hard to truly think of a game where the team looked so bad in so many aspects…until you thought back to several of last year’s fiascoes. I hope we're not seeing the continuation of a trend here.


The only guy who seemed to have a decent game was, ironically, Ben Roethlisberger, and he won’t be around for another 4 to 6 weeks anyway. The other three quarterbacks were all miserable. The defense looked a step behind, the offensive line was out of sync, receivers ran wrong routes, a rookie punt returner fielded a punt on the 1 yard line and a second-year defensive back incurred two personal foul penalties, causing Tomlin to bench him. Other than that, it was a great game.

ABOVE: Linebacker James Farrior had nothing to smile about last night. Methinks that Mike Tomlin may be of the same school of thought after "viewing the tape".

Linebacker James Farrior suffered a nasty cut to the forehead when his helmet was knocked off thus taking him out of the fray. The only positive that you could possibly take from this mess is that other than Farrior’s cut, the team seems to have come through the game without any other major injuries.

But make no mistake about it, this team looked horrible in virtually every facet of the game. If this was a dress rehearsal for the opening of a Broadway show, I think it would be safe to say that that show would be a flop.

Maybe this was an aberration? Maybe this team will turn it around? Maybe this game will serve as a wakeup call? I don't know, but I sure hope so, because seeing a continuation of the Pittsburgh Pirates season lasting into December would be more than I think I could bear.

Friday, August 27, 2010

MY COUSIN VINNY KICKS OFF PITT SEASON

ABOVE: If you're "older than dirt" like I am, you probably remember "Fractured Fairy Tales" on the "Rocky and Bullwinkle Show". The book above eventually falls on the fairy.

With the Pitt Panthers going up against Utah next week in their season opener in Salt Lake City, I thought it would be fun to refresh your memories as to how Utah came to acquire its' unusual nickname...

It all came about from this very famous courtroom scene from the hilarious movie, "My Cousin Vinny" where Joe Pesci plays a New York attorney who doesn't have a clue what he's doing.

In the scene below, Pesci, dressed in a maroon tuxedo, says in his opening statement... "And I plan to show how it would have been impossible for 

'Dese Two Youts' to have robbed the "Sack of Suds" and murdered the clerk."

ABOVE: These are the original youts who at this point in the movie looked like they would be spending many, many, years in prison.

At this point in this memorable film, the late Fred Gwynne, playing in his most important role since Herman Munster, utters this now-infamous line:

 From that point on, Utah had its' nickname. The rest, as they say, is history...Fractured Fairy Tale History.


"GO PITT, BEAT THE YOUTS"




Wednesday, August 25, 2010

PENS PREZ. BOOED BY ARENA PRESERVATIONISTS...YAY!!!

It was great to hear that Penguins President, David Morehouse, was booed during a meeting that was held to determine the fate of the Civic Arena. My sentiments exactly, Dave.

ABOVE: Penguins President David Morehouse is shocked and mortified that he is being booed by Pittsburghers. Imagine that? Pittsburghers are upset that he wants to tear down a symbol of Pittsburgh! Shame on you Pittsburgh Penguins, your greed is appalling.

The Penguins, already beneficiaries of untold millions in cash and the complete adoration of a city, appear now to literally look the part of a pig at a trough. It's not enough that they got their arena, now they want to tear down the old one for some wonderful new mall or whatever. The audacity of them wanting to tear down this major Pittsburgh landmark is simply appalling.

Thank goodness that the cavalry is on the rise. A group called "Reuse the Igloo" has floated architectural plans and organized a campaign to stop the Penguin wrecking ball (Mark Recchi has nothing to do with this by the way). The amazing part of this story is that none of the brilliant minds on Grant Street or even at the Penguins new lush headquarters had the foresight to consider the major public relations points that could have been scored by proposing an alternate use for the venerable old building. 


ABOVE: This is a pig trough. Notice the uncanny similarity to the Civic Arena (minus the dome of course).
BELOW: Morehouse, Ravenstahl and crew ready to chow down on the arena site.


Morehouse pointed out at the meeting how many stadiums and arenas have been built in America and how many more have been torn down. Good for them! None of these had the character, stainless steel dome nor most importantly the iconic value that the Civic Arena has. So who cares if they were torn down? It's a good thing that Morehouse's logic wasn't used in Rome, or they would have torn down the Coliseum too! That's valuable property after all! It needs to be razed and redeveloped!!! Right.

The Civic Arena is different.

If you were to go to Houston and visit the Houston Astrodome, for example, you would find that that venerable, ground-breaking structure has now been converted into a church that seats tens of thousands. It was not torn down. Obviously Morehouse has never visited Houston. Perhaps he forgot to include the Astrodome in his torn down stadium statistics?

It bears mentioning too that we're talking about a structure that has a unique dome structure, that's not in the process of falling down and which could most certainly be converted into any number of very interesting alternate uses that would generate tax revenue in themselves and not necessitate killing off one of this city's treasures.

I'm usually 100% on board with whatever Mario and the Penguins do, but in this case, they have left me completely cold. They are wayyyyy off base on this one. They simply look greedy, there's no other way to put it. Hey, didn't you guys just get a new building of your own? Why wouldn't you want to preserve your own legacy to boot?

Just imagine: It's the opening night of NBC's Stanley Cup telecast. The opening shot is the illuminated Civic Arena. It looks like a postcard of Pittsburgh: "They used to play hockey in this venerable old building. Today it's a hotel and houses many new retail shops and a park in a brilliant reuse of an old space by the city." (camera shifts to Consol Energy Arena) "But if you want to watch hockey in Pittsburgh today you'll need a ticket for the new Consol Energy Center, one of the most spectacular new sports venues in the country...."

That's how I want this city represented in the media. Not with some mall designed to make a lot of Grant Streeters and Penguins execs rich. The businesses can come, but they'll have to come in deference to the arena, not in place of the arena. It's totally wrong to even think about demolishing that building.

Check out this link for some fabulous ideas being developed by people who have a brain and are not just trying to squeeze whatever dollars they can out of that property to line their own pockets. Mario Lemieux I expected more from you.

  http://www.pfaffmann.com//documents/CivicRenewal_2008.pdf/

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

STEELERS, TOMLIN NEED TO "GET REAL"

"CLEARING MY DESK"

I know that there are many of you out there who after reading this are going to say, "Well, there goes another guy piling on poor Ben Roethlisberger". While you're certainly entitled to your own opinion, I'm also sure that there are many of you will agree that the Pittsburgh Steelers have once again erred on the side of kowtowing to Ben Roethlisberger's massive ego while failing to stand up for the image of the team.

ABOVE: Images like this one have populated the internet for years now.

For example: What business does Ben Roethlisberger have representing the Steelers as a team captain? Granted, this was a meaningles exhibition game, so who cares? I do. The Pittsburgh Steelers have long had a persona of being the team that distinguished itself from the rest of the NFL. Events of the last few years, and more importantly, the way the Steelers have reacted to said events have done little more than lower this once lofty franchise down into the run-of-the-mill murdering, thuggery, lawbreaking, drunk driving, gun-packing, drug abusing, spousal beating, night club and strip club shooting that is your NFL. And I don't like it.

Roger Goodell, to his credit, was sick and tired of the horrible image that his league had justifiably earned. So he did something about it. It didn't matter if Big Ben had been convicted or not, he had done major damage to the image of the National Football League. That's why he was suspended. But here's a good question, why has he been allowed to practice with the team and even play in preseason games? This guy is under suspension. He should be throwing footballs into a tire hanging from a tree. He shouldn't have been allowed anywhere near the Steelers practice facility.

Instead, here he is, practicing with the team, playing in a preseason game and walking onto the field as one of the team's captains no less! I must be completely out of touch with reality, but please explain to me what kind of a message is Mike Tomlin sending to his team? If I were running the NFL, you'd better believe that I would have been on the phone the next day with Tomlin and pinned his ears back. Come on Mike, this guy's been a bad actor. He's under suspension. Treat him that way!!! He needs to grow up and fast. Keeping him in the role of captain does nothing more than tell him that "everything's A-OK Ben".  Well guess what, it's not.

ABOVE: Roethlisberger has been working hard most offseasons trying to wreck his career.

His juvenile behavior is costing this team a minimum of four games of not having its starting quarterback. Tell me, how in the world does that justify allowing this man to represent the team symbolically as its' captain in a preseason game? If I were Art Rooney, I would have told Roethlisberger to stay away from the club entirely. Don't forget, he's severely damaged the Steelers brand even more than the NFL's so I would have been smarting over that. Most certainly I would have spent the money and hired a special offensive assistant to coach him at a separate facility using former college players as his receivers. I wouldn't have taken a single snap from the other three quarterbacks who have done nothing more than practice the way they should...and most definitely, I would have not allowed him to retain the title of offensive team captain.
ABOVE: I can just imagine what his self description would sound like. "NFL quarterback, lots of fun..."


Once Roethlisberger had served his suspension, I would not have brought him back  as "the anointed one, our savior" either, but as a player who had to fight to get his position back. Believe me, if after four games this team is functioning properly if not efficiently, I do not believe that it is in the Steelers' best interests or even Big Ben's to turn around and hand him the keys to the car. What lesson will he have learned from that? The wrong one.

Speaking of learning lessons, Mike Tomlin, it seems, has a few life's lessons that he needs to learn too. Treating a prima donna (who needed to be knocked down more than a few dozen pegs) the way that he has handled Roethlisberger has completely sent the wrong message to the team, those fans who have at least half a brain and more importantly those who have loved this franchise all of their lives because it has always stood for more. Wake up Mike!
ABOVE: Count me out of the Mike Tomlin fan club, and if he can't get his organization to straighten out and fly right, Art Rooney II might find himself in that doghouse too.


I know that I'm probably speaking for only about a third of the Steeler fans who I'll call "The Illuminati". So let's just say that I am speaking for the Steeler fans who believe that this team should stand for something better. We're certainly not among the legion of fans who would want them to win at any cost, even if it meant compromising the types of players that the team employed. Then we'd be Cincinnati, Baltimore or Oakland. If you don't think there are a lot of these types out there, you should have heard the talk shows with callers arguing that the Steelers should have signed Terrell Owens.

I don't hate Ben Roethlisberger, but I do abhor what he has done. He is disrupting at least 25% of this season, if not more, due to his sophomoric behavior. Make him team captain? Ah, I don't think so. What's wrong with you Mike Tomlin? Are you taking coaching lessons from Marvin Lewis?

ABOVE: When you make it as a parody on South Park, I think it's safe to say that you've made a spectacle of yourself. Just ask Michael Jackson! Oh wait, he's dead!!!

Monday, August 16, 2010

MAYOR PENGUINSTAHL: WHAT ARE YOU THINKING???

Reprinted from the "Pittsburgh Post Gazette"

ARENA MIGHT QUALIFY FOR
HISTORIC PLACES REGISTER
Friday, August 13, 2010
By Mark Belko, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Proponents of saving the Civic Arena have won an ally.

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission is recommending a delay in the 48-year-old arena's demolition to give Reuse the Igloo and others interested in saving it more time to develop alternative plans.

In a letter Thursday to the city-Allegheny County Sports and Exhibition Authority, Jean Cutler, Director of the Bureau for Historic Preservation, said a delay would allow the SEA to more "fully engage in assisting Arena preservation advocates in creating a redevelopment plan based in the context of adaptive reuse of the arena site."

Ms. Cutler said the PHMC believes the arena is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places and "embodies a significant and distinctive type of classic mid-20th century civic architecture."

"In our opinion, adaptive reuse of the arena would solidify Pittsburgh's growing reputation as a city that recognizes the value of pursuing development opportunities that are economically, environmentally, and culturally sustainable," she wrote.

"Reuse the Igloo", led by architect Rob Pfaffmann, had no immediate comment on the letter.
SEA Executive Director Mary Conturo could not be reached for comment.

The SEA is expected to recommend the demolition of the domed structure, formerly known as Mellon Arena, as part of the Penguins' plan to redevelop 28 acres across the street from the new Consol Energy Center...

Finally!!! In a blizzard of nonsense, a voice of reason rings out from the frozen tundra. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum commission is recommending a delay in the demolition of one of the city's most iconic buildings, the Civic Arena.


ABOVE: "Red at night, a Pittsburghers delight".

Quick. Think of a building that is more representative of Pittsburgh than the Civic Arena? You can't, because there simply is none...except maybe for the Cathedral of Learning.

I think it is a disgrace that the Mayor, yes, also the Penguins, and the various other monied interests in this town would rush to tear down this most distinctive building in the city so as to further line their own nests.

Luke Ravenstahl in particular should shoulder most of this blame. What an incredibly minimal amount of foresight he has shown in siding with the wrecking ball plan. Can you imagine for a minute a new combination retail development combined with either a housing complex or hotel facility in the existing Civic Arena building? The resulting creation would allow additional downtown Pittsburgh residency (something that all of the businesses downtown need) plus it would create more tax base for the city. Even better, at the same time we would still he able to to have a beautiful Pittsburgh skyline adorned by that iconic dome...a symbol of Pittsburgh if there ever was one...parked next door to the beautiful new Consol Energy Center!

ABOVE: The Civic Arena from space. "Helping to give our astronauts a point of reference during space shuttle voyages."

We, as Pittsburghers can't allow our minimalist-thinking Mayor to allow this building to fall. That would be a complete travesty. I was in Scranton for the first time this past weekend, on the campus of Scranton University. Just adjacent to the university is one of the most glorious buildings you'll ever see, the Lackawanna Hotel (now a part of the Radisson chain).


ABOVE: We have this thing for exposed beams here in the Burgh. After all, they were made here, why not show 'em off? Seriously, somebody wants to tear this down? Get real!!!!

I had a chance  to talk to the hotel manager while my good friend, our own photographer Gary Gayda, was busy snapping pictures. I complemented him on the grandeur of his hotel and he said, "Can you imagine that in the 1980's they almost tore this down?" I was dumbfounded then thought, "Was Luke Ravenstahl your mayor by any chance?"

We are going to bring you photos of this fabulous hotel next week when "Pittsburgh:Thru the Lens of Gary Gayda" makes its' triumphant return. "But why show these pictures of a hotel in Scranton," you ask? Simple. the Hotel Lackawanna is now an iconic structure in Scranton. Those people figured it out. Maybe there'll be hope for Pittsburgh's Civic Arena lovers too.

Here's an idea Mr. Mayor: Let's just put those wrecking balls away and bring out some of those famous brains we're supposed to have around here instead. Imagine the high praise that the rest of the country will have for our creative re-use of such a beautiful symbol of Pittsburgh.

Oh, by the way, the next time someone says that, "That property is too valuable" ask them why we never tore down the Blockhouse at the Point. I'd say that's valuable real estate there too!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

DICK LEBEAU: RE-INSTILLING PRIDE AMONG THE STEELERS FAITHFUL

Pride. This is a single word describing an emotion that I have not felt during the past six months where the Pittsburgh Steelers have been concerned. In fact, words such as disgust, and revulsion were more likely to have described my feelings towards my lifelong favorite team during this discouraging period.


ABOVE: Definition of a classy Hall-of-Famer: Dick LeBeau

I must confess, this was a very strange feeling, because I had gone through my entire life admiring the Steelers, the Rooneys, their coaches and players alike. When suddenly you begin having players acting completely out of character with what has been commonly known as the “Steeler way”, it led me to believe that the Steelers had become simply another collection of NFL juvenile delinquents.


Over the past month we’ve been regaled with stories about Big Ben kissing babies, giving away his spikes, chumming up to teammates… you get the picture. Sure, Ben’s trying hard to repair a severely damaged public image. While I preferred seeing this behavior versus the type displayed in Milledgeville, Georgia, I still, understandably, wasn’t convinced.

Enter Dick LeBeau.


When it comes to class guys in the NFL, Dick LeBeau sets the standard. When it finally came time for his long-delayed entrance into the Hall of Fame last week, I started thinking about how the Steelers might approach LeBeau’s big day. Knowing how beloved LeBeau is to the Steelers players, and how close, relatively-speaking, that Canton, Ohio is to Latrobe, I didn’t think it would be a stretch to believe that the Steelers would pack up their team on buses to attend LeBeau’s induction ceremony. When I heard later in the week that that indeed was what the Steelers were planning, I must say that my faith in the leadership of the team was again restored.


Watching the ceremonies on television, seeing Dan Rooney, his son Art, Mike Tomlin and all the Steelers players… I once again got that familiar feeling back. My team had one of its beloved best being inducted into the Hall of Fame. The entire family was there en masse to participate in the festivities. This was the Pittsburgh Steelers again at their finest.


I especially loved the anecdotal stories that Dick LeBeau related during his speech. The first one, his humorous telling of how he found out that he was in the Hall of Fame (he told a friend who had called him on the phone that he had to hang up because he was waiting to hear from the Hall). His friend said,, You idiot it’s all over the television, you’re in the Hall of Fame!!!


LeBeau’s second humorous story had to do with relating a conversation he had with Denver running back, Floyd Little. Little, a fellow inductee, wore the same number, 44, as LeBeau. LeBeau explained that he told Little that they both wore number 44, that the Steelers last won Super Bowl XLIV and that Barack Obama was the 44th President of the United States. LeBeau then went on to explain that if you add the four and four on his uniform together, you get eight. If you subtract two from eight, you get the number of Super Bowl’s that the Steelers have won.


Steelers haters in Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Cleveland had to get nauseous over this joke. But for the legions of Steelers fans who have been getting kicked in the head over the last six months of inappropriate player behavior, this comment was like a refreshing drink of ice cold water after mowing your lawn on a 95° day.


What a wise move that Mike Tomlin kept this treasure of a man on his staff when he was first given the head coaching job by the Steelers. Hopefully, the entire Canton experience will rub off on the Steelers current crop of players. Hopefully all of them will aspire to one day join Dick LeBeau there. This whole field trip also had to be a great team bonding experience that Coach Tomlin so often references.


Speaking of pride, how great was it that in this same Hall of Fame class that Pitt had not one, but two of its former players, Russ Grimm and Rickey Jackson inducted as well. So three of a class of seven had deep ties to Western Pennsylvania football. Yeah, that seems about the right percentage.


And finally, here’s an interesting thought: Had the Steelers hired Russ Grimm instead of Mike Tomlin, they could have potentially had two members of their coaching staff installed in the Hall of Fame on the same night! This has never happened before and chances are, this was the closest it will ever come to happening again.


I am truly hopeful that Ben and his teammates can get back to being the source of extreme pride that they have always represented for the Steelers nation. I know it’s going to take a long time to get over the events of the past, but for a couple hours Saturday it felt great having that old Steeler feeling back.

Friday, August 6, 2010

GOOD PITCHING: IT'S BEEN IN SHORT SUPPLY AROUND HERE FOR ABOUT 18 YEARS

I saw an article today about "yer" Pittsburgh Pirates that stated that the team was having trouble signing most of its draft choices.

OH NOOOOO!!!!!!

While in itself this was not particularly shocking to me, the fact remains that as a follower of Pirates baseball, I am once again left shaking my head in wonderment at the way this franchise conducts business. While on one hand it was refreshing to see that the team didn’t trade Paul Maholm, a not-great pitcher, but still probably their best, I can’t help but wonder why a team that was so bereft of quality pitching, wouldn’t have tried to bring in a free agent starter during this past off-season and now they won't even pony up to sign their two hot shot pitching prospects. How can they not? Here's an idea: Use some of the forty or so million dollars that they're below the rest of the league in payroll and use it to sign the hotshots!

The Pirates’ pitching staff has been such a gigantic disappointment this year, that Neil Huntington cannot sit back and hope for a better performance from the same people next season. He now has a lot of very promising young ballplayers on his club and rather then giving them the opportunity to be clubbed like baby harp seals each night, he should try to have a pitcher on the mound who at least gives them a fighting chance.

As an example, the other night I had the privilege of watching Ross Ohlendorf throwing 105 pitches during his five innings of work. It absolutely amazed me that a major league pitcher could be so inaccurate with his throws, having made it to this highest level in his sport. I’ve coached players in Pony Baseball who had better control.

ABOVE: I just couldn't bring myself to put up a picture of one of these little guys getting clubbed. But you get the idea, it's not a pretty picture.


Then there is the “sixth inning syndrome” where nearly every pitcher routinely implodes. Did these guys ever hear of a complete game? How about the seventh inning or the eighth? Why is it that a minimum of three pitchers must be used for virtually every ballgame? Pitchers used to get mad when they were taken out. These guys can't wait!


No, the coddled pitchers of today are pleased to go six innings (a quality start we‘re told) and then we can expect to see those three different pitchers in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.


The other night, this year’s all-star, Evan Meek, came in to pitch the seventh and eighth innings. Meek was totally unaccustomed to pitching more than one inning and it showed. All during this season, it’s usually been Meek, then Joel Hanrahan, followed by Octavio Dotel. With Dotel now departed for the Dodgers, and Hanrahan manning the closers’ role, Meek had to pitch two innings. Oh my gawd!!! While it was a humid night and Meek had thrown an Ohlendorf-like 50 pitches in two innings, when he came to the bench, he looked like he had just finished running the Boston Marathon!

Meek, who’s already on his way towards developing a fairly good spare tire, is obviously not in the best of condition. The Pirates pitchers need to be more physically fit and conditioned to not bail out once the sixth inning rolls around. These guys are way too soft. Steve Blass spoke of this during a Pirates telecast this past week. Truer words by a color man and former pitcher have never spoken. So where’s the Manager and the Pitching Coach? You mean to tell me that they can’t see that Meek looks out of shape? Next thing we know he’ll be blowing out his shoulder.

ABOVE: Maybe it was my TV set, but Evan Meek looks like he's growing one of these.

I also feel that Pirates management needs to get into their pitchers’ collective heads, be it from Bradenton to State College to Altoona to Indianapolis to Pittsburgh. Their pitchers need to be more mentally tough, they need to be physically stronger and above all else, they need to go into a ballgame absent the mindset that three runs in six innings equals a “quality start”. That's just plain baloney.


I hope that Neal Huntington can either pull off another trade or bring in a free agent or two in the off-season. As evidenced last night in James McDonald’s first successful start, a strong pitching effort makes all the difference in the world. With some better pitching, I’m sure that this current crop of young players would begin winning on a much more frequent basis. As the wins would come with greater regularity, the confidence level for their young players would grow exponentially.


You don’t need a degree in rocket science to be able to figure out that with some better starting pitching, some additional seasoning and a couple other pieces to the puzzle, the current group of young players could develop into the best baseball team Pittsburgh has seen since the days of Bonds, Bonilla and Van Slyke. Don’t laugh Pittsburgh, it could happen. But it won't happen if Neal doesn't get some starting pitching and soon.

Monday, August 2, 2010

CLEARING MY DESK

NEWS ALERT: BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE STILL FREE!!

I had the opportunity this weekend to test out that time honored axiom that states that, "The best things in life are free". I am happy to report, that the axiom is still in perfect working condition.

My wife had been given two tickets by her employer to see the Civic light Opera performance of "Hairspray", the Broadway musical. The event was being staged at the Benedum Center in downtown Pittsburgh. I always relish any opportunity to visit Pittsburgh since I had spent so much time in the city during my younger years. The Benedum, the former Stanley Theater, has long been restored as one of the most glorious buildings of its type. There are certainly few venues in the country that offer a more aesthetically pleasing environment with which to enjoy a musical.

Above: There was plenty of big hair, plus sizes, and a great 60s musical score. Mix in a socially relevant theme and this kooky musical really delivered.

We were on hand to witness the final performance of "Hairspray" and it was very evident that the actors were truly putting their all into this last show. Granted, I am not a seasoned reviewer of Broadway musicals, however, to this member of the audience, this performance came off flawlessly. The only error, if you could even classify it as such, took place when the 350 pound mother, a role played on Broadway by John Travolta but on this day by actor Paul Vogt, was swooning over the Polish (sic) French accent that her husband was using on her. The two could not contain themselves, but not to worry, as this was the high point of the show. The audience loved it. The moment was very reminiscent to me of the old Carol Burnett show when Tim Conway and Harvey Korman would often break down laughing in the middle of a skit.

"Hairspray" is a kooky musical set in the early 1960s in Baltimore. The basis of the story has to do with racial segregation which was still a very large problem during this period in our country's history.

The production, most skillfully produced by the CLO, featured powerful singing by the entire cast of 29, headlined by "Dancing With the Stars" champion Drew Lachey (who actually didn't have that major of a part as TV dance show host "Corny Collins") precise dance routines, and a wonderful musical score performed flawlessly by the CLO's orchestra. The show was staged in front of a packed house, which given the level of this performance was certainly justifiable.

Without question, the City of Pittsburgh is blessed with having one of the premier organizations of its type in the world in the Civic light Opera. It is hard to imagine that a better version of "Hairspray" could have been produced anywhere.

Pittsburgh gets a lot of credit as a sports town, but not nearly enough so as a center for the performing arts. Seeing that large crowd of people in attendance witnessing such a terrific performance certainly gave me pause to thank all the folks who are involved with the CLO and also the sponsors who helped make it possible.

In a town that enjoys the melodic sound of two helmets crashing together, it was refreshing to hear the 60's sounds of "Hairspray" for a few hours yesterday. Congratulations again to the entire cast!

I'll gladly take any more free tickets anyone may have to any future see CLO events! Yes, and I might even spring for some if none turn up!