Treasure or Trash is a Matter of Perspective

The other day I rescued a lovely wooden hutch from next to a dumpster in my neighborhood.

Now to be 100 percent clear the hutch was outside of the dumpster so no “dumpster diving” was involved in the recovery of the item.

In fact the dumpsters in my neighborhood are often a place where people will place items that they hope will find another home.

There are often bookshelves, aquariums, televisions, couches, chairs, washers, dryers, etc. placed next to the dumpsters for the taking.

While many of these items are not reclaimed and end up on the one way trip to the landfill occasionally someone like myself will drive by and determine that the items still have some useable life in them.

This wooden hutch was given new life or at least new purpose when I saved it from a trip to the local landfill the other day.  Photo R. Anderson

This wooden hutch was given new life or at least new purpose when I saved it from a trip to the local landfill the other day.
Photo R. Anderson

I first noticed the hutch when I was returning from the store. After a couple of drive by inspections I decided that it was worth a closer inspection so I got out of my car for a hands on inspection.

Much as I thought the hutch was solid wood and in fairly good shape.

I stood over the hutch for a few minutes trying to decide if it was worth claiming as my own to give it another chance at usefulness.

As I was trying to secure the item in the back of my Jeep someone else walked by and seemed to be checking out the hutch.

Such is the case of dumpster treasure recon. Some days you get the prize and some days you watch it get loaded into someone else’s Jeep.

Speaking of Jeeps is it just me or do they really not offer a lot of room in terms of storage space?

With the hutch hanging out of the back of my Jeep secured by bungee cords I slowly drove home with my treasure still not sure how best to utilize it but proud of the results of my exploration.

Over the years I have recovered several items from near dumpsters. I have also fell short of items that either needed an extra hand to load or items that I waited too long to decide that I needed.

There was a homemade work bench that I missed out on a few years ago that still haunts me to this day.

Of course my love of looking for treasures beside the trash is nothing new.

In college I recovered a huge foam Marvin the Martian head that was a central theme in my living room décor until I decided to place him near the dumpster for someone else to enjoy.

A few years back I rescued this multimedia spinner from alongside a dumpster. Since then it has served my DVD collection well. Photo R. Anderson

A few years back I rescued this multimedia spinner from alongside a dumpster. Since then it has served my DVD collection well.
Photo R. Anderson

I also recovered a DVD carousal that is still part of my décor today.

For the most part I tend to gravitate towards solid wood items or has cousin Eddie would say, “good quality items.”

Couches, chairs and items that have clearly already seen their best days are things that I pass up on. But a solid wood item that is well crafted is something that deserves to be spared from a landfill burial.

I am not yet sure what I will do with the latest acquisition but it was determined to nice to pass up.

The “upcycling” of the hutch got me thinking about the similiarity between what I was doing and the waiver wire in baseball which is also a second chance of sorts for players.

Teams place players on waivers and they can either be claimed by others teams and continue their careers or in many cases they find that there are no longer any suitors for their services and they are forced to go in another direction with their life and career.

Sometimes a team will find a gem on the waiver wire that could be the missing piece that brings them to the playoffs.

The Tampa Bay Rays are a team that has made a name for themselves by finding players that other teams have discarded and finding a little extra something in them that has put the Rays in playoff contention year after year.

Other teams have not been as successful with their waiver claims and often find themselves giving the players back at the end of the year after finding that they were not a good fit after all.

Just like with a piece of furniture found at the side of a dumpster, one does not really know how well a player will fit until they get them inside the organization.

Scouts can run all of the reports they want but every situation is different. Just look at All-Star caliber players who have fizzled after being traded to a new team.  Players are not plug and play and every team dynamic is different.

With spring training approaching teams will soon have their sights set once again on finding those players let go by other teams that will fit their dynamic and help the playoff runs instead of hindering them.

Of course chemistry is built over time which is also why players are added and subtracted from rosters throughout the season.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to see what other treasures I can rescue from certain demise.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Christmas Lights Bring Visual Element to the Season

There are many sights and sounds of Christmas that help people feel the magic of the season.

While we focused on the sounds of the season Wednesday, with the various songs of Christmas, today we are going to turn our attention on the sights of the season that help set the stage for celebrations.

In particular, we are going to focus on visuals in the form of Christmas light displays.

Growing up my parents never placed Christmas lights on their house so televised lights and trips through the neighborhood to see the lights on the other houses were my approach to seeing the lights of the season for many years.

Christmas lights come in all shapes and sizes and are part of the tradition of the season for many. Photo R. Anderson

Christmas lights come in all shapes and sizes and are part of the tradition of the season for many.
Photo R. Anderson

One of the most iconic Christmas light scenes on film for me comes courtesy of the Griswald family.

I am sure almost everyone reading this has seen National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  In the movie family patriarch Clark Griswald creates what he feels is the ultimate Christmas light display by covering every scare inch of his house in lights.

After many failed attempts to get the lights to shine Clark is finally able to fill the night sky with his version of Christmas much to the delight of his family, even though some of the lights do not end up blinking.

There are of course many other hijinks that ensue along the way for the Griswald family but in the end they learn valuable lessons about Christmas and also learn that Cousin Eddie can’t swim.

It wouldn't be a Texas light show without a stage coach. Photo R. Anderson

It wouldn’t be a Texas light show without a stage coach.
Photo R. Anderson

Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios got into the holiday light business in 1995 when it started hosting the Osborne family light show after it outgrew its Arkansas roots.

Millions of lights are used to transform one of the city street sets of Disney Studios into a choreographed display of lights.

The ABC television network, which is owned by the Disney Company, even has a show where families from across the country can show off their festive over the top light displays while competing for a trophy and a cash prize to use to buy more lights to make an even bigger display the next year.

As the Disney display and ABC show demonstrate Christmas lights have become big business in recent years.

Of course while some of the displays are pretty others can be downright gaudy and lose sight of what Christmas should be all about.

One area that seems to understand the balance between honoring Christmas and putting on a show in the night sky is a neighboring town just south of the Gigaplex that has held its Festival of Lights for 16 years.

Of course a Florida light show would include a light up alligator such as this one. Photo R. Anderson

Of course a Florida light show would include a light up alligator such as this one.
Photo R. Anderson

Each December the people of Dickinson, TX transform a city park into a winter wonderland.

And much like the story of the Arkansas family’s display that ended up at Disney, the Dickinson lights also started in a neighborhood before they expanded to the park.

The festival is free to attend and even includes a ride in a big yellow school bus from a local shopping plaza.

As an aside, the space between school bus seats has really shrunk in the time since I last rode them.

I have attended the festival bundled up in the cold and in shorts and a t-shirt. Such is the weather in this part of Texas during December.

While the need for a jacket seems to change year by year, the displays at the festival have not changed much since I have started attending.  The consistency of the display is part of the charm.

By keeping the display the same year after year, people are able to look for their favorite lights that help them get in the holiday mood. Of course each time I go I have to look for the alligators and the flamingos since those remind me of Florida.

There are lights indicative of Texas as well and on those cold winter nights they even have hot chocolate and cookies available in the snack shack to round out the holiday feeling.
While the walk through the festival of lights certainly helped me observe the sights of the season there is still much more to see before the Christmas season is over.

There will be the visuals of shoppers rushing home with their packages along with the visuals of the bell ringers with their red kettles.

A light up nativity complete with the three kings is always a crowd pleaser.  Photo R. Anderson

A light up nativity complete with the three kings is always a crowd pleaser.
Photo R. Anderson

As for seeing more Christmas lights I will see more of those on Christmas Eve as I drive through my parents’ neighborhood to their house following candlelight service.

Their house is always easy to find as it is the one without any Christmas lights on it.

But as Linus taught us although they are nice to look at one does not need to light up the night sky with a house wrapped in twinkling lights to know the true many of Christmas.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.”

And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to try to convince my parents to look into some exterior lighting for next Christmas.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

It’s Beginning to Sound a lot Like Christmas

Christmas is only a week away.

The above statement will likely illicit several reactions depending on whether one does or does not have their Christmas shopping done.

Of course a staple of any trip to the store to shop for Christmas presents is being joined by the sounds of the season.

No I am not talking about the sounds of people fighting over the last roll of Hello Kitty wrapping paper or the latest Tickle Me or Sing with Me Elmo.

I am referring to the in store music selection which no doubt will include Christmas music being piped through the store’s sound system.

Now, in the past two weeks I have attended three Christmas concerts filled with the various sounds of the season.

For many Christmas time is not near until they hear the music of Charlie Brown. Photo R. Anderson

For many Christmas time is not near until they hear the music of Charlie Brown.
Photo R. Anderson

But for those who prefer their Christmas music to be in a retail setting a trip to the local big box store can be just what the doctor ordered.

And for those of us who prefer to do our shopping online, popping in some Christmas music while dashing through the web can certainly heighten the experience.

Of course it seems like everybody with a record contract has a Christmas album so there certainly are a lot of choices when it comes to picking one’s favorite sounds of the season. Some are good and some are definitely closer to the naughty list.

And while the world really does not need any more versions of the Little Drummer Boy and his pa rum pa pum pumming, nor does it need anymore thumpitty thump thumping along with Frosty the Snowman there will no doubt be many more songs added to the Christmas playlist by this time next year fighting for airplay along with the classics sung by those long passed crooners.

Of course part of what make Christmas songs so popular this time of year, aside from the fact that Christmas time is here, is the fact that the songs are familiar and trigger memories of seasons gone by with family and friends.

There are certain songs that I hear each year that remind me of the times when a much younger version of myself sat on my mom’s lap as we watched the lights of the Christmas tree flicker as Dean Martin and Perry Como sang on the vinyl.

When I was growing up Bing Crosby's Christmas album was a holiday staple. Photo R. Anderson

When I was growing up Bing Crosby’s Christmas album was a holiday staple.
Photo R. Anderson

While vinyl has given way to the iPod the songs still take me back whenever I hear them.

While the songs that remind me of Christmas may not be the same songs for everybody I have little doubt that there are songs with memories attached for everyone.

There are also songs of the Christmas season that make me laugh which I know was not the intent when they were first being performed.

There is one song in particular that I just cannot get enough of. In particular I love the over the top way that Bono performs his particular line. While Bono was likely very sincere while singing, “Well tonight Thank God it’s them instead of you,” the way he sings it makes me laugh every time I hear it.

Another must listen song to get me in a festive holiday mood is the song Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses with the line about the forgotten cranberry sauce while the world’s smallest turkey from A&P is in the oven all nice and hot.

Both of those songs are originals that can not really be duplicated although the Barenaked Ladies do a pretty good cover of Do they Know it’s Christmas.

Of course with so many people trying to record the same songs year after year certain artists try to put their stamp on the song to make their version the definitive version of said holiday classic.

I call this the Star Spangled Banner effect.

Another Classic that seems to stand the test of time is the Rat Pack. Photo R. Anderson

Another Classic that seems to stand the test of time is the Rat Pack.
Photo R. Anderson

I am sure that most everyone reading this has heard the National Anthem performed at a sporting event or other large gathering at one time or another in their lives.

The words penned by Francis Scott Key outside of Baltimore with the bombs bursting mid air amid the rockets red glare are iconic and meaningful and can move even the toughest guy or gal to tears when performed correctly.

But all too often people singing the National Anthem want to add embellishments as a way to put their signature on the song.

Whether it is drawing out the length of the song through a slow motion jam, or trying to hit the high notes higher than anyone has ever hit them before, history is full of Anthem singers trying just a little too hard.

There are also those performers such as the late Whitney Houston who record their anthem ahead of time and then lip sync during the actual event.

Of course there is also the certain comedian who took it a step further by pretending to grab her crotch while spitting on home plate during her time singing the Anthem.

For me the best anthems are the simplest anthems. Give me a nice marching band performing it over an over zealous pop star or spitting comedian any day.

I am also a fan of anthems played by a single trumpet or sung from the heart without unnecessary embellishments.

Call me crazy but the National Anthem is not the time to show how much vocal range one has. Just sing the anthem in a respectful way and let’s play ball.

So it is with the classic Christmas songs. From Oh Holy Night, Silent Night, The Christmas Song, Jingle Bells etc. simple really is better.

Just like with the National Anthem there is a reason behind the Christmas songs.

Singers of both the anthem and Christmas songs should be ever mindful of the source material and stay respectful of that fact.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Christmas music to listen to.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Rough Year in the Football Stable

As I have mentioned before I group the football and baseball teams that I follow into “stables.”

This stabling of teams usually allows for the weaker teams to be carried by the stronger teams and almost always ensures that I have at least one team to follow deep into the playoffs.

Of course that is what usually happens but this year a funny thing happened in the stable as many of the teams that are usually carrying the banner never really got out of the gate and others seem to be limping into the final stretch of the regular season.

As a reminder the teams in my football stable are the Washington Redskins, Baltimore Ravens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Denver Broncos.

It should be noted that the Baltimore Colts were in the stable until that March night 30 years ago when the team’s owner moved them to Indianapolis in the dead of the night.

While it is easy to understand my fandom for most of the NFL teams that I follow based on having lived in the areas near the teams at one point in my life (Washington Redskins, Baltimore Ravens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Jacksonville Jaguars) it is a mystery as to why I first started following the Broncos since I have never lived in Colorado and was a Broncos fan long before I ever stepped foot in the state.

Among my five team football stable only the Baltimore Ravens and the Denver Broncos have any hopes of reaching the playoffs this year. Photo R. Anderson

Among my five team football stable only the Baltimore Ravens and the Denver Broncos have any hopes of reaching the playoffs this year.
Photo R. Anderson

Speaking of stepping foot in Colorado, if one ever has the chance to travel to the Four Corners region it is worth the drive for the opportunity to step foot in four states at the same time.

So while the origin of my fandom of the Broncos remains a mystery best solved by the likes of Mulder and Scully, it is those very Broncos who are carrying the stable this season.

The Broncos started out of the gate strong and despite a few missteps that showed they are mortal they stand at 11-3 with a playoff spot locked up.

The Ravens are the next team in the stable who still have postseason play within their sights. A win tonight over the Detroit Lions would give the Ravens an 8-6 record and allow them to capture the division title if they win the rest of their games.

Even without winning all of their remaining games though the defending Super Bowl Champions are still in line for a wild card spot which very well could have them facing the Broncos for a rematch of the first game of the season.

Playoffs, don't talk about playoffs. After going to the playoffs last season the Washington Redskins have fallen back to earth this year and have the record to prove it. Photo R. Anderson

Playoffs, don’t talk about playoffs. After going to the playoffs last season the Washington Redskins have fallen back to earth this year and have the record to prove it.
Photo R. Anderson

So while the Broncos and Ravens are in control of things, the same can definitely not be said for the Redskins, Buccaneers, and the Jaguars.

After going to the playoffs last year, the Redskins are a miserable 3-11 this year.

The Redskins have benched their starting quarterback who they gave up many draft picks to get last year and will likely be embarking on yet another head coach search at the completion of the season.

While a season this short on wins would normally mean a high draft pick it will be years before the Redskins have a first round pick again after giving up their picks for the right to pick early last year.

Off the field the Redskins are also once again battling for the right to keep their name as a rising storm of opposition organizes against them.

While there is no one area that can be pointed to as a cause for the collapse of the Skins it is certain that the season has failed to live up to the expectations of those in and around the Beltway.

The Jacksonville Jaguars have won four games after starting the year with an 0-8 mark. Photo R. Anderson

The Jacksonville Jaguars have won four games after starting the year with an 0-8 mark.
Photo R. Anderson

The Redskins will remain in the stable despite the poor season but here’s to hoping that next year brings better results.

Things are not much better in Florida where both the Jaguars and Buccaneers went through the first half of the season winless.

After each starting the season 0-8 the Jags and the Bucs have managed four victories apiece in the second half of the season including a two-game sweep by the Jags of the abysmal Houston Texans.

Much as I wish for a better season next year for the Redskins I will hope the same for the Jaguars and the Buccaneers. It appears that both Florida teams in the stable  are definitely headed in the right direction after such a slow start to the season.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have won four games this season despite starting the year 0-8 and cutting ties with their starting quarterback. Photo R. Anderson

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have won four games this season despite starting the year 0-8 and cutting ties with their starting quarterback.
Photo R. Anderson

As for this year there are still the Ravens and Broncos for me to cheer for. I am hoping that they each go deep into the playoffs, or at least as deep as they can go until they collide in a game where only one of them can move on to face the best the NFC has to offer which will likely be Seattle or New Orleans.

Ironically both the Seahawks and the Saints had stable membership at one point or another before I settled on a stable of five teams a few years back and they were left on the outside looking in.

Even though they are not official “stable” teams I still routinely cheer for the Seahawks and the Saints.

Who knows maybe it is time to invite them both back in from the cold and make some expansions to the stable.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Monday Night Football to get ready for and some stable expansion blueprints to commission.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Superstitious Day for Some, One less Shopping Day for Others

Today is Friday, December 13, 2013.

For some people this means nothing more than the fact that yesterday was the 12th and tomorrow is the 14th.

For others it means that there will soon be less than 10 shopping days left until Christmas.

For the superstitious among us today means all of the things above in addition to it being an unlucky day all the way around.

While many may think that the Friday the 13th craze started with a certain movie character named Freddy the roots of Friday the 13th actually run much deeper than late 20th Century cinema.

Since the 19th Century Friday the 13th has been considered an unlucky day in Western and Eastern superstition.

Friday and the number 13 were considered unlucky by some on their own so it was only logical that both occurring at the same time would be even unluckier.

In fact fear of Friday the 13th even has a name; friggatriskaidekaphobia (Frigga being the name of the Norse goddess for whom Friday is named in English and triskaidekaphobia meaning fear of the number thirteen).

Personally I have never feared Friday the 13th although I do fear not finishing my Christmas shopping in time.

Astros at Spring Training

Baseball players can be some of the most superstitious in all of sports. Players on a hot streak will keep wearing the same clothes or eating the same food just to keep the streak alive.
Photo R. Anderson

But the arrival of Friday the 13th made me think about sports and the superstitious rituals that many players seem to follow.

There are players who will eat the same pregame meal because they feel that to eat anything else would risk certain disaster on the field.

Hitters on a hot streak in baseball are notorious for continuing whatever “routine” it is that they feel is behind their streak since they feel any deviation will likely mean the end to the streak.

The movie Bull Durham did a very good job showing the superstitious side of baseball through chants over bats, breathing through one’s eyelids, chicken, and of course a garter belt where the rose goes in the front.

Baseball is of course not the only sport with superstitions. Across all level of sports there are athletes who have a lucky shirt or other article of clothing that they can’t go onto the field of battle without.

The link between superstitions and sports can start at a very early age.

Back in high school I did a feature article on the goalie of my school’s woman’s soccer team, Kris Arnetta, who attributed her on-field success to a lucky argyle sock that she wore during every game.

Granted it was not a pair of socks but one single sock that took over when her “magic shoes” fell ill. Perhaps it is best just to let her explain in her own words.

I once interviewed a soccer goalie who had magic shoes and a lucky Argyle sock. Photo R. Anderson

I once interviewed a soccer goalie who had magic shoes and a lucky Argyle sock.
Photo R. Anderson

“I used to have magic shoes but they got cancer and now they have to stay home all of the time,” Arnetta said. “Now I have a lucky Argyle sock. You can only wear one Argyle though because they cancel themselves out, sort of like fractions.”

And for those wondering, as I was back at the time I did the interview, how a pair of shoes gets “cancer” it was from her having to remove two of the cleats in the same way that a doctor might remove a cancerous tumor. I also learned that the shoes did not like concrete prior to them falling ill.

Throughout my career I was around many other superstitious athletes and I am sure I will meet many more but to date a single Argyle sock has been the most memorable superstition I have encountered.

Of course athletes are not alone in their superstitions. Anyone who has ever watched the History Channel show Swamp People will no doubt have noticed that one of the alligator hunters, Troy Landry, always wears his lucky shirt whenever he goes out into the swamp.

Logically speaking there should not be any link between eating the same food or wearing the same shirt and performance.

But is the mind thinks that there is there could be some potential for heightened success and the continuation of the superstitious activity.

So on this Friday the 13th beware of those around you who are extra cautious of their surroundings. On a positive note perhaps they will stay home which should make the lines at the stores a little shorter for those last minute shoppers.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Christmas shopping to get to. I wonder if anyone on my list would like some Argyle socks.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Mount Rushmore of Managers Gets Hall Invite

The other day it was announced that Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre, who rank third, fourth and fifth, respectively, on the career list of Major League Baseball managerial victories, were elected unanimously to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the expansion-era committee.

La Russa, Cox and Torre combined for 7,558 wins and eight World Series championships. Individually each of them surpassed 2,000 wins. No manager with at least 2000 wins has ever been excluded from admittance to Cooperstown.

Until this week Earl Weaver stood alone on my Mount Rushmore of Hall of Fame managers. Bobbie Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre will soon join the late Earl of Baltimore.

Until this week Earl Weaver stood alone on my Mount Rushmore of Hall of Fame managers. Bobbie Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre will soon join the late Earl of Baltimore.

With their election to the Hall of Fame each of the three managers earn a place on my personal Mount Rushmore of managers joining former Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver, who until now had been a floating head of granite awaiting the arrival of some companions in the mountain of my mind.

Granted placing imaginary heads of granite on a mythical “Mount Rushmore” is a purely subjective exercise. A case could be made for many other worthy managers to be included.

Arguments can be made about the various eras of baseball and how to weigh the accomplishments of managers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the managers of the modern era.

Even the actual Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, which features larger than life busts of presidents Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, is occasionally the subject of revisionist desire.

There was a time when people thought the “Gipper” himself Ronald Reagan deserved to be forever etched in stone on the side of a mountain.

Some folks even went so far as to say that the “Roughrider” himself Teddy Roosevelt could be surgically altered and transformed into the face of Ronald Reagan.

In the end Mount Rushmore was left as is and an airport and other things were named after President Regan instead.

So with the understanding firmly established that the Mount Rushmore of managers is in the eye of the beholder, or in this case the eye of the writer, I will make my case as to why I feel Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre deserve to be on my Mount Rushmore.

For starters it should be noted that until 2011 all three men were managers during my awareness of baseball.

Granted there were a few years where I was alive and they weren’t managing but from my earliest baseball memories to my earliest baseball cards all three men were in the dugout guiding their teams.

In fact each of the three men began their careers as managers within two years of each other, between 1977 and ’79, and concluded their stay between 2010 and 2011.

It has seemed odd the last few years without having at least one of them managing. The absence of Lou Pinella in a Major League Baseball dugout is also taking some getting used to as he was another manager that just always seemed to be there along with Jim Leyland.

Adding to the granite worthiness of Cox, La Russa and Torre is the fact that each of them managed in both the National and American Leagues showing adaptability to the nuances of the two styles of play.

Bobby Cox spent 25 of his 29 seasons with the Atlanta Braves in the National League. The other four seasons were spent with the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League.

Bobby Cox spent 25 of his 29 seasons with the Atlanta Braves in the National League. The other four seasons were spent with the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League.

Bobby Cox spent 25 of his 29 seasons with the Atlanta Braves in the National League. The other four seasons were spent with the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League.

Under Cox the Braves won 14 consecutive division titles from 1991-2005 and one World Series title in 1995. Cox also led the Toronto Blue Jays to their first AL East title in 1985.

As I have mentioned before my grandmother is a huge Atlanta Braves fan so whenever I would visit we would watch the Bobby Cox led Braves play. I also had the opportunity to see Cox and the Braves in person a few times at Minute Maid Park when they came to town to play the Houston Astros.

I also was able to see Tony La Russa on many occasions at Minute Maid Park when he was manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.  In total La Russa managed for 33 seasons with 17 seasons in the American League and 16 seasons in the National League.

In total Tony La Russa managed for 33 seasons with 17 seasons in the American League and 16 seasons in the National League. Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson is the only other manager to win World Series in both leagues.

In total Tony La Russa managed for 33 seasons with 17 seasons in the American League and 16 seasons in the National League. Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson is the only other manager to win World Series in both leagues.

La Russa seized the opportunity to go out on top when he retired shortly after guiding the St. Louis Cardinals to their second World Series title under his watch in 2011. In addition to his two titles with St. Louis La Russa also won the World Series in 1989 with the Oakland Athletics and joined Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson as the only managers to win World Series in both leagues.

Of course one could also say that Sparky deserves a spot on the Mount Rushmore of managers based on his stellar career as well but let us not muddy the waters before getting to the last candidate for granite infamy.

Joe Torre managed 17 seasons in the National League and 12 with the Yankees in the American League. Like Cox Torre managed the Atlanta Braves, and like La Russa Torre managed the St. Louis Cardinals.

Although Torre’s success with the Braves and Cardinals was nowhere near the level that Cox and La Russa had with those organizations he did eventually find a favorable situation in New York.

Joe Torre began his career as a manager with the New York Mets and had an 894-1,003 managerial record over 14 seasons with the Mets, Cardinals and Braves when he joined the Yankees. During a 12-year run with the New York Yankees that started in 1996 Torre’s teams earned four World Series titles in his first five seasons, six American League pennants in eight years, and compiled a record of 1,173-767.

Joe Torre began his career as a manager with the New York Mets and had an 894-1,003 managerial record over 14 seasons with the Mets, Cardinals and Braves when he joined the Yankees. During a 12-year run with the New York Yankees that started in 1996 Torre’s teams earned four World Series titles in his first five seasons, six American League pennants in eight years, and compiled a record of 1,173-767.

Torre began his career as a manager with the New York Mets and had an 894-1,003 managerial record over 14 seasons with the Mets, Cardinals and Braves when he joined the Yankees.

During a 12-year run with the New York Yankees that started in 1996 Torre’s teams earned four World Series titles in his first five seasons, six American League pennants in eight years, and compiled a record of 1,173-767.

Although I was never able to see Torre in person when he was with the Yankees I did get to see his team in action when he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers where he won two NL West crowns before retiring after the 2010 season.

So there you have it, three newly minted Hall of Famers and three former managers who careers are worthy of carving into stone.

Let the arguments continue over the Mount Rushmore of managers. For me my mountain is set. One might go so far as say it is written in stone.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to start planning the next group of people that should be etched into granite. Quint, we’re going to need a bigger mountain.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

If it Snows in Dallas and a Football Game is Held do the Fans Make a Sound?

Last Saturday the University of Central Florida Knights captured the American Athletic Conference title when they defeated the Southern Methodist University Mustangs before a handful of fans.

The lack of attendance was due to an ice storm that hit the Dallas area making travel to places like SMU’s Gerald R. Ford Stadium nearly impossible.

Of course as everyone knows the show must go on so the Knights and Mustangs played in temperatures that neither team normally experiences in front of fans who managed to find their way to the stadium while the rest of the word watched from the warm comfort of home.

Snow is a beautiful thing to watch fall to the ground but can be less than fun to drive through. A snowy night in Dallas Friday led to empty seats and cold players Saturday at SMU. Photo R. Anderson

Snow is a beautiful thing to watch fall to the ground but can be less than fun to drive through. A snowy night in Dallas Friday led to empty seats and cold players Saturday at SMU.
Photo R. Anderson

I was originally supposed to attend the “Ice Bowl” game but did not end up getting tickets due to a scheduling conflict that arose after a change in the start time of the game.

As I sat on a futon watching the game in relative warmth eating a sandwich and some Golden Flake dill pickle chips I found myself conflicted.

Part of me was glad that I had not made the four hour drive the night before through the ice storm.

Don’t get me wrong I love playing in the snow and am even okay driving in it for the most part but I really do not trust the drivers around me to be equally careful in those conditions.

Also in my experience municipalities that do not experience snow on a regular basis do not always have the best resources available to respond to a far reaching winter weather event.

So as I was looking at reports of drivers who had been stuck in their cars on Interstate 35 for over seven hours due to hazardous conditions on the road I felt happy that I was not among them.

But as the game progressed and I saw the empty stadium, I felt like I was missing a once in a lifetime chance to be at a major college football game that had less attendance than an elementary school spring scrimmage gets in Texas.

Okay, to be honest I am not sure that Texas elementary schools hold football scrimmage games but if they did I am sure that they would be well attended by “scouts” trying to figure out what the high school team would look like in a few years.

I will never forget covering a high school football game in a small town in Texas about a decade ago and overhearing some fans bemoaning how porous the offensive line was after the quarterback was sacked for the five or sixth time in the first half.

Someone else overheard the conversation and said, “Just you wait a couple years and we will get those holes patched right up. They’ve got some real good fellers down there at the intermediate school that will protect the quarterback.”

Yes, people were scouting the middle school team and looking forward to their arrival in high school to shore up the offensive line in a few years. They definitely see priorities different in Texas.

Going back to Saturday’s game while I was happy to be watching the game on ESPN, part of me really wished I was having a “Lambeau moment” and watching the game in frigid temperatures.

Throughout my football watching life I have always loved watching the games where there was snow on the ground or wind-chill in the single digits. The fans and players for the most part always seem so cheerful in those situations. Either that or their faces were frozen in a smile as soon as they got to the stadium.

While I never played organized football I did play backyard touch football, which inevitably turned into backyard tackle football. Some of the best games were on the rare cold Florida days where one could see their breath and their noses were running from the wind-chill.

We would stay out in the cold for hours trying to imitate the moves of the professional players. Sometimes we came close to achieving that and other times we just fell on the ground and got a mouthful of grass.

Fast forward a few years to my time as a reporter and I loved roaming the sidelines on a cool night during football season. Soccer season was also fun to cover as the games were even colder on average and the stands were full of huddled masses trying to stay warm.

As crazy as it might sound I like being cold and feeling the chill on my skin. It actually makes me feel that much more alive when the mercury in the thermometer drops.

Of course having spent most of my life living in warm states the opportunity to experience cold like that comes in small doses and one needs to capture every opportunity they can when it arises.

So that is why as I was watching the couple of hundred fans at the game in Dallas I wished I was there with them feeling the cold and trying to find some warmth during bathroom breaks.

My rational mind knows that even if I had tickets to the game and had not had the schedule conflict that prevented me from going staying home and avoiding the ice covered roads was the right thing to do.

After clinching a conference championship with snow on the sidelines the UCF Knights will travel to the land of cacti on New Year's Day with their sights set on a Fiesta Bowl victory. Photo R. Anderson

After clinching a conference championship with snow on the sidelines the UCF Knights will travel to the land of cacti on New Year’s Day with their sights set on a Fiesta Bowl victory.
Photo R. Anderson

And realistically I likely would have caught the sniffles from the prolonged time out in the cold so it is best that I stayed warm and watched the game indoors.

I also know that there will be other chances to watch sporting events in cold weather so all is not lost.

As for those Knights from the University Central Florida who battled in those cold temperatures, they are off to Arizona for a date in the Fiesta Bowl with the Baylor University Bears.

And while there might be cold weather outside at game time weather will not be a factor during the game as the Knights and the Bears will battle indoors in a climate controlled setting on a field of fake grass.

Somehow I don’t think Bear Bryant and Vince Lombardi would approve.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to start planning the menu for my Fiesta Bowl viewing party. Go Knights.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

An Infamous Day, a Courageous Response

Tomorrow, December 7, is National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

This is a day where Americans remember and honor all those who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

On Sunday morning, December 7, 1941 America’s naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was attacked by aircraft and submarines of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Pearl Harbor still serves as a United States Naval institution over 60 years after being the site of one of the worst attacks on U.S. Naval resources in a single day. Photo R. Anderson

Pearl Harbor still serves as a United States Naval institution over 60 years after being the site of one of the worst attacks on U.S. Naval resources in a single day.
Photo R. Anderson

My grandfather, Howard Kirby, was at Pearl Harbor. He was one of the lucky ones who survived the attack. After a few other close calls he was able to return to his family at the end of the war.

While my grandfather was a survivor of the attack, more than 2,400 Americans were killed and more than 1,100 were wounded on that December morning at Pearl Harbor.

The attack sank four U.S. Navy battleships and damaged four more. It also damaged or sank three cruisers, three destroyers, and one minelayer. Aircraft losses were 188 destroyed and 159 damaged.

Each year the Wings over Houston Airshow includes “Tora! Tora! Tora!” which is a reenactment of the bombing of Pearl Harbor as a way to try to show what the attack was like.

As impressive as the “Tora! Tora! Tora!” show is, I know it is nothing compared to what that actual Sunday morning would have been like for those young men and women who forever had their lives changed.

Tora! Tora! Tora!, the reenactment of the attack on Pearl Harbor (minus the ships) is a fan favorite each year and features dogfights in the air and explosions on the ground. Photo R. Anderson

Tora! Tora! Tora!, the reenactment of the attack on Pearl Harbor (minus the ships) is a fan favorite each year and features dogfights in the air and explosions on the ground.
Photo R. Anderson

The attack, on the “Day that will live in infamy” ultimately changed the United States forever as well and led to America’s entrance into World War II.

In the years following the attack several books and movies have been released that have posed the question of whether the attack could have been prevented, or at least better defended against, if more advanced warning had been given.

Hindsight is always 20/20 and as with any event fingers of blame are often pointed afterwards.

While I certainly believe in learning from history so as not to repeat its mistakes I am also a firm believer in honoring those who sacrificed instead of blaming the blame game.

In the spirit of honoring the fallen, many of whom were buried with their sunken ships, memorials have been built to remember the day and its events.

The USS Arizona memorial, which was dedicated in 1962, is a marble memorial over the sunken battleship USS Arizona that honors and remembers all military personnel who were killed in the Pearl Harbor attack.

The USS Arizona memorial, which was dedicated in 1962, is a marble memorial over the sunken battleship USS Arizona that honors and remembers all military personnel who were killed in the Pearl Harbor attack. Photo R. Anderson

The USS Arizona memorial, which was dedicated in 1962, is a marble memorial over the sunken battleship USS Arizona that honors and remembers all military personnel who were killed in the Pearl Harbor attack.
Photo R. Anderson

Another memorial is that of the USS Utah, a battleship that was attacked and sunk in the attack. A memorial to honor the crew of the USS Utah was dedicated on the northwest shore of Ford Island, near the ship’s wreck, in 1972. The ship was added to the National Register of Historic Places and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1989.

I was fortunate enough to travel to Pearl Harbor as a teenager and also saw the valley where the attacking planes made their assault.

While both areas are quiet and peaceful now they still bear the scars from the attack that occurred over 60 years ago.

Each day there are fewer and fewer people still alive that were at the attack. There will come a day in the not too distant future where all of the members of the greatest generation are gone.

But while there are still veterans of World War II among us take time to thank them for their service and their sacrifice.

Much like the veterans of World War I, and the Revolutionary War, the veterans of World War II will live on long after they are gone through the memorials and the written account of what they experienced as they are passed down from generation to generation.

I have visited battlefields and memorials from one end of the country to the other and each one tells a story of bravery that helped shape the country into what it is today.

It is through these memorials and National Parks that the Nation’s story is told to future generations as a way to ensure that the history of America is preserved.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get ready to put my flag at half mast.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Dueling Doughnuts Coming to Houston, Paddle Faster

The other day it was announced that after a half dozen years of being turned off the “Hot Doughnuts Now” sign of Krispy Kreme would once again shine over the Houston market.

This sweet news of the return of hot flowing glaze followed the recent expansion of Dunkin Donuts into the Houston market setting up a bit of a duel between two gooey glazed blasts from my past.

As was the case with the announcement of Dunkin Donuts arrival, the Krispy Kreme announcement was met with many locals decrying the move by saying that they would stick with their own home grown chain of doughnut stores.

Less than an hour after learning that there was a Dunkin Donuts within 15 miles of me this magical dozen was sitting in my car. Photo R. Anderson

Less than an hour after learning that there was a Dunkin Donuts within 15 miles of me this magical dozen was sitting in my car.
Photo R. Anderson

Having tried the doughnuts at the favorite of many locals I say welcome Dunkin and Krispy Kreme your presence has been missed.

I was discussing this very fact with a coworker who also lived in Florida and was longing for the return of Krispy Kreme when another coworker mentioned that a Dunkin Donuts had opened up around 15 miles away.

Since it was lunch time, and I was already craving doughnuts after the discussion about Krispy Kreme I decided that I would visit this newly opened Dunkin Donuts.

After all, who doesn’t enjoy a nice lunch doughnut?

The doughnuts were as good as I had remembered and were washed down with a nice iced tea. I know that Dunkin Donuts prides itself on selling even more coffee than that store with the green mermaid logo but for me the real beverage treat there is the iced tea.

Of course the doughnuts made me crave Krispy Kreme even more despite having them about a month ago in Dallas. Hopefully the new locations are at least as close as the new Dunkin Donuts.

Unlike Dunkin Donuts though Krispy Kreme is sold in supermarkets as well so in a pinch I am sure I can get my fix on some cold doughnuts once they arrive back in the market.

Now while I truly believe that Dunkin Donuts and especially Krispy Kreme offer a superior product to what was available in my side of the world before I know that part of that belief is based on those being the doughnuts I grew up with.

I can remember going to Dunkin Donuts when I lived in Maryland and visiting my grandmother who was working there. I would sit at the counter and soak in the coffee smell while stuffing my face with Munchins and other treats.

It was also during this time that I was entrusted with a Dunkin Donuts thermos. While I did not love the thermos in perhaps the same way that Steve Martin loved his thermos in the movie “The Jerk” I did like the fact that my grandmother had given me a thermos from her job.

Unfortunately the thermos, which included a glass bottle on the inside, met an early death at the hands of a clumsy classmate who knocked it off of my desk during fourth grade.

While in hindsight I want to think that I handled the loss of my prized thermos with grace and a calm demeanor I know that I was very upset at the person who knocked it over and am sure I gave him the silent treatment for at least a day.

True Krispy Kreme fans can wear their love of glazed goodness on their hips in more ways than one. Photo R. Anderson

True Krispy Kreme fans can wear their love of glazed goodness on their hips in more ways than one.
Photo R. Anderson

As for Krispy Kreme my memories of the yummy doughnuts include many late night trips in college to partake of the just out of the fryer and under the glaze fall doughnuts. There is nothing like eating a Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut when it has just left the glaze and is piping hot.

Even though Krispy Kreme doughnuts are good cold, if one has the chance to eat them hot it is something one soon will not forget.

When I first moved to Texas there was a Krispy Kreme down the road from the newspaper I was working at. One day I decided that as the new kid in town I would bring a dozen glazed doughnuts for my coworkers to enjoy on pagination day as a way to break the ice.

I was surprised at the number of people who upon taking the free doughnut complained that it did not taste as good as the doughnuts from the local chain they grew up with.

However misguided the locals are about their Texas based doughnuts being the best I can’t really fault them since I tend to gravitate to the tastes I remember. Unlike the majority of them though I am able to try new things and not have the attitude of nothing from outside of Texas being any good.

With Krispy Kreme returning to the Houston market the next brand I would love to see back in my neighborhood is Krystal and their perfect little square burgers. Photo R. Anderson

With Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts returning to the Houston market the next brand I would love to see back in my neighborhood is Krystal and their perfect little square burgers.
Photo R. Anderson

But let certain people feel that only Texas born doughnuts are worthy of their taste buds. That just leaves more doughnuts for the people that did not grow up in Texas to enjoy.

After Krispy Kreme left Houston in 2006 following a dispute with the person running the franchise territory I made sure to get a Krispy Kreme fix whenever I was traveling near a town that had one.

Of course sometimes the same trip would include visits to Krispy Kreme shops in multiple states since one never really knew when the next chance to have one would arrive.

And even with the return of Krispy Kreme to Houston I am sure that I will still visit the out of state stores when the urge strikes and that “Hot Doughnut Now” sign is lit and I am drawn to the glazed goodness like a moth to the flame.

And although Dunkin Doughnuts does not have a neon doughnut sign to lure me in it will also continue to be a staple of many road trips.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some donuts to eat.

 Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Houston’s Shuttle Mockup gets Tagged

The other night vandals hopped over a short fence and sprayed graffiti on the Space Shuttle mockup at Space Center Houston.

The mockup that was renamed “Independence” following its arrival from Kennedy Space Center where it was known as “Explorer” is part of a planned exhibit which will include a Boeing 747 that used to ferry the real Space Shuttles from coast to coast.

According to Space Center Houston officials the eight-story tall mated plane and Shuttle mockup exhibit is expected to be completed in 2015.

In the meantime, the Space Shuttle mockup stands sentry outside Space Center Houston to welcome visitors and to help them see just how large the Space Shuttle was.

It was one of those visitors, a tour bus driver, who alerted Space Center Houston officials to the graffiti.

When the Space Shuttle Mock up arrived via water taxi it was sans "tagging." Last week someone changed that fact by spray paint the side of the mockup while it was sitting outside Space Center Houston. Photo R. Anderson

When the Space Shuttle Mock up arrived via water taxi it was sans “tagging.” Last week someone changed that fact by spray-painting the side of the mockup while it was sitting outside Space Center Houston.
Photo R. Anderson

This story caused several questions to come to my mind when I first heard it.

The first question was how was it that Space Center Houston employees were not the first ones to notice the graffiti?

In the spirit of full disclosure it should be noted that I do not own a Space Center where mockups of vehicles are stored. I am fairly certain if I did though I would make sure that someone walked the grounds every day and checked on things before opening the doors to the public.

If the “tagged” mockup was able to be noticed by a guy driving in I would think that it could be noticed by an employee walking the grounds.

To be fair to Space Center Houston though I guess bus drivers do ride up pretty high in their vehicles so perhaps it was easier for them to see it than someone walking on the ground.

The second question that crossed my mind when I saw the mockup covered in black spray paint was how was it so easy to get to?

I mean I know that the mockup, that I affectionately call Balsa Shuttle due to it being made mostly out of wood, is not a real Space Shuttle so it does not have the same protections that a real Space Shuttle would have.

The Shuttle Carrier Aircraft pictured with Space Shuttle Endeavour on it will be moved to the front of Space Center Houston and will join the Shuttle mockup in a ferry flight configuration in 2015. Photo R. Anderson

The Shuttle Carrier Aircraft pictured with Space Shuttle Endeavour on it will be moved to the front of Space Center Houston and will join the Shuttle mockup in a ferry flight configuration in 2015.
Photo R. Anderson

And of course here is the spot where people can go on and on about how wrong it was that Houston did not get a real Space Shuttle until they are blue in the face.

Personally, as I have noted before I think that based on the inventory of Space Shuttles available the placement of the Shuttles was justified with the exception of perhaps Space Shuttle Enterprise which is sitting on the deck of an aircraft carrier in the Hudson River in New York City.

I guess I missed the tail hook landing features of the Space Shuttles that would make placing it on an aircraft carrier make any sense whatsoever.

Although watching a Space Shuttle return from orbit and deploying a tail hook to make a carrier landing certainly would have been something that one would not forget witnessing.

Anyway, back to Balsa Shuttle. I know that it would not be prudent at this or any other juncture to have a guard stand watch over the Shuttle mockup all night.

But seriously it is only protected after hours by a knee high fence? I certainly hope there was a better security plan in place in the event that Space Center Houston had been given a real Space Shuttle.

Space Shuttle Endeavour is on display in California. Many people in Houston feel that a real Space Shuttle should have been given to Houston. One hopes that is Houston had been given a real Shuttle they would have treated it better than the mockup they were given. Photo R. Anderson

Space Shuttle Endeavour is on display in California. Many people in Houston feel that a real Space Shuttle should have been given to Houston. One hopes that if Houston had been given a real Shuttle they would have treated it better than the mockup they were given.
Photo R. Anderson

Space Center Houston officials have said that there is video evidence of the fence hopping spray painters in action so they are hoping to bring them to justice soon. But, it seems to me that there would have been some sort of patrol of the grounds overnight where one or more people standing on the wing of a Space Shuttle mockup would have been noticed.

It should be noted that once the Space Shuttle mockup is mated on top of the Boeing 747 it should be harder to tag since it will be higher up off the ground. Although it will likely have a stairway leading up to it so perhaps it will still not be safe from what I am assuming were adolescents who were off school and bored.

I am picturing the exchange went a little something like this.

Kid 1: Hey, remember that cool space themed science museum we used to go to every year on field trips with school?

Kid 2: You mean Space Center Houston?

Kid 1: Yeah, wouldn’t it be cool to go there right now and learn something new about space exploration?

Kid 2: I think they’re closed dude since it is like dark out and stuff.

Kid 1: Well, I guess we could just go spray paint the Space Shuttle with the big barn doors on it since they are closed and we can’t go in and learn how to be engineers and expand our minds.

Kid 2: Okay.

Okay, so the exchange probably went nothing like that. It should also be noted that while I certainly have no proof that the spray painting was done by kids it does seem to fit a profile of what bored kids with a week off from school might do.

And considering all of the things that bored kids could have done to Balsa Shuttle, I mean Space Shuttle Mockup Independence, Space Center Houston officials should probably count their lucky mock ups that they have a painted mockup versus a burned to the ground mockup.

And while I in no way condone the act of vandalism committed or am suggesting that any further harm befall it, it was likely that the mockup was due for a new coat of paint anyway as anything that spends time under the Texas sun is bound to fade and need a touch up now and then.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it is time to move my car into the shade and out of the paint fading Texas sun.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson