Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Definitive 1000

We are going to be counting down the Definitive 1000 things. Why are they Definitive? Because The Friendly Friends have deemed them as such.

970 - Run The Bases
969 - Suicide

It's a Friendly Friends Two-fer Tuesday Wednesday!

All we needed to play two of the best games. Ever.

Sweaty, FFMatt and I all grew up in relative close proximity to one another. Which makes sense since Sweaty and FFMatt are related and Sweaty and I went to high school together.

This geographical closeness meant that we played the same games as kids, though I didn't meet Sweaty until I was 15 or so. And he lived in East Falls and Bumble-F, New Jersey and I lived in Wyndmoor.

FFMatt is sunning his 27 inch (yeah, that's right) pythons at the Jersey shore this week, so Sweaty and I have been left to tend the store. We spent a good amount of time discussing the pure awesomeness of these two games.

This guy only has 24 inch pythons. FFMatt has 27 inch pythons. True story.

And without further ado, here are the reminiscences of 2/3 of the Friendly Friends:

Sweaty: So. I think we both agree that Suicide and Run the Bases are two of the finest games ever invented by children who's parents could not afford to send them to hockey camp.

Jewbacca: Suicide and Run the Bases are two of the best non-sport sports that any one has ever played. And we got to go to Willow Grove Summer Day Camp. My parents couldn't afford it but my grandfather's cousin owned it so we got a discount.

Sweaty: I never went to any kind of camp, except football in high school. No, during my youth, day camp was called try not to get abducted by men driving El Caminos and offering jolly rancher sticks. But I digress. I agree with you. I always preferred Run the Bases a little more because I think it was more of a pure athletic skill game, where Suicide used more deception.

Jewbacca: You know my brother and I. You've seen and lived the battles. My parents decided that if they left us alone all summer one or both of us would end up dead and the house would have been destroyed. I loved both games, but you're right I have to give the edge to Run the Bases and not just because we always played at the Krzywicki's, which would allow the occasional glimpse of Jill.

Sweaty: Perhaps we should start off by giving a brief overview of each game and then we can see where certain rules may have differed with you playing these games in the warm safe softness of the grassy fields in Wyndmoor, were as I played them in the hard, survival instinct drenched inner city street of Philadelphia.

Jewbacca: Well, here is the way we played Run the Bases on the hardscrabble fields of Wyndmoor: There would be a whole mess of kids ranging in age from about 6 to 12. Two kids would be on the bases. Two of the other kids' baseball gloves would be the bases. The idea was to run back and forth from base to base without getting pegged by the tennis ball or tagged out by the basemen. That is the basic framework as we played in the 'Moor.

Sweaty: That is pretty much how we played too, except we used manhole covers which were he perfect distance apart.

Jewbacca: There weren't too many manhole covers in the field behind the Krzywicki's. There was also another rule where after the ball went back and forth 3 times from baseman to baseman, everyone on the basepath HAD to run to the next base.

Sweaty: Yeah, we also had that rule, but I can't remember how many throws you needed. I remember that I preferred being a runner. I was damn good.

Jewbacca: I was awesome at running too. That was about 20 years and 200 pounds ago though. Now I'd end up with "Penn 1" tattooed into my forehead. The best was using the younger kids as human shields.

Sweaty: Same for me, except I most likely would have ended up in intensive care with a tennis ball lodged somewhere and my left arm would be numb, I didn't do too much of that shield thing, since I was normally one of those little kids. My run the bases days ended when I was 9 and my parents moved us to South Jersey. Without any man hole covers, I did not know what to do, so god help me, I played basketball. So in my prime run the bases years 6-9, I was lean, mean, spry, quick, and obnoxious. I would taunt the throwers mercilessly. One was normally my older brother.

Jewbacca: You're still pretty obnoxious. Not as spry. See, I think our Run the Bases years and our Suicide years may be reversed. We played a ton of Suicide from when I was 6 and we moved form Philly to the 'burbs until I was 9 and we moved to a neighborhood with absolutely zero good Suicide walls. We played Run the Bases almost every summer night from when I was 9 until I was about 14.

Sweaty: I continued to play suicide in Jersey. Thomas Jefferson Elementary provided one of the finest suicide walls this side of the Rio Grande. As far as suicide best skill was catching the ball in the air, followed closely by screaming like a woman as I ran to the wall after dropping the ball.

Jewbacca: The first place we lived in Wyndmoor was in the bottom of a rented duplex that was roughly twenty feet from the house next door. The driveway for the house next door was our side yard. It made the absolute perfect Suicide court, what with two walls 20 feet apart. My greatest skill I think was my power of avoiding the ball so as to remain in the game as long as possible. Erdenheim Elementary also had great walls as did Enfield Middle where we played everyday during sixth grade, the last year we had recess of any kind. I'm proud to say that along with my friend Jim I was part of a duo known as "Slodge" which of course was "Slide" (Jim) and "Dodge" (Me). My strategy was to run up to the wall and stop before hitting it, turn and face the person trying to bean me, and dodge it at the last minute. If being part of "Slodge" is any indication, I didn't have many girlfriends in my younger days. So what were the basic rules of Suicide in Washington Twp?

Why Suicide? Maybe because the goal was to run as fast as you could, toward one of these, to smack it and yell "SAFE!!", before someone whaled you in the back with a tennis ball...

Sweaty: Nor did I, as my uncanny resemblance to Rick Moranis in Ghostbusters when I was in elementary would explain. Suicide in Washington TWP was pretty straight forward. One large wall, one tennis ball and a group of young men ranging from about 9-14 years of age. One person would throw the ball. If the ball was caught in the air, the thrower had to run and touch the wall before getting pegged by the person who caught it. If you dropped the ball while trying to catch it either on the fly or on a bounce then you had to touch up before someone picked up the ball and pegged you. If after dropping the ball, you kicked it away, then you were automatically out and wre penalized by standing at the wall while someone got to peg you.

A young Sweaty Irishman after a particularly rough day of Suicide

Jewbacca:We had basically the same rules. If you threw the ball and someone caught it in the air, you had to run and touch the wall and yell "SAFE" or "SUICIDE" before they pegged you. If you tried to catch the ball and it touched you and you didn't catch it, you had to leave it there and run and touch the wall before getting pegged. If you got three outs you had to walk back and forth along the wall (without stopping or changing speeds) and each player got a chance to peg you with the ball. At school they didn't like the three-outs-get-pegged rules so we changed it to if you got an out, you were out and we played until one kid was left. I think also that if you missed someone you were trying to peg you had to run and touch the wall.

Sweaty: We also had a penalty for someone who pegged another after that person had touched the wall. The peggee pegged the pegger from point blank range.

Jewbacca: I never really thought about how many of our games involved trying to whale on someone with a tennis ball.

Sweaty: I know. Most games when we were kids involved inflicting pain on others. Times have changed...They wouldn't even let kids play something called Suicide nowadays.

So there you have it, two childhood games from the post-Atari, Colleco-/Intellivision, pre-Nintendo era where we were allowed to play outside until the streetlights came on. And for all the pegging and whaling and nailing with tennis balls, I don't recall anyone ever getting hurt. Too badly.

I'd be willing to guess that kids today aren't playing these games until 9:15 on a summer night anymore.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I Hate Interleague Play.

Could it be sour grapes from dropping 2 of 3 to the goddamn Red Sox at home?

Sure could.

But I am not a fan of anything in sports that smacks of pure gimmickry.

Glowing pucks? Worst. Idea. Ever.
Designated Hitter? Ridiculous.
The trapezoid behind the goal? Why?
The shootout? Shoot me.
The shootout, soccer division? How can a world wide tournament be decided by a skills competition? How about a game of UNO Attack instead.
Aluminum bats? Do sportswriters wax poetic about the "ping" of the bat? I think not.
The NBA? Waste of time.

Interleague play is an abomination visited upon one of the most tradition-bound sports. It's a pure money grab by the league and the team owners. Some 100 years went by without the Leagues playing until the Fall Classic.

MLB foists these ridiculous "rivalries" on teams that have no history. Phils-Red Sox? San Diego-Detroit? Seattle-Anyone in the NL?

Sure, the Subway Series and the Show-Me Series and the Citrus Series may pique some interest, but why not play them in the pre-season and award a nice, shiny trophy? Why do we need to interrupt the divisional races for a Phillies-Rangers series? Who cares?

Beyond the fact that all of this seems like nothing more than a Fox-Trax type gimmick, it is blatantly unfair.

How, you ask? Let's look at the numbers.

(A couple of caveats before we delve into my tens of minutes of research: 1. I know that the scheds are made prior to the season and there is no way to figure how teams will be doing by the time Interleague play rolls around; 2. I know there is an imbalance in the number of teams in each league. Bottom line: two great reasons to abolish interleague play once and for all. More on this later.)

Just parsing the NL East, the only division I care about at this juncture:

The Phillies play 15 games against 5 different teams who have a combined W-L record of 199-166 and an average team ERA of 3.98.

The Mets play 15 games against 4 different teams (I guess the subway series is a best of 6?) who have a combined W-L record of 143-147 and an average team ERA of 4.49.

The Marlins play 15 games against 4 different teams (I guess the citrus series is also a best of 6) who have a combined W-L record of 136-150 and an average team ERA of 4.10.

The Braves play 15 games against 5 different teams who have a combined W-L record of 178-184 and an average team ERA of 4.15.

The Nationals play 18 games against 5 different teams (Baltimore twice? The team whose owner tried to keep baseball out of DC for so long?) who have a combined W-L record of 176-184 and an average team ERA of 4.51.

How is this fair?

Teams spend the lion's share of a baseball season playing against their own division to win a quaint little thing called the pennant. They spend a little less time playing against the other teams in their league (roughly the same number of games as the other teams in their division) to round out the competition. Then suddenly they have to play against the other league?

It would be one thing if this was the NFL and the whole division played games against another whole division or the NHL where each team played a home and home against every team in the other conference (which they hopefully will return to shortly), but it's not. There is not a single common AL opponent that all NL East teams play this year.

Ditch Interleague play, now. It's useless. It's annoying. It breaks up an exciting season of intra-division games. At the very least, shelve the stupid thing until the divisions have an equal number of teams and the NL East can play the AL East and so on.

What's that? The Mets still have to play 6 against the Yankees? The Nats still have to play 6 against the O's?

Why? Money?

My point exactly.

Friday, June 13, 2008

R.I.P. Defenseman

In case you haven't noticed, I am a lifelong Flyers fan. I watched every game growing up looking forward to hearing Gene Hart's perfect pronunciation of the Russian and Eastern European players' names.

I know. I was a strange child.

One of the greatest names is no longer with us:

Miroslav Dvorak, named the winner of the Barry Ashbee Trophy as the Flyers' top defenseman in 1983-84 - and a player whose off-ice demeanor reminded some teammates of a legendary Saturday Night Live skit - died Wednesday in the Czech Republic after a long battle with throat cancer, the club announced yesterday.

Not only did he have a cool name, he was a pretty good defenseman too. Always on the plus side (a career +58), plenty of helpers (74 assists over parts of 3 seasons) and was a physical presence on the ice.

He also helped the team make the finals in 84-85 against the Oilers before returning to Europe to finish his career.

It's always strange when an athlete you remember watching as a kid dies. Rest in peace Defenseman.

[Thanks to for the story and for the picture]

Thursday, June 12, 2008

It's Gotta be the Shoes Stirrups...

How else do you explain a 45 year old pitcher scattering 2 hits over 8 innings for a 3-0 shutout in the heat and humidity of South Florida?

Two hits ties Moyer's career low, which Harry Kalas pointed out he did for the first time in 1986. In 1986 I was in freaking 6th grade!!

The only explanation (besides of course conditioning, playing a sport that only involves participation every five days, throwing a whole lot of ground balls and pop-ups, etc.) is the stirrups:

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Friendly Friends Tackle the NBA Officiating Brouhaha...

Since I hate the NBA and basketball in general, and Sweaty and FFMatt have much better things to do, we've brought in a guest blogger to enlighten us all on the finer points of the possible NBA officiating scandal.

He is none other than the Mighty Malagan.

He emailed me this after much research, soul-searching and other forms of deep introspection. Reprinted below is the entirety of his treatise on the current state of affairs in NBA officialdom. Strap yourselves in....

Guest blogger: Mighty Malagan

Topic: Sports Blog

Recent NBA refereeing scandal: WHO CARES?!?!

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Camden, Poopgea and the New Order

We flash forward.


The year is 2042. After the skyrocketing crime rate in Philly finally goes critical a mass exodus of obese guys, all with names Pat and Geno, waddle over the Ben Franklin Bridge causing a disastrously strong constructive tectonic wave that not only destroys the bridge and all connections between the two cities but pushes the two away from each other at an alarming speed.

Eerily this is foreseen 22 years earlier in a movie from Roland Emmerich starring Jake Gyllenhaal,
called "The Exodus the Day After Tomorrow". This new land breaks apart from the rest of the continental United States roughly along the Delaware River and surprisingly, and quite coincidentally, right along the northern state line--although it does take Long Island with it which is called Paumanok by the Native Americans meaning, "Whale Penis". The "Whale Penis" and the turd shaped island of New Jersey, or Poopgea, float east into the Atlantic.

Poopgea is immediately thrown into turmoil. It is quickly divided into two regions separated by the Jersey Turnpike: West is a prison-like facility resembling those from John Carpenter films, but not "They Live", and east the Gold Coast of Atlantic City, Asbury Park and Cape May, where the King, Steve (no longer the Prince) resides in his ivory lighthouse and reigns over his subjects using his immense wealth of Skeeball tickets, the new currency, amassed over the course of his "Boardwalk Campaign of Terror" to placate his foes with cheap plastic rings and fake insects.

From the Sagging Nipple of New Jersey, as shown in this rendering of the new land (See Picture), to Bruce Springsteen, the Boss of New Brunswick, a Hoagie of Hopelessness squeezes the North and the South causing pandemonium and resulting in a Civil War that ends two days later when the exhausted and quite winded residents throw in the towel and have a couple of Whiz wits. Why are they so good you ask? Is it the bread made with the famous Schuylkill Punch or is it Ed Rendell's famous secret recipe? Who knows?

The answer unfortunately drifts off with the hellhole known as Jersey where they eventually distill their own pee and fight over gasoline and the remaining jars of processed cheese spread.

Zam! We're back. I'm tired. I think I'll go home now.

I need help...

I am stumped. I can't think of anything to write. So I turn to you. I am taking suggestions on what my earth-shattering post should be about. So throw your ideas my way. I will take the best one. I know its a dangerous idea; however I will hold to it as a punishment for not writing anything yet.

So, do your worst.