Friday, October 31, 2008

And what a Phine day it is ...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mother Nature's curve ball

Here's what happens to a newspaper when a game that might be an historic World Series clincher is called for rain delay at 11 p.m.
While fans young and old are fretting about sleep and staying up late, we are agonizing with deadlines.
A play by play:
10 a.m. Monday -- department heads meet in publisher Tom Abbott's office to plan a "wrap," a four-page special section to fit around the outside of the full newspaper. The idea is that the Phillies will win the World Series, and we will offer our readers a keepsake edition. But, press runs being what they are, we have to plan the wrap, win or lose, because we can not change the configuration of pages at midnight when the game ends, at least not if we want to be on doorsteps before noon the next day.
Noon -- I call some members of the night crew at home to let them know Monday will not be a normal night's work. Austin Hertzog, who was assigned to lay out the front page, spends the afternoon at home thinking about how to create a great front page for our readers. I begin working with graphics and production editor Bill Coldren on a template for the front page with a smaller Mercury masthead and a way to incorporate the price and UPC code on the front or we will end up giving the paper away.
4:30 p.m. -- Sports and news editors (all four of us) huddle up in my office to make sure the game plan is understood by everyone. To make matters even dicier, one of the advertisers has alternate ads to run depending on a win or a loss. We discuss headlines, photos, what to include. Our goal is to provide our readers with a special edition, but we're working with lots of ifs and buts.
7 p.m. -- We have checked and double-checked headings. Austin and copy editor Kim Cicconi are cranking out the regular pages of the paper; sports copy editor Don Brensinger is planning and putting together the regular sports pages, with Austin and Don poised to tag-team the four-page special edition on deadline.
9:30 p.m. -- I am home watching the game, cheering the Phillies, and the rain is coming down harder. Hearts are sinking faster than pitches.
11 p.m. -- The tarps come out; I pick up the phone. Austin tells me he'll figure something out. We had a "win" scenario and a "lose" scenario. We didn't have a "draw" scenario.
Midnight -- The desk finishes up the pages, choosing the photo of the tarps coming out and writing the outstanding headline "Reign Delay." We go to press at 12:30 a.m.
9 a.m. Tuesday -- I stop at WaWa -- cold, wet and out-of-sorts -- for a coffee and check out the papers along the wall. One, two, three papers have the same photo and the same headline, and they all are sister papers printed on the same press. I wonder for a moment if the pressmen just put the same front page on all editions, but then I see some differences. The coincidence was that several talented copy editors simultaneously picked a great photo and wrote a great headline.
10 a.m. Tuesday -- department heads meet in publisher Tom Abbott's office to plan a "wrap," a four-page special section to fit around the outside of the full newspaper. Today, our dilemma is whether or not the game resumes today or Wednesday.
And so it begins again.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Baseball's wild ride

I confess I fell asleep before the end of Saturday-early Sunday's Phillies game. I got a recap from my family who stuck with it to the end, and we all agree it was best I was gone. I would not have handled the tension well.
I love baseball, but wild pitches, stolen bases and tense moments on the mound give me fits. I would have put a pillow over my head when B.J. Upton stole his third base, and talked back to the TV when Carlos Ruiz missed the throw.
Reading the coverage on Sunday and Charlie Manuel's quotes about sticking with Ruiz took me back to a Little League Mom moment.
My younger son Scott was about 11 and pitching in a league championship game. He didn't have a killer arm (who does at that age?) but the coach liked him on the mound because he was steady and not emotional. He got the ball in there, so that kids could hit fly balls and grounders that led to outs. In this particular championship game, he gave up a home run to the best hitter in the league and our team's lead was cut to one run. That was when I left the field to chauffer my daughter to a piano lesson,leaving my husband and older son there to pick up the pieces of victory or heartbreak.
When I came back, the game was ending, and Scott was getting the game ball and high fives from the other kids. As it turned out, after giving up the home run, the coach talked to him and asked him if he wanted to stay out there and get the next guy out. He said he did; he got the chance. Our team won 5-4.
That coach told us later Scott deserved the game ball that day not because he was the star of the game or the best hitter, but because he hung in there. He had the courage to stay with it after a pitch that could have cost his team the championship -- but it didn't. That's baseball, and it's why I never mind missing some of the best action. I just like to know we won the game.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

One down, three to go!


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Savoring the Series

Sports writers are calling it the Sad Sack Series.
Writers are having a field day with references to which town has the sorriest history in baseball. Philadelphia lays claim to the losingest team in pro sports history, while Tampa Bay was in the running for the worst expansion franchise ever.
Suffice it to say both cities harbor a lot of disappointment among baseball fans.
Either way, the result of the 2008 World Series is going to catapult one of them out of the cellar and to the top of the world.
One of these two towns that has suffered long and hard is going to have a big party. Let’s hope it’s a parade down Broad Street.
Already, the Phillies’ National League pennant win and first appearance in the World Series since 1993 has the town hoppin’.
A whole generation of baseball fans is thrilled to be witnessing their first local World Series. Others are comparing the current crew of fiery players to the greats of the ’80s and the ’90s.
For those who want a reason to be fired up against Tampa Bay, the city of brotherly love has some serious resentment going back to the 2003 NFC championship game. The Eagles were favored to win in the final game at Veterans Stadium, but Tampa Bay took the game 27-10 and went on to beat Oakland and win the Super Bowl.
Fifteen months later, the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Flyers 2-1 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. Tampa Bay then won a seven-game series against the Calgary Flames to celebrate with the Stanley Cup.
So, we’re owed a few.
In this region, it’s not just a World Series win we’re anxious for -- it’s a sports team championship any way we can get it to reward this gritty city’s sports fans for patience and perseverance. (Truth be told, Philly fans are more often impatient and not-so-persevering.)
But, patience and yes, a sense of believing, prevailed in the National League Championship Series. The city is poised for a championship, but not frantic. Ready, but not desperate.
We can savor the Phillies’ success that brought the fans along into the October sun and watch them fight for us against another young and hungry team; we can relish the excitement of the World Series and enjoy the ride.
That’s what happens in a town with this kind of sports history -- it lives for the moment that has been a long time coming.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I'm a Mom and I bake apple pie (I like baseball, too)

The contest was called the Pottstown Apple Pie Palooza. Really, with a name like that, how could I not enter? The occasion was the Schuylkill Riverfest, and my son Chris, who was on the festival committee, volunteered me to bake a pie, well, two actually, for the contest. I was not too happy about it. First of all, two pies had to be made and delivered to Churchill's on High Street before 9 a.m. on Saturday. That meant I had to bake Friday night AFTER work and driving to Ursinus College to bring my daughter home for fall break weekend and buying groceries and getting laundry started, etc. Then, according to the rules, the second pie had to be part of a "display." I call that a science fair project, and I am done assisting or creating or even discussing science fair projects. So, I left that part of the entry to Chris.
But back to my pies ... I baked two Country Apple Tarts with a Chadds Ford Winery recipe that includes nearly a cup of apple-cinnamon wine in each, topped with brown-sugar and butter crumbs. This is a juicy, rich recipe, and for the apples, I buy Jona-Gold from Mauger's Orchards that this year are the largest, nicest baking apples I have ever seen. I had the proper enthusiasm for my pies and although I know my baking isn't award-winning, I enjoyed the experience nonetheless.
At Riverfest, my pie was there with others on display supplemented with a placard made by Chris that highlighted my earlier pie-raising experience at Riverfront Park. Last spring, I was pied in the face as part of a team fundraiser for the Relay for Life at the Bark for Life canine relay event held in the park. The whipped-cream photo of me that appeared in the next day's Mercury was the centerpiece for the display.
I think I won the People's Choice contest at Riverfest, not because my pie was better than anyone else's but because the two of my children in attendance each put $1 in the ballot box, and that looked to be enough to go over the top.
I don't however, know who won the pie-tasting contest. When I ask, those in charge of the contest tell me that they will "put something in The Mercury." Well, that's what I do for a living, so maybe if you tell me, I can get that accomplished.
My point in all this rambling is that last weekend's contest was a palooza -- fun but a little confusing. I think I'll go back to watching the Phillies.


Monday, October 13, 2008

I'm a bandwagon fan

I'm a bandwagon fan.

When the Eagles are headed into the postseason ... when the Sixers made the playoffs, oh so long ago ... and when the Phillies play an October Phest.

I'm there. Rooting, hooping, cheering for the home team. I'm a pretty quick study, so I can get up to speed with who's who even though I paid no attention all summer.

It's better this way. I have all the excitement of winning without having gone through the agony of losing. (I ignored the Eagles previous two games, but paid a little attention this past Sunday.)

In the case of this year's Phillies, my bandwagon ride started on a Sunday in the last week of the regular season when I had the privilege of tickets to the last game in the Phillies-Brewers series. We saw the Phils take the game for a sweep of the Brewers, and on the ride home, listened on the radio to the Mets blow the lead in their game, starting the chain of events that led days later to putting the Phillies in first in the National League East Division.

Watching Shane Victorino hit and Chase Utley field in person, seeing Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell power the bats put me on board. Of course, if they had lost the next few games I would have just chalked it up to another year and moved on.

But, they didn't, and here we are, two wins away from the World Series.

I wore a Chase Utley jersey to work on Friday. I found the "Big Talker" 1210 radio station on my car radio to hear Friday night's game while en route to the grocery store. I even suggested to my husband that we watch a weekend night game in a sports bar (I love Pennsylvania's new smoking ban at times like this).

I love baseball. That is not a bandwagon phenomenon; that is my birthright. I am from a family of ballplayers, and I brag about that often. But, I don't have the patience or fortitude to follow any team closely for 162 games.

So I wait and watch for the boys of summer to play through the fall.

I may jump on the bandwagon, but it's a great ride.

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Monday, October 6, 2008

In memory of my Dad for the fightin' Phils

Today, October 6, is my Dad's birthday. He has been gone three years, but his presence seemed close this past weekend when his beloved Phillies won the NL East Division. A year ago, when the Phils made it to the post-season for the first time in 14 years, I wrote the following column for The Mercury.
Except for the few sentences about specific plays in last year's games, the message is relevant this year, too, in memory of my Dad and in honor of all aging ballplayers and enthusiastic fans.

Oct. 20, 1993: The Phillies were playing Toronto in the World Series in a night game, their first post-season appearance in 10 years.
Even the most cynical would not have thought it would take another 14 years to enjoy a home playoff again.
That night in Pottstown, a hundred or so sports fans missed the start of the televised game to attend a sports banquet at The Elks Club. The event was the 16th annual induction ceremony for the Pottstown area chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.
Among the inductees that evening was a ball player “who starred in just about every league in the Pottstown area, from Berks County to the Main Line.” My dad, Jim Egolf, was the last of the five inductees to step to the podium that night,
Our family was there in full force to celebrate Dad’s induction, but we were a little worried about his speech. Dad, who was 77 at the time, suffered from aphasia, a speech difficulty as the result of a stroke, and we did not know if he could successfully complete an acceptance speech.
The first four inductees were long-winded, some of them with more eloquence than others, and we silently fretted as it became time for Dad to approach the podium.
When he took his turn, his words were few, but captured the mood of the room better than anybody on that October night.
“I want to thank everybody who voted for me. Let’s go home now, and watch the Phillies,” he said to a room of rousing applause.
In the next day’s Mercury, then-sports editor Tom McNichol described Dad as the “cleanup hitter” who kept his speech short and sweet. “Egolf’s brief speech was the perfect punctuation” for an induction banquet of local sports fans, McNichol wrote.
My Dad’s baseball career lasted through the 1930s and into the ’40s in amateur and semi-pro teams throughout the region. He was introduced at that Hall of Fame banquet as “the best defensive catcher of his time.” When his playing days ended, he coached youth teams for another 15 years or so, including two years with the Boyertown American Legion team in the early 1960s.
He was a lifelong Phillies fan. He loved them, hated them, cursed them and cheered them, but never stopped watching them. Even in his moment of pride in 1993, he was anxious to get home and turn on the TV.
When they were hitting, Dad was happy. But you could hear the swearing start at those times when innings ended with two runners on base after blowing a chance to score.
He believed in lightning-speed throws and hits when it matters. That was how he played the game and how he exhorted the Phils with his armchair-coaching.
He would have had more to say about Ryan Howard baubling the ball at first base in Saturday’s game than his solo homer. He would have praised Jimmy Rollins triple with two men on during Sunday’s game more than Pat Burrell’s home run Saturday when they were already down by 3.
The newspaper clippings of Dad’s playing days describe him as a clutch hitter and a catcher who protected the plate and second base.
“If a runner started off first and Jim was behind the plate, all I had to do was hold up my glove, and that ball was there,” said the Rev. William Harner, a second baseman of Dad’s era who delivered the eulogy at his funeral two years ago.
Now, 14 years after that World Series that we hurried home to watch, the Phillies are back in the playoffs.
John Kruk, Darren Daulton and Lenny Dykstra are long gone. But so is Mitch Williams, and for that, we are all thankful.
Dad would have loved these 2007 Phillies. A 44-year-old pitcher from Souderton, a shortstop who hits, steals and throws ’em out at the plate, and a manager who grumps and grouses but holds the team together.
He would have grumbled approval at their high moments and cursed under his breath at their low ones. But like all Phillies fans, he would have never stopped watching them or wanting them to win.
Oct. 20, 1993, provided one of the proudest moments of my Dad’s life when he was inducted into the state Hall of Fame. He didn’t pause long to savor the moment.
He just went home to watch the Phillies.

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