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July 2012
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July 2, 2012 [LINK / comment]

Freak wind storm blasts region

A wind storm known as a "derecho" (which is Spanish for straight, as opposed to the normal swirly winds in storms) swept through the Mid-Atlantic region on Friday night. With speeds up to 80 miles an hour, it knocked out electric power in hundreds of thousands of homes, including this one. For about 22 hours we were without lights or air conditioning, as the temperature outside soared into the upper 90s once again. It was bloody awful. Some of our neighbors still are without power, nearly three full days of blackout conditions. All across Virginia, West Virginia, D.C., and Maryland, hundreds of thousands of people have endured severe misery, and it may be days before everyone is connected to the power grid once again.

On Saturday morning I drove around Staunton and the countryside to the north, surveying the damage. I saw several dozen large trees that had fallen, and photographed some of the more dramatic scenes.

Fallen trees 30 June 2012

Fallen trees at Mary Baldwin College (top two) and Donaghe Street in Staunton, and a Hardees sign that nearly collapsed in Verona.

There was another major incovenience resulting from the storm: Our cable TV-Internet service (Comcast) was knocked out, and was not restored until late this afternoon. Not being able to keep up with what's going on in the outside world with the TV weatherman was extremely frustrating. None of the local radio stations has a real news operation, since they are all corporate-owned automated broadcasters these days. The best we could do was listen to WVTF ("Radio IQ"), which provided frequent updates on power outages, etc., but they cover a large region across western Virginia, so there wasn't much news about our particular community. I've been meaning to buy a short-wave radio in case of such as emergency, and I guess I'd better go out and get one soon, before the next such storm hits.

And of course, the lack of Internet meant no baseball scores, no blogging, and no Facebook for me. What a rude shock to my digital lifestyle! Perhaps it was a healthy reminder of the thin barrier that separates modern hyper-connected humankind from low-tech primitivism.

July 4, 2012 [LINK / comment]

2012 All-Star teams are chosen

For the first time, three Washington Nationals players have been chosen to play in the All-Star Game: pitchers Stephen Strasburg (his first such trip) and Gio Gonzalez (his second), and shortstop Ian Desmond, who made the reserve squad in his first trip. It is yet another sign that the Nationals are at long last getting the recognition they are due for being winners. It is especially gratifying for Ian Desmond, who has finally got past the frustration he has suffered in the batter's box over the past couple years. He is now batting .280, with 14 home runs. There is also a good chance that one more National -- Bryce Harper -- will make the cut on the "Final Vote." (Atlanta's Chipper Jones was among the five candidates, but he was chosen as a reserve player after [it became clear that Dodger superstar Matt Kemp, who has been on the DL recently, would not be able to play.])

There were no big surprises on this year's All-Star roster, other than the fact that Josh Hamilton set a new record for number of votes received. He had a phenomenal first two months and then spent a couple weeks on the disabled list in June, during which time the Texas Rangers lost several games. See Instead of simply showing my picks, as in years past, I am presenting the first-string All-Star teams, along with my picks, where they are different.

American League

National League

The first names are the starting players, marked in bold face if they were also my picks. Otherwise, names in parentheses are my picks, marked with asterisks if they made the reserve squads.

Nats All-Stars of the past

The following list is based on my own records, and may not be complete. It is amusing to note that pitchers from the Nationals were credited with wins in the last two All-Star games, in both cases of a rather flukish nature.

That information is shown on the Washington Nationals page, which has been updated to show the team's performance for the first three months of 2012: 44 wins and 32 losses, first place in the National League East.

Nationals unleash slugging might

In the final game of the four-game series in Denver last Thursday, the Nationals gradually came back from a early 7-0 deficit thanks to home runs by Ian Desmond and Michael Morse. In the top of the ninth inning, they tied the game 10-10 when Bryce Harper hit a home run. That set a new record for the Nationals, scoring a double-digit run total in three consecutive games for the first time. A leadoff double by Ian Desmond in the top of the tenth inning was wasted, however, and the Nats still managed to lose, 11-10.

The Nationals ended their long road trip* on a slightly more positive note, beating the Atlanta Braves in two out of three games. Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse continued to improve, after lengthy periods on the disabled list. Morse homered on Friday, helping to edge the Braves 5-4, and Zim homered on Sunday, batting in half of the Nats' runs in their 8-4 win. The downside of that series was on Saturday afternoon, when Stephen Strasburg gave up three runs in the third inning, and was taken out due to heat exhaustion. (The temperature was 104 degrees.) Reliever Chien-Ming Wang couldn't do any better, giving up four more runs over the next two innings, and the Nats lost, 7-5. And so, the Nats extended their lead over the Braves in the NL East, but the Mets have kept pace and now hold second place.

Back in Washington last night, the Nationals mercilessly pummelled the visiting San Francisco Giants, with multiple hits by several players and a home run (#14) by Ian Desmond. For his second start in a row, Jordan Zimmermann got plenty of much-needed run support, and improved his win-loss record to 5-6. The 9-3 victory was all the more impressive because the Giants have been on a hot streak lately, taking the lead in the NL West from the slumping L.A. Dodgers.

USA flagIn today's game, which started at the very early hour of 11:05 AM (Fourth of July!), the Giants jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Fortunately, starting pitcher Edwin Jackson settled down and stayed in the game into the sixth inning, when he gave up a fourth run. He left with his team ahead, 7-4, thanks in part to a go-ahead home run by Jhonatan (!) Solano in the fourth inning, back-to-back home runs by Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse in the fifth inning, and clutch hits by others. Rick Ankiel added two more runs with a homer in the eighth inning, making the final score Nats 9, Giants 4. The team is clearly firing on all cylinders right now.

It's called "Natitude"! smile

* Speaking of "long road trips," I was surprised to learn that the Nationals have played fewer games at home than any other team in the major leagues. Prior to their home stand yesterday, they had played in only 34 home games (of which they won 20) and 43 away games (of which they won 25). The next-lowest home-game total was the Pittsburgh Pirates, with 36 home games. Part of the reason is that two Nats' home games were postponed due to rain (April 22 vs. Miami and June 1 vs. Atlanta). Anyway, it means that the Nationals have a BIG advantage as the second half of the 2012 approaches: [From July 1 through October 3] they play 47 home games and only 38 away games. There's no place like home!

Very bad trade

While browsing through Who's Who in Baseball, I came across this tidbit: the Nats' popular #2 slugger in 2009 and 2010, Josh "The Hammer" Willingham, was traded to the Oakland A's for relief pitcher Henry Rodriguez and outfielder Corey Brown in December 2010. I'd say the A's came out ahead on that one.

I probably shouldn't pick on "H-Rod" so much. I just realized that he had been on the disabled list since early June, which might explain his awful performances earlier in the season, and just rejoined the active roster. In last night's game, he came in with a four-run lead and two outs in the ninth inning, and struck out Ryan Theriot to end the game. Maybe he can do better if he's not in high-pressure save situations.

Reg-gie! Reg-gie! Reg-gie!

Since our home lost TV and Internet service for nearly three days during the Great Blackout of 2012, I had barely a clue as to what was happening in baseball (or anything else) over the weekend. Trying to find out the scores, I frantically scanned the AM and FM frequencies on an old transistor radio, but some of the local stations were knocked out. Desperate for visual entertainment, I pulled out the family iPad (fully charged, fortunately) and watched the final game of the 1977 World Series, when the Yankees beat the Dodgers. That, of course, is when Reggie Jackson famously hit three home runs, in the 4th, 5th, and 8th innings, the second two of which were on the first pitch. October 18, 1977 -- I remember it well. Reggie's three homers equalled the monumental feat of Babe Ruth in the 1926 and 1928 World Series, and of course, Albert Pujols did so as well in in World Series Game 3 last October.

During that game broadcast, Howard Cosell and the other announcers were discussing the sky-high payroll the Yankees had that year. For your amusement, here are the numbers:

Arizona wins 2012 CWS

Congratulations to the University of Arizona Wildcats, who defeated the South Carolina Gamecocks to win their first 2012 College World Series, at TD Ameritrade Field in Omaha. South Carolina had won the CWS in both of the last two years, but their hopes for a "three-peat" fell flat. See ESPN. In the "Old Dominion," meanwhile, this has been a "rebuilding" year for the University of Virginia Cavaliers, who went to Omaha in both 2009 and 2011.

July 4, 2012 [LINK / comment]

Happy Fourth of July!!!

USA flagIn spite of oppressively high heat and widespread damage from fallen trees, the City of Staunton went ahead with its annual America's Birthday Celebration today. I haven't been feeling well lately, but I still managed to get down to Gypsy Hill Park to share in the Fourth of July festivities this afternoon. I always find the friendly vibes from the folks in a small town to be very uplifting. The Last Minute Band was playing some great bluegrass music, in spite of being exposed to lethal solar rays standing on the gazebo. Hot, hot, hot!!!

Fourth of July, 2012 Gypsy Hill Park

Amusement rides, live music, and dozens of tent-kiosks featuring various treats and refreshments were the main attractions in Gypsy Hill Park. Roll mouse over image to see a closeup of the Last Minute Band.

To my surprise, I hadn't taken Fourth of July photos since 2009.

It's really too bad our country doesn't pay as much attention to Constitution Day (September 17) as it does to Independence Day. I'll have a big more to say about that subject in a forthcoming politics blog post.

R.I.P. Andy Griffith

Beloved homespun TV star Andy Griffith passed away yesterday, which was quite a shock to me. The star of "Andy Griffith" (1960-1969) as well as "Matlock" (1986-1994, more or less) got his start in Hollywood, in the movie No Time For Sergeants, which I saw on Turner Classic Movies a couple months ago. The nostalgia for the bygone days of small-town southern living is palpable here in the Shenandoah Valley, and one of the affiliate stations of WHSV-TV3 in Harrisonburg still runs "Andy Griffith" on a daily basis. I confess that I enjoy watching it. I fondly remember watching that show when I was growing up in a small town (albeit in a different part of the country) during the 1960s. In a small way, Sheriff Andy Taylor was a lot like Will Rogers in the 1930s or Mark Twain in the 1890s, helping a country cope with rapid socio-economic change and hold on to its identity, via the good graces of humor.

My friend Matthew Poteat wrote a very nice column about Andy Griffith in today's News Leader. Matthew grew up in North Carolina, and thus identifies strongly with the positive values embodied in that show.

This would be a good opportunity to call attention to one of the many "works in progress" on this Web site: the TV shows page. It summarizes in chronological, tabular fashion nearly all of the most popular or significant prime-time network television shows since the dawn of the TV Age in 1950. (That is when all three big networks, as well as Dumont, began regular broadcasts seven days a week.) The several hundred shows that have aired over the past six-plus decades are categorized according to network (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, etc.) and genre (drama, sitcom, westerns, variety, adventures, game shows, news, etc.). There are sure to be quite a few glaring omissions, and I hope to fill in those gaps in the coming months.

July 5, 2012 [LINK / comment]

Elton John rocked Roanoke

The following rock concert review is more than slightly out of date (almost four months ago, hence the past tense rocked in the title), but the musical event we saw was unquestionably good enough to warrant belated mention on this often-tardy blog. I should first explain that Elton John* was my favorite rock star when I was in high school, but I drifted away during my college years as he became more and more eccentric. In contrast, my younger brother Chris remained a loyal fan for many years thereafter, and has seen Elton perform in concert a few times.

As we all grow older, there are certain things we want to do before it's too late, and seeing big name rock stars is high on my "bucket list." So when I heard in Januuary that Elton John was going to perform in concert in Roanoke, I knew right away that I had to get tickets. I am extremely suspicious of buying concert tickets from online vendors, and always try to buy them in person at box offices. Fortunately, I already had plans to be in Roanoke on the very day when the tickets went on sale, attending the annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Virginia, less than a mile away from the Roanoke Civic Center. That extraordinary coincidence in time and place made me think the concert must be a sign from heaven, or something like that. smile

And so, it was on the Ides of March that Jacqueline and I drove to Roanoke (from Lynchburg, where I was teaching that day) to see Elton John in concert. Most of the audience was about our age, some folks considerably older or younger. It's a sign of the broad appeal his music has. Our seats were pretty far back in the Roanoke Civic Center, a basketball arena with about 5,000 seats, I'd guess. We were about half way up in the upper level, near the right rear corner, and we could have used binoculars. But at least the sound system and acoustics were decent, so we enjoyed the music. To my delight, Elton started off with my favorite song from my high school days ("Saturday Night's Alright"), and the next few songs were likewise from the early years, especially the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album, which was probably his best. Here is the song list, guaranteed 95% accurate in terms of sequence, with a couple uncertain titles:

It was one of the longest concerts I had ever seen, which reflects the huge body of work that EJ created. 31 songs total, as many as there are Baskin-Robbins flavors! For a guy that old to put that much energy into a performance is really amazing -- much like when the Rolling Stones performed in Charlottesville in 2005. I wish the electric guitar on "Saturday Night's Alright" had been stronger, like in the original with over-amped power chords, but Elton's piano was the focus throughout. Three of the songs (marked with asterisks) were lesser-known songs that I hadn't heard for years if not decades, very impressive. Five songs (with question marks) were new to me, and I guessed at some of the titles. I was not familiar with "Gone To Shiloh," which he mentioned had special meaning for Bernie Taupin, who wrote the lyrics to all or nearly all of ELton's songs. What was missing? "The Bitch Is Back," "Border Song" (the only one on his greatest hits CD he didn't play), maybe "Burn Down the Mission" would have been nice. No "Island Girl," which is just as well. But there's no way he could have played all his good songs.

Throughout the concert, Elton was enthusiastic, gracious, and funny, with very little of the eccentric flamboyance he was once known for. You can tell he really enjoys performing and pleasing the audience, and it's nice that success hasn't spoiled him the way it has other top musicians. He would comment between some of the songs to explain why they were important to him, etc. As expected, he plugged his new pal, Leon Russell, another piano player from the 1970s. The band included two of the other early-days members: Davey Johnstone on guitar and Nigel Olsson on drums.

In sum, it was a wonderful evening of entertainment, well worth the $76 price per ticket. Elton is probably among the top ten rock musicians or groups of all time, certainly on par with the Eagles (whom we saw in May 2008), if not the Rolling Stones (whom we saw in October 2005). I got carried away and bought not only the souvenir book (LP album size) but also a T-shirt with the "Rocket Man" tour theme. The concert was most likely a once-in-a-lifetime event for us, so I figured it was OK to splurge a little.

*Elton John's real name is Reggie Dwight.

I'm in the midst of updating my Music page to include this concert. To find out what he's up to, and where and when his concert tour will be next, go to

July 7, 2012 [LINK / comment]

Nationals sweep the Giants

When the San Francisco Giants had built a 5-1 lead over the Nationals by the seventh-inning stretch on Thursday night, it looked like chances for a series sweep had vanished. But in the bottom of the seventh, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa hit back-to-back home runs, which sparked a sudden rally, capped when brash Bryce Harper hit an RBI double to narrow the lead to 5-4. Then in the ninth inning, Tyler Moore hit a leadoff double, Steve Lombardozzi reached first base on a bobbled bunt, and then Harper batted in the tying run. With tensions rising high amid hopes for an amazing comeback, Ryan Zimmerman was intentionally walked, and Michael Morse then grounded into a fielder's choice; runner out at home. It was all up to Adam LaRoche, who grounded to second in what could have been an inning-ending double play, but the first baseman couldn't catch the ball, and Bryce Harper crossed home plate to end the game on a delightfully triumphant way. See I was hoping to "read all about it" in this morning's Washington Post (box scores and stories about night games are almost always delayed by a day in the editions that get delivered to us folks out in the hinterlands), but there was nothing at all about that game! Gr-r-r-r. I was miffed.

That game was the first good ninth-inning lead change in a Nationals game this year. In Pittsburgh on May 8, the Pirates won 5-4 on a two-run homer (after the Nats had done the same thing in the top of the inning), and in Cincinnati on May 13, the Reds turned a 6-5 loss into a 9-6 win, thanks to a grand slam by Joey Votto. In both cases, then-closing pitcher Henry Rodriguez blew a save and lost the game. See the Washington Nationals page.

That was also the fourth series sweep by the Nationals this year, and the first sweep in a home series. The other three sweeps were: at Atlanta (May 25-27), at Boston (June 8-10), and at Toronto (June 11-13).

Last night, in contrast, the Colorado Rockies once again got the best of the Nationals. It was a lot like the previous day's game, with the visitors ahead 5-0 going into the bottom of the ninth, whereupon Ryan Zimmerman blasted a solo home run, and the next two batters reached base. This time, unfortunately, there were no game-ending heroics, but at least the Nats showed that they keep fighting till the end. Kudos to the Rockies' Tyler Colvin for hitting two home runs, and to their starting pitcher, rookie Drew Pomeranz, who outdueled the All-Star Stephen Strasburg, who has been struggling lately.

Today's game just got underway... The Nationals still have a 4 1/2-game lead over the Mets in the National League East. If they can win today's game and tomorrow's game, they will go into the All-Star break with a total of 50 wins; only the Yankees and Rangers have reached that plateau so far this year.

Riverfront Stadium, etc. updates

After getting distracted once again,* I got back to my planned schedule and completed the corrections and enhancements of the Riverfront Stadium Riverfront Stadium diagrams. The overall stadium is slightly smaller than before, and there are several key details shown for the first time. For example, there is (or was) an indentation two rows deep in the backstop, which I had not noticed before. Also, the lateral aisles are now shown; the one in the upper deck is (or was) especially wide.

FYI, the last update of that diagram was in September 9, 2009 -- "nine, nine, nine," but no connection to Herman Cain. smile Note that the thumbnail image on that page is the same one as the thumbnail image on this blog page, the reason being that I do not maintain archives of the quarter-sized thumbnail images, only the main, full-size diagrams for each stadium. I plan to incorporate systematic records of such updates on all stadium pages in the future.

I also updated the Stadium statistics page and the Side-by-side diagram comparison page, both of which now include Marlins Park, as well as the Stadium updates (2012) page. More updates to follow shortly...

Thanks to Harry Heller for letting me know the correct seating capacity of Citi Field is 41,922, rather than 45,000 which was apparently a preliminary estimate during construction. The capacity is 122 higher than in the first three years (2009-2011) because of the new outfield seats that fill the void left when new fences were installed there this spring.

* I often come across photos or information that obliges me to make quick, minor-scale corrections on other diagrams, in this case Yankee Stadium. Facebook friend Carl Miller asked me whether the Cubs will win the World Series before I get around to updating to the Safeco Field diagrams. Ouch! smile Patience, my friend, patience...

July 9, 2012 [LINK / comment]

All eyes are on Kansas City

As the 2012 All-Star Game approaches, Kansas City is getting great publicity for the fine renovations to the home of the Royals, Kauffman Stadium.. ESPN just had an interesting spot on the atmospheric conditions that make for more home runs there than in most other stadiums, even though it has above-average outfield dimensions: 385 feet vs. 372 aggregate MLB average. One thing's for sure, that big waterfall sure looks inviting on a hot, sweltering summer day!

I was fortunate to see a game at Kauffman Stadium for the first time last August, with my brother Dan.

Municipal Stadium update

In recognition of the first All-Star Game to be played in Kansas City since 1973, I made several significant updates to the K.C. Municipal Stadium Municipal Stadium diagrams. (I know, there was never an All-Star game there, but the Kauffman Stadium diagrams are already up to "speed." For the first time, there is both a 1923 and a 1942 version of Municipal Stadium, showing that at times in its minor league / negro league history, there was no inner fence. Exactly when this was the case is not quite certain, however.

Harper's in, Desmond's out

There were a few last-minute changes to this year's All-Star roster. Ian Desmond decided to opt out because he has a strained oblique muscle and needs time to heal, but you wouldn't know it from his hitting lately. (See below!) With another slot open because of an injury to the Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton, Bryce Harper was invited to make the trip to K.C., which makes him the youngest position player ever to become an All-Star. See That's quite an honor, which I think is fitting. He has definitely provided a key lift to the Washington Nationals when they were hurting earlier this spring, helping keep them on top in the National League East. With Washingtonians eagerly anticipating postseason play this year, the three Nationals players who will be in the All-Star Game will have an added motivation to get the home field advantage for the National League.

Nats slip, Rockies win

The Saturday game between the Nationals and the Colorado Rockies went very well, with Gio Gonzalez getting his 12th win of the year, while Ian Desmond hit his 16th home run. The bullpen held, and the Nats won, 4-1. It looked like the same thing on Sunday, as Ian got his 17th home run and Roger Bernadina hustled his way to an insurance run in the seventh inning. With a score of 3-1, Jordan Zimmermann was in line to get his fifth win of the season, but this time the usually-reliable relief pitching staff choked badly. In the eighth inning, Sean Burnett gave up a home run to Eric Young and then two more singles, after which he got yanked. Then Michael Gonzalez came in and threw a wild pitch that allowed the tying run to score. Argh! Then in the top of the ninth, the superb (provisional) closing pitcher Tyler Clippard did the same thing, throwing a wild pitch that gave the Rockies a 4-3 lead. Argh-h-h-!!! In the bottom of the ninth, the Nats tried desperately to fight back. Ian Desmond singled, and the Nats had runners on second and third, but then Jesus Flores struck out to end the game. It's too bad, because the Nationals were this close to reaching the 50-win mark going into the All-Star break. Instead they are 49-34, which is still pretty darned good.

The Home Run Derby is just getting under way, so I'd better sign off for now...

July 10, 2012 [LINK / comment]

Showtime in K.C.: All-Star Game!

As the rosters and starting lineups for the All-Star Game were introduced tonight, it was nice that both the newbie superstar Bryce Harper and aging future Hall-of-Famer Chipper Jones got warm rounds of applause. Kauffman Stadium sure is a beauty, especially when there is bright blue skies surrounding it. I wish they would put back some more grass slope around the waterfalls, and would cut out a row or two of box seats behind home plate, but otherwise, I don't think there's much they could do to improve it.

For fans who don't pay as much attention as they should to teams outside their immediate region, the All-Star Game is always a great help. The Angels' Mark Trumbo and rookie Mike Trout are both very impressive, which is why the Texas Rangers can't make postseason plans too far in advance. It looks like Mike Trout (AL) and Bryce Harper (NL) are shoo-ins for rookie of the year in their respective leagues.

Thanks to Joe Johnston for kindly reminding me that, contrary to what I wrote on this blog yesterday, an All-Star Game was indeed played in K.C. Municipal Stadium: one of the two All-Star Games that were played in 1960. Fortunately, I got it right on the text portion of that page.

Ryan Braun just hit an RBI double, giving the National League a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Gotta go...

Prince wins HR Derby

Detroit's portly Prince Fielder won the Home Run Derby last night, beating Jose Bautista 12 to 7 in the final round three. Mike Trumbo and Carlos Beltran wowed everybody in rounds one and two, but then faded. See

After the Home Run Derby got underway last night, it occurred to me that some fans might find this to be a handy tip for the purposes of estimating home run distances: Just go to Stadiums superimposed page, choose "distances" (at the bottom of the scrolling menu) for the Reference stadium (opaque / dark) and then your choice of Comparison stadium (translucent / pale). Voilà!

Kauffman Stadium distances

Doing such an image superimposition requires some clever tricks with CSS; I just hope those two images align properly in all browser platforms.

July 12, 2012 [LINK / comment]

House votes to repeal Obamacare

In a gloriously futile gesture that will accomplish nothing but accentuate the crass political aspect of what should be a serious policy issue, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") yesterday. The vote was 244-185, with five (brave or fearful?) Democrats crossing party lines. See the Washington Post. Do I agree with the majority opinion in this case? OF COURSE! (I clicked "Like" on Rep. Eric Cantor's Facebook status update.) Do I think they should have devoted valuable floor time to voting on it? NO! There is not a snow ball's chance in hell that the current U.S. Senate will vote to repeal Obamacare, so the only purpose of this vote was to help Republican candidates win congressional elections this fall.

Facebook friend Kevin Gutzman wrote about the constitutionality of Obamacare at He questions fellow scholar Richard Leffler for relying upon Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, whose writings in question -- McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) and Gibbons v. Ogden (1824) -- were three decades after the Constitution went into effect; not exactly "original." Gutzman emphasizes that a proper originalist understanding of the Constitution comes from the text of the ratification debates in the 13 states, which got underway after the constitutional convention completed its work in Philadelphia in September 1787. It was Leffler himself who edited a compilation of those debates. Gutzman writes:

Those volumes show that Virginia Federalists explained the Constitution in their state's ratification convention in such a way as to foreclose enactment of statutes such as the Obamacare law.

In other words, the Constitution would never have been ratified if it had been understood in terms of an expansive view of Federal powers, upon which Obamacare has been justified.

For a perfect example of how not to respond to the Supreme Court decision, read George Getz at, the Web site run by professional right-wing agitator Richard Viguerie. Sarcastic excerpt: "Thank you, Chief Justice John Roberts, for this shocking betrayal." Ugh. Getz thinks that ruling will motivate more "conservatives" to vote this November. (Regarding the Kelo ruling, which Getz cited, see my July 28, 2005 blog post.)

4th of July politickin'

Speaking of Obamacare and politics, I passed by the Democrats' tent in Gypsy Hill Park on July 4, and was amused by the big "I Like Obama-Care" banner, so I took a photo from a discreet distance:

I Like Obamacare Democrat signs

The Democrats' tent on the Fourth of July, with signs for candidates Tim Kaine (for U.S. senator) and Andy Schmookler (for U.S. House).

[Not far away, I also stopped at a Republican tent and chatted with the people who were there. I had not met them before. It seems that efforts are under way to restart the Staunton Republican Committee, which underwent a hostile takeover a few years ago. Hopefully, the right lessons have been learned.] Meanwhile, intrepid blogger (and part-time deep-sea diver) Steve Kijak covered the Fourth of July parade, which I missed.

I was surprised to get a call yesterday afternoon from someone who was recruiting volunteers to help with President Obama's voter registration drive. WTF??? Presumably my innocent and non-political "Happy Birthday" wish to El Presidente last August put me on a list of potential Obama supporters. I politely informed the young woman that I would probably vote for Mitt Romney, or else for Gary Johnson, but not for Obama.

Romney's campaign trail

Mitt Romney spoke to the national convention of the NAACP in Houston yesterday, making an earnest and daring appeal to African-American voters:

If you want a president who will make things better in the African American community, you are looking at him.

The crowd responded with a chorus of boos, as they did when he unapologetically pledged to repeal Obamacare if elected; see the Washington Post. Carl Tate mentioned that unfortunate incident on Facebook, and in response to someone who said that Romney was just pandering to his base, I wrote:

That's just it: Romney doesn't HAVE a base, because he has always been ultra-pragmatic, appealing to a broad spectrum of the population. Now it may be that his speech to the NAACP was pandering to the GOP "Base," the folks who distrust him, but the key to victory for him is proving to independents that he means what he says, and I think he succeeded in this case.

A Romney campaign bus (sans candidate) made a stop in Staunton yesterday morning, but I missed it because I was working on our church garden several miles out of town. Del. Dickie Bell told the assembled crowd that the federal government had become too powerful, "and Mitt Romney is the person to reign it in." See for more.

"About" page update

I have updated the "About" page, with more details on my religious affiliation and responsibilities (I was elected to the vestry of my church last December), and revised notes about my current and past status in the local Republican Party. "It's complicated." For archival purposes, I kept the old version just the way it was, with a changed file name: "About_2010".

July 17, 2012 [LINK / comment]

Nats finally win in Marlins Park

Having been swept the first three games they ever played at the new home of the Marlins back in late May, the Washington Nationals expected to do much better the second time around. Indeed, they won handily on Friday night, with Jordan Zimmermann getting a much-deserved sixth win of the season.* Ryan Zimmerman hit a home run, showing continued improvement ever since he had that cortisone shot two weeks earlier. On Saturday, Gio Gonzalez gave up only two runs, but the Marlins' Mark Buehrle was even better, holding the Nats to just one run. On Sunday, Stephen Strasburg was in fine form, as the Nats won easily, 4-0. On Monday night, Edwin Jackson gave up four runs in the third inning, as Miami beat the Nats 5-3. And so, even though the Nationals outscored the Marlins 13-8 runs in the four-game series, the two teams split the series.

* NOTE: I erred on July 10 when I wrote that "Jordan Zimmermann was in line to get his fifth win of the season." He already had five wins, and was going for his sixth.

The Nationals are back home in Washington tonight, welcoming the New York Mets to town. Their lead over the Braves in the NL East has shrunk to 2 1/2 games, so they'd better get moving. Ian Desmond has been out of the lineup for the last few days, trying to get his oblique muscle fully healed, and last reports are that he is making good progress. More good news: Drew Storen is expected to play in the next week or two, and Jayson Werth will probably be back in early August.

Nats sign Giolito

The Nationals signed high school pitcher Lucas Giolito, their 16th draft pick, to a contract worth $2,925,000. That means the franchise has come to terms with nearly all of their draftees. Giolito (no relation to Gio Gonzalez) is reputed to throw a fastball over 100 MPH. Oh-oh, here we go again... See Thanks to Bruce Orser for pointing out the significance of that transaction.

National League wins again

For the third year in a row, the National League won the All-Star Game, after failing to win in any of the 13 years before that. Once again, the "streaky" nature of the Midsummer Classic continues. The visiting NL squad mercilessly thrashed AL starting pitcher, with five runs in the first inning. The AL never put together a rally, and the final score was 8-0. Among the Washington Nationals who were there, Gio Gonzalez pitched a 1-2-3 inning (the third), while Stephen Strasburg gave up a hit and a walk in the next inning, without any damage resulting. I was surprised that Bryce Harper was given the chance to play several innings; he walked in the fifth inning and later struck out looking. While playing in left field, he lost a high fly ball in the twilight glare, but was not charged with an error.

Seals Stadium update

I just made some minor corrections to the Seals Stadium Seals Stadium diagram, with details such as the entry tunnels and a more accurate size estimate. The diagram now shows the dimensions for 1959, which I suspect were also in effect for 1958, which I had relied upon previously. There are also all-new diagram versions for the minor league period for the first time: 1931 and 1947. Other revisions are nearing completion...

Another baseball movie

I was startled to see Yankee Stadium in its primitive version on Turner Classic Movies today, in They Learned About Women (1930). It was a strange plot with two long-forgotten vaudevillians in the starring roles. There were two odd aspects of the baseball scenes: Yankee Stadium was shown in its pre-1928 form, with only a single deck in the left field corner, and there were frequent clips of Shibe Park, which did not look remotely like Yankee Stadium. You'd think more people would have noticed that glaring inconsistency.

So, I updated the "Cinema" box on the Yankee Stadium page, while adding the lineups for the 1977 and 2009 World Series champion teams (along with the 1962 and 2000 teams). I also grouped the photo captions into sections that open and close by clicking on their respective headings, like I did for Nationals Park recently. It's the best way to keep all those photos straight, I think.

FedEx Field shrinks again

In preparation for the Fall 2012 football season, the Washington Redskins will remove 4,000 more seats from FedEx Field, bringing the seating capacity down to only 79,000, plus 4,000-5,000 standing-room tickets per game; see Washington Post. Hat tip to Mike Zurawski. Their average attendance last year was just over 76,000. They had already removed seats last year, reducing the capacity from 91,704 to about 83,000. With all the excitement over the signing of quarterback Robert Griffin III ("RG III"), perhaps the fans will get excited enough to go see Redskins games again. And then they'll put more seats back in, etc., etc., etc.

Speaking of "football" stadiums in Washington, there is a new push to get land for a new stadium for the D.C. United soccer team, after two big investors -- Erick Thohir and Jason Levien --became part owners. It would be located in the Buzzards Point industrial neighborhood, about four blocks southwest of Nationals Park. See Washington Post.

I noticed that the Web site seems to have died. Does anyone know if its content migrated elsewhere?

Sponsorship renewal

Many thanks to Dr. Thomas Tomsick, author of Strike Three! My Years in the 'Pen, for renewing his sponsorship of the Cleveland Stadium page.

July 17, 2012 [LINK / comment]

Hiking into St. Mary's Wilderness

On Saturday, Jacqueline and I went for a quite rigorous hike in the St. Mary's Wilderness, about 15 miles southeast of Staunton. We had been there only once before, and that was before the area was devastated by Hurricane Isabel in September 2003, making it all but inaccessible. This time, ironically, there was also quite a bit of damage in the wake of the freak "derecho" wind storm which we endured at the end of June. (About twenty years ago I went backpack-camping in the upstream portion of St. Mary's Wilderness, with my brother John and then-roommate Mark.)

The trail head is a little hard to find, but there were already several cars in the small parking area, evidence that it is a popular recreation spot for folks in this area. The St. Mary's River passes through a steep forested canyon, with plenty of shade and a few scenic views, as seen in the montage below. What makes it difficult are the frequent river crossing and large rocky areas, requiring careful steps and sturdy hiking boots. As we began, it was cloudy, but later on the skies turned clear blue, just perfect for taking photos. Jacqueline and I finally reached our destination, the St. Mary's Falls, where we encountered a dozen or so youths (and a few dogs) cooling off in the river. After resting and munching on snacks, we headed back. We covered about four miles altogether, I estimate. There were hardly any birds that day, but we did see a swimming reptile that I later identified as a Northern Water Snake. It's a non-venomous species, but it can be aggressive and does bite. To my surprise, there were hardly any mushrooms either, but the scenery made it a very rewarding day in the great outdoors.

St. Mary's Wilderness montage

Montage of scenery from St. Mary's Wilderness.

More photos from that hike, and one of the track side of the Staunton train station, are on the Summer 2012 photo gallery page.

July 17, 2012 [LINK / comment]

R.I.P. Cliff Fretwell (1938-2012)

One of the longest-standing and most active Republicans in the city of Staunton, Justice C. "Cliff" Fretwell, passed away two weeks ago. He leaves behind his widowed wife, Erma, two daughters, a stepson, two sisters, four grandchildren, and several nieces and nephews. Cliff worked his way up through determined salesmanship to become a successful realtor and businessman. I knew that he worked at 1st Choice Real Estate, formerly GMAC, and you could often see his face on the side of the moving van that his company used to help its clients get settled in their new homes. What I didn't know was that he got started as an insurance broker and later owned some local businesses, such as a Oaklawn cemetery and Spee-Dee Oil Change. He also held key positions in the Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce, and other associations. For more on his personal and professional life, see the obituary that was printed in the News Leader.

Cliff was a devout, sincere Christian and an active member of his congregation. At the memorial service held at Memorial Baptist Church on July 8, I learned that Cliff attained the clerical office of Deacon. At the reception for family and friends the evening before, I also learned about Cliff's family life, and the joy he shared with his children and grandchildren. He was deeply devoted to Erma, and they made a fine couple. He had a crystal clear sense of right and wrong that governed everything he did, in business, in politics, and in family life. In terms of morality, he was humble, not self-righteous. When Hurricane Katrina ruined large parts of the Gulf Coast in September 2005, Cliff went down there along with fellow church members to do volunteer cleanup work. He was also active in other charities.

I knew Cliff through my involvement in the Staunton Republican Committee. I distinctly recall doing door-to-door campaign work in Staunton and Augusta County with Cliff, and in marching with him and others in the Fourth of July parade. He was elected chairman of the committee after his predecessor, Patrick Haley, moved to Ohio in the autumn of 2004. It was during Cliff's term that Staunton Republicans achieved some of their greatest successes, in elections and in fund-raising. In February 2006 he and another party member, Stacey Morris, worked very hard to make the Ronald Reagan Dinner a big success. Nearly one hundred guests attended the event, held at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel in downtown Staunton, with guest speaker Rebecca Hagelin, and author with the Heritage Foundation. Cliff decided not to run for reelection when the Republican mass meeting was held in March 2006.

During the latter part of 2006, tensions began to grow as factional splits emerged in the local Republican scene. Cliff was among those who stood his ground and refused to be intimidated by the leaders of the self-styled "grassroots" faction. In early 2007 the nature of the problem came into sharp focus, as the "grassroots" aggressively promoted the candidacy of Scott Sayre against incumbent State Senator Emmett Hanger. Cliff was a loyal supporter of Senator Hanger, knowing first-hand how much hard work Hanger had put into building the local Republican Party during the 1990s. Cliff would say that he didn't agree with Emmett on all the issues, but that his integrity and responsible attitude on budget matters far outweighed the relatively minor differences over policy issues. That was much the same position I had in my support for Sen. Hanger. But after the battle within the party escalated out of control in the aftermath of the victorious reelection of Sen. Hanger, Cliff (and many of us) found that the state party organization had been taken over by hostile forces bent on pushing aside old-line pragmatists. That is, basically, the reason why Cliff (and his wife Erma) were two of the founding members of the Mountain Valley Republicans, an organization devoted to promoting civil, open dialogue and debate within the party, and resisting malicious acts.

For all of his charitable good works, Cliff could also be a prickly character to deal with. He was a bottom-line-focused businessman through and through, and didn't suffer fools gladly. Being very candid and blunt, sometimes he said things that offended people. When incumbent Delegate Chris Saxman announced he would not run for reelection in July 2009, Cliff offered himself as a candidate for that position, and spoke to a public meeting hosted by the local Republican leaders. (They chose then-City Councilman Dickie Bell to run, and Bell has served in the Virginia House of Delegates ever since.) As I wrote back then of Cliff, "He is a gruff, no-nonsense kind of guy who reminds me of the mustached actor Wilford Brimley: 'Eat your oatmeal!'" In short, he was almost the ideal kind of Republican who ought to serve in public office. I was honored to work alongside him, in good times and in bad, and I hope he gets the recognition that is due to a stalwart party leader.

Cliff Fretwell

Cliff Fretwell, after participating in a GOP candidates' forum, on July 27, 2009.

July 18, 2012 [LINK / comment]

Wild & crazy walkoff win in D.C.

Ross Detwiler had his best outing of the year last night, and the Nats had a 2-0 lead over the Mets going into the top of the ninth. Tyler Clippard took the mound, and for the second time in the last few days he flinched under pressure, this time with devastating results. He gave up two singles, got an out, but then allowed a home run hit by pinch-hitter Jordany Valdespin. (Who?) All of a sudden, the Nationals were behind, 3-2. In the bottom of the ninth, Michael Morse hit a clutch single, and was replaced at first by Ian Desmond, who can run but not bat or throw while his oblique muscle heals. Adam LaRoche then singled, and Desmond reached third base. Tyler Moore, who had homered to give the Nats a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning, then struck out, so it was all up to Danny Espinosa. With the classic do-or-die situation, Danny rose to the occasion with a double that scored the tying run, and the game continued into extra innings. In the top of the tenth, the Mets scored another run, and once again, the Nats seemed doomed to wasting a fine performance. But wait! Jhonatan Solano singled, Steve Lombardozzi sac-bunted him to second, and then Bryce Harper crushed a line-drive triple that bounced off the scoreboard in right field. Another HUGE clutch hit! Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond (!) were then intentionally walked, as the Mets desperately tried to induce a double play. Pedro Beato came in as a relief pitcher, and soon threw a wild pitch to Tyler Moore, allowing Zimmerman to score the winning run. See

The Nationals really showed heart, beating the Mets in a memorable fashion. Meanwhile, the Braves were shut out by the Giants, and thus fell 3 1/2 games behind the Nats in the NL East race. Here are some Facebook comments I made about the game in Washington:

I knew Bryce was due for a big game-changing clutch hit like that. WOW! But let's not forget Danny Espinosa's two-strike, two-out clutch RBI in the bottom of the ninth to keep the game alive for the Nats. I can already smell October baseball in D.C.!
WOW! This team not only has talent and depth, but a fierce determination to keep fighting against overwhelming odds even after repeated disappointments. Those traits are what make for a championship team. "They could ... go ... all ... the ... WAY!!!"

Safeco Field semi-update

At last! I have updated the main Safeco Field Safeco Field diagram, with a much more accurate profile and attention to the lateral concourses in the upper deck, etc. The upper decks in right field do not extend as far toward center as I had previously estimated. The field itself is about the same, with slightly smaller foul territory than before. I'll do the football version and full-size versions with the retractable roof next month...

Brief update on the Anomalous stadiums page: On June 24-26, 2011 the Marlins were scheduled to host the Mariners in an interleague series, but the games were displaced by a U2 concert at Sun Life Stadium, so they played in Safeco Field instead, with the Mariners as the "visiting" team. Unfortunately, the link to the story at no longer works.

Speaking of the Mariners, I should have called attention previously to their rookie Danny Hultzen, who was drafted last year after graduating from the University of Virginia. (I saw him play last year.) He has very promising future, and has already given back to his alma mater with a donation to the U.Va. baseball program. Like Ryan Zimmerman before him, he makes me proud to be a Cavalier! Wahoo-wa!!

On the road again

Yes, sports fans, it's time for my annual vacation getway to the Great Plains, a.k.a. The Heartland, or for some people, just plain "Flyover Country." Hopefully I'll have time to stop and see some games on the way out there, and/or on the way back. There will be a couple surprise (pre-programmed) updates during the three-week hiatus, with a few comments about the NL East pennant race, etc.

COMMENT by: Andrew Clem, of Staunton, VA on Jul 20, 2012 18:46 PM
Greetings from the high plains of South Dakota, sports fans! I had the great pleasure to see the Cubs-Marlins game at Wrigley Field yesterday, as the home team won, 4-2. "Go, Cubs, go ... Go, Cubs, go!" They don't call it the "Friendly Confines" for nothing. It was just beautiful, and the only drawback was that I had an obstructed-view seat in the back row of the lower deck. I took plenty of photos from very conceivable angle, and I think I have settled the remaining uncertainties in order to get the diagrams fully accurate. With any luck, I'll be able to see a game or two (or three) on the way back east early next month.

July 18, 2012 [LINK / comment]

Campaign 2012: getting nasty

President Obama made several campaign stops in Virginia over the weekend, marking a sharp escalation in the rhetorical war against Mitt Romney and the Republicans. Meanwhile, his TV ads have turned more aggressive and more negative, contradicting one of his main campaign themes. The ads have been blasting Romney over his leadership of Bain Capital and calling on Romney to release more of his tax returns. See the Washington Post. Why the switch by Obama from "hope and change"? Well, it's pretty obvious he doesn't have much if anything of accomplishment to boast, so he doesn't have much choice but to go negative. It's a shame.

Frankly, I don't understand why Romney doesn't release more of his financial records. If he acts like he has something to hide, he will let Obama take the initiative in defining the narrative of this campaign. People who make a profit while abiding by the laws should have nothing to be ashamed of.

Likewise, conservatives have been reacting sharply to a comment made by Obama, that businessmen are wrong to claim that "they did it on their own." It was a clear sign of disrespect for the private entrepreneurs (such as the Wright Brothers, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, et al.) that made this country great and prosperous. In Obama's world view, which has been amply articulated by Massachusetts candidate for U.S. Senate Elizabeth Warrn, all economic progress stems from concerted government action, not from creative individuals. I have reservations about the often-exaggerated myth of "rugged individualism," but maybe they should read Atlas Shrugged.

Austrian economic policy

I response to recent critique (by David Frum and others) of Austrian economic theorists and their take on the Great Depression, Thomas Woods had a brief lecture on at My comment on Facebook:

No technical problems for me. As for the substance, the lecture was very helpful and informative. I remember from my undergrad days learning about Friedman's critique of Fed policy in the 1930s, and often wondered about that. There's no doubt that Von Mises had it right as far as accommodative monetary policy in the 1920s, but the proper policy prescription for getting out of the Depression remains in question. Perhaps, like now, there simply are no good answers back then to problems that were caused by years of economic folly. In many ways, I agree with David Frum's point of view, but economics is clearly not his strong point. I would also take issue with calling him a Neocon just because he wrote speeches for Dubya. He is a pragmatic moderate conservative, not a global-imperialist ideologue.

Jeb Bush on "RINOs"

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush commented last month that Ronald Reagan and his own father, George H. W. Bush, would have had a hard time getting nominated by today's Republican Party. Sad but true. The self-styled "conservatives" are obsessed with excluding anyone who doesn't share their exact point of view, calling the free-thinkers "RINOs." See, via Talking Points Memo, via (Richard Viguerie).

Saxman on "RINOs"

In a similar vein, former Delegate Chris Saxman had a piece at, criticizing the epithet "RINO," which serves no purpose other than to divide the Party of Lincoln.

July 23, 2012 [LINK / comment]

New page: War Memorial Stadium!

Inspired by having seen the movie The Natural (starring Robert Redford and Glenn Close, of course), I created a new page for War Memorial Stadium War Memorial Stadium , former home of the Buffalo Bisons (AAA) and the Buffalo Bills (AFL/NFL). The "Rockpile" was one heck of a funky old ramshackle joint! SPOILER ALERT: The baseball version diagram shows the light tower in right-center field exploding, the way it did when Roy Hobbs hit the walk-off home run at the climactic end of the movie.

Nationals in the news...

COMMENT by: Andrew Clem, of Staunton, VA on Jul 23, 2012 16:37 PM
Friday night's game was one that Washington Nationals fans would rather forget, as the Atlanta Braves came back from a 9-0 deficit and ultimately won. For some inexplicable reason, manager Davey Johnson kept Stephen Stasburg on the mound after he was already showing signs of fatigue, and all of a sudden it was a 9-4 game, and then a 9-8 game after reliever Sean Burnett choked and gave up four more runs in the 8th inning. Closing pitcher Tyler Clippard also choked once again, and the Nationals found themselves behind 10-9 in the bottom of the ninth. But Danny Espinosa hit a heroic homer to tie the game, another miraculous clutch RBI. It didn't matter, however, because the Braves scored a run in the 11th, and won 11-10.
In the first game of Saturday's double-header, the shell-shocked Nats were shut out 4-0, and the nightcap started just as bleak, with two Braves' runs in the first inning. But John Lannan (in his first major league outing this year) settled down, while Roger Bernadina got some late clutch hits to give the Nats a desperately-needed 5-2 win. On Sunday, Ryan Zimmerman hit two homers, leading the way to a 9-2 victory, putting the Nats 3.5 games ahead of the Braves in the NL East once again. Whew!

COMMENT by: Andrew Clem, of Staunton, VA on Jul 23, 2012 16:56 PM
That 2-2 series split was satisfactory, though the Nats really should have done better, but it could have been worse without those gritty clutch performances by the Nats on Saturday night. That erased the dark cloud of Friday night's debacle, allowing the team to get back on track. Aside from the Braves the rest of the NL East teams have been falling further behind. The Nationals begin a series against the Mets in Citi Field this evening.
Across town in The Bronx, the Yankees have lost four in a row while the Orioles (five behind) have won five in a row, so the AL East race is not sewn up just yet. Meanwhile, the Tigers have pulled ahead of the White Sox in the AL Central, while the Red and Pirates are in a furious neck-and-neck race in the NL Central. Plenty of drama as the trading deadline approaches!

COMMENT by: Andrew Clem, of Staunton, VA on Jul 23, 2012 22:56 PM
Bryce Harper put the Nationals on top of the Mets 2-0 with a home run in the first inning, and then put them back ahead 3-2 in the top of the tenth inning, sparking a huge six-run rally powered by Ryan Zimmerman (double) and Michael Morse (home run). Final score: 8-2. Amazing! Meanwhile the Braves lost 2-1 to the Marlins, falling 4.5 games behind the "D.C. 9."

July 28, 2012 [LINK / comment]

Latin American Leagues

I did some quick research to identify all the players on the 2012 All-Star roster who were born in Latin America, and added their names to the Latin American Leagues page. I still need to check on the current status of the leagues in Mexico, Venezuela, etc. I also need to update the Negro Leagues page as well. Stay tuned...

Estadio Monterrey update

I made some major corrections and detail enhancements in the Estadio Monterrey Estadio (de Beisbol) Monterrey diagram, based on some excellent photos on the Web site of the team that resides there, the Sultans. Note that there is a new soccer stadium in Monterrey, hence the modification to the name of this stadium.

Nationals in the news...

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