Nats' magic number: 15
September 7, 2016 [LINK / comment]
To the northeast: Baseball road trip, 2016
Well, three out of four ain't bad. I didn't make it to the new-fangled edition of Yankee Stadium, but I accomplished almost all my other objectives as I ventured far to the northeast in my annual ballpark pilgrimmage. I saw the insides of two stadiums for the first time, just like in my big trip last year. I saw Washington Nationals games in Philadelphia and New York (Queens), and then took a guided tour of Fenway Park in Boston. But what made this trip stand out compared to the others I have taken was that I stopped at the sites of former MLB stadiums in each city -- five altogether, including Nickerson Field, which is what is left of the former Braves Field.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Citizens Bank Park, Citi Field, the former sites of Shibe Park and Ebbets Field, Nickerson Field (the remnants of what was once Braves Field), and Fenway Park. (Aug. 31, Sept. 4 and 5, 2016; Roll mouse over the image to see last year's montage.)
- Philadelphia : Citizens Bank Park (game, Aug. 31)
- Philadelphia : site of Veterans Stadium (Aug. 31)
- Philadelphia : site of Baker Bowl (Sept. 4)
- Philadelphia : site of Shibe Park (Sept. 4)
- New York: site of Ebbets Field (Sept. 4)
- New York: Citi Field (game, Sept. 4)
- Boston : Nickerson (Braves) Field (Sept. 5)
- Boston : Fenway Park (tour, Sept. 5)
For the time being, I have updated the My ballpark visits page, with information on my lastest trip, featuring brand-new jumbo-sized photos of the three current MLB stadiums I saw. In the coming days and weeks, I will likewise update the individual stadium pages with dozens of new photos. For the record, I also took photos of Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles, Wells Fargo Arena, home of the Philadelphia Flyers and 76ers, and Franklin Field, home of the University of Pennsylvania Quakers. (!!?? See pennathletics.com.) I also paid a brief visit to Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots.
Aug. 31 & Sept. 4: Philadelphia
On August 31, I arrived about an hour early for the final game of the series. The first time I visited it, back in April 2005 (the Nats' very first game!), I wasn't even thinking about Veterans Stadium, but this time I made a point to photograph a statue and historical plaque. My car was parked in what would have been right field, or the seats beyond it. I only saw a few Washington fans at Citizens Bank Park, to my surprise.
Upon entering the stadium, I noticed some dead-looking people dressed in rags shuffling around. Huh? Then I remembered that it was Zombie Night, a clever if weird promotion. The weather was rather strange: cool, humid, and quite windy, with dark clouds approaching. It was not ideal conditions for taking photographs. During the middle of the game, it started to drizzle, and the light precipitation continued until the end of the game.
The game started in ideal fashion for the Nats, as former Phillie Jayson Werth hit a solo home run way up into the camera well on the left side of center field. It was estimated to have gone 451 feet. The score stayed 1-0 until the fifth inning, when Freddy Galvis (not "Galvez" as I wrote last week) hit a solo home run that just cleared the left field wall. Then with two outs in the seventh inning Anthony Rendon hit a double into the left field corner, and the next batter, Wilson Ramos, knocked an RBI single after a typical (for him) long count. The Nats then loaded the bases, and Clint Robinson came up to bat as a pinch hitter for Gio Gonzalez, but he grounded out to second. In the final three innings, Blake Treinen, Mark Rzepczynski, and Shawn Kelly only allowed one base-runner (on a walk), as the Nats held on to win, 2-1. Gio Gonzalez had one of his best outings of the year. Attendance was only 16,503, which pales in comparison to the constant sellouts the Phillies were enjoying a decade ago.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Jayson Werth homers in the first inning; Ryan Zimmerman sports a beard; Gio Gonzalez hurls a strike; Wilson Ramos hits a go-ahead RBI single; Ryan Howard pinch hits in the eighth inning; the Phillie Phanatic leads "zombies" in a Michael Jackson "Thriller"-inspired cheer; Werth gets the ritual helmet removal from Jose Lobaton after his home run; and in center, banjo/accordion entertainment during the seventh inning stretch.
TRUE STORY: before the game, as I was taking photos and inspecting all the interior details of Citizens Bank Park, I stopped by the bullpen area in center field, where I saw Wilson Ramos. I smiled and raised my fist in a gesture of support, and he waved back at me! I later speculated on Facebook that I might have given him the extra spark that resulted in that clutch RBI. Who knows?
In the next day's Philadelphia Inquirer, the big story in the sports section was about Ryan Howard's complaints about not getting much playing time lately. He is in the final year of his contract, and only batting around .200, and the Phillies were unable to make a worthwhile trade for him. After all he did for the franchise, it's a shame his career in Philadelphia is ending on such a downbeat note.
For the next three days -- Thursday, Friday, and Saturday -- I was busy attending a political science convention in downtown Philadelphia. On Sunday morning, I made the obligatory tourist stops in the "City of Brotherly Love" and then went on a search of the sites formerly occupied by Baker Bowl and Shibe Park. I had quite an adventure navigating the streets of Philadelphia! But fortunately, Baker Bowl fronted Broad Street, a major north-south artery, and I immediately recognized the big brick warehouse building as I approached it from the south. I was looking for a historical marker, but didn't see one anywhere. But then just this morning, I noticed it in one of the photos I took from the Broad Street (east) side. D'oh! Anyway, I posted that photo on the Baker Bowl page.
The site of Baker Bowl, from what used to be the right field corner, at the intersection of Broad Street and Huntington Street. The historical sign has been enlarged, in the top left corner. The barely-legible text on it reads:
National League Park
The Phillies' baseball park from its opening in 1887 until 1938. Rebuilt 1895, hailed as nation's finest stadium. Site of first World Series attended by U.S. President, 1915. Negro League World Series, 1924-26; Babe Ruth's last major league game, 1935. Razed 1950.
Next I drove about six blocks west to the site of the former Shibe Park / Connie Mack Stadium. I parked at the McDonald's next door and grabbed a bite to eat, and then started taking photos of Deliverance Evangelistic Church, which now occupies the land. Apparently, I looked like a suspicious character, as a gentleman asked me what I was doing, and after I explained my interest in baseball and pointed to the historial sign, he invited me to join the worship service which was just getting underway inside. So I did! The fact that this former ballpark has been converted to a religous function truly bears out the title of Philip Lowry's book Green Cathedrals. Being pressed for time, I the left the service after a couple hours and headed east through northern Philadelphia and then northeast toward New York City.
Deliverance Evangelistic Church, and the Shibe Park / Connie Mack Stadium historical sign in front.
Sept. 4: New York
After leaving Philadelphia, I headed toward Brooklyn via Staten Island, since I really wanted to see the site of the former Ebbets Field for the first time. After maneuvering through the traffic-clogged streets for nearly an hour, I finally located the Ebbets Field apartment building. It is HUGE -- 23 stories tall! There is a pharmacy across the street with a painted mural on one side, showing likenesses of Jackie Robinson and Ebbets Field. But just as with Baker Bowl, I failed to locate the historical marker until I looked at my photos this morning. D'oh again! In the photo below, it is behind the bicyclist on the right. Made of engraved granite (I assume), it reads, quite simply:
This is the site of the former Ebbets Field.
The Ebbets Field apartment building, from what used to be the right field corner, at the intersection of Sullivan Place (left) and Bedford Avenue (right).
The latter street goes uphill significantly, to my surprise. I knew there was a slight incline along Bedford Avenue, but I would say the elevation changes by at least 20 feet from one street corner to the next. I have seen dozens of aerial photos of Ebbets Field, and in none of them does the ground appear as sloped as it is in real life.
After overcoming hellish traffic delays in Brooklyn and Queens, made worse by a couple wrong turns on my part, I arrived at Citi Field at 6:00 PM, two hours before the first pitch. I wanted to be there early enough to have good lighting conditions for taking photos, but it was already fully-shaded inside the stadium. Attendance was 30,257, with many empty seats in the upper decks. A friend from the New York area warned me that the game might be sold out, but just as I thought, tickets were plentiful. In front of the main entrance there was a Pink Floyd tribute rock group doing very good rennditions of "Another Brick In the Wall," and many more.
The game started on a promising note for the Nationals, but they failed to score with the bases loaded in the top of the first, whereas the Mets did score one run, on a sac fly by Curtis Granderson. The momentum of the game kept swinging back and forth, as Danny Espinosa crushed a home run into the right field upper deck in the second inning, and then Granderson hit a two-run homer in the third inning. Jay Bruce did likewise in the fifth inning, and the Nats just couldn't take advantage of run-scoring opportunities. In particular, Wilson Ramos failed to get a hit three times with runners in scoring position: the first, sixth, and eighth innings. See baseball-reference.com.
On a side note, I noticed that Ryan Zimmerman had shaven his beard since the series in Philadelphia.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Tim Kurkjian and another ESPN announcer before the game; the Big Apple rises in center field after Jay Bruce hit a home run in the sixth inning; Danny Espinosa touches home plate after homering in the second inning; "Mr. Met" after the entertainment-interlude "car race"; former Met Daniel Murphy fouls out in the first inning; Curtis Granderson hits an RBI sacrifice fly in the first inning; Nats rookie Trea Turner grounds out in the fifth inning.
Yours truly in the upper deck at Citi Field. As you can see, I had a perfect view right down the first base line. (Sept. 4)
Sept. 5: Boston
It was at this point that I had to make a strategic decision regarding the weather conditions. While I was in Philadelphia, Hurricane Hermine was barrelling up the Atlantic coast, causing some flood damage in Virginia and other states. I feared a worst-case scenario in which I would have to return straight home from Philadelphia without seeing the game in New York, but fortunately the tropical storm turned away from Long Island. But Cape Cod and nearby areas were still under threat, so I had to take a risk in going to Boston. [As it turned out, it was very windy in Boston, but mostly sunny until late in the afternoon. Just as I was departing, the first rain drops fell, and by nightfall the winds had intensified to gale force levels. A little scary, but no visible damage.] My first task was to see Nickerson Field, which is what is left of old Braves Field, where the Boston University Terriers soccer team plays. (See goterriers.com; they no longer have a football team.) After wasting time with a couple wrong turns, I found it, parked and quickly ran over to take a few quick photos and then left. I knew that the Braves Field office building houses the campus security, and they might be looking for vehicles to ticket. I had glimpsed that building once before, when I was riding in a light rail car, but it was the first time I had seen the grandstand itself. Unlike the other former ballpark sites I visited, it was relatively easy to imagine a baseball game being played there 70-odd years ago.
The old Braves Field office building, where fans used to buy tickets. [On the right side you can see the far corner of Nickerson Field, which is what it has been called since the late 1950s.] (Sept. 5)
I lucked out as I arrived at Fenway Park (or "Pahk," as the locals pronounce it) at 2:00 on the dot, just as a tour group was entering the stadium. The young lady serving as our guide was very friendly and knowledgeable, talking about the "Curse of the Bambino," and other Red Sox lore. I was ecastic in getting a first-hand look at the insides of Fenway, and was snapping photos constantly. I'm glad they were patient with me! One thing I learned is that the Red Sox created a roof-top garden in which fresh vegetables are grown, for consumption by fans. Smart idea! We started in the lower deck behind home plate, walked over to the left field corner, then ascended to the seating section atop the "Green Monster" in left field, then went over to the press booth behind home plate, and finally walked along the rooftop seats on the first base side around the corner where that big "Budweiser" sign is, getting a closup look at the bullpens and "bleachers." After the tour we spent time in the Red Sox museum, and I bought a couple souvenir items before leaving Boston.
Yours truly in the Green Monster seats at Fenway Park. (Sept. 5)
The next day I was planning to take a tour of New Yankee Stadium, but between the heavy traffic in suburban Connecticut, and bleak overcast skies, and my utter exhaustion after three consecutive days of intensive urban driving, I decided to bypass New York entirely and just head straight home. So, I have now covered all geographic regions of the country, baseball-wise, except for the Pacific Coast and Florida. I'll probably do one of those next year. (But which???)
Nats' road trip: fair to partly cloudy
Well, four out of six ain't bad. As noted above, I was there to see the final game of the series in Philadelphia as the Nationals swept the Phillies. After a day of rest, the Nats won the first game against the Mets in New York by a score of 4-1, as Bryce Harper doubled twice and scored twice. A.J. Cole had a quality start for the Nats, going six full innings. That was quite an accomplishment going up against the Mets' ace Noah Syndergaard. But on Saturday, Tanner Roark took the loss in spite of a decent outing, as the Nats hitters just couldn't hit. Final score: 3-1. That broke the Nats' four-game winning streak. And, as noted above, the Mets beat the Nats in the rubber match game on Sunday night. As a result, the Mets climbed to 8.5 games behind the Nats in the NL East race. Realistically, about all they can expect at this point is to get one of the wild card spots.
I updated the Washington Nationals page, including the grand slam Anthony Rendon hit in the Nats' 9-7 win over the Braves last night. More on that series tomorrow.
UPDATE: The Nats just beat the Braves 5-4 in 11 innings, meaning their magic number is now down to 15. As is my custom in years when the Nats are in first place during September (2012, 2014, and this year), I show their magic number at the top right corner of each baseball blog post. The "magic number" equals the number of games lost by the Nats for the rest of the regular season, plus the number of games won by the second place team, that would be necessary for the Nats to lose sole possession of first place.
Nats' magic number: 14
September 9, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Turner's 2nd homer wins the game
Trea Turner has only been playing full-time for a couple months, but even so he is becoming a serious contender for the NL Rookie of the Year Award. (He was just named the NL Rookie of the Month for August; see the Washington Post.) Tonight in Washington, he homered in the [seventh] inning [...], and then in the bottom of the ninth inning, with two outs and two strikes, he crushed a line drive that sailed over the center field fence to win the game in dramatic fashion 5-4. It was Trea Turner's eighth homer of his young career (I had the pleasure to see his first game), and his first career Gatorade shower. It was also the first walk-off homer for the Nationals in exactly four months, when Clint Robinson helped the Nats win by the same score against the Detroit Tigers.
It was a close, tense game most of the way, and then the Nats pulled ahead in the sixth and seventh innings to take a 4-1 lead. It seemed like a nice cushion, but in the eighth inning, rookie pitcher Koda Glover gave up a three-run homer to Cameron Rupp, and the game was tied. That ruined Tanner Roark's chances for a win, so his record remains 14-8. In Atlanta, meanwhile, the Braves blew a 4-0 lead over the Mets, and ended up losing 6-4. So, the Nats' magic number only went down by one tonight.
The night before, rookie pitcher A.J. Cole did fairly well except for two pitches in the third inning that the Phillies knocked over the fence. Peter Bourjos hit a solo shot, and Ryan Howard, hit a three-run homer. Cole went five innings, and the Nats only scored once, on a sac fly in the eighth inning.
Danny Espinosa, who contributed two hits and a run tonight, will be taking a few days paternity leave, as his wife Sara is due any day now. Best wishes!
More photos, etc.
I added three new photos to the Braves Field page, including the one below and the photo of the old office building shown two days ago. Believe me, there are lots more photos to come for the other three stadiums I visited over the past week... (Speaking of photos, I changed the one in the Wednesday blog post, which now shows much more of Deliverance Evangelistic Church, rather than just the front entrance.)
The Braves Field historical plaque, located behind the office building. (Sept. 5)
I also updated the Stadium rankings page, which shows when I visited various stadiums, whether in a game, a tour, or just a casual visit. (I may eventually transfer that information to the My ballpark visits page, where it probably belongs.) The rankings themselves have not changed, for the time being at least.
Strasburg back on the DL
Hopes were high as Stephen Strasburg made his first start since returning from the disabled list on Wednesday. And then in the third inning, something went wrong, and he had to be replaced on the mound. The next day we learned that he has a "strained flexor mass," which apparently can be healed in prompt fashion with proper treatment, but it probably means that Strasburg will miss all or nearly all of the rest of the regular season. See MLB.com. Just think, two months ago it seemed that reaching or exceeding 20 wins for the year was easily within reach for Strasburg. What a shame.
Frankly, I was worried that Strasburg's return might be premature. He just seems so fragile. So in the mean time, there will be heavy pressure on A.J. Cole and Lucas Giolito to fill the void in the pitching rotation. For some reason, Joe Ross is still not fully recovered from the shoulder injury he suffered in early July. The expanded 40-man roster gives Dusty Baker plenty of flexibility as far as the bullpen, but he is in dire need of consistent, reliable starting pitchers right now. Max Scherzer pitches tomorrow, followed by Gio Gonzalez, and then presumably Giolito. These final three weeks of the regular season may be very anxious ones. Once they get to the post-season, where a three-man rotation is standard, everything will be OK.
"Battle at Bristol"!
Tomorrow night at the Bristol Raceway, the University of Tennessee Volunteers will meet the Virginia Tech Hokies in the "Battle at Bristol," the first college football game ever to be played in a NASCAR venue. Attendance is expected to set a new NCAA record, with up to 150,000 fans. See the Washington Post. I had considered going to that event, but am still recovering from the exhausting, intensive trip up and down the east coast over the past week.
NOTE: Text in the first paragraph was corrected a day later.
September 9, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Birding in the urban northeast
Birding was not a high priority during my recent quick trip through the northeastern states, but I did come across some interesting birds in various places. Crossing some bridges in the Wilmington, Delaware area, I saw quite a few Greater Black-backed Gulls, as well as Double-crested Cormorants perched on light posts or dock pilings. While I was walking around Philadelphia on Sunday morning (September 4), I saw Canada Geese, Mallards, and Double-crested Cormorants on rocks along the spillway of the Schuylkill River. The biggest surprise came when I was at the Rodin Museum in front of the famous sculpture "The Thinker," as I saw a family of Common Yellowthroats darting around the garden in search of insects. After a few minutes, I managed to get a good photo of one of them.
The next morning at a rest stop near Darien, Connecticut, I saw a few Herring Gulls and Ring-billed Gulls, and took a few photos. The first actual nature area I visited was the cranberry bog (owned by the Ocean Spray Company) in Foxborough, Massachusetts, just south of Gillette Stadium. There is a nice boardwalk trail across a lily pond, and signs that explain how cranberries are grown and harvested. But the only birds I positively identified were a Killdeer and a Blue Jay. Approaching Boston in the early afternoon, I saw more of the above-mentioned Gulls and Cormorants.
On Tuesday (September 6), I decided to take a detour around the New York metropolitan area, which gave me the opportunity to stop at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey. Jacqueline and I were hoping to visit there on our way to New York in 2004, but never could find it. This time, I had no problems with navigation, as there were plenty of signs. I talked to a worker in the visitor center, and based on what he told me, I had high hopes for seeing migratory neotropical birds. Here are the bird highlights:
- American Goldfinch (M & F)
- Northern Harrier (prob.)
- Eastern Phoebe
- Acadian Flycatcher
- White-breasted Nuthatch
- Black-throated Blue Warbler (F)
- American Redstart (M & F)
So, it was a fair but not spectacular outing, about two hours total time spent. That was my last major stop before returning to Virginia that evening.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Herring Gull*, Northern Harrier (prob.), Acadian Flycatcher (prob.), Common Yellowthroat (F)*, White-breasted Nuthatch, Double-crested Cormorant, and in center, Black-throated Blue Warbler (F).
* Enlarged images of those birds, along with a juvenile Herring Gull, can be see on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.
Nats' magic number: 11
September 11, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Nationals edge Phillies again
The Washington Nationals are being economical in the effort exerted to win games. This afternoon, they beat the Phillies by a score of 3-2 to take the series three games to one. A single by Trea Turner and a double by Daniel Murphy in the first inning gave them a 1-0 lead that lasted until the seventh inning, when the Phillies tied it. In the bottom of that inning, Anthony Rendon hit an RBI double and later scored on a wild pitch. That extra run proved invaluable, as the Phillies scored again in the eighth inning. Gio Gonzalez got his 11th win of the year, going seven full innings. With Stephen Strasburg out for at least a couple weeks, Gio will play a crucial role in the pitching rotation.
Last night, Max Scherzer pitched a very good game, but he took too many pitches to get out of innings, so he was replaced during the seventh inning. With two runners on base in the eighth inning, Bryce Harper swung hard and hit his 24th home run of the year. It landed in the Nats' bullpen, only a few feet from the foul pole. That was the only scoring play in the game. Final score: 3-0.
With only 19 games left to play in the regular season, the Nationals enjoy a commanding 9-game lead over the New York Mets, with a magic number of just 11. In the Mets-Nats series that begins tomorrow, the Mets will have to win all three games to have any chance at all at capturing the division title.
Chaos in the AL East
Things are much more interesting in the in American League East Division, where the Boston Red Sox surged ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays, taking two of three games in the weekend series in Toronto. Yesterday the Blue Jays won, but today the Red Sox won again, as David Ortiz hit a three-run homer which provided the decisive edge in the Red Sox' 11-8 win. It was his 535th career homer, putting him in front of Jimmy Foxx and just one behind Mickey Mantle...
Meanwhile, the Baltimore Orioles are holding their own, tied for second place with the Blue Jays, two games behind the Red Sox. But the big surprise is the New York Yankees, who have played spectacularly ever since they parted ways with Alex Rodriguez and other ancient stars last month. They are now just four games behind the Red Sox in the divisional race, and cannot be discounted as a possible divisional winner. Who would have believed that in July?
Last year after I saw a game at Rogers Centre, the Toronto Blue Jays began a hot streak and ended up winning a divisional title for the first time in over 20 years. This year, after I took a tour of Fenway Park, the Boston Red Sox began a hot streak, moving into sole possession of first place. Coincidence? YOU be the judge!
7/9 of perfection
Yesterday in Miami, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill had a perfect game going through seven complete innings, and then was replaced by a reliever. WTF??? Manager Dave Roberts explained that finger blisters might have taken Hill out of service, and the Dodgers can't afford to lose him as the postseason race heats up. See MLB.com. That situation should be familiar to those who follow the Washington Nationals.
Citizens Bank Park pix
I have added thirteen (13) new photos that I took last week to the Citizens Bank Park page, including this (rather cloudy) exterior shot:
Citizens Bank Park exterior southwest entrance, on the third base side. The statue is of Mike Schmidt, who played his entire career with the Phillies, 1972-1989. He had a lifetime total of 548 home runs.
September 12, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Fall bird migration is underway!
Allen Larner led an Augusta Bird Club field trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway on Saturday, but there was surprisingly little bird activity until the very last planned stop: the Humpback Rocks picnic grounds. There we saw several Scarlet Tanagers, various warblers, a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and others shown in the montage below. Most of the birds were high up in the trees, and we all started to suffer from "warbler neck" straining to see them.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Cape May Warbler, Broad-winged Hawk, Scarlet Tanager, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, White-breasted Nuthatch, (prob.) Cape May Warbler, (prob.) Black-throated Green Warbler, (prob.) Bay-breasted Warbler, and in center (prob.) Cape May Warbler.
After the field trip, we stopped at the Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch open house, where several dozen people were gathered. It was there that I photographed the Broad-winged Hawk seen above, as well as the female Ruby-throated Hummingbird and the (probable) Cape May Warbler in the center. I thought it might be a Magnolia Warbler, given the solid gray shading of the head, but the dark line through the eyes indicates otherwise.
Scenes from the 2016 Hawk Watch open house. Additional photos of the event can be seen at augustabirdclub.org.
Nats' magic number: 9
September 13, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Nationals wallop the Mets
The Washington Nationals came out slugging against the New York Mets last night, taking advantage of walks with a series of clutch RBIs. Recently-acquired Mat Latos was the Nats' emergency starter, and he did just fine, giving up just one run over 4 1/3 innings. (He evidently suffered a cramp of some sort.) Not only that, he hit a home run to start the bottom of the third inning, the fourth of his career. That sparked a rally that culminated in a three-run homer by Anthony Rendon. The Nats scored twice more after that, and thanks to a solid bullpen, they won it, 8-1. Daniel Murphy again tormented his former team mates, getting three hits in five at-bats. Rookie Reynaldo Lopez, in his first relief appearance, pitched the final three innings and got the win. The Nats' lead in the NL East thereby climbed to 10 games, and their magic number thereby fell to just 9. The next two games could signify the effective end of the 2016 race in their division...
Shibe Park "photos" & tweak
I added three photos I took two Sundays ago to the Shibe Park page, each showing the historical sign marking that long-gone ballpark's former location. The latter two photos primarily show Deliverance Evangelistic Church, which now occupies the site. (With a seating capacity of about 5,000, it may merit a diagram of its own some day! ) I also tweaked the directional compasses on each of the diagrams, and did likewise for the Baker Bowl diagrams. Nothing else changed in any of those diagrams, so these are not counted as actual revisions. (I revised the diagrams on both those pages earlier this year, on Jan. 31 and Feb. 20, respectively.) As I first noted on June 9, 2012, the main street grid in Philadelphia is tilted about ten degrees east of due north.
In addition, I updated the Stadium proximity page, adding a new thumbnail diagram showing the relative positions of Shibe Park and Baker Bowl, as you can see above. Based on city maps and aerial photos I have seen, I estimate that they were about 2,300 feet apart.
Are you ready for some football?
Well, apparently the Washington Redskins aren't: They lost to the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers on the first of two Monday Night Football games last night, 38-16. Good thing I was watching the Mets-Nationals game! The newly-relocated Los Angeles Rams fared even worse in the second MNF game, losing to the host San Francisco 49ers, 28-0. Anyway, I have added three photos to the Football stadium photos page: Lincoln Financial Field (home of the Philadelphia Eagles since 2003), Gillette Stadium (home of the New England Patriots since 2002), and Franklin Field (home of the University of Pennsylvania Quakers since 1895). That the very same year that Baker Bowl was built! Franklin Field was rebuilt with a second deck in 1922, and has been upgraded over the years, much like Fenway Park or Wrigley Field. Too bad more universities don't follow that example. (See pennathletics.com.)
Franklin Field, as seen from a commuter train; photo retouched to remove window glare. (Sept. 2, 2016)
September 14, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Field trip to McCormick's Farm
This morning I joined an Augusta Bird Club field trip led by Jo King to McCormick's Farm (located on the southern edge of Augusta County), and it was very successful. Not long after we started, Diane Holsinger recognized two Philadelphia Vireos that were mixed in with a Warbling Vireo or two, and I struggled to get in position for a photo, in vain. After an hour or so, after we had returned to the parking lot, I finally got a nice photo of one. Along the way, we had nice views of birds around the big pond, a brief glimpse of a Common Yellowthroat, a Red-tailed Hawk, some Eastern Wood Pewees, and what we thought was a Bay-breasted Warbler, but turned out to be a Chestnut-sided Warbler. We also saw a Kingfisher, a Great Blue Heron, and a young Green Heron, probably one of the ones I saw there in late August. I was happy to get some good photos of a Solitary Sandpiper, but was hoping to see more warblers. Call me greedy. After the others left, I stayed around for another 15-20 minutes in hopes of getting a better photo of a Philadelphia Vireo, but no such luck. I did, however, see a young Bald Eagle circling over a field to the north. Then I drove to nearby Willow Lake, and saw another Green Heron and another Great Blue Heron.
Philadelphia Vireos are similar to Warbling Vireos, but are slightly smaller, with distinctive yellow throat and breast. I'm pretty sure the last time I saw one was three years ago, on Bell's Lane. And by amazing coincidence, I spent four days in Philadelphia two weeks ago! (NOTE: As with many bird species, this one's geographic-based name has nothing to do with its actual range; Baltimore Orioles, Kentucky Warblers, etc. are most prevalent outside the respective city or state.)
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Eastern Wood Pewee, Philadelphia Vireo, Red-tailed Hawk, Green Heron (juv.), Solitary Sandpiper, Bald Eagle (juv.), and in center Chestnut-sided Warbler. Roll your mouse over the image to see the Philadelphia Vireo enlarged.
Enlarged images of some birds in that montage, and a few others, can be see on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.
Nats' magic number: 7
September 16, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Nats edge the Mets, and vice versa
After the series in Washington this week, the New York Mets are no longer a contender for the NL East Division, and are focused entirely on the wild card race against the Cardinals and the Giants. On Tuesday night the Nats scored first in the bottom of the second, and the score was 1-1 until the fifth inning, as rookie pitcher A.J. Cole had another solid outing. But the Mets took a 3-1 lead in the fifth inning, and he was done. It looked bleak in the bottom of the ninth, but the Nats staged a heroic rally to tie the game, 3-3. With runners on first and second with nobody out, and Ryan Zimmerman up to bat, it seemed all but certain. But alas, Ryan struck out and Danny Espinosa grounded into a double play, sending the game into extras. Mark Melancon pitched for the Nats in the top of the tenth, whereupon T. Rivera hit a solo homer, and that decided the ball game. Final score: Mets 4, Nats 3.
On Wednesday afternoon, Tanner Roark took the mound, and quickly got himself into hot water: bases loaded and only one out! But he kept his cool, and escaped any damage by getting a strikeout and a [long foul] out. After that, the Mets failed to get any hits off him for the next few innings, as the score remained tie, 0-0. Then in the bottom of the seventh, Wilson Ramos crushed a solo home run way up into the Red Porch seats at Nationals Park, and that ended up being the only score of the game. Mark Melancon got three consecutive outs in the ninth inning to get the save.
That put the Nationals back to a ten-game lead over the Mets in the NL East, reducing their magic number to just seven. The Nats will probably clinch the division title in Miami next week, on the road just like two years ago. (That was in Atlanta.) The weekend series that is about to get underway in Atlanta will be the Nationals' final visit to Turner Field, which will be replaced next year by SunTrust Park. (Construction is nearing completion.)
Stunning walk-off homer in Boston
In the [first] game of the Yankees-Red Sox series in Boston last night, David Ortiz hit a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth, the 537th homer of his career, thereby going ahead of Mickey Mantle. But the Yankees still had a 5-2 lead going into the bottom of the ninth inning, and seemed assured of closing the gap in the ultra-tight four-team race for the American League East. But then one of those miraculous comebacks transpired, as the Yanks' vaunted closing pitcher Dellin Betances gave up two walks, and then with two outs, David Ortiz and Mookie Betts hit consecutive RBI singles to make a 5-4 game. It was almost like October 2004 all over again. And then Hanley Ramirez came to the plate, and belted a home run into the center field stands, to win it 7-5, sending Bostonians into ecastic jubilation. For all the details, see MLB.com.
Closeup of the Green Monster at Fenway Park, with the "Thank You Big Papi" sign on the other side of Lansdowne Street. (September 5, 2016)
Stunning walk-off homer in Chicago
This afternoon in Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs came back from a 4-2 deficit with a two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning. Losing two in a row to the Brewers would have been an embarrassment. In the tenth inning, the Cubs' Miguel Montero hit a dramatic walk-off home run to give the Cubbies their 94th win of the year. They had already clinched the NL Central Division title the night before after the St. Louis Cardinals lost.
Braves Field tweak
Much like with Baker Bowl and Shibe Park a few days ago, I realized that the directional compasses on the Braves Field diagrams were off by about ten degrees, because the street grid in that part of Boston is slightly "tilted," so I tweaked those diagrams ever-so-slightly. The only other thing that changed were the office building, which now shows the roof creases, and the football gridirons, which are rendered with solid lines rather than dotted lines. I also added another photo I took earlier this month, a closeup of Nickerson Field.
New stadium in K.C.?
That's what my brother Dan is hoping for: a retro-design ballpark in historic downtown Kansas City, which has been enjoying a renaissance over the past decade or so. Read his letter to the editor in the Kansas City Star. You heard it here first!
September 18, 2016 [LINK / comment]
East by Northeast: Big city scenic travelogue
Being frugal-minded, I try to "kill two birds with one stone" (figuratively speaking!) whenever the opportunity arises. So, as the American Political Science Association annual meeting approached last month, I decided to drive up to Philadelphia rather than take AMTRAK, as I have done in the past when those meetings are held in the East. That gave me more flexibility to go sight-seeing and see baseball games, something I had only done once so far this summer. After Philadelphia, I paid quick visits to New York City, then Providence, and finally Boston. It was an ambitious itinerary that ended up being affected by the weather: Hurricane Hermine. The following travelogue includes some of the best photos (and montages of photos) that I took on my trip; the complete set of photos can be seen on the Chronological (2016) photo gallery page.
TOP LEFT: Boston; TOP RIGHT: Providence; MIDDLE: Manhattan; BOTTOM: Philadelphia
Aug. 31: Baltimore, Philadelphia
The first part of my trip followed the familiar I-81 / I-66 route toward Washington, D.C., which I bypassed on the I-495 Beltway through Montgomery County, Maryland. Soon I was on the I-95 "main drag," and took the Harbor Tunnel bypass through Baltimore, only catching brief glimpses of that city's skyline. Then I passed Ripken Field, where the Aberdeen Ironbirds -- one of the minor league affiliates of the Baltimore Orioles -- play. Then I crossed the very wide Susquehanna River, and entered Delaware for the first time since 2008. (Eight years!?) It took less than an hour to get through Wilmington and cross into Pennsylvania, and before I knew it, I was passing the airport in the southern fringes of Philadelphia. I arrived at Citizens Bank Park at about 6:00, in plenty of time to see the Washington Nationals play the Phillies. (See my September 7 blog post about my baseball adventures.) After the game, I checked into the Days Inn motel in Springfield, located about five miles southwest of the Philadelphia city limits, and about nine miles from downtown. It was comfortable and well-furnished, what you would expect for a medium-priced motel. (A downtown hotel would have been much too expensive for my budget.)
For the next three days, my attention was focused exclusively on the American Political Science Association annual meeting, held at the Philadelphia Convention Center downtown. I had carefully chosen the motel based on its proximity to the commuter rail station. I was under the impression that suburban stations had pay parking available, but at the Morton station which I used, they told me there was a long waiting list to get parking. Fortunately, one of the passengers in the station waiting room told me what the local folks do: use a parking lot at a public park about three blocks away, for free. S-weet! The Southeast Pennsylvania Public Transit Authority (SEPTA) operates commuter trains, subway lines, trolleys, and buses, and works fairly efficiently from what I observed.
The SEPTA Morton station, near Springfield, Pennsylvania.
Sept. 4: Philadelphia, New York
Early on Sunday morning, I packed up and left the Days Inn and drove toward downtown Philadelphia. My original plan was to attend one of the final APSA panels that morning, but I encountered a traffic detour that diverted me onto some back streets. Well, that was interesting. [I saw a few University of Pennsylvania buildings, including some that are part of the hospital system.]Eventually I found a parking place right next to my first target: the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where the famous scene in the movie Rocky was filmed. [The building was very impressive, as was the view of the Schuylkill River, which passes by the museum.]
The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Joan of Ark equestrian statue.
There was a big musical festival going on called "Made in America," sponsored by Budweiser beer, so the entire east side of that museum, and several acres of land on the east side, were closed off. (That's why I couldn't cross the bridge [across the Schuylkill River] into downtown, messing up my plans.) I could have gotten in by paying the admission price, but just didn't have enough time to make it worthwhile. So, I ended up walking a total of at least two miles as I searched for a way to get back to my car without retracing my steps. In the end, the extra effort paid off, as I saw several features I might have missed otherwise, including the Rodin Museum, where the French sculptor's classic "The Thinker" is on display. (It is one of 20-some replicas around the world; see rodinmuseum.org.) Right in front of that sculpture, I saw a family of Common Yellowthroats, mentioned in my September 9 blog post about birds.
After completing my "marathon" circuit walk around the museum and festival area, I drove to the east side of downtown Philadelphia, near the Delaware River. Parking was scarce, even on a Sunday morning, but I found a place that charged $4 per half hour. I quickly walked over to Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed, and then to the building where the Liberty Bell is housed. (Unfortunately, I didn't have time for the nearby Independence Visitor Center or the National Constitution Center.) I was taken aback by two things: several members of the Falun Gong (a.k.a. Falun Dafa) religious sect who were protesting persecution in China, and a display about the history of U.S. slavery outside the entrance to the Liberty Bell building. I suppose it is meant to call attention to the fact that not all Americans shared in the new-found freedoms of 1776, but to me it seemed out of place -- an unnecessary sour note. I timed my hasty visit almost perfectly, but couldn't quite get out of the parking garage before the 30 minutes had elapsed, and had to pay $8 total.
Independence Hall, in the historic district on the east side of Philadelphia.
Next I drove toward the north side of Philadelphia, in search of the sites of two former baseball stadiums, and quite unexpectedly ended up attending a church service, at the invitation of one of the local people. (He wondered what I was doing taking pictures of his church, which stands on land formerly occupied by Shibe Park / Connie Mack Stadium.) Deliverance Evangelistic Church was quite an experience, and I was happy to be so warmly welcomed. There were at least a thousand people in the congregation, with about 30 people in the choir, along with an organ, electric bass guitar, and drums. Quite a joyful noise! But with no set liturgical sequence, I couldn't tell whether the service was about to end or not, so after about two hours I discreetly got up and left. I noticed that other people were doing likewise, which made me feel better. I then drove toward the east through some very blighted neighborhoods, stopped briefly at a park along the Delaware River, and then got on I-95 northbound.
After a half hour or so I crossed the Delaware River into New Jersey, not far from where General George Washington did the same thing prior to the Battle of Trenton on December 25, 1776. I decided not to take the New Jersey Turnpike, but stayed on Route 1 for the next 30 or so miles, and it worked out pretty well. Crossing the toll bridge into Staten Island was a bit of a shock, as it cost me $15, but fortunately the Verrazano Narrows Bridge from Staten Island into Brooklyn was free. This was the first time I had visited New York without going into Manhattan. (My previous visits were in 1987, 1989, 1994, 2004, and 2008.) [I had my first glimpse of the new Freedom Tower, which was built on the site of the former World Trade Center Twin Towers.] For a list of all the skyscrapers in New York, including the newest ones, see amny.com, an affiliate of Newsday. It was quite a struggle driving through the extremely congested streets of Brooklyn as I searched for the site of Ebbets Field, and likewise as I drove from there into Queens, trying to find Citi Field, where the Nationals were playing the New York Mets. I had to pay a toll one more time while in New York, crossing the Whitestone Bridge into The Bronx [from Queens after the game was over].
Arthur Ashe Stadium, at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center, where the U.S. Open tennis tournament was just getting underway. It is located about a quarter mile from Citi Field, from whence this photo was taken. Note the brand-new retractable roof which was built this year.
Sept. 5: Providence, Boston
Originally, I had planned to see the New York Yankees play a home game on Monday afternoon, but Hurricane Hermine was approaching, and I feared that I would miss a rare opportunity to get daylight photos in Fenway Park. So I changed plans and headed directly toward Boston. I stopped briefly at the historic port town of Mystic, Connecticut, made famous by the movie Mystic Pizza. Then I entered Rhode Island, and my first impression of the smallest state was not a good one, I'm sorry to say. The rest stop building was closed for repairs, and the porta-potties outside were disgusting beyond description. Budget cuts? But my first-ever visit to the city of Providence was more pleasant, and I stopped to take photos of the State House and other buildings of note.
The Rhode Island state house (capitol building), on the north side of downtown Providence.
[After Providence,] I passed through the suburb of Pawtucket, home of the Pawtucket Red Sox, a minor league affiliate of the Boston MLB franchise. Then I entered Massachusetts and took the first exit to Foxboro, where Gillette Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots, is located. By fortunate coincidence, right next door I came across a combined wetland nature area / cranberry bog which is owned by the Ocean Spray company.
I finally arrived in Boston just after 1:00, and despite my best efforts to plan an efficient route, I managed to take at least two wrong turns that wasted at least a half an hour. I found Boston University's Nickerson Field, which is what is left of the former Braves Field, but being pressed for time, I stayed only about ten minutes there. I arrived at Fenway Park just in time for the 2:00 guided tour, joining a group of about 25 visitors. I was enthralled to enter these ancient hallowed grounds, and snapped photos furiously throughout the hour-long tour. [Afterwards,] I wanted to drive past Boston Common and get some photos of downtown landmarks such as Old North Church, but the traffic was too heavy for me to bother with. [Also, the skies were becoming overcast.]
Boston Symphony Hall.
Just as I was leaving Boston, the winds picked up and rain started to fall. I timed my visit perfectly! That evening in Connecticut, the remnants of the tropical storm Hermine really blasted the area, but the rain wasn't as heavy as I had feared. I spent the night in a suburb east of New Haven, and my usually-keen sense of direction failed me, as I took a couple wrong turns on dark country roads.
Sept. 6: New Jersey
After deciding to go to Boston rather than see a Yankees game on Monday, my backup plan was to take a tour of Yankee Stadium. I was utterly exhausted from three straight days of intensive driving through heavily-congested big cities, however, so I decided not to. Instead, I took the I-287 bypass around the north side of New City, crossing the Hudson River on the Tappan Zee Bridge, where I saw a big replacement bridge being constructed. [The very hilly terrain of that part of New Jersey surprised me, but it flattened out as I drove south.] I then stopped at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey. Jacqueline and I were looking for it when we visited New York City in 2004, but never could find it. This time, I followed road signs to the destination, with very little trouble.
Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.
After leaving the Great Swamp, I drove through a couple quaint suburban towns in New Jersey (making me think of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils' song "Arroyo"), and then headed straight west on I-78, passing the old steel towns of Bethlehem and Allentown, Pennsylvania. (I kept thinking of Billy Joel's song "Allentown.") I had thought about stopping, but didn't see any obvious scenic spot, so I kept going west until I reached the state capital, Harrisburg. From there it was only about an hour back to Maryland, then briefly crossing the eastern "arm" of West Virginia, and finally passing Winchester, Virginia into the Shenandoah Valley. I got home as the sun was about to set, and slept very soundly that night. It was quite a trip, and I was quite tired! As mentioned in the first paragraph, those who are curious can view many more photos, including some large panoramic views of city skylines and sports stadiums, on the Chronological (2016) photo gallery page.
NOTE: I made a few corrections and additions (marked with [brackets]) subsequent to the original post.
Nats' magic number: 5
September 19, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Nats hit a speed bump in Atlanta
Well, you can't win 'em all, even if you do have the second-best record in the National League right now. The Washington Nationals' vulnerabilities were on full display in Atlanta this weekend, as they lost the final two games they will ever play in Turner Field. The Atlanta Braves showed commendable spunk, meanwhile. On Saturday afternoon, Gio Gonzalez slipped back into his funk of mediocrity, giving up six earned runs in just 4 1/3 innings on the mound. Remarkably, Nats rookie Trea Turner hit two more one home runs on Saturday, after hitting one on Friday, for a total of 11 this year! Just think if he had played the whole season... It was a shame that his team mates couldn't follow his offensive lead. Final score: Braves 7, Nats 3.
Just that morning, the Washington Post had an upbeat article by Barry Svrluga about how much Gio Gonzalez has (or had) improved lately, and how much the Nationals will depend on him in the postseason now that Stephen Strasburg is injured again. "Never mind!" This puts manager Dusty Baker in an awkward spot: He has two first-rate starting pitchers (Max Scherzer and Tanner Roark) and a bunch of question marks. It will be hard to prevail over the Dodgers (their likely NLDS opponent) unless one of the younger guys steps up to the ... pitching rubber.
In the Sunday game, Joe Ross took the mound for the first time in over two months, and did OK, giving up one run over three innings. Reynaldo Lopez took his place, and the Braves scored two more runs when Dansbury Swanson hit a double over Bryce Harper's head in right field. That was a killer. MASN commentator Ray Knight questioned why Bryce was playing so close in during that series, as the same thing happened more than once. In the sixth inning, Trea Turner hit a two-out triple, and then Jayson Werth hit an RBI double as the drizzle turned to heavy rain. The grounds crews quickly rolled out the tarp, and after a delay of over an hour, Bryce Harper hit a bloop RBI single, making it a 3-2 game. Then Clint Robinson was hit by a pitch, giving Wilson Ramos an excellent opportunity to tie the game or better. But he struck out. In the bottom of the sixth, Mark Rzepczynski gave up three hits and walk as the Braves tacked on three more runs. With a four-run lead, there wasn't much point to waiting for the weather to improve after the second rain delay in the bottom of the seventh, and the umpires declared the game over. Braves 6, Nats 2.
This evening in Miami, the Nats' troubles continued. The young A.J. Cole once again had an acceptable outing as the Nats' starting pitcher, giving up two runs over four innings. Giancarlo Stanton was back in the lineup after a month on the DL with a groin pull. He made his presence felt, bashing a 448-foot home run into the bar area in the upper-level plaza beyond left field. It was simply amazing. The Nats took the lead in the fifth inning on a three-run homer by Danny Espinosa, but the Marlins came back with two more runs in the seventh, and won it, 4-3.
I was surprised to learn that Trea Turner is (almost) the same age as Bryce Harper: 23. Actually, Bryce was born eight months earlier: October 16, 1992.
Mets sweep the Twins
The Twins came close to beating the New York Mets in Citi Field on Saturday night, but the Mets kept evening the score. They got a run in the bottom of the eighth to make it 1-1, and it went into extra innings. A solo home run by Curtis Granderson in the bottom of the tenth tied the game 2-2, and another one in the twelfth inning won it in walk-off fashion. Two homers in one game!? Who does he think he is, Trea Turner?? . The Twins played a good, tough game again on Sunday, but the Mets did what they needed to do, winning 3-2 again, their third consecutive win.
But in Citi Field again tonight, the Mets fell flat against the suddenly-upbeat Atlanta Braves, who won their third game in a row, 7-3. That reduced the Nationals' magic number to just five.
Citi Field, after the Nats-Mets game on September 4 -- one of many photos soon to be added to that page. Click on the image to see it full size.
Red Sox sweep the Yankees
After yet another improbable come-from-behind win by the Red Sox on Sunday night, the New York Yankees are hanging on for their dear lives in the AL wild card race. You could almost see it coming as Hanley Ramirez hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning, making it a 4-3 game all of a sudden. The Red Sox scored one each in the next two innings, and completed the four-game sweep of the Yankees by a score of 5-4.
September 20, 2016 [LINK / comment]
More fall migrants arrive
Whenever I hear about a sighting of a bird that I have never seen before, I tend to react in a Pavlovian fashion. So today I drove up to Rockingham County in search of some American Golden Plovers that were reported at the Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction, located a few miles northwest of Bridgewater. I arrived there just as the auction was about to get underway, and was obliged to explain my presence, since I obviously wasn't in the market for pumpkins or other fresh vegetables. The local people were very friendly to me, and showed keen interest in the bird I was looking for. I did spot some Killdeers and Eurasian Collared Doves, as well as Mallards and Canada Geese in a nearby pond, but not the target species. So after an hour or so, I departed. About a half mile from the auction site, I spotted a Red-tailed Hawk perched in a tree.
My next destination was Hillandale Park, on the west side of Harrisonburg, where many migrating warblers have been reported lately. (My first visit there was back in May.) After walking along the trails for a while, I saw White-eyed Vireo in some thickets only about 25 feet away. The only warblers I saw, however, were American Redstarts and Ovenbirds. As I returned to the parking area, two birders arrived, and I quickly recognized them as Marshall Faintich and Walt Childs. They knew the better locations for birds, and it didn't take long before we were seeing lots of warblers and other neotropical migrants. I saw (or at least glimpsed) a total of eight (8) warbler species. Here are the [more notable] species I saw at Hillandale Park today, in rough chronological order:
- White-eyed Vireo
- Swainson's Thrush (prob.)
- Blackpoll Warbler
- Black & White Warbler
- Downy Woodpecker
- Magnolia Warbler
- Chestnut-sided Warbler
- Red-bellied Woodpecker
- White-breasted Nuthatch
- American Redstart (female)
- Cape May Warbler
- Blue-headed Vireo
- Northern Parula
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Northern Parula, White-eyed Vireo, Blue-headed Vireo, Red-tailed Hawk, Least Sandpiper, American Redstart (female), Cape May Warbler, and in center, Ovenbird. Roll your mouse over the image to see the Northern Parula enlarged.
Enlarged images of some birds in that montage, and a few others, can be see on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.
There were many Robins in the woods at Hillandale Park, including some juveniles, and I saw a Thrush whose species I could not identify. [I glimpsed the brown streaks on the pale breast.] Based on the eye ring and overall dull brown color, I figure it is probably a Swainson's Thrush:
Possible Swainson's Thrush, at Hillandale Park.
After the three of us had had enough, we said goodbye, and I returned to the auction site, hoping for better luck the next time. Not! I did enjoy a tasty cheeseburger with locally-grown lettuce and tomatoes, however.
On the way back, I stopped at Leonard's Pond, but all that was there was a couple Killdeers and a dozen or so Canada Geese. Then I decided to check out Target Pond in Stuarts Draft, where a Sanderling was seen yesterday. Once again, I struck out as far as the target species, but I did get some nice views of three Least Sandpipers.
Nats' magic number: 2
September 23, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Nationals get back to winning
After a four-game losing streak in which they came up short against also-ran teams (the Braves and the Marlins), the Nationals bounced back on Wednesday night, thanks primarily to the pitching of Max Scherzer and clutch hitting of Ryan Zimmerman, who hit a three-run homer. An inning later, Trea Turner hit a solo home run that just stayed fair down the left field line -- his 12th homer of the year! Max was replaced during the seventh inning after giving up two home runs, but Blake Treinen got the third out, and there was no further damage after that. Final score: Nats 8, Marlins 3.
The night before was an epic pitchers' duel in which the Nats' Tanner Roark did superbly but not superbly enough. One swing by Giancarlo Stanton was all it took to give the Marlins the winning margin, as he blasted a solo homer way up into the upper deck in right-center field. Miami's starting pitcher Jose Fernandez was just too much for the Nationals hitters that night.
I previously anticipated that the Nats would clinch the division title while in Miami. Not quite, but they're getting close! The magic number is now just 2. With ten games left to play in the 2016 regular season, the Nationals (currently 89-63) should aim to finish 95-67 or better, to ensure that they stay ahead of the L.A. Dodgers for the second seed (NLDS home field advantage) in the postseason series. If the current leads hold up in tonight's Nats-Pirates and Phillies-Mets games, what F.P. Santangelo said about what "PNC" stands for in PNC Park may come about: the Place where the Nationals Clinch!
Mets get swept, rebound
Meanwhile, the Atlanta Braves showed surprising spunk by sweeping the Mets in a three-game series on the road. Thanks to the Braves, playing spoiler, the Nats' magic number shrank by three. But the Mets aren't giving up just yet. Last night at Citi Field, the Philadelphia Phillies were on the verge of beating the Mets twice, and both times the Mets foiled them. With the score 6-4 in the bottom of the ninth, Jose Reyes hit a two-run homer to send it into extra innings, and with the score 8-6 in the bottom of the 11th inning, Asdrubal Cabrera (a former Nat) hit a three-run walk-off homer to end it. Like Casey Stengel said, those Mets are amazin'! Otherwise, the Nats' magic number would have been 1. Oh well, it's just a matter of time.
Red Sox sweep Orioles
The Boston Red Sox inflicted pain and suffering upon the Baltimore Orioles, sweeping them in four game series just like they did to the Yankees over the weekend. The difference was that this time the series was away from home. That's eight in a row for Boston, whose magic number is now just five.
Rams return to Los Angeles
The newly-minted L.A. Rams won their first game in their "new" (yet also old) home on Sunday afternoon, giving the 91,046 fans in attendance much to cheer about. Oddly, the Rams failed to score a touchdown, as they beat the Seattle Seahawks, 9-3. Mike Zurawski sent a link to the game recap at espn.com, and recommended an article at forbes.com in which it is estimated that the Rams franchise may soon be worth 4 billion (with a b) dollars.
(L.A.)* Memorial Coliseum update
In recognition of the return of professional football to Los Angeles, I made some revisions to the Memorial Coliseum diagrams. It's an awkward case, because there needs to be a horizontal rendering optimized for football as well as a "diagonal" rendering optimized for baseball, with center field at the top. I paid particular attention to the placement of the entry portals as benchmarks, and realized that the left foul pole was not where it should be. Eventually, I figured out that the baseball diamond was angled almost two degrees off of where it should have been.
* I have heard from sports fans in the Los Angeles area who say that everyone there calls it "Los Angeles Coliseum," but in all the books and maps I have the primary designation is "Memorial Coliseum."
Coincidentally, Turner Classic Movies showed a movie featuring L.A. Memorial Coliseum late last week, The Split, starring NFL Hall-of-Famer Jim Brown, Donald Sutherland, Ernest Borgnine, and Steve McQueen. It was shown during the wee hours of the morning, so I recorded it and then played back the stadium scenes frame by frame to get all the details in my diagram just right. It was from that movie that I realized that the Coliseum was reconfigured during the 1960s, with the gridiron being shifted toward the west. At about the same time, the old bench seats were replaced by individual seats in most of the stadium.
The Rams' odyssey from city to city, and stadium to stadium, must be one for the record books:
- Cleveland: Cleveland Stadium & League Park, 1937-1945
- Los Angeles: Memorial Coliseum, 1946-1979
- Anaheim: Anaheim Stadium, 1980-1994
- St. Louis: Busch Stadium II, 1995
- St. Louis: Trans World Dome / Edward Jones Dome, 1995-2015
- Los Angeles: Memorial Coliseum, 2016-2018?
As a consolation to St. Louis Rams fans, here is a photographic tribute to the home of their team for over 20 years:
Edward Jones Dome, August 2015. Click on it to see it full size, or else go to the Football stadiums photo gallery page.
September 24, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Field trip to Augusta Springs
This morning I led a field trip for the Augusta Bird Club to Augusta Springs, joined by four other members: Ed and Nancy Lawler, as well as Larry and Jane Litke. (Larry and Jane are new members who had never been to Augusta Springs before.) The weather was beautiful, remaining cool or mild until 11:00 or so.
In contrast to just about every other visit I have made to that location, this time we began in a counterclockwise fashion, not reaching the boardwalk portion of the loop trail until after we had hiked along the upland loop extended trail. We were influenced by all the bird activity we noticed in that direction (right), but it turned out to be almost exclusively Robins, with a few Blue Jays. We did get nice looks at a Magnolia Warbler, a Scarlet Tanager, and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak -- the latter two being females. As we continued into the upland trail, I was surprised that we didn't see or hear any Ovenbirds or Worm-eating Warblers, which abound in that area during breeding season. Other notable species that we saw included: Pileated Woodpeckers, Blackpoll Warbler, and Swainson's Thrushes. I thought I saw a Wood Thrush in the bushes, but never could get a good look at it. It is listed the the first eBird report below as "Catharus sp." ("+1 other taxa"). Finally, we heard but did not see Blue-headed Vireos and a Red-breasted Nuthatch, which must have been an early migrant. That species is only present in the lowlands of Augusta County during the winter months.
We returned to the parking lot just before noon, and then Ed, Nancy, and I took an excursion through the Swoope area on the way back to Staunton. At Smith's pond, Nancy spotted a Pied-billed Grebe, another early migrant returning from the north. While at the Boy Scout Camp a couple miles to the south, I saw a sparrow fly past us, more than likely a Song Sparrow, but never could get a good look at it. It is listed below as "sparrow sp." ("+1 other taxa") It was strange not to see any definite sparrows during the entire day. There was a major Boy Scout event taking place, with close to a hundred cars parked in a nearby field. All those Boy Scouts must have scared away the birds from the lake! Along Route 703, we saw several birds that turned out to be Blue Grosbeaks, which are known to breed in that general area, but are uncommon. At the same location, we saw a family of Cedar Waxwings. Ed saw a Purple Finch there, but I only had a glimpse of it.
Of the 23 species seen in the second part of our field trip, ten were not seen during the first part, which makes a total of 43 species combined. Ed kept track of the species on our checklist, upon which the eBirds reports shown below are based. We missed seeing a few "target" birds, but it was a very pleasant, enjoyable, and productive day of birding.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Swainson's Thrush, Blackpoll Warbler, Red-tailed Hawk, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Blue Grosbeak (female), and Pied-billed Grebe. Roll your mouse over the image to see the Swainson's Thrush enlarged. Several other photos can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.
eBird report #1
Augusta Springs Wetlands Trail, Augusta, Virginia, US
Sep 24, 2016 8:45 AM - 11:45 AM
Comments: Augusta Bird Club field trip
33 species (+1 other taxa)
- Turkey Vulture -- 1
- Yellow-billed Cuckoo -- 1
- Red-bellied Woodpecker -- 1
- Downy Woodpecker -- 2
- Hairy Woodpecker -- 1
- Northern Flicker -- 2
- Pileated Woodpecker -- 2
- Eastern Phoebe -- 1
- Blue-headed Vireo -- 2
- Blue Jay -- 8
- American Crow -- 4
- Carolina Chickadee -- 5
- Tufted Titmouse -- 3
- Red-breasted Nuthatch -- 1
- White-breasted Nuthatch -- 4
- Carolina Wren -- 4
- Swainson's Thrush -- 2
- Catharus sp. -- 1
- American Robin -- 18
- Gray Catbird -- 4
- Northern Mockingbird -- 2
- European Starling -- 1
- Common Yellowthroat -- 1
- Magnolia Warbler -- 1
- Bay-breasted Warbler -- 1
- Blackpoll Warbler -- 1
- Pine Warbler -- 1
- Eastern Towhee -- 1
- Scarlet Tanager -- 2
- Northern Cardinal -- 2
- Rose-breasted Grosbeak -- 1
- Indigo Bunting -- 3
- House Finch -- 2
- American Goldfinch -- 4
View this checklist online at ebird.org
eBird report #2
Swoope Area, Augusta, Virginia, US
Sep 24, 2016 12:00 PM - 1:50 PM
Comments: Augusta Bird Club field trip
23 species (+1 other taxa)
- Pied-billed Grebe -- 1
- Turkey Vulture -- 3
- Red-tailed Hawk -- 2
- Ruby-throated Hummingbird -- 1
- Downy Woodpecker -- 1
- American Kestrel -- 1
- Eastern Phoebe -- 1
- American Crow -- 6
- Tree Swallow -- 60
- Carolina Chickadee -- 3
- Carolina Wren -- 2
- Eastern Bluebird -- 2
- American Robin -- 5
- Gray Catbird -- 2
- Brown Thrasher -- 1
- Northern Mockingbird -- 3
- European Starling -- 12
- Cedar Waxwing -- 4
- sparrow sp. -- 1
- Northern Cardinal -- 2
- Blue Grosbeak -- 3
- Indigo Bunting -- 4
- Purple Finch -- 1
- American Goldfinch -- 3
View this checklist online at ebird.org
Nats' magic number: 0
September 25, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Nationals win National League East Division
It took a few days longer than expected, and the waiting last night was further prolonged by the Mets' amazin' comeback effort against the Phillies (see below), but the champagne was finally uncorked. For the third time in the last five years, the Washington Nationals are the champions of the National League East Division. Read all about it at MLB.com.
On Friday, I expressed hope that "the current leads [would] hold up in tonight's Nats-Pirates and Phillies-Mets games," which would have clinched the NL East title. Not quite! The Mets staged a big late-inning rally to beat the Phillies, while the Pirates tied the game with the Nats in the bottom of the ninth, on a home run off of former Pirate Mark Melancon. (He probably felt weird pitching in his old home ballpark for the first time since being traded in late July.) Two innings later, the Pirates loaded the bases as Nats pitcher Yusmeiro Petit was typically ineffective, and then scored the winning run on a single. Final score: 6-5. That loss really stung for the Nats, as it wasted heroic, clutch home runs by Danny Espinosa and Wilson Ramos.
So would that misfortune get the Nats' spirits down? Not at all. They charged out of the gates in the first inning on Saturday night, and a two-run single by Steven Drew (making the score 3-0) turned out to be all the runs the Nats needed. Oddly, starting pitcher Joe Ross was replaced after giving up a run during the third inning, and Reynaldo Lopez took charge, pitching into the ninth inning without giving up a run. Final score: Nats 6, Pirates 1.
But the Nationals had to hold off on celebrating until they could be sure that the Phillies had beaten the Mets. As F.P. Santangelo said on MASN, it was like when you were a kid getting up early on Christmas morning, but you can't open the presents until your parents wake up. And as Tom Petty (and the Heartbreakers) sang, "The wa-aiting is the hardest part!" With a 10-0 lead by the middle of the game, you would think a win by the Phillies would be a sure thing. And you would be wrong! The never-give-up Mets started racking up runs, and by the end of the eighth inning they had closed the gap to just three runs. A homer in the ninth made it a 10-8 game, and the Mets had two runners on base with just one out. But the Phillies managed to get the last two outs, at which point champagne corks started unpopping in the visitors' clubhouse in PNC Park. YES-S-S-S!!!! (Perhaps wanting to make a point, today the Mets unleashed their full fury on the Phillies, winning by a rather lopsided score of 17-0.)
In this afternoon's game, once again the Nationals scored three runs in the top of the first, but this time the Pirates matched them in the bottom of the first, as the Nats starting pitcher A.J. Cole kept walking batters and giving up hits. He only lasted 2 2/3 innings, just like Joe Ross the day before, but for a different reason. Cole threw a retaliatory ball right at (or behind) Jung Ho Kang, who had pretended to reach for a thrown ball as Bryce Harper was reaching third base on a triple to the right field corner the inning before. That nasty little trick forced Harper to suddenly dive toward the bag, jamming his thumb in the process; he left the game after that. Cole did what he had to do, and he was of course ejected, [after which] a benches-clearing confrontation was unleashed. Kang later hit a homer that gave the Pirates a two run lead, raising tensions further. The climax came in the top of the eighth, when Jayson Werth (the point man in that confrontation) hit a two-run homer to center field, tying the game at 7-7. That was the start of what ended up as a five-run rally that gave the Nats the victory, 10-7. This time Mark Melancon got the save.
Comparing championship runs
The Nationals' inexorable march to a divisional championship bears interesting similarities to the corresponding races in 2012 and 2014, as well as some differences. In all three years, the Nats quickly reduced their magic number until September 12, after which the three years' paths diverge considerably. In 2012, the Nationals remained near or above the .600 mark for most of the season, but the Atlanta Braves were close on their heels until the final week of the season. Not until September 30 did they clinch the title. That was one hell of division race! In 2014, in contrast, the Nationals clinched the title on September 16 in the midst of a hot streak, while the Braves crumbled, ending up 17 games behind in the NL East standings. This year the Nats were on virtually the same trajectory as in 2014, but hit an unexpected "speed bump" in Atlanta (and Miami), delaying their triumph by nearly a week.
NOTE: I only keep track of magic numbers on days when the Nationals played games, hence the gaps in the data lines above.
Thus far this month, the Nationals have a 13-9 (.591) record, which is better than in September 2012, when they went 17-13 (.567), but nowhere near September 2014, when they went 19-8 (.704); see the Washington Nationals annual history pages. Tomorrow the Nats begin a four-game series at home against the Arizona Diamondbacks, followed by a three game series against the Miami Marlins to end the regular season. What happens this week will determine whether the Nationals or the Dodgers host the first two games of the NLDS.
As the postseason approaches, there are three big health-related questions for the Nationals. First, Is Bryce Harper's thumb hurt that badly? If he can't grip the bat firmly, it could seriously affect his slugging power. Second, Is Stephen Strasburg going to heal in time to serve as a starting pitcher in the NLDS? Right now it seems doubtful. Third, Is Daniel Murphy's muscle strain [in the buttocks!] going to affect his hitting success? He has not played for the last five games, wisely getting rested in preparation for October, while David LeMahieu of the Colorado Rockies has taken a slim lead in the National League batting average race: .349 vs. .347.
R.I.P Jose Fernandez
Baseball fans were stunned to learn that the young ace pitcher for the Miami Marlins, Jose Fernandez, had passed away in a boating accident last night. Something as awful as that was just too much for his team mates to endure, so it was decided that the final game of the Braves-Marlins series in Miami would be canceled, and not made up. The Cuban-born pitcher defected to the United States in 2008, when he was just 16. In his first year with the Marlins, 2013, he was named National League Rookie of the Year. For the next two years, he was plagued by injuries, but this year he was near the top in several measures of pitching performance. He was considered a leading candidate for the Cy Young Award, along with Jake Arrieta and Max Scherzer. At MLB.com, Anthony Castrovince writes about what a great impact his positive spirit had on the Marlins. It is sobering to consider how much he could have accomplished in his career had that tragic accident not happened.
History will record that the last game he ever pitched, on September 20, was a championship-caliber pitchers' duel against Tanner Roark of the Washington Nationals, and that he came away the victor, 1-0.
Vin Scully says goodbye
Legendary Dodgers TV commentator Vin Scully bid farewell to Los Angeles fans in this afternoon's game, retiring after a career that began in Brooklyn, way back in 1950. That's just too far back in time to comprehend. His voice may be fading, but he still has the same gusto and sharpness as always. It was fitting that the L.A. Dodgers clinched the NL West Division in the final game he broadcast from Dodger Stadium.
September 27, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Lucky! 13 warblers on Betsy Bell Hill
This morning, as the skies turned bright and sunny, I went birding at Betsy Bell Hill, a woodland park in Staunton which I had not visited since late June. I had originally planned to go up to the Blue Ridge and visit the hawk watch, but that would have been too time-consuming. As it turned out, I made a good choice, coming across a large number of warblers and other neotropical migrants. I began by walking toward adjacent Mary Gray Hill, but not much was happening there, so I retraced my steps and headed up the trail that encircles Betsy Bell Hill, in a counter-clockwise direction. Soon I began seeing warblers flitting about the tree tops, and at one point spotted a Wood Thrush in a hostile encounter with a Swainson's Thrush. I also had nice views of a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Scarlet Tanager, both female.
After a while I continued upward along the trail, crossing the clearing back which divides the east slope of the hill, going into the woods again, and then looping around into the clearing again. (The trail has an "S" shape.) It was the second clearing that I began to see large numbers of warblers foraging in the tall weeds at close range -- a veritable "fallout." It was rainy or drizzling yesterday, and that often forces migrating birds to pause in their southbound journey -- to my benefit, in this case. Many of the birds were bathed in such bright morning sunlight that my camera couldn't handle it. Ironically, I had a hard time getting good photos. The highlight of that part of my walk was a Nashville Warbler, a species I had not seen since October 2012: almost four years! I also saw a Tennessee Warbler, some Magnolia Warblers, and Black-throated Blue Warblers, which seemed to be all around. While I was in that clearing, some city park workers came by and we chatted briefly. They are getting ready to cut down the weeds in that clearing, which is a requirement under the terms of the will which deeded that land to the city when the owners died. (It's a long story.) The upshot is that in another week or so, that clearing will no longer be prime habitat for birds.
After I reached the top of the hill, I saw a Black-throated Green Warbler and what I thought might have been a Black-billed Cuckoo in the tree tops. (It could have been a Yellow-billed Cuckoo.) Unfortunately, I couldn't lure it into the open. Then I headed downhill along the gravel road that leads to the top of the hill, and on the west side of the hill I came across a second cluster of warblers mixed with chickadees and a vireo or two. Nearing the end of my walk, I had to step aside while a road grader passed by, doing repair work on the extremely rutted road, and scaring away the birds. I'll have to check my records, but I believe I may have set a personal best by sighting thirteen (13) warbler species in a single day. I'm sure I set a record by getting photos of ten warbler species, but none of the photos was really top-notch. Nevertheless, it was a truly spectacular day, both weather-wise and in terms of bird variety.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Scarlet Tanager (F), Chestnut-sided Warbler, Magnolia Warbler (M), Hooded Warbler (M), Tennessee Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak (F), Yellow Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler (M), Black-throated Blue Warblers (F & M), and in center, Nashville Warbler. Roll your mouse over the image to see the Nashville Warbler enlarged. Several other photos (including a Bay-breasted Warbler) can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.
Betsy Bell Hill, Staunton, Virginia, US
Sep 27, 2016 9:30 AM - 1:30 PM
31 species (+1 other taxa)
- Black Vulture -- 1
- Turkey Vulture -- 2
- Yellow-billed/Black-billed Cuckoo -- 1
- Red-bellied Woodpecker -- 2
- Downy Woodpecker -- 3
- Pileated Woodpecker -- 2
- Blue-headed Vireo -- 2
- Red-eyed Vireo -- 1
- Blue Jay -- 6
- American Crow -- 1
- Common Raven -- 2
- Carolina Chickadee -- 8
- Tufted Titmouse -- 6
- White-breasted Nuthatch -- 3
- Carolina Wren -- 1
- Swainson's Thrush -- 2
- Wood Thrush -- 1
- Ovenbird -- 1
- Tennessee Warbler -- 2
- Nashville Warbler -- 1
- Common Yellowthroat -- 1
- Hooded Warbler -- 1
- American Redstart -- 5
- Magnolia Warbler -- 3
- Bay-breasted Warbler -- 2
- Yellow Warbler -- 1
- Chestnut-sided Warbler -- 3
- Blackpoll Warbler -- 1
- Black-throated Blue Warbler -- 5
- Black-throated Green Warbler -- 1
- Scarlet Tanager -- 2
- Rose-breasted Grosbeak -- 2
View this checklist online at ebird.org. (NOTE: Ovenbirds, Yellowthroats, and Redstarts are classified as warblers.)
View toward the east from Betsy Bell Hill, through the clearing where I saw many of the birds today. Near the bottom is the parking lot in front of Lowe's and WalMart, and in the distance is the Blue Ridge. (Sept. 27, 2016)
September 29, 2016 [LINK / comment]
American Golden Plovers!
"Whenever I hear about a sighting of a bird that I have never seen before, I tend to react in a Pavlovian fashion." So began my blog post of nine days ago. Well, the same thing happened today, as Penny Warren sent out an e-mail alert after she, Allen Larner, and Elaine Carwile had seen a flock of 60-80 American Golden Plovers at the Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction, the same place as before. So, once again I drove up to Rockingham County in search of those birds. (It was just a few of them last week.) After arriving at the destination, I looked everywhere, scanning the adjacent plowed corn fields in hopes of seeing some, in vain. So, I drove around to nearby farms, thinking that perhaps the flock had relocated. No luck. So, I returned to the auction place, and met some other birders there, and within a few minutes we had spotted the birds in question. YES-S-S-S!!! It was hard to see well because the skies were turning dark, and in fact it started to rain for a few minutes. The others soon departed, and after it cleared up, the birds moved closer to the auction place, enabling me to get some better photos.
The Golden Plovers only look golden when the sun is at the right angle, and when they are in the right plumage. The juveniles are duller, while most of the adults were at an intermediate stage between breeding plumage (with a black mask and belly) and winter plumage.
I thought this was a "life bird" for me, but after checking my Life bird list page, I realized that I had actually seen an American Golden Plover at Leonard's Pond (north of Weyer's Cave) on Oct. 14, 2005.
American Golden Plovers, September 29, 2016. Additional photos can be see on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.
September 30, 2016 [LINK / comment]
"Snake-bit": Nats lose two games, and Ramos
One of the keys to the Nationals' big success this season was avoiding injuries. Over the past week, that streak of good fortune has been completely reversed -- at the worst possible moment. In more ways than one, the Nats have been "snake-bitten." In the four-game series at home against the Arizona Diamondbacks this week, the Nationals were struggling when they should have been cruising. Part of the problem was the weather: It has been rainy almost every day this week in the mid-Atlantic region, and that was a factor in the awful knee injury suffered by Ramos.
On Monday, Tanner Roark was doing OK early on, but was stunned when Jean Segura and Yasmany Tomas both hit home runs the fourth inning, as the Diamondbacks took a 5-1 lead. He was definitely angry when Dusty Baker put in a pinch-hitter to replace him in the bottom of the fourth, as the Nats closed the gap by scoring three runs. But two innings later, the D-Backs scored five more runs, all charged to the dreadful Yusmeiro Petit, who seems not to want to play in October. Four more runs in the final two innings yielded a final score of 14-4, the worst defeat suffered by the Nationals this year. But even worse than that game result was the freak injury suffered by Wilson Ramos in the sixth inning, when leaped to try to catch a high throw to home by Ryan Zimmerman. Apparently Ramos slipped in the wet dirt, because he twisted his knee on the way down, and then was writhing in pain. Ugly details below...
In the game on Tuesday, Max Scherzer shook off a couple early wobbles and hung in there for six innings to get his 19th win of the season. But that was only because the Nats staged a big rally in the bottom of the sixth, after he had been replaced by a pinch hitter. The big hero of the day (night) was Anthony Rendon, who (with two runners on base) hit his 19th home run of the season. (What a coincidence!) Nats 4, D-Backs 2.
On Wednesday, Gio Gonzalez had another lamentable outing and only lasted 3 2/3 innings, giving up the only three runs that were scored by either team in the whole ball game. The Nats' lefty starting pitcher does not look ready for the NLDS against the Dodgers, who are known to hit poorly against left-handed pitchers. The Nats' rotation is in real turmoil.
On Thursday afternoon, Joe Ross had a solid outing, giving up just one run, though he only lasted four innings because his pitch count rose all the way to 90. Rookie pitcher Reynaldo Lopez pitched for most of the rest of the game to earn the win, thanks in large parts to home runs by rookie catcher Pedro Severino and rookie outfielder Wilmer Difo. Final score: Nats 5, D-Backs 3. That at least earned a series split for the Nats, who really should have won three or four of those games against the Diamondbacks.
I just noticed for the first time the Diamondbacks' new uniforms, which look rather weird to me. I thought the "Sedona"-themed beige and rufous color theme (adopted in November 2006) was appropriate for a team based in a desert city, but I just don't know what to make of the dark green colors. The uniform shoulders now feature a snake head with bared fangs, which I argued back then is fitting for a team with a serpentine mascot, but I think their design needs some more work.
Knee injury ends year for Ramos
MRI tests on Tuesday confirmed that Wilson Ramos had an ACL tear, which will require surgical repair, so he is obviously out for the rest of the season. It was the second time he has injured that knee, the first being in May 2012; he missed the rest of the 2012 season and almost half of 2013. This may be a a sign that his body is becoming fragile, which is ironic for a big hulking guy whose nickname is "The Buffalo." See the Washington Post.
For both Ramos and the team, the injury was extremely bad timing. The Nats' backup catchers (Jose Lobaton and Pedro Severino) are decent but nowhere near as effective in hitting as Ramos (.307 batting average), while his negotiating position is suddenly crippled. Ramos' contract expires next month, and the option of becoming a free agent is not nearly as attractive as it was. But Ramos is maintaining an upbeat attitude, at least. See MLB.com. I just hope he is healed in time for the start of the 2017 season -- in Washington, preferably!
Wild & crazy wild card races
The division races have been all but decided for at least a week, but the wild card races this year are WILD! In the American League, the Orioles have pulled ahead of the Blue Jays against, with the Tigers close behind. The Tigers-Indians game on Wednesday was cancelled due to rain, and will only be made up if Detroit is in contention for a wild card spot. Right now, it looks like they will in fact be. So, the Tigers might have to fly from Atlanta to Detroit on Monday for a makeup game, and then possibly to either Baltimore or Toronto on Tuesday for a potential tie-breaking game on Tuesday, and then (if they win) to the other AL wild card rival team's city on Wednesday. Lotsa frequent flyer miles!
In the National League, it's the Mets with a small lead over the Giants, with the Cardinals close behind. The National League wild card race may end up being decided by a walk-off RBI double yesterday by the St. Louis Cardinals, on a play which should have been ruled a ground rule double, in which case the runner would have been held at third base. What a shame.
Two points worth remembering: In 2014, both league pennant winners were wild card teams, reminding us that racking up a big regular season win-loss record counts for very little in the postseason. Remember the 2012 Nationals or the 2015 Cardinals? Also, late-season momentum is often overrated: the Giants in particular were slumping toward the end of the 2014 season, when they won the World Series. (F.P. Santangelo mentioned that during the Nats-Marlins game tonight on MASN.) So, just because the Nats are looking a little feeble right now is no indication of what is to come in the near future.
At the stroke of midnight, the 2016 postseason scoreboard will appear on the baseball blog page, as if by magic. Obviously, some of the matchups are still pending...
Red Sox "celebration"
The Yankees poured ice water on the Red Sox' celebration of the AL East championship on Wednesday night, as Mark Teixera hit a walk-off grand slam, capping another improbable comeback win by the Bronx Bombers. Boston had won eleven games in a row, and then the Yankees beat them three games straight in New Yankee Stadium. New York fans gave a respective farewell salute to David "Big Papi" Ortiz, whose legendary clutch home runs against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS changed the course of history. That's class.
Citi Field photos (& tweak)!
I have updated the Citi Field page with 26 (!!!) new photos which I took there earlier this month. (Yes, I got carried away. But is that such a bad thing?) It's a veritable guided tour of the whole stadium, showing details you might not know about, arranged more or less chronologically, in the same sequence that I took the photos. In several cases, there is a broad view and then a closeup from the same or similar perspective. Here is one of the better ones:
Citi Field from the left field upper deck, at dusk.
In addition, I'm also in the process of making some tweaks to the Citi Field diagrams: a few small corrections and a couple detail enhancements, and that's about it. They may be ready by tomorrow...
Finally, I found the website for the band that played Pink Floyd songs before the game at Citi Field on September 4: pinkfloydtributebandny.com. They were pretty darned good, and I'm lucky I picked that day to be there.
Ballparks in the news
Bruce Orser recently came across a 1991 article at baltimoresun.com, which asserts that the foul lines at Memorial Stadium were 303 feet, rather than the official 309 distance. Also, center field was a bit shorter. This is the first I have heard of this, and I'm surprised it's not mentioned in Lowry's Green Cathedrals or other reliable baseball stadium books. Another unwelcome headache for me...
"Transplanted Texan" Mark London informs me that Houston-area leaders are moving ahead with plans to convert the Astrodome into a multipurpose facility. Harris County commissioners approved $10.5 million for the first phase of a project that would eventually raise the floor of the Astrodome so as to provide two levels of parking. See click2houston.com. Well, I suppose that's as good an outcome as one could reasonably hope for. "The world's greatest parking garage"?
Finally, I learned from Mike Zurawski that Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval has called a special session of the state legislature for early October to approve partial state funding for a 65,000-seat football stadium and related projects in Las Vegas. New tax revenues would subsidize the Raiders to the tune of $750 million, which is a pretty sweet inducement to move. "Sandoval said he met with Raiders owner Mark Davis this week," and it seems like it's almost a done deal. See reviewjournal.com. Can Las Vegas really support an NFL team? Probably. The population of the Las Vegas metropolitan area is now over 2 million, almost three times what it was in 1990. And on that note, let me add the famous line from Capt. Renault in Casablanca:
"I am shocked -- shocked! -- to find that gambling is going on in here!"
September 30, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Three more Open Mic appearances!
Last Wednesday night (September 28), I had another Open Mic appearance with the Staunton Music Guild at Queen City Brewery. The sound equipment was set up inside, since the weather outside was overcast, with rain threatening. When Jacqueline and I arrived, there were hardly any other people there, but by the time I started playing at 7:20 or so, a nice-sized crowd had gathered. I played:
- "Talkin' Baseball" -- Terry Cashman
- "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" -- The Beatles
- "If You Could Read My Mind, Love" -- Gordon Lightfoot
- "Baker Street" -- Gerry Rafferty
I only learned "Talkin' Baseball" last week, and I haven't quite mastered all the lyrics, for which I had to apologize in advance to the audience. Since it is the last week of the regular baseball season, it was either now or "wait till next year!" It was tough figuring out some of the chord progressions on that one, but I'm pretty sure I got it right. As I told the audience, the chords for that song I found on an Internet website are wrong! The next two songs I did much better on, and the audience applauded warmly. That last song ("Baker Street") was an "encore," as each musician got time to play one more song later on. (There were fewer musicians than usual.) I use the harmonica in place of the blazing saxophone solos on that song, and it sounds very impressive, at least to my own ears.
At Open Mic Night one week earlier (September 21), the weather was nice once again, with some really good performers, including a guy named "Fuzzy." I started with another big Simon & Garfunkle song, "Mrs. Robinson," following up on a song of theirs that I had done a week before that. It went well, as I mastered that one some time ago. Prior to the third song ("Barely Breathing"), I explained that I had just changed the chords I play on it, based on a website I found, but I substituted a simpler (and cleaner-sounding) version of that chord.
- "Mrs. Robinson" -- Simon & Garfunkle
- "Road to Glory" -- Ozark Mountain Daredevils
- "Barely Breathing" -- Duncan Sheikh
Finally (in reverse chronological order), two Wednesdays ago (September 14), the weather was beautiful and there was a nice-sized crowd on the outside patio. I met some more interesting musicians and we chatted about harmonicas and stuff. I played:
- "Fly Away Home" -- Ozark Mountain Daredevils
- "Black Sky" -- Ozark Mountain Daredevils
- "America" -- Simon & Garfunkle
Before that last song, I talked a little about a guitar player from South Dakota where I grew up, Jim Jorgenson. He and another guy (Dave Colwell) from St. Paul's Episcopal Church pioneered in leading folk mass services in the late 1960s, which caused a bit of commotion -- some good, some bad. I played along with them in some of the services, but I was just a beginner with little to contribute. Jim, on the other hand, was a superb musician who played many songs by Simon & Garfunkle and Bob Dylan on his 12-string guitar. I learned via Facebook a few months ago that Jim passed away many years ago, in the heroic act of trying to rescue somebody from drowning. I was devastated to learn about that. So before the song "America" I told the story about Jim and how he inspired me with his wonderful guitar playing, and I dedicated that song to him. There's a line in that song, "And the moon rose over an open field," and it just so happened that a nearly-full moon was rising in the east as I was playing, so I called attention to that between verses. It was one of those spine-tingling karmic moments.
So, who the heck are these "Ozark Mountain Daredevils," whose songs I play so frequently? That will be the subject of a future blog post.