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#16: The Number 16 January 16, 2012

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For my color blind readers, this says "Sean Maguire is the greatest writer ever!"

When I was in the 3rd grade, our reading books for English class were always numbered (I think it was like 1-36), and they were given to us in alphabetical order.  I was given number 16.  It had become my number.  It was MINE.  The next year, in 4th grade, my homeroom teacher took attendance by assigning us a number and having us call it out.  Guess what mine was…


#15: The 2002 Phillies January 15, 2012

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The 2002 Phillies sucked on ice.   But 2002 was the first year I started paying attention to baseball and the Phillies.  I was 10 years old.  Now, the Phillies may not have been very good, but they were my team and I loved every single one of them, except Jose Santiago, fuck that stiff.  Oh, and Scot Rolen. What a fucking traitor.  Oh, and Travis Lee, fuck that whiner.  But there were some interesting characters…

Doug Glanville, the hometown engineering student from Penn (what an egghead!).  Pat Burrell, the lady’s man (what that means to a 10 year old?  It meant all the ladies played his Playstation, of course!).  J-Roll, the young stud that was going to be the anchor for at least the next ten years.  Mike Lieberthal, the greatest catcher in team history.  Jeremy Giambi, who was the latest in a line of wrong brothers on the Phillies (holy hell could he mash the ball!).  Randy Wolf and his Wolfpack.  Vicente Padilla and his near no hitter.  Jose Mesa, aka Joe Table.

Listen, the team wasn’t very good.  But the players were fun, and 10 year olds love fun.

#14: The 2009 Phillies January 14, 2012

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2008 was a great run, but 2009, in my opinion, was an even funner ride.  We saw what this team could do (win the whole fuckin’ thing), and they only got better (adding such characters as Pedro fucking Martinez, Rauuuuuul Ibanez, and Chan Ho Park) on their way to their second straight pennant.  Perhaps it might not have been as fun without the reining WFC over our heads, but it seemed that 2009 was wire-to-wire ecstasy.  We lost in the World Series, but somehow it seemed OK.  I mean, the Yankees are stupid, but they absolutely outplayed us while we played our best, and we were the first team to make back-to-back World Serieseses since those Yankees in 2000 and 2001.  The end was disappointing, but it all seemed OK.  We were in a magical place, and everyone could feel it.

#13: The 2008 Phillies January 13, 2012

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#12: The 2010 Phillies January 12, 2012

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As much of a dicktease as the 2011 playoffs were, 2010 was bigger.  It started off innocently enough, the team was reeling off two back-to-back pennants, and was the heavy favorite to win a third, especially so after trading for Roy Halladay, the best pitcher in baseball.  Even Opening Day showed promise, with an 11-1 pounding of the Washington Nationals, but at some point all the wheels fell off the wagon.  It seemed that everyone was injured.  We fell to second place.  Then, we fell back seven games.  All seemed lost.  But then suddenly the team got hot.  They won seven in a row, and then traded for the best available starting pitcher on the market, Roy Oswalt.  He had a rocky first start (breaking our win streak in the process), but after that he rattled off 7 straight wins to finish off the year.  By mid-August, the team had caught fire again and was now two games back of the hot, young Braves.  The Phillies retook first place on September 7th, and then took it for good four games later.  The Phillies brought back proper form in August-September, and went on to beat up competition again, and finished in first place by an astounding seven games.  All was right with the world.  The Phillies kept up the hot streak in the playoffs, including that one game, you know, that had a whole bunch of zeroes or something. Whatever.  And then they won the next two games to sweep the Reds.  Whatever, bring on the next sacrificial lamb, the juggernauts of the NL were doing their thing.

But then something went wrong.  As had been the trend lately, the hotter team heading into the playoffs went on the roll over their opponents.

Except this year, it wasn’t the Phillies.  It was the fucking San Francisco Giants.  I hated those guys.  They had that douchebeard Brian Wilson, that goddamn elf Cody Ross (who somehow managed to make his way from the Marlins to the Giants via waivers), turdface Aaron Rowand, and the overhyped Tim Lincecum.  The only redeeming qualities the Giants had were getting Pat Burrell his second ring, and that beautiful ballpark of theirs.  Grumble, grumble. Whatever, fuck the Giants.

Really, 2010 wasn’t meant to be.  That great three-month spell was a hell of streak, but 2010 just wasn’t our year.  But it was one heck of a year.  Perhaps, in fact, the most eventful one of recent memory.  So here’s to the awesome ride that was 2010.

#11: The 2011 Phillies January 11, 2012

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102 Wins.

Roy, Cliff, Cole, Roy.

Domonic Brown.

Hunter Pence.

There’s not really much more I can add here, I mean, this team was, with no slight trepidation, the greatest team to ever play in Philadelphia.  The only not awesome part?

Don't make me relive this.

Ugh. (via Washington Times)

…yeah.  I still love the man, but he gets really frustrating at times.

Ryan Madson Signs With Cincinnati January 11, 2012

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1 year deal, as per Jerry Crasnick on the Twinker.  I guess  he wasn’t opposed to a one-year deal, but was opposed to not closing.  In return, the Phillies are to be compensated with the 14th pick in next year’s June draft, which, according to Phuture Phillies, is the highest they’ve held since drafting the awesome Gavin Floyd 4th overall in 2001, as well as a sandwich pick in the early-to-mid-30s (exact pick TBD).  RIP Mad Dog, it was a great ride.

For more, read up at The700Level, as well as Phuturephillies.

Update: For some reason, the Red’s pick is protected under the old CBA, so instead of the 14th pick, they now get the 72nd pick (originally the Reds’ second rounder).  What a bummer.  We still get the 30-something sandwich pick, however.

#10: Kevin Millwood’s No Hitter January 10, 2012

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Kevin Millwood is surrounded by his teammates as he celebrates his April, 2003 no hitter against the San Francisco Giants (via ESPN)

via ESPN

Back when the Phillies weren’t very good and I was just getting into the glorious sport of baseball, my dad took me (and usually my little sister) to a lot of Phillies games.  One of those games was April 27, 2003, also known as the day Kevin Millwood pitched the last no hitter in Veterans Stadium.  I don’t remember much of this game, I mostly rely on stories from my dad as well as the internet for resources.  One of those stories my dad has is this one: “Once he struck out Bonds in the 7th inning, it was that moment that I knew he was going to throw a no hitter.”  According to the baseball-reference boxscore linked above, that was the 7th inning, which is right around the same time I remember getting really excited that something good was about to happen.

I remember  the 9th inning.  Millwood had made it to two outs.  The stadium was about to erupt.  Grissom took a pitch, ball one.  Millwood sets up again.  Nails it in there. Grissom swings, makes contact.  Ball’s hit deep. Ledee chases it.  The ball keeps flying.  Ledee runs toward the wall, the ball in his sight.  The crowd is on its feet.  The wind is swirling.  The ball comes down.  Ledee makes a running grab.  He caught it! He caught it! Millwood pitched a no hitter!  Everyone is screaming!

I remember going to school the next day, very excited to tell my classmates about what I had witnessed.  To this day, that game there was one of my favorites.  In fact, all the way up until 2008 to the present, the 2003 Phillies were my favorite team to ever suit up in Philadelphia.  This team and that game will surely be one I tell my future kids about.

Winter Classic Review (Part III) January 9, 2012

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This is the third and final installment looking back at the Winter Classic that was.  Part I (the Flyers sweater) can be found here, and part II (the Rangers sweater) can be found here.

Citizens Bank Park is an excellent, beautiful ballpark (I mean, come on! Look at my background!). And as we found out Monday, it makes a kickass hockey venue, too.  Continuing in the festivities, the Adirondack Phantoms (the AHL affiliate of the Flyers) played the Hershey Bears at CBP in what the AHL is calling the “Outdoor Classic” Friday night, a game in which I was glad to take part in.  Take a look at a select few of my pictures and tell me that this isn’t a beautiful venue for both baseball and hockey:

Hershey Bears at Adirondack Phantoms, January 6th, 2011. Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia.  Taken by the author.

Self-taken. All credit goes to me, Sean Maguire

Hershey Bears at Adirondack Phantoms, January 6th, 2011. Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia. Taken by the author.

Self-taken. All credit goes to me, Sean Maguire.

Hershey Bears at Adirondack Phantoms, January 6th, 2012. Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia. Taken by the author.

Self-taken. All credit goes to Sean Maguire

Hell of a game that was (4-3 Phantoms win in OT).  Hell of a venue, too.

An interesting note about the AHL: I found it interesting that, while the NHL uses colored jerseys at home, AHL teams wear white (or “white,” as it were) at home (or “home,” as it were).  As you may know, the NHL designated white as the home jerseys from 1970/71 through the 2002/2003 season (a reversal of precedent, actually; colored sweaters/jerseys were worn at home from ancient history to 1970), and my guess is that the AHL followed suit, but did not followup on the return to colors at home in 2002.

#9: Jim Thome January 9, 2012

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Jim Thome (via Wikipedia)

via Wikipedia

Jim Thome. When I first started watching baseball, it was 2002. It was pretty cool watching guys like Burrell, Glanville, and Rollins play everyday but the team was kinda mediocre. But then that winter I started hearing rumors about the Phillies signing some guy from Cleveland who hits a lot of home runs. Now I didn’t know a lot about baseball yet, but home runs are always exciting to 11 year olds. Skip ahead however long, and then he has that press conference where he choked up a little about leaving Cleveland (and then he made a joke afterward!), he instantly became my favorite player. And then he went out and almost hit 50 home runs! And single-handedly made the Phillies playoff contenders! I really couldn’t like him any more, it was impossible.

The next year I started middle school, and they always have this book fair thing every fall. One time I was in there and I saw a Thome poster, and I knew I had to have it. That night I put it up over my head above my wall, and it’s been there ever since (I even brought it with me to college). It makes me feel safe at night. Even though he’s not a Phillies anymore, Jim Thome is still easily one of my favorite players, and that poster will stay above my head right up until the day it falls apart.

That day this winter when he signed himself back, I couldn’t have been happier.  I was walking to the wood shop that night, and I literally danced on my way for awhile (no one was looking, of course).  The fact that my boyhood idol came back to my team for a very, very good chance at his first ring really makes me giddy for this spring.

Even though it wasn’t in Philadelphia pinstripes, I’m glad he got to 600 home runs. The twelve year old me hopes he stays with the Phillies long enough to hit 700 (how cool would that be?), maybe even 763 (!!!), but the 20 year old me knows that won’t happen. I’ll just be glad if he finally gets his ring.

#8: High-cuffed Pants and Stirrups January 8, 2012

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Baseball is an old-timey game. A relic, if you will. That’s part of the charm of it– baseball is virtually the same as it was when our grandparents’ grandparents saw it, and it will be the same when our grandchildrens’ grandchildren watch it (unless blurnsball takes over by then). Part of the charm of today’s game is when players still dress in that “traditional” look, the high-cuffed pants and stirrupped-socks. There’s no way you can possibly say that this:

Jim Thome (courtesy Wikipedia)

via Wikipedia

The sultan of swat, the titan of terror, the colossus of clout, the king of crash, the GREAT BAMBINO

via Wikipedia

Alex Rodriquez

via Wikipedia

looks worse than this:

Ryan Howard (via baseball-ladies.com)

via baseball-ladies.com

Manny Ramirez (via ESPN.com)

via ESPN.com

David Wright (via NY Daily News)

via NY Daily News

It’s just not possible.  You’re wrong.  No offense to Ryan Howard, Manny or David Wright, but that look just isn’t right.  It’s interesting that I found that picture of Wright, in fact.  If you do a quick Google search for him, there are some images of him with stirrups, and some without (like above). I wish I knew the answer, but perhaps it’s an institution of the new Mets regime?  For their sake, I sure hope so.  They may play like crap, but at least their legs will look good.

#7: Talking Heads January 7, 2012

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Stop Making Sense
via Wikipedia

I’m not even sure how it all started.  I think it was the time my dad brought a Stop Making Sense CD on vacation one year. Or maybe it was the time I later found that same CD lying around and decided to load it to iTunes.  Whichever it was, Stop Making Sense was my gateway to the awesomeness that is Talking Heads.  The first couple times I listened to that CD, I only listened to my favorite songs, “Psycho Killer,” “Burning Down the House,” “Life During Wartime,” and later, “Take Me to the River.”  It wasn’t until high school that I started listening to the CD the whole way through (this was also around the same time that I really got into Green Day, like I mentioned yesterday), but once I did, I never looked back.  Literally every single track is a kickin’ song in my opinion, except for “Swamp” (I hate that song).  I listened to that album in high school so much, in fact, that my friend Zach pretty much said that’s all I ever listened to on the bus home (which was probably right, honestly).  At some point, I moved past Stop Making Sense, and started listening to other TH albums.  I’m not sure in what specific order, but I obtained physical copies of Remain in Light, Speaking In Tongues, and Talking Heads: 77 all within the span of four months and fell in love with all of them.

(This is the point in the story where you learn that I may or may not have OCD).  Knowing that I only had a portion of the group’s recorded discography never sat well with me.  By the end of that four month period, I *ahem* downloaded the remaining albums: More Songs About Buildings and Food, Fear of Music, The Name of This Band is Talking Heads (the other live album),  Little Creatures, True Stories, and Naked.  Having all these satiated my Heads thirst, but only for so long.  It was that summer that I went to *ahem* places online and downloaded as many TH shows as I could find.  I wound up with all kinds of shows, ranging from the early days, to the Stop Making Sense tour, to the bitter end.  It was pretty much a place where nothing ever happens heaven (see what I did there?).  Eventually I downloaded the SMS movie, and later the True Stories film (which is very good, by the way).

(This is the point in the story where you realize that, regardless of my real/fake OCD, I’m probably a lunatic and definitely too obsessed with this band).  My Talking Heads search didn’t stop there, however.  At some point in my freshman year at college, I decided to download everything I could find that the four main members of the band (David Byrne, Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison) ever recorded. This included Harrison’s pre-TH days as a member of the vastly-underrated Modern Lovers and his post-TH, unspectacular solo career; Frantz and Harrison’s continuing adventures as the Tom Tom Club, and Byrne’s journey through music (which is a very interesting study on its own– each album has a different flavor, and if you study them close enough and know a little about him, you can trace where the influences came from, and even who worked on it with him).  It’s a very good playlist, and it even inspired me to do it with a couple other bands/artists I have (I highly recommend this activity if you really enjoy music).  But the point here is that I’m a lunatic and I currently have 451 Talking Heads songs and counting, as well as 284 other songs (and counting) relating to the band.

#6: Green Day January 6, 2012

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International Superhits!

Image via Wikipedia

I have a love/hate relationship with Green Day.  Back in middle school, I used to love them.  Then all my friends hated them, so I decided I did too. When I started to listen to them again, it was 10th grade and I started to explore more and more music styles. But like a fool, I decided I didn’t like Green Day, so back on the shelf they went.  I never really got back into them in a big way until the middle of my freshman year at college, and man are they awesome!

Let me back up a little bit.  My first taste of Green Day was a sixth grade Christmas present from my mom.  It was the compilation album International Superhits! and I loved it right away.  In fact, it’s been my favorite Green Day album, and it’s easily in my top 10 albums that I own.  My favorite songs off that CD are “Maria” and “Welcome to Paradise” (not that you asked).  I loved this CD all the way up until my friends decided Green Day wasn’t cool anymore.  When was that, you ask? Right around the time American Idiot came out.  I was still in middle school, and I admit, I liked it at first when I heard it.  But for whatever reason, my friends decided Green Day was “too emo” (whatever that means) and a “bunch of sellouts” (though that one I agree with).  So I stopped listening.

Skip ahead a few years to the 10th grade.  I’m exploring music, and take a trip to the heavier side and eventually meander back to Green Day.  I browse to it on my iPod, turn the volume up, and drift off into my music. Tune in, drop out, as it were.  Suddenly, the guitar riff comes blaring in, followed by: “Dear mother, can you hear me whining?  It’s been three whole weeks since that I have left your home…”  Holy CRAP I forgot who awesome this song was! “This sudden fear has left me trembling cause now it seems that I am out here on my own and I’m feeling so alone….”  You better believe I turned that shit up, man!  Green Day was back into circulation, if you would.

For the sake of brevity, let’s skip ahead to my freshman year at college.  It’s winter, and architecture school  had gotten me down.  One night in design, my design partner Chi (I forget what his real name is now; we always called him “Chi” because his last name was something ridiculously Polish. Chajkouski, or something like that.) puts on a song I know, but hadn’t heard in awhile.  It seemed so distant.  I listen closer… “Pay attention to the cracked streets and the broken homes…” Sure enough, it was the same song as that one day so many years ago.  Fuck yeah, man!, I thought.  The Green Day love had started again.  Except this time, it lasted much longer.  I kept listening to Green Day (and some other punk rock) for a couple months, and I even went out on a bender and downloaded their entire discography online, as well as a physical copy of Dookie (which happens to be my second favorite Green Day album) at one point.  I was in a full-scale Green Day swing.

Later on that summer, I came down with a bit of a cold (which was weird, because, who gets sick in the summer?), so I stayed indoors for a couple days.  One night after I was feeling better, I was skyping with my best friend who had just gotten back from some concert.  We got to chatting and I found out it was a Green Day concert. Hoo boy, that must’ve been fun, wish I could’ve gone.  Too bad I was sick.  I don’t really like anything they’ve done since Dookie (coincidentally, right around the time they “sold out”), but who knows what would’ve happened?  Maybe Green Day would be higher on this list… 🙂

Winter Classic Review (Part II) January 5, 2012

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This is part two of a three-part series about the Winter Classic’s aesthetics.  Part I can be found here.

Rangers Winter Classic Jersey (via Sports Logos)

via Sports Logos.net

Unlike the home team counterpart, I’m a little disappointed in the Rangers’ duds.  Both teams looked really great on the ice, and the orange Flyers looked amazing against the cream/”vintage white” Rangers, despite there being no reason for the Rangers to wear that color.  I’ve said it before (I’ll say again), going retro does not mean vintage white, and vintage white does not mean retro.  I hate that trend, it’s become nothing more than a cheap gimmick.  Initial grade: C+

These jerseys actually really bug me.  A few issues: just like the Flyers, the Rangers didn’t directly draw from any one era, but rather drew inspiration from several.  The only problem is, the Rangers are one of the Original Six and have been around since forever (not really; they were founded in 1926).  And except for three seasons, the Rangers have had “RANGERS” spelled out in diagonal capital letters across their sweaters.  It’s what they’re known for! So why would someone give complete disregard to that and put a new/old crest on the front instead? It doesn’t make any sense.   They’re also known for the distinct number design, the block font with the drop shadow, why just abandon the shadow, even if it’s for one game?  This was an ill attempt at honoring history, but they look nice.  Final grade: C-

Thing I like about this sweater:

  • The hemstripes.  They’re very American, and if there’s any hockey team that I think of as “America’s Team,” it’s Tex’s Rangers, even if I hate them.
  • The shoulder yoke.  It provides a nice balance to the waist stripes, and gives the sweater an even feel.
  • The yoke stripe.  I don’t know of any other sweater that has a striping pattern like that on the shoulders, it makes it unique, and relates back to that balance thing I just talked about.

Things I don’t like about this sweater:

  • The crest. The Rangers don’t wear crests. Get rid of it.
  • Vintage white. GRRRRRRRRR
  • Inconsistent striping. Why are the sleeve stripes blue-white-red-white-blue if the waist and shoulders are blue-white-red?
  • No number drop shadow.  Except for a little hiccup in the 70s, they have always worn dropshadowed numbers since the 40s.  If the point of this sweater was to draw from history, why would they go against history and leave it off…?
  • Vintage white. I just hate it so much.
  • It’s from New York.  Just thought I’d throw that one in there.

Bottom line, this sweater would make a fine fashion jersey, or even a solid alt if there was no claim to be historical.  But since this is a Winter Classic sweater where everything is based on history, it’s not very good.

#5: Hitting a Baseball as Hard as You Can January 5, 2012

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Tying into yesterday’s post, the next awesome thing is hitting a ball as hard as you can (fresh new bat optional)…

I was never very good at baseball (that’ll be a recurring theme here, I’m sure), but I still loved to play it all the way up until the very end.  My favorite thing to do up at bat was to swing as hard as I could, which was probably one of the reasons I wasn’t very good.  I’m a big guy, so I always pictured myself as being the team slugger, or the cleanup hitter.  Jim Thome, if you will.  So I always would go up and try to mash the ball.  When it worked, it was fun (even if I never hit it out of the infield), and the team always got a thrill out of it.  When it didn’t work, I looked like a free-swingin’ doofus who rode pine more than stepped on a field.  But I had fun, so who cares if I was more Travis Chapman than Jim Thome?

#4: The First Hit With a New Baseball Bat January 4, 2012

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I never had much of a future playing baseball, but the one time a year I did get a hit, it was always a great feeling.  The swing, the feeling you get reversing the ball’s trajectory, the ping of the metal bat, the roar of the crowd…  It’s all wonderful.  But it’s almost as if the feeling is intensified with a new bat.

My last year of playing baseball (I was in 7th grade and I played for the Red Sox in a local league, but that’s a story for another day), I didn’t get a hit in my first five games.  Hoping to reverse the trend, I asked my dad if I could get a new bat.  I did some browsing around online and I decided that the best bat for me would be one that was really long (so I could get an even sweet spot on inside and outside pitches), but really light (so I could get better bat speed on it).  I wound up with this bat from DeMarini:

All in all, it was a pretty nice bat, even if I couldn’t hit the side of a barn with it.  I remember my first in-game hit with that bat pretty well (mostly because it was my only hit that season)…  We were playing the Mets, and they didn’t have a good pitcher on the mound.  It was the middle of the game (4th inning?) and I had gotten out to a 2-0 count (which was rare). The next pitch was high and outside, I thought.  The ump called it on the corner, 2-1.  I was feeling pretty good here, I never got on base.  The next pitch looked like it was coming right down the middle–right where I wanted it (…the only place I could hit it–seriously, why would you throw it there? I swing at everything, so you gave me something to hit? Don’t pity me). I could feel my heart beating, I could see the stitches on the ball… Was this it? Was this going to be my first hit of the year? I blinked. I swung. Ping!  Right on the sweet spot!  I ran as hard as I could.  The ball bounced past the pitcher, the shortstop running towards it.  I ran harder.  The shortstop gobbled it up.  I ran harder still.  Plop! I landed on the bag. Pop! The ball landed in the first baseman’s mitt.  I did it! I had finally gotten that hit I had been searching for all summer!  The parents were cheering, the bench was excited! My first base coach low-fived me!  It was the greatest thing that had happened to me in a long while.  And it was all because of my special bat.  It was GLORIOUS.

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