Tuesday’s Den: 13 of my all-time favorite TV shows…….

13 of my favorite TV shows (in alphabetical order):
— Batman— When you’re six years old, and in the opening credits every week, they show “WHAP!!! POW!!! BIFF!!!” and your name is Biff, this quickly becomes a favorite show. 

The villains were some pretty big stars back then (Burgess Meredith, Cesar Romero, Milton Berle, Vincent Price, Liberace, Ethel Merman)

I haven’t seen much of the Batman movies that have been made over the years, but the TV show had some humor; one week there was a 3-foot Martian on the loose in Gotham City, and Robin blurts out “Holy interplanetary yardstick, Batman!!!” Good stuff. 

— Billions— Showtime series about a hedge fund manager who pushes the boundaries of the law while his marriage falls apart. His arch-enemy is a prosecutor in NYC who is into S&M and his wife is his dominatrix— the wife is also the psychiatrist for the hedge fund manager’s company. 

Small world. This show is really well-written- the next season will probably run after football season. 

Trivia: Paul Giamatti plays the prosecutor; he is the son of former baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti. I suggested a cameo role for Pete Rose, but so far, that hasn’t happened.

— CSI— I spent a good chunk of my work career searching fingerprints and working for the NY State Division of Criminal Justice, so I enjoyed all the CSI shows, but especially the one set in Las Vegas— the actors seemed to have a chemistry working together. 

One of my weirder ideas (a teacher friend of mine scoffed at this) is that CSI should be taught to all high school kids, so they realize how difficult it is to get away with crimes, so maybe there would be fewer crimes. What could it hurt?

— Green Acres— As a kid, I spent lot of hours watching Green Acres re-runs; my dad would walk into the room, say “Why the hell are you watching that?”, but within five minutes, he’d be sitting there laughing harder than me and would leave the room before my mother came in and saw the both of us laughing. She wasn’t a big fan of Hank Kimball or Arnold Ziffel. 

— Law and Order— 20 years, 456 episodes, a great launching point for lot of acting careers, not to mention the spinoff shows that branched off this original show. 

Take Billions; there are 32 actors who have appeared in 12+ episodes of Billons; 14 of those 32 actors appeared in at least one episode of Law and Order, and two others were in Law and Order SVU, and that doesn’t count Eric Bogosian, who was in Law and Order: Criminal Intent for 61 episodes, but was only in 10 episodes of Billions (so far). 

— Magnum PI— I’ve never been to Hawai’i, but if I ever went, would like to visit Robin Masters’ estate; I’m told you can visit there, it is kind of a museum or something. 

One of the best episodes was when Frank Sinatra played a retired New York City cop whose granddaughter was murdered— this was near the end of both the series and Sinatra’s career. 

The overriding themes of the show were that great friends will do all kinds of stuff for each other, and if you’re really good looking and drive a Ferrari, women will like you 🙂

— M*A*S*H— Years later, after watching re-runs of this show on our local channel 10 and the Boston channel for hours at a time, it dawned on me that this was actually a very sad show, with humor/jokes masking the grotesque sadness of wartime Korea. 

The McLean Stevenson episodes were the best; he was Colonel Henry Blake for the first 75 episodes, and a lot of them were classics, just funny as hell. 

— Mr Ed— This show ran on network TV from 1961-66, so I never saw it until the re-runs came on at 4:30 weekdays on a local channel in the early 70’s. Mr Ed was a talking horse, but he only talked to Wilbur Post, an architect who worked at home but never actually seemed to work. 

Mr Ed was a big Dodger fan; his favorite player was OF Willie Davis. In one episode, the horse takes batting practice against Sandy Koufax, and hits a ball off the wall at Dodger Stadium, with the bat held in his mouth. A fun show, not necessarily a realistic one. 

— Odd Couple— As a kid, Oscar Madison was one of my heroes; a sportswriter who always spilled food on his clothes but was a good natured guy who somehow dated a doctor or one of the Pidgeon sisters. 

To this day when I see my cousin’s husband, we recite lines from Odd Couple episodes; when they owned a greyhound racing dog , or appeared on Password (a game show), or when Oscar dated a princess from some obscure European country “You bought her a salty pretzel; oh, boy!!!” Great stuff. 

— Ray Donovan— The most violent program on this list; just about everybody on this Showtime series that isn’t related to the Donovans eventually winds up dead. 

Ray Donovan is a fixer for rich people, but he can’t fix his own family; his wife passes away from cancer, and the last time we saw him, he was still struggling with that. 

Live Schreber plays Ray, Jon Voight plays his father (a genuine creep); they’ve had guest stars like Susan Sarandon, James Woods, Wendell Pierce, Hank Azaria. Alan Alda, C Thomas Howell. 

Very good show but also very violent. 

— Suits— This show is winding down its last season on USA Network; it is about a law firm that hired a young guy with a photographic memory who had one small problem— he is a college dropout who never went to law school, but he gets paid to take bar exams for other people. 

The show had to change directions because one of the actresses (Meghan Markle) moved to England after she married Prince Harry in real life. Her character was married to Mike (the fraudulent lawyer) so they got written out of the last couple years of the show. 

— West Wing— Martin Sheen plays the President in this show; his cabinet included Rob Lowe, Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, John Spencer— great cast.

Actor Duke Hill was in both West Wing and Suits; Mary Louise Parker was in this and is also in Billions. Alan Alda was in this, Ray Donovan and of course, M*A*S*H

Jimmy Smits, Mary MacCormack, Tim Matheson, Gary Cole, just a ton of excellent actors. 

In one episode, President Bartlet has to throw out the first pitch at an Orioles’ game, but he never played ball, so one of his aides has to teach him how to throw a baseball in a hallway in the White House, where an errant toss breaks an expensive vase. 

— White Shadow— Ken Howard plays a washed-up NBA player who becomes a high school basketball coach in Los Angeles. Show only lasted three years, because well, high school kids graduate so they would’ve had to turn most of the cast over every other year. 

The basketball scenes were really well-done; Gwyneth Paltrow’s father was the creator of the show. Lot of the issues they tackled in this show were issues that real high school in the inner city had to deal with. Ken Howard was great as Coach Reeves; he wasn’t some all-knowing guy; he had flaws but he fought for his kids and they respected him for it (most of the time). 

Tuesday’s Den: Random Lists of 3……

13) Three things young people have no idea about………
— Phone booths
— Encyclopedias
— Having to get up to change the channel

12) Three things I’d like to do someday:
— A’s game in the Oakland Coliseum
— LSU home football game (at night)
— New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas (too expensive 🙂 )

11) Three changes I’d make to baseball:
— Managers/coaches wouldn’t wear uniforms
— Geographic realignment
— Split-season format, to invigorate late June/July. 

10) Three changes I’d make to ESPN:
— No daily NBA shows from end of summer league to start of training camp.
— If you must have a daily NBA show, then you have a daily baseball show, too.
— Less hideous talk shows on weekdays; show poker re-runs instead, or NFL Films, or anything that doesn’t include Mike Greenberg or Stephen A Smith. 

9) Three non-sports people it would be fun to have dinner with:
— Steve Martin
— David Letterman
— Bill Murray

8) Three changes I’d make to football:
— Take radios out of players’ helmets
— Get rid of Thursday NFL games, except Week 1 and Thanksgiving.
— 18-game season, with all players getting paid 12.5% more; two preseason games, with Super Bowl the Sunday night of Presidents’ Day weekend. 

7) Three sports people it would be fun to have dinner with:
— Billy Beane
— Dick Vermeil
— Charles Barkley

6) Three most fun events I’ve been to:
— 2000 NFC title game in St Louis (Rams-Bucs)
— 2008 World Series (Phillies-Rays)
— Alabama-Tennessee game in Knoxville, in 2003

5) Three other fun things I’ve been to:
— Tailgating before Tennessee-South Carolina game in 2008
— Watching AAU nationals for 12 hours a day at Disney World in Florida.
— Knicks-Spurs preseason game (Jerry Tarkanian was coaching the Spurs)

4) Three changes I’d make to the NBA:
— Head coaches would all be active players.
— Playoff series would be best-of-3; finals best-of-5.
— Draft lottery would be an hour before the actual draft. 

3) Three things that would be an improvement:
— Baseball expands to 32 teams, making scheduling easier.
— College football playoff expanding to eight teams.
— Reducing NFL preseason games from four per team to two. 

2) Three random observations:
— Pro golf in person is amazingly quiet.
— If you like the NBA, I strongly recommend you heading to Las Vegas some July to watch summer league games. Very affordable, lot of fun and it is Las Vegas!!!
— Watching the World Series of Poker in person was really boring; you need to see the hole card camera for it to be interesting.

1) Back when they had a CBA franchise in Albany, one night I got to shoot free throws for beer at the end of the 3rd quarter. For every free throw I made in 24 seconds, I got a free case of beer:
— The CBA back then was what the G-League is now; very good basketball. Bill Musselman, George Karl and Phil Jackson all coached the Patroons.
— Good news: I made 4 out of 7 shots in 24 seconds.
— Bad news: I very rarely drink beer, and they wouldn’t exchange it for soda. 

Monday’s Den: In a perfect world, where I made all the decisions……

13) Kids could go right from high school to the NBA; going to school for only one year is a farce, so if a kid goes to college, then he is there for at least two years. College baseball has that rule, but I think it is three years for them. 

12) Both leagues would have the DH; this will happen in a couple years. Add a player or two to rosters, to appease the players’ union.


11) NFL would have an 18-game regular season, only two preseason games; Super Bowl would be Sunday night of Presidents’ Day weekend. 

10) College football teams wouldn’t play I-AA opponents; SEC teams do this a lot. Last year, Alabama played The Citadel, Ole Miss played Southern Illinois, South Carolina played Tenn-Chattanooga. Seriously? Go play a MAC team or a Sun Belt team, at least. 

9) Online poker would be made legal so the poker companies would advertise on TV and ESPN would start replaying the World Series of Poker again, like they used to. The stuff ESPN puts on in daytime on weekdays is mostly terrible. Mike Greenberg, Stephen A Smith both make around $6M a year, a tremendous waste of money. 

Listening to talking heads in contrived arguments is a waste of electricity. Much rather watch people play cards, or replays of games, actual competition. 

8) As far as college basketball transfers go, if you poach a transfer from a team, then you have to go play a game in that team’s gym. Most of the teams that poach transfers are way better than the teams they poach from anyway, but they often don’t have the onions to play road games. 

By way of explanation, over the last seven seasons, Duke has played only three non-conference road games, all mandated by the ACC-Big 14 challenge. When Duke poached Seth Curry from Liberty, they should have had to go there and play a true road game. 

7) I would take the radios out of NFL players’ helmets; coaches have six days to prepare their teams to play. Gameday should be the players’ day; let the QB’s call their own plays, which would make the game lot more exciting. QB’s calling the plays would make the game more fun. 

6) I’d eliminate the American/National Leagues and go to geographic realignment, which would reduce travel costs and invigorate regional rivalries. Going to 32 teams (which will happen soon) will make scheduling a lot easier. 

5) NBA playoff series would be best-of-3, with finals best-of-5. Less games, more drama; it is more interesting when the best team has a chance to lose. Would the NCAA tournament be at all interesting if a 16-seed played Duke/Kentucky best-of-3? 

4) I’d get rid of the Electoral College in our presidential election; whoever gets the most votes wins, just like in all the other elections. 

3) Would definitely move the NBA Draft Lottery back to a half hour before the actual draft; imagine the drama then? Lot of executives would have to think on their feet. 

2) You want to make baseball’s All-Star Game more interesting? Make it USA vs the World, and it’ll become a serious game fairly quickly. Maybe too serious.

1) Would like to make people happier; nowadays, there is so much anger in the world. There is a lot less tolerance of others than there used to be. You be you, and let others do what they do. Cheer the bleep up!!!!

Saturday’s List of 13: My favorite non-sports movies……

These are 13 of my favorite non-sports movies. Make your own list. 

Remember, these are my favorite movies, not the movies that are necessarily the best. Of the 50 movies USA Today listed as the best ever, I’ve seen two of them. Seriously. 

13) Runaway Jury— I’m a big fan of the John Grisham books; this was my favorite of the ones that were turned into movies. Gene Hackman plays a jury consultant whose client is a gun manufacturer; John Cusack is on the jury to manipulate the verdict.  

T12) Moon Over Parador— Richard Dreyfuss is an actor who is hired to stand in for the dictator of a Latin American country who suddenly dies. Jonathan Winters is a weird CIA agent whose wife is Polly Holliday, who played Flo in the old TV series Alice. 

T12) Dave— Made five years after Moon Over Parador, this is basically the same movie, just set in Washington, DC. 

Guy who looks just the President runs a temp service in Washington; when the real president has a stroke while screwing around with his mistress, the guy (Kevin Kline) is hired as the stand-in president. Sigourney Weaver is the First Lady. 

11) The Verdict— Paul Newman is a struggling lawyer who is handed a winning case, but winning it is easier said than done. His friend is played by Jack Warden, one of my all-time favorites.

10) The Gambler— Remake of a James Caan movie from the mid-70’s. College professor (Mark Wahlberg) seems to have an excellent life, but he has a huge gambling problem which drags him down. John Goodman plays one of the people he owes money to; he is very good in this.

9) The Bodyguard— Whitney Houston is a famous singer with a contract on her head; Kevin Costner is the ex-Secret Service hired to protect her.

8) A Few Good Men— The last scene, with Jack Nicholson on the witness stand, is tremendous. Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Pollak, JT Walsh as supporting actors is pretty strong. 

7) Leap of Faith— Steve Martin plays a traveling preacher whose bus breaks down, stranding his crew in a drought-stricken Kansas town. Miracles ensue. Liam Neeson, Debra Winger, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meat Loaf all have supporting roles. 

6) Molly’s Game— Young woman runs high stakes poker games for celebrities/rich guys, but when members of the Russian mob enter the game, things get complicated. This is a true story, and as we’re learning nowadays, real life is often stranger than fiction. 

5) Lost In Translation— Bill Murray plays a washed-up actor who is in Tokyo getting paid $2M to do a whiskey commercial. He meets Scarlett Johansson in the hotel bar and they become friends. 

4) Begin Again— Down-and-out music executive stumbles into a Manhattan bar and discovers a young singer who can resurrect his career. 

3) Good Will Hunting— Janitor at MIT can do complicated math problems better than the professors can, but he also has a criminal record, and has to get counseling for that. Robin Williams is great as the counselor. 

2) Last Vegas— Four old friends get together in Las Vegas for the bachelor party of the one bachelor in group (Michael Douglas) who is marrying a woman 40 years younger than him. It is Douglas, Robert Deniro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline. 

1) Rounders— Law student decides he’d rather play high stakes poker. The scenes with Matt Damon and his law professor (Martin Landau) are excellent. Same guys who wrote this write the great Showtime series Billions now. 

Saturday’s Den: Notes on Las Vegas hotels where I’ve stayed……..

Places where I’ve stayed the most:
— Westgate— Best sportsbook in Las Vegas, by far; on NFL Sundays they open the theater to watch all the games, with food/betting right there. Sid’s Cafe is solid dining option and they have fancier eating options also. Rooms are pretty good but not great, but this is a good place. 

International Bar in front of the casino is very good, and the snack bar has superior cherry danish.

— SouthPoint— Rooms are bigger, pretty nice. Outstanding 24-hour cafe. Also a very good sportsbook, with a hot dog stand right near it during the day and a good bar, snack bar nearby. There is a radio studio in middle of casino, where Brent Musburger has a daily radio show. Bowling alley, movie theater upstairs; away from the Strip, but a very good place. 

— Elara— Behind Planet Hollywood, Elara used to be my go-to place until Hilton bought it and doubled the room prices. Attached to Miracle Mile shops, so in summer can do just about anything you like as far as eating/shopping and never go outside. Excellent place, but out of my price range now, and their rates don’t go down Christmas week. 

Places I like to stay Christmas week, when room rates are lower:
— Vdara— No casino, but a short walk from the Aria. Great rooms, good bar by the front door, decent Market Cafe with pretty good light food (open till midnight). You can walk to Bellagio without going outside. 

— Aria— Really good sportsbook, and I changed my mind about the pizza place right near there, it is solid pizza. There is a Starbucks upstairs near the buffet. Problem is, Aria is way too nice for me. You play video poker at the bar, has to be at least $1.25 a hand, which can be expensive if you go on an extended cold streak. Just like Vdara, great rooms; their gift shop is much better, with a wider assortment of junk food available.

— Mandalay Bay— Great room, with good layout for desk and an odd-shaped couch to relax on. Hot tub in the bathroom never hurts. Pretty good snack bar right near the sportsbook, but the book could use bigger TV screens. 

— Luxor— Room I stayed in was so spacious you could’ve played floor hockey in kitchen area; there was an excellent 24-hour deli in the casino, and the bar area was……how can I say this, full of friendly people. Sportsbook was small but good enough. 

Places I’ve only stayed once or twice…….
— Planet Hollywood— Smallish rooms, good sportsbook, excellent coffee shops (Planet Dailies); the Dueces Wild game at the machines right near Planet Dailies can be generous. Easy access to Miracle Mile shops, which are good to walk around.

— Golden Nugget— My only downtown visit; room was kind of average, but rest of hotel was top-flight, with 24-hour coffee shop that is excellent. Pool is tremendous, sports book is small but must be great in summer to watch baseball. 

Downtown Las Vegas has to be seen to be believed; lot of unique sights, just stay on the beaten path after dark. Enjoyed my ten days here. 

— Bally’s— If you go in spring or fall, Bally’s has a great pool area, trust me on this. I didn’t like the layout of their sportsbook that much, but lot of food areas close by, and it is across the street from Battista’s, one of my favorite restaurants. Didn’t spend much time in the casino while I was there, since the sportsbook is off by itself. 

— Mirage— I am almost 60 years old, but was on the young side of guests there— think it was my 4th day there before I was in an elevator without someone else using a cane or a walker.

I am told the pool there is excellent, but didn’t see it myself; I can attest to fact that The Mirage has great food options— Carnegie Deli (HUGE sandwiches, Dr Brown’s soda), a really good hamburger place and a California Pizza Kitchen. Sportsbook is also pretty good. 

— MGM— Sportsbook area is small but good; very big hotel. My walk from the elevator to my room was pretty long. Food options are solid; my room was smallish, and about 25% of the TV channels were Asian channels. Very close to the adidas outlet store, which cost me more $$$ than video poker. Nice place, just not my thing that much. Not sure the West Wing bar is there anymore, but I liked the West Wing bar. 

— SLS— The old Sahara has the smallest rooms ever; there was a mirror on the ceiling in my room, and mirrors on shower door and bathroom door, to make room look bigger. Last thing I want to see while I’m laying in bed is…….me. 

Room did have a good seating area at foot of the bed; I enjoyed my stay there, but there is only a counter to place sports bets, no real sportsbook. Hamburger place was pretty good, but I’m still waiting to win one hand of video poker— got completely crushed there, to point where I’m not sure those machines ever pay out. 

— Sun Coast— Quietest casino ever; located up in Summerlin, pretty close to where Snoop Dawg lived in the reality show he was in a few years ago. Most of time there were more security guys than customers in Sun Coast. Was told they had an incident just before my stay, which is why the security was enhanced. 

I remember there was group of Toronto Maple Leaf fans there gloating about a playoff win over the Bruins, only Toronto blew the lead late in game and those people wound up drowning their sorrows while I played video poker. 

This place looks just like South Point, just no 24-hour coffee shop; there is a good bar near the sportsbook, and the movie theater serves Orville Redenbacher popcorn, which is important if you’re watching games in the sportsbook. 

— Excalibur— Been long time since I stayed there, am assuming it is lot different now than way back then. If you like watching guys dressed up in medieval outfits juggling or playing a bugle, this is your place. Great spot on the Strip, close to MGM, Luxor and T-Mobile Arena. 

— Rio— Stayed there one night in July 2010, but their Internet wouldn’t support posting my website stuff so I left, which is how I wound up staying at the Elara. This was during the World Series of Poker, which was great fun to walk thru for 20-30 minutes, until I realized that I didn’t come 2,300 miles to watch other people play cards. 

— Stratosphere— Never stayed there, but have to recommend the Italian restaurant downstairs in the casino, Fellini’s; really good place. Old school Italian restaurant. 

Saturday’s List of 13: Random lists of 3

13) Best 3 NBA players of all-time:
1) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 2) Michael Jordan 3) Lebron James. 

12) Favorite Las Vegas hotels:
T1) Aria/Vdara 3) Mandalay Bay 4) SouthPoint

11) Favorite Las Vegas sports books:
1) Westgate 2) Aria 3) Golden Nugget

10) Favorite Batman villains:
1) Riddler (Frank Gorshin) 2) Egghead (Vincent Price) 3) Mad Hatter (David Wayne)

9) College football bucket list:
Games at: 1) LSU 2) USC 3) Rose Bowl

8) College basketball bucket list:
1) NC State 2) Iowa State 3) Colorado State

7) Favorite non-sports movies:
1) Rounders 2) The Bodyguard 3) Begin Again

6) Favorite QB’s (non-Rams) to watch:
1) Dan Fouts 2) Aaron Rodgers 3) John Elway

5) Best Oakland A’s managers:
1) Dick Williams 2) Bob Melvin 3) Tony LaRussa

4) Best LA/St Louis Rams head coaches:
1) Dick Vermeil 2) Sean McVay T3) George Allen/Chuck Knox

3) My favorite comedians:
1) Steve Martin 2) Bill Murray 3) David Letterman

2) Favorite dinners:
1) Pizza 2) Spaghetti and meatballs 3) Scrambled eggs and bacon

1) Favorite TV characters:
1) Oscar Madison (Odd Couple) 2) Jonathan Higgins (Magnum PI) 3) Henry Blaker (M*A*S*H*)

Friday’s Den: Ranking the months of the year……

1) March— Conference tournament basketball, March Madness, spring training games on TV every day, plus winter is winding down. March is a good time of year. 

2) November— Lot of football going on, plus college basketball starts

T3) June/July/August— Summer months are all good in upstate New York; hot weather, the horses are up in Saratoga in late July/August, baseball on the tube every night.

6) December— I spend 10 days in Las Vegas every December, wrapped around Christmas, so that ramps up this month’s ranking a lot. Walking on the Strip and seeing all the Christmas decorations is a little unique. 

College basketball games, the NFL stretch run, bowl games- good stuff.

7) September— When I was a kid, this was the worst month of the year, going back to school and all, but as an adult, football season starts, the pennant races in baseball, plus the weather is mostly still summer-ish. 

8) October— Slowest month for this website, which usually means a trip to the desert, never a bad thing. Football Sundays at the Westgate Theater are really good. 

9) May— Really the same month as April, except one more day and the weather is usually a little bit warmer. 

10) April— Baseball season starts, which is very good and winter is replaced by mostly rain, but the NBA/NHL playoffs start

11) January— 31 days of cruddy weather offsets the NFL playoffs and conference play in college basketball. There are no bad months of the year, but January is a damn cold month. 

12) February— Only 28 days (usually) but the same cruddy weather, plus only one football game, though the new AAF could start making February a little better. 

Wednesday’s List of 13: In praise of these A’s……..

13) Last three years, Oakland A’s finished last in AL West, winning 68-69-75 games. 

A’s have the lowest payroll in the major leagues, but they made the playoffs this season, going 97-65, something no one thought possible back in the spring.  Great managing job by Bob Melvin; this is 4th time in last seven years Oakland is in the playoffs, but first time since 2014. 

How they’ve gotten to this point is really pretty amazing. 

12) Oakland has used 53 players this season, 33 of them pitchers. 

Their two best starting pitchers right now are Mike Fiers and Edwin Jackson; Fiers’ first game with the A’s was August 8, Jackson’s first game was June 25. Jackson is pitching for his 13th major league team. 

11) Kendall Graveman was Oakland’s Opening Day starter; he lasted until May 11 before he blew his arm out. 

Sean Manaea pitched a no-hitter against Boston, but he got hurt August 24 and is done until 2020. A’s went 16-11 in Manaea’s starts this year- they acquired him in the Ben Zobrist trade when Kansas City made their World Series run in 2015. 

Gossett, Triggs, Montas, Blackburn started a combined 31 games; A’s went 17-14 in those games. 

10) February 12, 2016, the A’s traded two minor leaguers to Milwaukee for Khris Davis, who has gone on to hit 133 homers, knock in 335 runs. Pretty good trade. 

One of the minor leaguers, Jacob Nottingham, has appeared in nine major league games. Davis is mostly a DH, so he wouldn’t have done Milwaukee much good, but a damn good trade. 

9) On March 12, 2018, Oakland signed C Jonathan Lucroy, giving their pitchers/defenses an anchor, the team a leader. Lucroy hasn’t hit much, but this will be his third straight year in the playoffs (Texas 2016, Colorado 2017). His acquisition was huge for the A’s. 

8) Ramon Laureano is a 24-year old OF who hit .227 in the AA Texas League LY; when you hit .227 in the hitter-friendly Texas League, it is usually time to start looking for a new career, but since making his Oakland debut August 3, Laureano has an on-base% of .364, is a terrific CF with a great arm- he doubled a runner off first base in Anaheim with a throw that went 107 yards in the air!!!! 

A’s got him from Houston in a trade for a pitcher who went 5-8 in A ball this year. 

7) When they make Moneyball 2, the story of Stephen Piscotty’s family will be front/center. St Louis was going to trade Piscotty last winter, but his mother had Alzheimer’s and he wanted to be close to her in her final months, so Piscotty asked to be traded to the A’s or Giants. 

Last December, he got traded to Oakland and has hit 27 homers with 88 RBI, many of them in key spots. Quite a story. 

6) Last July, the A’s were awful and Washington needed bullpen help to make the playoffs, so Oakland dealt Doolittle/Madson to Washington for Blake Treinen and two minor leaguers (one of whom is Jesus Luzardo, a big prospect).

Treinen has turned into one of the best closers this season, with 38 saves. Luzardo is expected to be a star down the road. 

5) 41-year old Fernando Rodney (acquired August 9) and Jeurys Familia (July 21) pitch the 7th and 8th innings if the A’s are winning. When your starting pitchers are mostly all hurt and have a hard time finishing six innings, you load up on relievers and hope the starting pitcher gets 15 outs. Lou Trivino pitched the 6th inning most of the season, when needed. 

4) Oakland’s infielders are very good; a pair of Matts, Chapman/Olson are young corner infielders who appear headed for stardom. Chapman and Nolan Arenado and the two best defensive 3B in the major leagues right now. 

Marcus Semien/Jed Lowrie give the A’s solid defense up the middle and timely hitting- Lowrie knocked in 99 runs. It is so unusual for a playoff team to have starting pitching being the weakest part of the team. 

3) On June 5, the A’s lost 6-4 to the Angels, dropping them to 34-36; since then, Oakland is 63-29, the best record in MLB during that time. An astounding turnaround. 

2) Bob Melvin managed the Mariners for two years, Arizona for five; this is his 8th year with Oakland, his hometown team. Can’t imagine why he got fired from the other places; he is calm, smart and guys play their butts off for him, otherwise a 34-36 team wouldn’t go on a 62-27 run. Excellent manager. 

1) This is the 50th anniversary of the A’s first season in Oakland, after they moved west from Kansas City. It has been a great season for these guys; hopefully it’ll last another month or so

Tuesday’s List of 13: Talking baseball TV announcers……

Meant to do this during the All-Star break, but got sidetracked, so today we bring you my comments/thoughts on major league baseball announcers. 

I watch baseball on TV for at least 5-6 hours a day every day for six months, so I’m qualified to comment on stuff like this. This is for TV only; don’t hear much radio these days. 

I’m not going to do straight rankings, but here are my comments on baseball TV guys.  

1) Best duo: Mets, when Gary Cohen/Ron Darling are on. They talk about the game, they’re smart and they’re fairly honest where the home team is concerned. If you sit and listen to a Mets’ game, you’ll be smarter about baseball when the game is over. 

When Keith Hernandez is on with Cohen, it isn’t nearly as good; Hernandez is so self-centered it hampers the broadcast, especially with the Mets out of the pennant race. He’ll talk about his cat or his house in Sag Harbor or complain about the traffic. Not good. 

When Hernandez/Darling are both on with Cohen, it is still an excellent broadcast. 

2) Brewers’ duo of Brian Anderson/Bill Schroeder are really good, but Anderson takes a lot of time off; he is usually gone for a month during the NBA playoffs, but his replacement Matt Lepay is also good, mainly because Schroeder is an excellent analyst and a friendly guy. 

3) Colorado has Drew Goodman/Jeff Huson most of the time, and they are very good; Goodman is a New York guy who is a lot like Gary Cohen- little bit more of a homer (they talk about Nolan Arenado like he is a combo of Brooks Robinson/Mike Schmidt). 

When Huson is off, Ryan Spilborghs is in the booth; he is a bit of a character, a funny ex-player who takes great care to give you the players’ perspective of how baseball works.

4) When Red Sox had Don Orsillo/Jerry Remy on TV, they had broadcasting gold, but Orsillo got the boot for whatever reason, and now humorless Dave O’Brien is the play/play guy, which renders Remy useless, since he is at his best when he is laughing. 

Dennis Eckersley is good in his occasional appearances; last week, O’Brien asked him about his old teammates and Eck responded: “….I had a teammate once who stole my wife!!!” 

TV doesn’t get any better than that……lol

5) Orsillo has moved on to San Diego, where he works with Mark Grant, who is a funny guy. They are good to listen to, but the Padres stink every year and sometimes you can tell that Orsillo’s heart is still in Boston. Mark Sweeney is the sub analyst who will be very, very good on the national stage someday. 

6) Joe Davis is the Dodgers’ TV announcer, replacing the legendary Vin Scully, the greatest baseball announcer of all-time; tough job, huge shoes to fill, but Davis is really good, and he is low-key which works well in Los Angeles. 

Davis is only 30 years old; he does football/basketball for FOX and is really good.

7) Bob Carpenter is a really good play/play guy for the Washington Nationals; the analyst is FP Santangelo, who is the equivalent of giving an 8-year the microphone and letting him work a game. He is upbeat and seems like a good guy, but they could do better. Every time a team gets its first hit of the game, “….there goes the no-hitter.” Even in the first inning. 

8) Cincinnati Reds’ announcers (usually Thom Brennaman/Chris Walsh) are brutally honest; they’ll thrash the home team, if they think it is deserved. It often is. 

9) Duane Kuiper is probably the best play/play guy who is a former player; he really is super on Giants’ games. His analyst is Mike Krukow, who is a homer, and not in a good way. Jon Miller/Dave Flemming do the Giants’ radio— thats a lot of broadcasting talent for one team. 

10) Miami Marlins used to have a great TV team; Rich Waltz/Tommy Hutton- they were really good, but the Marlins let both of them go. Who knows why, but it hurts their broadcasts. 

11) Victor Rojas/Mark Gubicza are very good on Angels’ games; Rojas is the son of Cookie Rojas, the old second baseman. Gubicza is always upbeat and gives credit to both teams. 

12) As for the Bronx Bombers, I think David Cone could be a great analyst; he is funny and smart, but the whole condescending nature of the Bronx franchise makes me want to puke. 

I’ll say this for them; friend of mine’s son was a runner in their TV/radio booth a few years ago and all of those people were nice to him, including John Sterling/Suzyn Waldman, the radio announcers, so they get points for that. 

Michael Kay was a sportswriter who became a solid play-by-play guy. When Paul O’Neill is an analyst, you can hear him turning pages of the other team’s media guide as he talks—he seems to do zero prep work on the other team.   

13) As for national announcers, Matt Vasgersian/Alex Rodriguez are very good on the Sunday night games; Jessica Mendoza is neither good nor bad— she is in on a pass, and she seems smart enough to know it.

I have a friend who worked as a professional announcer and tried to make a living at it; he worked really hard, but never made it. To see someone get passed ahead to the highest-profile job on TV simply because she is a woman is ridiculous, but that is the world we live in today. 

Wednesday’s List of 13; Some of my favorite movie scenes……

13) Jack Nicholson as Colonel Jessup on the witness stand in A Few Good Men– “You WANT me on that wall; you NEED me on that wall!!!” Great acting. 

12) In Prince of Tides, when Nick Nolte’s character takes Barbra Streisand’s husband’s Stradivarius violin and dangles it over the edge of the balcony, until he apologizes to his wife for being rude. Then he tosses the million-dollar violin in the air but catches it, then walks out of the dinner party. 

11) In Any Given Sunday, when QB Willie Beamen visits the coach’s house for dinner and a “talk” and coach Tony D’Amato lectures him— “You’re the goddamn quarterback!!!” 

I think this scene is better than the “Game of Inches” speech that Pacino gives near the end of the movie, before the last game. 

10) Rocky II wasn’t a good movie, but the last fight scene, where Rocky Balboa wins the heavyweight title for the first time, is a great fight scene, probably the best scene in all the Rocky movies. 

9) In the movie Heat, there is a scene with Al Pacino (the cop) and Robert Deniro (bank robber) where they actually talk in a diner about how someday, their situation will come to a head and either the arrest will be made, or harm will come to the cop. Deniro and Pacino; a great scene. 

8) Susan Sarandon and James Spader were in a 1990 movie called White Palace; I only saw this movie for the first time in the last year or so. 

There is a scene where a lot of people were at Thanksgiving dinner and they’re talking about politics; the patriarch of the family is Steven Hill (the original DA on Law and Order). 

When a younger person says something Hill’s character sees as uninformed, he snaps at her, “Would it kill you to pick up a newspaper?” Good stuff. 

7) In the true story Invincible, when 30-year old bartender Vince Papale breaks the news to his best friend that he made the Philadelphia Eagles’ roster, despite never having played college football. 

6) In Friday Night Lights, when the coach (Billy Bob Thornton) delivers a halftime speech when his team is getting smoked. He talks about “being perfect” and how giving your all is the most important thing of all. 

Of all the sports movies I’ve seen, I think Thornton’s character in this movie is the best portrayal of a coach that I’ve seen. 

5) In the original Bad News Bears, when the coach is talking to his worst player, ordering him into the championship game- the kid is too nervous to go out and play. 

“Listen, Lupus, you didn’t come into this life just to sit around on a dugout bench, did ya? Now get your ass out there and do the best you can.”

4) In Roxanne, Steve Martin’s character has a very long nose, like Cyrano de Bergerac; guy in a bar insults his long nose, the whole bar shuts down, and Martin mocks the insult. 

“I suppose you could do better?” and Martin proceeds to give 20 jokes (actually 26) that were all funnier than the guy’s insult. 

3) In Rounders, the scene where Mike (Matt Damon) finds his law professor (Martin Landau) in a restaurant and the professor tells him how his parents disowned him because he chose to study the law instead of becoming a rabbi.

2) Oakland A’s 20-game winning streak in Moneyball; at least they showed Miguel Tejada’s walk-off homer in the 18th straight win- they gave him almost no credit in the book/movie for how good the A’s were that year— he was the best shortstop in the game that year. 

1) Bob Cousy shooting free throws in an empty gym with Nick Nolte in Blue Chips. Cousy was 65 at the time, made 10 in a row while wearing a shirt and tie- they filmed the scene in one take. He made the last foul shot left-handed. 

Wednesday’s List of 13: My favorite sports-related movies

1) Moneyball— Beginning isn’t very good, the end sucks, but I’m an A’s fan and this movie is about how the 2003 A’s put together a team that won 20 games in a row, made the playoffs. 

If the next ten weeks go really well, could Moneyball 2 be in the works? 

Only really bad thing about this movie is they made skipper Art Howe look like a bad manager, and he was anything but— you don’t win 20 games in a row by accident. 

2) Blue Chips— Nick Nolte is a college basketball coach who used to win a lot; in order to start winning again, he has to decide whether to break the recruiting rules or not. 

Bob Cousy is the AD; Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway are two of the recruits. Lot of cameos from basketball people; Jerry Tarkanian, Jim Boeheim, Rick Pitino, Dick Vitale. 

3) Invincible— True story about Vince Papale, a 30-year old bartender who tries out for the 1976 Philadelphia Eagles and makes the squad as a special teams player. 

4) Fast Break— Gabe Kaplan manages a New York City deli until he applies for a job as a college basketball coach in Nevada. Bernard King, Michael Warren are two of his players; another one is a girl disguised as a guy. 

5) Any Given Sunday— Al Pacino is a pro football coach whose team is struggling; Cameron Diaz is the owner, Dennis Quaid, Jamie Foxx are two of the QB’s. 

Miami Sharks play against four teams in the movie, all coached by NFL Hall of Famers. 

6) For Love of the Game— Kevin Costner is a star pitcher for the Tigers who is at the end of his career; he has flashbacks throughout his last game. 

Detroit’s manager in this movie is JK Simmons, who is a Tigers fan in real life; New York’s manager is the late Augie Garrido, one of the all-time great college baseball coaches. 

7) Friday Night Lights— Billy Bob Thornton is a high school football coach in west Texas, where they take high school football very seriously. 

8) One on One— Robby Benson is a hotshot high school basketball player who gets recruited by a big-time college team, then finds himself in over his head.

9) Bull Durham— Costner is a minor league catcher who is brought in to mentor a hot-shot pitching prospect. Robert Wuhl is the pitching coach, Susan Sarandon mentors the prospect off the field. 

10) Draft Day— Costner does lot of sports movies; he is GM of the Cleveland Browns in this one, Denis Leary is the Browns’ coach. 

The year this movie came out, NFL pushed back the draft so the movie could be promoted more, but Radio City Music Hall wasn’t available for the later date, which is why they started moving the draft around the country. Sometimes great ideas happen by accident. 

11) Major League— Bob Uecker should’ve won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Indians’ radio announcer Harry Doyle.  

12) He Got Game— Underrated film about college basketball recruiting; if you saw this movie, you weren’t surprised by the problems Louisville had the last couple years. 

13) Rocky— The original was a true classic; a journeyman boxer gets a chance to fight for the heavyweight title, and makes the most of it. 40 years later, tourists who come to Philadelphia still pose for pictures near the Rocky statue. 

Tuesday’s List of 13: Some of my favorite (non-sports) movies:

1) Rounders— Movie about a law student/poker player; this movie is credited with helping the poker boom in the late 90’s. 

2) Dave— Kevin Kline is hired to “stand-in” for the President because he looks just like him, but then the President has a stroke, and Kline has a new job. 

3) The Bodyguard— Kevin Costner is a former Secret Service agent hired to protect a famous singer, who has a contract out on her. 

4) Last Vegas— Four senior citizens who are lifelong friends head to Las Vegas for a bachelor party; their 70-year old friend is marrying a 30-year old. Morgan Freeman wins $87K playing blackjack, because, doesn’t everyone win in Vegas? 

5) Begin Again— Down and out music producer discovers a talented young singer; together they produce an album, using New York City as the background. 

6) Good Will Hunting— Robin Williams is a counselor who tries to help a young delinquent (who is also a Math genius) find his way. 

7) The Verdict— Paul Newman is a down-on-his-luck lawyer who has a chance to win a big case and rehabilitate his career. 

There is a scene in this movie that would never fly today; Newman’s character has a girlfriend in the movie- turns out she is a double-agent, working for the opposing lawyer to gain intel on the big case. 

When Newman finds out, he meets the girlfriend in the lounge of a bar and decks her with one punch. Ouch. 

8) Leap of Faith— Steve Martin runs amok as a traveling preacher; Debra Winger is his partner, Liam Neeson is the local sheriff trying to shut his act down. Meat Loaf is part of the music group that travels with the preacher. 

9) Let It Ride— Richard Dreyfuss is a degenerate gambler who has one big day at the racetrack. 

10) This Is Where I Leave You— After their father dies, four grown siblings return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week. 

11) Lincoln Lawyer— Matthew McConaughey plays a lawyer whose office is the back seat of his Lincoln Continental. 

12) Prince of Tides— Nick Nolte is a high school football coach from South Carolina who travels to New York and falls for his sister’s therapist (Barbra Streisand). 

13) One More Time— Christopher Walken is a past-his-prime lounge singer trying for one last comeback.

May 17, 1979: Phillies 23, Cubs 22….a recap

On May 17, 1979, Phillies beat the Cubs 23-22 in 10 innings, in one of the strangest games ever:

13) Phillies were 24-10 at the time; Chicago was 16-16. Cubs had 26 hits in the game, Phils had 24. 

12) The game was 7-6 Phillies, after the first inning. Somewhere, someone bet the under in this game. 

11) Phillies starting pitcher Randy Lerch homered in the top of the first inning, never finished the bottom of the first. Both starting pitchers got only one out before being removed. 

10) Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt hit 3rd/4th in Phillies’ order; they combined to score seven runs and knock in eight. Light-hitting Larry Bowa was 5 for 8 in the game. 

9) Bob Boone was 3-4 with five RBI’s; his son Aaron is now the manager in the Bronx. Boone and Schmidt were both walked intentionally twice. 

8) Reliever Tug McGraw faced 10 batters; seven of them scored. McGraw is the father of the great singer Tim McGraw. 

7) 22 of the first 53 Cubs who came to bat scored, but Rawly Eastwick slammed the door shut in the last two innings, retiring all six Cubs he faced. 

6) Donnie Moore faced 14 batters and seven of them scored, but he did hit a triple, one of his two career three-baggers. 

5) Phillies led this game 21-9 in the 5th inning but Cubs tied the game off of Ron Reed in the 8th inning; Reed pitched 19 years in the major leagues and also played 119 games for the NBA’s Detroit Pistons from 1965-67. 

4) Dave Kingman hit three homers for the Cubs; Bill Buckner knocked in seven runs, seven years before his infamous error in the ’86 World Series. 

3) Phillies went home the next day and got swept in a 3-game series by the Expos. Chicago lost its next four games after this one. 

2) 1979 turned out to be the only year in a six-year stretch where the Phillies missed the playoffs; they finished 84-78, the Cubs 80-82. 

Phillies fired manager Danny Ozark late in 1979, hired Dallas Green and won the ’80 World Series. 

1) Naysayers like to criticize baseball now but attendance that day was 14,952; when was last time the Cubs drew less than 15,000 for a home game? 

Thursday’s List of 13: 13 of my favorite sports movies…….

I do this list once a year or so; feel free to make your own list.

13) Major League— Still maintain that Bob Uecker should’ve won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Harry Doyle, the Indians’ radio announcer. To this day, when a pitcher throws a really terrible pitch to the backstop, chances are the TV guy will say “….juuuust a biiiit outside…” like Harry Doyle did when Wild Thing Vaughn was on the mound.

12) He Got Game— The only Spike Lee movie I’ve ever seen; its a good one, with Denzel Washington getting released from prison by warden Ned Beatty, on one condition— that he can get his son (Ray Allen) to play basketball at the warden’s alma mater, Big State.

Anyone who was surprised by Louisville’s problems last year didn’t see this movie.

11) Rocky— If only they hadn’t made all those awful sequels. Rocky is a classic; a fighter down on his luck gets a once-in-a-lifetime shot to fight for the heavyweight title back when boxing was a big thing. If you’re at a game in Philly now and they cue up the Rocky music, people still get fired up— its pretty cool.

10) Hoosiers— I’ve had this argument with a friend of mine for years, that Norman Dale was a horrible coach saved only by Jimmy Chitwood not missing a shot in the whole damn movie. Hickory High finished the first game he coached with four guys on the court; even his assistant coach, who wound up in alcohol rehab, knew enough to always give Jimmy the ball when it mattered. They did nail the scene at the end when Hickory wins the state title.

9) Any Given Sunday— Lawrence Taylor and Jim Brown as actors? Yes!!! Al Pacino coaches his Miami Sharks against four teams, all coached by NFL Hall of Famers.

8) Moneyball— The good guys lose in the end, but not before they win 20 games in a row and surprisingly make the playoffs. I won’t embarrass myself by telling you how many times I’ve seen this movie, but if you guess, chances are your guess is too low.

7) Bull Durham— Pitching coach Robert Wuhl delivered this inspirational piece of advice on a visit to the mound:

“……candlesticks always make a nice gift, and uh, maybe you could find out where she’s registered and maybe a place-setting or maybe a silverware pattern. Okay, let’s get two!”

6) Friday Night Lights— Of all the sports movies, Billy Bob Thornton does the best job of portraying a coach, in this case a west Texas high school football coach who gets his best player KO’d for the season by leaving him in a blowout too long. The townspeople aren’t pleased.

5) Blue Chips— Nick Nolte did his research for this by hanging out with Bob Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers for a year, so the thrown chairs and punted balls make more sense. Jerry Tarkanian’s cameo and Bob Cousy’s portrayal of the school’s AD are the underrated parts of this movie.

4) Invincible— True story about Vince Papale, who was a 30-year old bartender that tried out for and wound up playing special teams for the Eagles for three years in the 70’s. Mark Wahlberg plays Papale; Greg Kinnear plays Dick Vermeil.

3) Fast Break— Gabe Kaplan’s character quits his job in a New York City deli to become the basketball coach at a small Nevada college. The team he puts together is interesting- Bernard King and Michael Warren are two of the players.

2) One on One— Robby Benson plays a flashy small school point guard who gets recruited by a big time college program, but once he gets on campus, the coach thinks he made a mistake and tries to run him off the team.

1— For Love of the Game— Kevin Costner pitches for the Tigers, but is at the end of his career. JK Simmons is his manager; John C O’Reilly his catcher, Kelly Preston his girlfriend. Vin Scully is in effect the narrator of the movie.

Saturday’s List of 13: Random thoughts, mostly about Las Vegas

13) My favorite dinner place in Las Vegas is Battitsta’s, a hole-in-the-wall place behind the Cromwell and next to Bally’s. Very good Italian place; old school, with checked tablecloths and an older guy who walks around playing the accordion.

Runner up place to eat is the Mirage, where they have the Carnegie Deli, with the biggest sandwiches ever. I order extra bread and make two sandwiches out of it.

Another good restaurant is in the Stratosphere, but I can’t remember the name of it; it is an Italian place downstairs and it is really good- lighting is dark and reminds you of scenes in different movies.

12) If you like basketball, Las Vegas is a fun place to live; UNLV hoops are lot of fun to go to; they’re having a resurgent year this season- little disappointed the public hasn’t caught on to them that much yet, but part of that is how well the new hockey team is doing.

11) In July, NBA Summer League is at UNLV for a good part of the month; for $30, you can sit in an air conditioned arena all day long and watch guys try to make the NBA.

Later in July, the best high school players in the western US play in tournaments all over Las Vegas. All the college coaches you see on TV all winter are there at one time or another— lot of good basketball.

10) Then in March, the WCC, WAC, Mountain West and Pac-12 all have their conference tournaments in Las Vegas. Lot of good action to choose from.

9) There is a Pinball Museum on Flamingo Road; you can go in and play these old-time pinball machines for a quarter. its a quirky fun way to spend a couple of hours.

8) There is a never a shortage of shows, concerts to go to in Las Vegas; plus the Golden Knights have 41 home games a year now. Jewel is playing at the Wynn in late March; Donnie and Marie play in Vegas all the time. Carrot Top has his comedy act there all the time. Lot of stuff going on.

7) Best sportsbook in Las Vegas is definitely the Westgate, where I stayed the last 11 days; huge place, good bar, three food options, just by the sports book and tremendous TV screens to watch almost anything you want. On NFL Sundays, the Westgate opens their theater to show NFL games.

6) The Neon Museum downtown has a lot of old neon signs from old casinos that don’t exist anymore; its an oddly cool piece of history, especially at dusk, when they light some of the signs.

5) They play AAA baseball at Cashman Field downtown in the spring/summer; this will be the last year for the Mets’ AAA team in Las Vegas. They’re also building a new ballpark out in the northwest section of town, up in Summerlin. No word on whose AAA team will move in, with the Mets’ team moving to Syracuse in 2019.

4) One thing about the Las Vegas airport; people arriving at the airport most always look happier than people flying out of Las Vegas.

3) Had a 3.5-hour layover in Baltimore’s airport Friday night, which would’ve been lot more palatable if they had decent WiFi there. They do have Chick-fil-A though and Chick-fil-A is tremendous.

2) St Bonaventure 77, Rhode Island 74— Rams’ 16-game winning streak is over. Bonnies have won eight games in a row.

1) I’m back in my palatial suburban estate after 11 days in the desert; Las Vegas is great fun to visit- there was a magic convention at my hotel while I was there (no, things didn’t keep disappearing) and I went to a UNLV game (NHL tickets are too expensive since the Knights are doing so well). A full 11 days of fun, plus I missed a snowstorm. Worth it!!!!