Wednesday, July 29, 2020

One Direction at 10

Even though the members of One Direction all have solo careers, the band (or at least its fans) recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary. In my opinion, this is their greatest work:

While the people of Sesame Street (and not One Direction) probably came up with these lyrics, this is just outstanding.

U for utensils in Grover's hands
U is for uncles but not for aunts. 

And later this...

U, you're the ultimate come take a bow
U, there are utters under that cow
U check it out it's Bert's unibrow

Just brilliant!

Monday, July 27, 2020

Best Hitters Versus The Pirates

I watched the Pittsburgh Pirates-St. Louis Cardinals baseball game on Sunday thanks to a free weekend preview of MLB Extra Innings. The Pirates broadcasters spoke extremely highly of likely future Hall of Fame St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina just before he picked off Adam Frazier in the first inning and threw out another Pirates runner trying to steal second in the second inning. You would think that the Pirates would have something like "Yadier Molina is a really good at throwing out runners" in their scouting report.

Anyway, the Root Sports broadcast also showed Molina's career batting statistics against the Pirates including his 97 runs batted in. This got me thinking. Who has the most RBIs against the Pirates in baseball history? I mentioned this on Twitter, and Sean Forman (great name) of Baseball-Reference replied that the all-time leader (who I won't identify yet) has 306 career RBIs against the Pirates. Yadier Molina has a long way to go to reach this number!

Based on the link that Sean sent me from Stathead (I'll share this later), I thought I would do a little baseball trivia today. If you want to play, try to name the top 10 players with the most home runs against the Pirates in baseball history, the top 10 players by on-base percentage, and the top 10 by slugging percentage. I included the last two categories only because most other all-time stats (like RBIs, hits, games, etc) consists mostly of players from long ago.

Feel free to list your guesses in the comments section below. I'll share the answers here soon.

Update: Here are the results.

Most Home Runs Against the Pirates
1. Mel Ott - 83
2. Hank Aaron - 78
3. Willie Mays - 76
4. Eddie Mathews - 73
5. Mike Schmidt - 62
6. Stan Musial & Duke Snider - 58
8. Ernie Banks - 57
9. Willie McCovey - 56
10. Rogers Hornsby - 55

Now that is an impressive list!

Highest On-Base Percentage
1. Barry Bonds
2. Bob Elliott
3. Albert Pujols
4. Lance Berkman
5. Jackie Robinson
6. Todd Helton
7. Mel Ott
8. Jim Edmonds
9. Rogers Hornsby
10. Stan Musial & Joey Votto

Highest Slugging Percentage
1. Albert Pujols
2. Barry Bonds
3. Jack Clark
4. Jim Edmonds
5. Alfonso Soriano
6. Mike Piazza
7. Rogers Hornsby
8. Chuck Klein
9. Larry Walker
10. Willie Mays

If you want to check out all of these stats and more, please check out this link from Stathead. Please note that there must be a minimum number of plate appearances to make this list. For example, my friend Dan mentioned that Billy Hamilton has 56 stolen bases against the Pirates, but he's not on this list.

You can check out Sean's work on Baseball Reference and Stathead

Photo by Billy Hurst/AP Photo

Thursday, July 23, 2020


There is a website called Cameo where you can pay for personalized messages by celebrities. This is an absolutely brilliant idea. The phrase "absolutely brilliant" should only be said in a British accent. Anyway, I've explored the website a little lately, and I can probably spend many more hours there. Here's what I found so far.

The first item I searched for was Pittsburgh Steelers. Naturally, Hall of Famers like Jerome Bettis ($300), Rod Woodson ($175), Dermontti Dawson ($100) were the most expensive. I feel like Arthur Moats ($25) and my new favorite player Zach Banner ($35) are bargains. I also believe that either Merril Hoge ($60) isn't charging enough or Xavier Grimble ($60) is charging too much. As a bit of a tangent, a few weeks ago, Steelers Depot posted this quote from Terry Bradshaw on Twitter, "The most money I ever made was $300,000. And back then you were paying fifty cents of that to the government, so add it up. Everything I had, I had to borrow money. I even mortgaged my NFL contract to buy a ranch and a tractor and a cutter to cut hay. Why did I mention this? Bradshaw is charging $500 for a Cameo!

You may remember the song "Say Hey I Love You" by Michael Franti and Spearhead from about a decade ago.

I'll admit that I only know Franti from this song, so I was surprised that a Cameo from him is $175 while one from Mya, who may be best known from batting lead-off in Lady Marmalade, but who also appeared in movies and Dancing With The Stars is $150.

Flavor Flav was a member of Public Enemy and starred in the reality television dating show Flavor of Love. When I first drafted this post, a Cameo from Flavor Flav was $350. Apparently, there is now a sale on getting a message from Flav as the price is $250.

Let's say that you want to get a message from a former world leader. Well, you're in luck! Just get a Cameo from former President of Mexico, Vicente Fox for $255. Want to get a message from a former state leader who served time in jail? You're in luck again! Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is on here for $80 (or slightly less than a Merril Hoge / Arthur Moats combo). By the way, if Donald Trump loses in November, I can easily see him charging $1000 per video, and if that happens, I hope someone has him say "person, woman, man, camera, TV" over and over again. (This statement makes more sense when you watch the amazing rambling that starts around the 2:30 mark of this video.)

Pittsburgh Pirates fans! I know there are still some of us out there. 2018 first round draft pick Travis Swaggerty could be a bargain at $15. Former Pirate Aramis Ramirez is definitely a bargain at $15. 2020 opening day starter Joe Musgrove is $50. Trevor Williams was $25 and Cole Tucker was $50, but they're now both temporarily unavailable. Maybe they're too busy with the start of the season. Actually, if Musgrove has a bad start on Friday, I'm blaming it on the fact that he's too busy being on Cameo and not spending enough time watching videos to prepare for the game!

Andrew McCutchen is on there for $150. I mention this for all of the Penguins fans out there. Cutch was an MVP for the Pirates. Alex Galchenyuk played a whopping 45 games for the Pens this season before getting traded in February to the Minnesota Wild for Jason Zucker. In his 8 NHL seasons, Galchenyuk has 108 goals and 147 assists. That's not bad, but Galchenyuk has never been an all star. I mention this because, although his Cameo is temporarily unavailable, it costs $180 to get one from him. There's no world where anything associated with Galchenyuk should be worth more than anything associated with McCutchen. He's just so cool.

Otherwise, the Penguins are vastly underrepresented on Cameo. George Laraque is available for $70, Frank Corrado who played 7 games for the Pens is there for $10, while penguins at the Philadelphia zoo is listed at $40. Sadly, it doesn't appear that the penguins actually talk much in the videos.

Finally, I noticed that there is a category for bloggers. And there are 768 bloggers listed! 768! This can't be correct since there are only about 100 active bloggers still writing. Maybe this is the way that I can finally make big money from my blog. How much would you pay for me to make a video wishing you a happy birthday or anniversary? I mean, I know that priceless is the likely answer, but how about $2000? Maybe $1000? I mean, the most money I ever made was $300,000 before taxes. I borrow money and even mortgaged my blogging contract to buy a ranch and a tractor and a cutter to cut hay, so I think I'll start asking for $500!

One more finally, finally. I can't have a post about Cameo without including this song.

Although this post was not sponsored by Cameo, I really wish that it was. Maybe the company will see this and let me send a message for free. I mean, it wouldn't be at the Terry Bradshaw or Flavor Flav level, but someone from Below Deck Mediterranean would be fine.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

My Life In Pictures: July 2020

It's been really, really hot in the DC area. Washington recently hit 20 days in a row with a high temperature of 90 degrees or more. Apparently, the high last Thursday was only 87 at National Airport (though I'm sure it hit 90 where I live), so we barely missed out on tying the area record of 21 straight 90-degree days. I believe that it has been over 90 every day since then. Anyway, we (and by we, I mean my wife) bought some inflatable pools, and the kids have enjoyed playing in them regularly.

Apparently, we were ahead of the curve on the inflatable pool craze!

Even though it's only about an hour away, my kids had never been to West Virginia. Therefore, a few weeks ago, we decided to take a car ride across the border specifically so that my kids could check another state off their lists. There were a few too many people walking around Harpers Ferry, WV without masks, so we basically just drove through the town. We did stop at the national park, but because it was so hot and our 2 year old Luigi wanted to be carried, we basically took a picture of the sign, got back in the car, and drove back home.

9 year-old The Moose learned how to ride his bike and is already much, much better than me. He really hasn't left our street, but he likes riding which again is much, much better than me!

Many parents think that Legos are the worst toy because pieces get everywhere, and there's always a chance that you can step on one barefoot which results in way more pain than it should. In reality, Play-Doh is the worst. Take a look at this box. 

So clean and neat. This is the reality.

Pieces end up everywhere and get stuck on clothes, the table, and the floor. Plus, the kids always mix the different colors together resulting in an odd green color. Play-Doh really is the worst.

We have magnetic letters in our bathtub. Oh, don't act like you don't have them too! Anyway, I saw this one day and needed to take a picture immediately. My kids (fortunately) didn't understand why.

Just sharing this picture taken by Luigi. 

Finally, I don't leave my neighborhood very much these days, and maybe because of this, I've noticed the wildlife a lot more. Naturally, I took some pictures. 

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Best Musicians of the 2010s

This blog is so old that I'm taking an idea from more than 10 years ago. Let's say that there is a 2020 version of "We Are The World" designed to raise funds to help people impacted by COVID-19.* The only catch is that this edition features artists that either started or had a major breakout between 2010-2019. That means no Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Jay-Z, Green Day, Lady Gaga, Coldplay, Janelle Monae, Rihanna, Pink, Justin Bieber (just missed the cut-off), any "American Idol" judges or "The Voice" coaches, and many others. This is basically your all-decade team.

Here's my line-up in no particular order:

Billie Eilish
One Direction
Ed Sheeran
Childish Gambino / Donald Glover
Ariana Grande

Kacey Musgraves
Fifth Harmony
Shawn Mendes
Bruno Mars

(Although "Nothin' on You" by B.o.B. featuring Bruno Mars was released in December 2019, the song didn't reach #1 until May 2010.)

Chance The Rapper
Dua Lipa
Nicki Minaj 

(Although Drake and Nicki Minaj both had mixtapes and were part of Young Money before 2010, each had their first major solo studio albums released in 2010, so they make the list.)

Chris Stapleton
Wiz Khalifa
Sam Smith

(Although both Lizzo and Fun really only have one big album, they each have among the biggest songs of the decade.)

Post Malone (He makes it for his face tattoos alone.) 
Kendrick Lamar
Cardi B
The Weeknd
Maren Morris

I'm sure that I'm missing artists and groups since I'm not as "hip" and as knowledgeable about the music scene as I used to be. (Basically, I'm old.) Please share your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below and let me know how I did and who I'm missing. Are there any Hall of Famers from this group?

* This post is about musicians and not a commentary on the fact that so many people really do need financial assistance for essentials like food and healthcare. We should be much better about this as a country.

Ariana Grande photo by Steve Granitz/Getty Images. Nicki Minaj and Drake photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images. Maren Morris photo from Sesame Street. I may have watched the video of her and the Sesame Street characters singing "Oops! Whoops! Wait, Ah ha!" a few times. And by few, I mean a lot, but that's for a different blog post.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

A Coronavirus Post

I'm writing this just after midnight Eastern time on Wednesday, July 15th, 2020. As of this date, over 136,000 people have died in the United States due to the coronavirus. I'm not getting into a discussion that COVID-19 is a hoax trying to hurt Trump or that the total number of deaths is inflated or that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is lying to us like former game show host Chuck Woolery and apparently our president seem to believe (or at least supports this thinking). The people who think this probably aren't reading my blog anyway. I've spent a lot of time over the last few days reading Facebook posts and updates from a friend from high school. Her husband, who is around my age, has been in the hospital for more than a week due to COVID-19. Without sharing his medical information, my friend continuously asks us for our prayers because of the serious nature of his condition. 

The point of this post is not to convince people that this virus is real but to look into the future. How is the next generation going to look at how our country responded during this pandemic? I think they'll be amazed (obviously not in a good way) that people really had "COVID parties." That despite scientific evidence that wearing masks helps stop the spread of the virus, many people continue not to wear masks in public spaces and in businesses and cite freedom and the constitution or something. Just today (well, yesterday), CDC director Robert Redfield (who I always think is the actor when I see his name) said, "I really do believe if the American public all embraced masking now and we really did it, you know, rigorously ... I think if we can get everybody to wear a mask right now, I really do think over the next four to six, eight weeks, we can bring this epidemic under control."  

I'd love for our country to try to test this theory, but we all know that it's not going to happen. For example, over 30 people are currently suing the Western Pennsylvania grocery store chain Giant Eagle for requiring customers to wear masks. (I don't know the merits of the cases, but it seems like the grocery store is offering its customers options to get groceries without entering the store.) 

In 25 or 50 years, people aren't going to believe that some members of the previous generations refused to wear masks. They are also going to be astounded that COVID tests took days if not longer to get results. That the president and Congress gave a one-time "stimulus relief" to people and businesses, though millions of dollars seem to be unaccounted for or went to companies in less need of relief than many, many, many others. (Actually, in 25 or 50 years, people will definitely believe that last one.) I didn't even include the ridiculous statements by some of our leaders that the number of positive coronavirus cases are increasing because there are more tests and that if there weren't these tests, there wouldn't be as many cases. And I'm sure that the number of pregnancies would go down if women didn't have pregnancy tests!  

It's just frustrating living through these times where there's no end in sight. Everything gets politicized. You would think that trying to eliminate the coronavirus and saving lives would be the top priority and something the entire country could rally around together. That's obviously not happening. Just wake me up in 2 and 2 when we have a vaccine because it seems like nothing else is going to flatten the curve or stop the spread! (I realize that there are going to be thousands if not millions of people who won't get a vaccine but that will probably be a separate blog post in 2021.)

Update: I forgot to add this portion when I originally published this blog post.

Occasionally, I think about how our country could have responded better to COVID-19. Many people first really took this virus seriously when Tom Hanks announced that he tested positive and when Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz also tested positive followed by the NBA shutting down the league. Although Gobert has said that he still doesn't have his full sense of smell back, many people feel like both and most other recognizable people who contracted COVID-19 fully recovered. I don't follow British politics very closely, but I'm sure the UK realized that COVID-19 was a big deal when Prime Minister Boris Johnson was in the hospital due to this virus. I'm not sure that made much or any impact in the US. I wonder if the country's response would have been different if someone like Senator Rand Paul became really ill and was hospitalized after he tested positive to the coronavirus. At a minimum, I doubt he would have been so critical of Dr. Anthony Fauci during Senate hearings. If Paul continued to have health problems ever after being released from the hospital, I just think that our government would have done more and more people wouldn't think that this virus was a hoax.

Monday, July 13, 2020

DeSean Jackson

DeSean Jackson has been one of the most exciting players in football over the last decade plus. One of the fastest players in the NFL, he led the league in receiving yards per reception four times in his 12-year career. He also has 5 1,000-yard seasons and 3 Pro-Bowl appearances. In addition, Jackson throwing an interception helped me win a fantasy football championship. (Now that Andy Reid won a Super Bowl with Kansas City, people think he's a genius, but I'll always remember Reid having his wide receiver throw the ball on 3rd and goal on a Monday night game.) Plus, DeSean Jackson is part of one of my favorite movie quotes from the last decade from the movie Silver Linings Playbook:

I remember there being two words between the and man with the first word being mother and the second not being appropriate for children. Maybe the NSFW video isn't on YouTube. Maybe I'm remembering it wrong.

Anyway, I'm getting way off topic. Last week, DeSean Jackson shared two (now deleted) disturbing, anti-Semitic posts on Instagram. Jackson apologized for these posts, likely because he rightfully got called out by many people including his employer, the Philadelphia Eagles. Personally, I found the apology to be fairly weak and likely done because the Eagles, his agent, and/or others close to him told him that this needed to happen. On Friday, the Eagles fined Jackson and provided this statement:

"This has been a difficult and emotional week for our community and organization," the team said in the statement. "The Philadelphia Eagles do not tolerate hate towards any individual or group. We believe in respect and equality for all races, ethnicities, and faiths. We as an organization want to help be an instrument for positive change. This can only occur through strong, deliberate actions and a commitment to learn and grow. 

"We have had a number of constructive conversations over the last few days, not only with DeSean Jackson, but also with many other players, members of the organization, and leaders in the community. That has led us to the point where we and he are ready to take the next steps."

"Today we have penalized DeSean for conduct detrimental to the team," the statement read. "He accepted these consequences and apologized. In our many conversations with him, it has also been made clear that this is only the beginning. We have discussed a concrete plan for how we and he can heal moving forward. He understands that in order to remain on the team, he must also commit to supporting his words with actions. We have been encouraged by his desire to educate himself, but we all understand that there is still a lot of work to be done. We will continue to assist DeSean in this process, and we also know that all of us in our organization need to listen and learn more about things that are unfamiliar or uncomfortable to us.

"We must continue to fight against anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination, while not losing sight of the important battle against systemic racism."

Obviously, what Jackson posted was wrong. My question is whether a fine is necessary. How does Jackson grow and learn from being fined? Wouldn't the fine cause him to be more resentful? Now, should he lose sponsorships? Yes. Companies don't want someone paraphrasing Hitler pitching their products. Taking Jackson off of the team's 2021 calendar or removing his jersey from the online team store? Absolutely. But a fine? It seems to me that Jackson needs education, not a fine. Fortunately, education is happening. Jackson spoke with Holocaust survivor Edward Mosberg who invited him to visit Auschwitz.

Apparently, Jackson also spoke with New England Patriots WR Julian Edelman, who offered to take him to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC. I hope he also talks with NBA Hall of Famer Ray Allen who is (or at least was) on the US Holocaust Memorial Council.

I do want to end on a positive here. I've seen several NFL players speak out last week, including this video by Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Zach Banner. I already liked him because of his personality and because he plays for the Steelers but now he's one of my all-time favorite players.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Friday Video: The Whelming Waters

When I appeared on the Ya Jagoff! podcast a few months ago, one of the other guests was Collin of The Whelming Waters. The band's debut album "Bon Voyage" is now available on Bandcamp. Check out the video for their single "Whisky Song" below and please support a really good band!  

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Franco Harris In Vegas?

You may have heard that Disney Plus released the musical Hamilton on its streaming service over the holiday weekend. I clearly don't understand the hype. Why a full musical about Richard "Rip" Hamilton and not mention anything about his time with the Detroit Pistons? I guess the focus was on his time in Washington.

Anyway, all of the Hamilton talk got me thinking about the last time I saw live theater. It was the incredible musical Come From Away in December at The Kennedy Center. This musical is based on 9/11 and the days immediately after, but from Gander, Newfoundland in Canada, a town of less than 10,000 who hosted approximately 7,000 people from international flights after the American airspace was closed. Once theater is back, I highly recommend seeing it.

Instead of turning off my phone during the performance, I switched it to vibrate. Near the end of the show, my phone started buzzing like crazy. I knew there wasn't much time left, so I avoided looking at my phone. In a completely dark theater, the light from my phone would have definitely distracted the people sitting near me. 

When the show ended, I exited as quickly as possible worrying that there was some type of emergency. Fortunately, everything was okay. My nephew tried to FaceTime me twice, and there was quite a text exchange from some friends. I won't use their real names here but here are the highlights.

M: This is *not* Franco Harris sitting right next to me, right? I've been trying to figure out for a full 5 minutes.

D: Yeah, the only immaculate thing that guy has done is somebody's taxes.

M: He's wearing a Wisconsin hat, which would militate against. But an "SI" jacket trends toward maybe? The Penn State game is on and he's not paying attention, so that probably seals the deal?

B:  The fries look good. Where are you?

M: At a place called Crack Shack in Las Vegas on the Strip. Quite good.In my defense, my wife was sitting right next to "Franco" and had to look at pics of real Franco for several minutes before declaring they were not a match.

D: You're at a place in Vegas called the Crack Shack? Those jokes can just write themselves. 

There were a lot more texts in this discussion, but nothing really relevant to "Franco Harris"

Go Steelers!

Friday, July 03, 2020

Friday Video: Happy Independence Day

In June of 2019, DJ Bonics became possibly the first DJ to perform the national anthem. The former Pittsburgher and Wiz Khalifa DJ (and University of Pittsburgh graduate) lives in Minneapolis now and performed this at a Minnesota Twins game. In honor of July 4th, enjoy this really unique and cool version of the national anthem.

And here are the behind the scenes of his performance.

Have a safe July 4th weekend!

h/t to the Ya Jagoff! podcast who recently had DJ Bonics on as a guest.