Thursday, August 16, 2018

Weasel of The Week: Jose Urena

It used to be that in baseball, it was accepted that if you were a hot hitter, and had smacked a home run or two or three, you were bound to be brushed back by an inside pitch, just to keep things honest.

Today, emotions run higher than they have in the past. Today's generation of players will take the frustration of a losing season out on the field with them with mayhem on their minds.

Case in point: Atlanta rookie Ronald Acuna, Jr. is one of the hottest players on the planet right now. He's hit 12 homers this season, and is a candidate, along with Washington teenager Juan Soto, for National League Rookie of The Year.

In contrast, the Miami Marlins, in year 1 of the Derek Jeter era of ownership (the ex-Yankee star is the face of the ownership group, but I doubt he's the one making the final decisions alone), are in the basement of the NL East. Acuna had burned them earlier in their series this week, and on Wednesday, Marlins starter Jose Urena decided to do something about it.......

Urena was ejected after 1 pitch, the quickest ejection of a starting pitcher in a NL game. John Lackey, when he was with the Angels a few years back, was ejected after just 2 pitches in the first inning. Atlanta manager Brian Snitker was also tossed, and Acuna removed himself from the game after taking the field in the visiting 2nd, as the swelling in his elbow was taking effect. The umpires, really, had no choice but to take action as soon as possible, hence Urena getting the heave-ho after some delay.

With teams more and more skittish about player injuries hurting their bottom lines, pitching inside has become all but obsolete. Urena is a young player with a bright future, one that could be dimmed if they don't rein in his emotions and quickly, before he develops a reputation he doesn't deserve as a headhunter. As it is, his immature lack of patience earns Urena a set of Weasel ears. The Players' Association shouldn't bother appealing any suspension commissioner Rob (Not-so-mighty) Manfred hands out. No coddling the guilty this time.

Aretha Franklin (1942-2018)

It has just come across the wires that the "Queen of Soul", Aretha Franklin, has passed away after an illness at 76.

Daughter of a Baptist minister, Aretha began her career singing gospel songs in her father's church, and recorded her first gospel record in 1956. After six years with Columbia, Aretha switched labels to Atlantic in 1967, and the hits started coming. "(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman". "Think". "R-E-S-P-E-C-T", and so on.

The 80's found Aretha making her acting debut in "The Blues Brothers". In the storyline, she was the wife of guitarist Matt Murphy. Franklin would return 18 years later in the sequel, "Blues Brothers 2000". Her only other films were documentaries, including a bio on Quincy Jones. In the mid-80's, she changed labels again, moving to Arista, where she scored a huge hit with "Freeway of Love" (which we posted the other day), as well as duets with Elton John ("Through The Storm"), Whitney Houston ("It Isn't, It Wasn't, It Ain't Ever Gonna Be"), George Michael ("I Knew You Were Waiting For Me"), and the Eurythmics' Annie Lennox ("Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves").

Aretha was also immortalized in the lyrics of Steely Dan's 1980 hit, "Hey Nineteen".

Bank on this. Come Grammy time this coming winter, they will honor the "Queen of Soul" with a major tribute.

Let's go back to 1980, and "The Blues Brothers", for a sequence leading to a performance of "Think".

Rest in peace, Aretha. God has called you home.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

What Might've Been: Crime Story (1986)

Even when they were at the top of the ratings mountain, NBC suits made moves that made you wonder where their heads were sometimes.

Take, for example, Crime Story. For the first time since Buck Rogers in The 25th Century seven years earlier, the series began with a feature film release. ABC-Marvel's Inhumans went that route last year, and bombed, proving that it doesn't always work. NBC assigned the series to a Friday berth, coupled with and meant to complement Miami Vice, whose creator, Michael Mann, was also a producer on Crime Story. However, Mann was working with New World Television after Universal decided to pull out due to budget issues.

Crime Story ran for 2 seasons (1986-8), and its demise came about after NBC foolishly moved it to Tuesdays for season 2, opposite ABC's goofy Moonlighting.

Crime Story boasted a strong ensemble cast, fronted by Dennis Farina and Anthony Denison. Denison, in fact, would work on two series concurrently in season 2, as he was also cast in CBS' Wiseguy, a Stephen Cannell entry that had a healthier run. The theme song is a reworking of Del Shannon's classic, "Runaway", with new lyrics to reflect the subject matter of the show.

The Rap Sheet provides the intro:

Don't ya wish this was on cable today?

No rating. Never saw the show.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Musical Interlude: Freeway of Love (1985)

With news that the "Queen of Soul", Aretha Franklin, has been hospitalized, let's look back at the video that introduced her to the MTV generation.

"Freeway of Love" was a single of Aretha's 1985 CD, "Who's Zoomin' Who", and, as shown in the video, sax ace Clarence Clemens, on loan from Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, is prominently featured, as are future American Idol judge Randy Jackson and co-author Narada Michael Walden is behind the drum kit.

"Freeway" topped the R & B chart, and peaked at #3 on the Hot 100, probably blocked by Madonna back then.....

How can you call a game with no enthusiasm? Just ask Keith Olbermann

Keith Olbermann became a cult favorite at ESPN in the 90's, co-anchoring SportsCenter with Dan Patrick (now with NBC). He's bounced between sports and political reporting since then, and thus is on his 3rd tour of duty with ESPN, which finds him in the Bronx on Monday, calling the Mets-Yankees game because Karl Ravech, who normally works Monday night ESPN games, is in Williamsport for the Little League World Series, which starts later this week.

Viewers had two choices. Hit the mute button, and listen to the radio broadcast of either the Mets (Howie Rose & Josh Lewin) or the Yankees (John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman), or risk falling asleep prematurely because of Olbermann's droning, energy-sapping delivery. Basically the same tone he'd use at the anchor desk, but not welcome at all here. For those choosing the latter option, it's 3 1/2 hours you'll never get back.

To be sure, Olbermann was raked over the coals by the critics in the aftermath, and they dug up a clip of a 1993 broadcast between Houston, then in the National League, and Philadelphia, which was the last time Olbermann was doing play-by-play.

MLB's YouTube channel offers a condensed version of the game, which is worth less than 10 minutes of your time. Feel free to hit the mute button.

Right now, ESPN is wishing Chris Berman hadn't gone into semi-retirement. At least he can bring some energy to a broadcast. Olbermann's next gig is likely as a supervisor for National Grid.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Advertising for Dummies: Simplifying adspeak (2018)

At the Super Bowl this year, Quicken Loans' Rocket Mortgage division premiered this next spot, featuring comedian Keegan-Michael Key (ex-Key & Peele), with a guest appearance by rapper Big Sean. All Key does, really, is simplify things.

Key & Peele earned Emmy & Peabody Awards during its 3 years (5 seasons) on Comedy Central. A few weeks after this ad premiered, Jordan Peele added an Oscar to his mantlepiece.

Sports this 'n' that

Sometimes, sports editors don't know when to shut down the hype and promote reality.

For example, Brooks Koepka won the PGA Championship on Sunday, but the headlines were more about the guy who came in second. You might've heard of him. Some fella named Tiger Woods.

The hype machines stopped short of declaring that Tiger was back. This was his highest finish in Lord knows when, and he was just 2 shots shy of catching Koepka and forcing a playoff. If Woods can play consistently in each tournament he enters going forward, then we'll conclude he's completed his comeback from injury.
Before sweeping the Vermont Lake Monsters on the road, and I neglected to mention this the other day, the Tri-City Valleycats added some new video footage to hype the crowd. You might've heard of this guy, too.......

That's a vintage tape of Ric Flair at the peak of his powers back in the day. Like most of the videos the 'Cats use on their scoreboard, they pulled it, as I did, off YouTube. Guessing the above clip is from the early 90's, when he first adopted the short-hair look he has now. When the 'Cats come home on Wednesday, we'll see if it finally brings good fortune.
The local NBC affiliate has carried NY Giants preseason games the last several years. No one wants the Jets, it seems, so the Fox affiliate decided to experiment by picking up the feed for a Buffalo Bills preseason game on Thursday. Rookie QB Josh Allen was impressive, but the Bills ultimately lost to Carolina. The Giants, by the way, lost, too, dropping their preseason opener to Cleveland, which picked up Ex-Bills QB Tyrod Taylor in the offseason.
It's going to seem weird seeing the Mets and Philadelphia play their Sunday night game this coming weekend. Why?

The game is being played in Little League country. Williamsport, Pa., where the Little League World Series was scheduled to begin today. The Phillies do have a NY-Penn League team in Williamsport, and that's where the game will be played, not on a Little League field. ESPN's Karl Ravech will be calling the Little League World Series this week, and likely will anchor Baseball Tonight from there, too.
Ignored as usual by the press, the Troy Fighting Irish went about their business on Saturday, spanking Broome County, 49-0. The Irish are 7-1 with 2 games left in the regular season. While the Valleycats get the majority of the local fans for their home games, Saturday had to be an exception with the 'Cats out of town. Since El Cheapo Media can't be bothered to do anything more than a pre-season preview every year, the Irish are always going to be treated like the red headed step children of local summer sports.
We have to close with some sad news from WWE.

Former 2-time tag team champ Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart passed away earlier this morning from complications caused by Alzheimer's disease at the age of 63. It's believed that Natalya, Neidhart's daughter, who was scheduled for a feature match on Monday Night Raw tonight, is headed home and will be scratched from the card. We have more on this over at Saturday Morning Archives, including this 1989 promo....

Rest in peace, Jim.