AUGUST 21, 2012 KILLER B'S
Last night, the Pittsburgh Pirates batting order had shortstop Clint Barmes hitting 7th, catcher Rod Barajas hitting 8th, and the pitcher hitting 9th. Thats not unusual.
But the Pirates shouldnt have been expecting much from this bottom third of their order, and not much is what they got. Barmes went 1 for 3, Barajas and the pitchers spot each 0 for 3, with no walks. Between them, Barmes and Barajas left six runners on base, half in scoring position. That 0fer last night means Barajas now has a batting average of .059 over the last ten days.
Local journalist-turned-blogger Bob Smizik reported yesterday that he'd looked up the on-base percentages of the 121 NL players who have 275 or more plate appearances. At the very bottom of the list: Barmes at .250. Next to the bottom: Barajas at .270. By this measure, our starting lineup features the worst two hitters in the league!
AUGUST 17, 2012 FANTASTIC FAREWELL
Those of us who were born in 1947 grew up with the beach party movies featuring Annette Funicello, the former Mousketeer who recorded several songs that were hits in the early 1960s.
By the time I became a college senior, in my final weeks on the student radio station WOBC at Oberlin College, it was May 1969. That same month in Rhode Island, another senior also was about to conclude his undergraduate broadcasting.
Below is the front page of the Providence College student newspaper from May 7 of that year. (Its truly amazing what one can find on the World Wide Web. The Cowl alludes to the Dominican friars who administer the college.)
AUGUST 11, 2012 AGUA=AQUA, BUT OTHERWISE...
I wasnt brought up to use the language in these ways. The times, I suppose, must be a-changin.
Another pet peeve: We all learned that the letter Q is very often followed by the letter U. We learned it so well that some of us think the hockey team in Pittsburgh is the Penquins and the third baseman for the Yankees is Alex Rodriquez.
Its a small thing, but put a loop on those lower-case descenders, people! Penguins and Rodriguez, please.
AUGUST 6, 2012 PERPETUAL CALENDAR
And now, a simple little trick that I learned from listening to NPR's Car Talk.
It happens that 2012 is a Wednesday year. Name any date in 2012, say December 25th. Without looking it up, we can calculate which day of the week that date will fall on. (Its a Tuesday.)
Heres the method. A day of the week is associated with each year, such as Wednesday for 2012. By that I mean that all the anchor dates are Wednesdays.
The anchor dates for even-numbered months follow a pattern. A couple of days from now, the eighth of August (or 8/8), will be a Wednesday. And 4/4 and 6/6 were also Wednesdays, and 10/10 and 12/12 will be Wednesdays as well!
(Why should this be so? In these cases, two months and two days are 63 days apart 30 days for one month, 31 for the other, plus the two days. And 63 days equals exactly nine weeks, or nine Wednesdays.)
What about odd-numbered months? Just remember some lucky odds. 3/7 and 5/9 and 7/11 are Wednesdays this year. So are 9/5 and 11/7.
We still havent mentioned the first two months of the year, which are special cases. In February, the anchor date is the last day of the month. This being a leap year, 2/29 was a Wednesday. In January, the anchor date is normally 1/10. But if its a leap year we add one extra day to make the date all ones, so 1/11 was a Wednesday this year.
So now we know each months anchor date. We can locate the months other Wednesdays by adding or subtracting by hebdomads that means seven days at a time until were within a few days of the date we seek. For example, since 12/12 will be a Wednesday this year, so will 12/19 and 12/26. Therefore 12/25 will be a Tuesday.
AUGUST 1, 2012 FOH YIGH IGH
I was watching Hoo Ligh Nee when I learned of the Pee Soh yoU penalties, although it was Cee Nee Nee that explained the former Foh Boh Igh director's report. By the way, what about the Cee Foh Oh's invitation; are you going to Ree Soh Vigh Pee?
Am I speaking Chinese? No, I'm speaking my phonetic alphabet. I first proposed it nearly two decades ago, but for some reason, children still haven't learned to recite their Ay Boh Cee Doo's.
But theres an adage in our business: never font the President! Hes too well-known, and it would insult American viewers intelligence to have him thus identified.
The same rule applies to the Pope. And I once worked with a sports announcer who thought it ought to apply to him as well.
JULY 21, 2012 LOOK OUT BELOW, SMALL PERSON!
It might have been about 1949. I had only recently learned to walk, and now my grandmother and I were going to take a choo-choo train to another city.
JULY 17, 2012 SLIGHTLY TAMER THINGS
Ballpark Scholarships is hoping to boost its finances by drilling for oil on the back forty. That would be a 40-acre hillside plot overlooking the ballpark, presumably a prime location for Marcellus Shale natural gas and oil development.
JULY 14, 2012 ALSO, FRENCH IS WORDY
My medical insurance company sent me a sheet headed "Language Assistance Services Available for Multiple Languages," in which the same short message is printed in 16 different tongues. Korean and Arabic and Mandarin need only two rows of type, but all the languages that use the Roman alphabet require three rows. Except French; it needs four.
English allows us to omit some words. But in French, nothing can be merely implied, and nouns like "need" and "benefit" can't simply be commandeered to serve as verbs or adjectives.
English: "If you need benefit information in a language other than English or someone to interpret, we're here to help! Call the number of the back of your identification card."
Transliterated French: "If you have need of information concerning the benefits in a language other than the English or if you want to call on an interpreter, we are for you the help! Please call the number of telephone that's printed on back of your card of identification."
JULY 9, 2012 HOSHEA WASN'T RAISED THAT WAY
Ive rewritten another Bible story. This one is about a son who went astray. He joined the government and helped legislate an entire industry out of existence. Now he's planning to invade seven other nations and kill all their people! It's called Nuns Tale.
JULY 4, 2012 BUT IT CAN BE
For our speechifying this Independence Day, let us return to a subject I raised here nearly four years ago. This time, I've added some black and white pictures to the words of television producer Aaron Sorkin. He wrote them in the script for the first episode of his HBO series The Newsroom. (Here's the scene I'm talking about. And you might enjoy Ken Levines parody of it.)
A university panel discussion includes a TV anchorman, played by Jeff Daniels. An earnest young sophomore has a question. She asks, Can you say why America is the greatest country in the world?
The liberal panelist responds, Diversity and opportunity. The conservative says, Freedom and freedom, so lets keep it that way. But the anchorman is reluctant to say what he really thinks. The moderator insists: What makes America the greatest country in the world?
A woman in the back of the hall has a suggestion.
The anchorman finally blurts, Its not The Greatest Country In The World, Professor. Thats my answer.
To the panelist who touted Americas freedom, he says, With a straight face, youre going to tell students that America is so star-spangled awesome that were the only ones in the world who have freedom? Canada has freedom. Japan has freedom. The UK. France. Italy. Germany. Spain. Australia. Belgium has freedom. 207 sovereign states in the world; like 180 of them have freedom.
And yeah, you, sorority girl. Just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, there are some things you should know. And one of them is, there is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that were The Greatest Country In The World.
Were 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, 3rd in median household income, #4 in labor force, and #4 in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are allies.
Now none of this is the fault of a 20-year-old college student, but you nonetheless are, without a doubt, a member of the Worst. Generation. Ever. So when you ask what makes us The Greatest Country In The World, I dont know what the f_ youre talking about! Yosemite?
We sure used to be.
The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not The Greatest Country In The World anymore.
Only later does his executive producer say to him, You know what you left out of your sermon? That America is the only country on the planet that since its birth has said, over and over and over, that we can do better!
JULY 1, 2012 LONG-DISTANCE RELATIONSHIPS
Today, the athletic teams of West Virginia University are relocating a thousand miles to the west! Virtually, that is. We ought to call the school West West Virginia from now on.
In basketball, the Backyard Brawl between West Virginia and Pitt was a series dating back to 1917. Of course, that history meant little to the 2011-12 players and coaches. Only one of WVUs players came from West Virginia, while none of Pitts came from western Pennsylvania. Before WVU played Pitt for the final time on February 16, WVU coach Bob Huggins was asked if the event held any special significance. Not particularly, he said. Were trying to get into the NCAA tournament. We know we have to win some games.
No, it was mostly the fans who cared. Some of them had been warring against the other school for the better part of a century. Others were current students.
Its our biggest rival. Its the team you want to beat the most, Pitt junior Ben Wachsman told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazettes Gary Rotstein in February. Junior Kiersten Williams agreed. Theres really not much difference between us, but theres just so much tradition there, you have to hate them.
Hatred. Thats the ticket. Rotstein reported that The head of the Pittsburgh chapter of WVUs Alumni Association, Bryan Bond, 33, said hes felt some hard shoulder bumps from Pitt fans when leaving Heinz Field in his WVU garb after a [football] game.
On the other side, according to Rotstein, veteran Pitt radio play-by-play broadcaster Bill Hillgrove recalls the first three words his daughter spoke EAT $#!+, PITT after listening to that jeering chant as the Panthers bus pulled up to WVU Coliseum years ago. Theres a hate factor there that I dont think is prevalent in anything else Pitt is involved in, Mr. Hillgrove said before Thursday nights game. I think people in Morgantown grow up learning to hate Pitt.
Of course, hating your neighbor doesnt come naturally. As Oscar Hammerstein II wrote in a different context in South Pacific,
I wonder which of WVUs new Big 12 opponents will be designated the new target of detestation.
Meanwhile, Pitt will moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference in another year or two, and that will require the local fans to find an ACC adversary to look down upon.