Well, I was holding off on sending this until Bryce Harper signed with a team, but apparently that’s never happening (and as I type this right now, it’s looking less likely it will be with the Phillies, but who knows?). Anyway, now we’re at the end of the month so I figured I should send this and share an epic Rider University journalism photo and some music I’ve been listening to lately…

Citizens Bank Park: Home of the Philadelphia Phillies

Baseball is back…and so is Phillies Phever!

OK, so it’s only February (and nearly March) and the destination of a certain superstar left-handed slugger is still unknown at press time, but the new-look Phillies are currently playing Grapefruit League games in Florida right now and I am super excited for the upcoming campaign.

This team, on paper, has a decent shot at contending for the National League East title for the first time since the last of their five consecutive division crowns in 2011. The Phillies traded for elite young catcher J.T. Realmuto and top-5 shortstop Jean Segura while signing outfielder and former NL MVP Andrew McCutchen and relief pitcher David Robertson, a stud in the Yankees’ bullpen the past few years.

Actually, this summer is shaping up to be all sorts of fun for Philadelphia sports fans. The Phillies look strong. The Sixers are more than capable of making a run at the NBA Finals. And the Flyers have rebounded from a brutal start to the season to put themselves in position to possibly sneak into the NHL playoffs. The next few months will certainly be entertaining when it comes to sports in the City of Brotherly Love.

On a related note…

My first Phillies ticket from April 22, 1979

Above is a picture of a ticket stub from my first Phillies game, a 4-2 loss to the New York Mets on Sunday, April 22, 1979, which I recently rediscovered going through stuff from my parents’ house.

Now, my dad was a Mets fan because he was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan growing up and he preferred National League baseball (he later came around to the Phillies). My family went to a few games at Shea Stadium in the mid-1970s when I was really young. However, my dad grew tired of the drive to Queens from Brick, N.J., so he decided we would make the easier drive to Philly to see the Mets play there.

Well, that decision was life-altering for me. I remember being initially upset about not going to Shea Stadium. But, honestly, for all the criticisms of Veterans Stadium, I immediately fell in love with it because it was light years better than Shea. Plus, the Phillies had Pete Rose, who had just signed a then-record free agent contract to join the club, and the Phanatic. I was hooked immediately.

And the game even set me up for so many late-game Phillies implosions. Staked to a 2-0 lead on sacrifice flies from Tim McCarver in the second inning and Pete Rose in the seventh, Steve Carlton allowed just two hits and a walk through seven scoreless frames.

But, alas, the wheels came off in the eighth as Carlton surrendered three straight hits to start the inning – Joel Youngblood’s leadoff home run, a double by John Stearns (the 1973 draft’s No. 2 overall pick by the Phillies, who traded him to the Mets the following year as part of the package for Tug McGraw) and an RBI single by pinch-hitter Gil Flores that tied the game at 2-2. Ron Reed, who had played in the NBA for the Detroit Pistons from 1965-67, came on in relief and surrendered a go-ahead RBI single to Frank Taveras. Another run would score on a throwing error by Rose – the Phillies’ second error of the inning – to put the Mets up 4-2.

The Phillies’ first two batters reached in the ninth, but a strikeout and a double play ended the threat and the game.

(And, no…I did not remember all of this…or most of this. I basically recapped the game from the play-by-play at Retrosheet.org)

It’s kind of amazing that I saw three legends of the game play for the Phillies that day: Carlton, Rose and Mike Schmidt, who took over at third base after entering the game as a pinch-runner for Greg Luzinski in the seventh (and promptly getting picked off). Apparently, regular Phillies catcher Bob Boone made a rare start at third base that day, as Carlton’s personal catcher Tim McCarver was behind the plate.

As we were leaving, we wound up walking around the Vet at ground level (most likely, we were lost), where there were offices for the Eagles and the Fury of the old North American Soccer League (whose investors, I just found out, included frequent Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman, Mick Jagger, Peter Frampton and Paul Simon). And then I saw the Spectrum next door and learned about the Sixers and Flyers. I adopted all these teams as my own.

So April 22, 1979, doesn’t just mark the start of my Phillies fandom – it marks my first day as a complete Philly sports fan.

Ferris Award Winners Assemble!

Past – and present – recipients of the Frederick L. Ferris Award pose with the award (held by yours truly) at Rider University on Dec. 15, 2018. The award, which debuted in 1957, is named for Rider's first journalism professor and honors a graduating senior for excellence in journalism. (Photo by Martin Griff)

Past – and present – recipients of the Frederick L. Ferris Award pose with the award (held by yours truly) at Rider University on Dec. 15, 2018. The award, which debuted in 1957, is named for Rider’s first journalism professor and honors a graduating senior for excellence in journalism. (Photo by Martin Griff)

As I mentioned in my December update, I attended a memorial service and luncheon for famed Rider University journalism professor Willard E. Lally, who passed away last November at 96 years old. The Frederick L. Ferris Award – named for Rider’s first journalism professor – honors a graduating senior for excellence in journalism. Because so many past winners – including 2018 recipient Shanna O’Mara (third from the right in the photo above) – were on hand to remember Professor Lally, we were asked to take a photo.

I said in the December update that I would share the photo if it became available. A couple of weeks ago, I was sent a thank you note for attending the memorial and it included prints of the photo. One of which can be seen above.

Somehow, I wound up holding the award, which I won in 1997, and had the honor of standing next to longtime Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Barbara Boyer. Fourth from the right in the photo above is the very first recipient of the Ferris Award, Stuart Gellman ’57 (wearing the hat), whose son is multiple Pulitzer Prize-winner Barton Gellman. Second from right is Nancy Bird, representing the late Wall Street Journal reporter David Bird, who sadly passed away in 2014. Also, I’m pretty sure the person at far left is 1972 award recipient Richard Pienciak, author and national investigative editor for the Associated Press.

It is humbling to be in the same company with so many journalism greats, and I am proud to be a Ferris Award winner…even though my last name is spelled wrong on the trophy.

Oh, one more thing…while the digital photos were expertly taken by Martin Griff (former long-time photographer for The Times of Trenton/NJ Advance Media), the quality of the prints aren’t all that great. I scanned them and tried to touch them up a bit, but this was the best I could do.

New Music Discoveries

Some interesting new music has come out in the first few weeks of 2019, so I thought I would share some of what I’m listening to these days.

“Zero Gravity” – Kate Miller-Heidke

Alison and I have been fans of Australian Kate Miller-Heidke since seeing her open for Ben Folds many years ago. I’m pretty sure she’s on the “mixtape” CD we gave out at our wedding. Anyway, she was one of 10 artists selected to write and perform a song to represent Australia at Eurovision 2019 in Tel Aviv. As Americans, you likely are unfamiliar with Eurovision. In short, it’s an over-the-top music competition that has been going on for decades that has obviously expanded beyond Europe, but not to the United States so far (which is sad).

The 10 Australian contenders recently performed and Kate obviously won with this amazing performance, so she will go to Tel Aviv this May to try to bring the Eurovision 2019 crown home to Australia.

And since the USA doesn’t have a representative, I say we go all in for the AUS – same letters! – and cheer on Kate Miller-Heidke and our friends down under!

 (Daggers) – All Hail The Silence

“Stand Together” is the lead track on  (Daggers), the first full-length album from All Hail The Silence, a collaboration between American electronic music legend BT (Brian Transeau) and English BBMak singer Christian Burns that also involved Vince Clarke (Depeche Mode, Yaz, Erasure) during its inception.

BT told Billboard the album was created entirely on analog synthesizers without any computers.

“There was not a computer used on this record,” BT reports. “I was there with patch cables around my neck. Every single sound was done live, straight to tape, sometimes up to two days recording a song. It was truly a labor of love. I’m more proud of it than any other project I’ve done — and that’s saying something.”

All Hail The Silence, along with Men Without Hats, opens for Howard Jones at Asbury Lanes on June 12, 2019.

“Drama Queen” – milk.

“Drama Queen” is the first track from Irish band milk., which is fronted by actor/musician Mark McKenna, who starred as Eamon in one of my favorite films of all-time, Sing Street, and is currently playing the title role in YouTube’s teen vigilante drama “Wayne.”

I love the vibe of this track and can’t wait to hear more from milk.

Also, it may get taken down because of copyright claims, but I uploaded my favorite scene from Sing Street. Conor (played by Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, who later went on to star as Prince/King Alfred in History Channel’s “Vikings“) goes to friend/bandmate Eamon’s (McKenna) house to write a new song. They listen to some records – and deal with some rabbits – before getting to work on the song. There are cutaways to Conor delivering a tape of the song to his crush, Raphina (Lucy Boynton, recently seen as Mary Austin in Bohemian Rhapsody), and then the scene transitions to a full band rehearsal of the song. To me, it’s such a realistic (although condensed) version of what that teenage romance/band experience is like. And you get to hear a little bit of the on-screen band actually playing along with the finished soundtrack version.

Amy Helm – WXPN Free At Noon

I went to see Amy Helm’s WXPN Free At Noon show at World Cafe Live in Philly on a snowy February 1, and it was quite a performance. A sentimental highlight of the set was when she performed an a cappella version of “Gloryland,” a hymn her father – The Band’s Levon Helm – taught her and sang with her a few times before passing away in 2012. Below are some more pics from the day.

You can see more photos and read more about the show via XPN’s The Key.

Also, you can stream the show at the link below. Guitarist Mark Marshall delivers one of the most amazing guitar solos I’ve ever experienced live starting at the 27:21 mark.

Amy Helm – Free At Noon

Support me in the 2019 Eagles Autism Challenge

Donate to my Eagles Autism Challenge efforts

A reminder that I am once again running the 5K component of this year’s Eagles Autism Challenge, if I can find a few days of health and start running again. I’m not too far from reaching my fundraising goal so a few more small donations should put me over the top. My son Benjamin and I greatly appreciate your support.

Donate Now!

2019 Scheduled Races

Here are my key races for 2019…so far. They include another marathon, which will be my fourth (2 New Jersey Marathons, 2 Philadelphia Marathons), and my return to the Olympic-distance Atlantic City Triathlon (1-mile swim, 22-mile bike ride, 10K run).

New Jersey Marathon
Sunday, April 28, 2019

Broad Street Run
Sunday, May 5, 2019

Eagles Autism Challenge 5K
Saturday, May 18, 2019

Atlantic City Triathlon (Olympic distance)
Saturday, August 10, 2019

Philadelphia Half Marathon
Saturday, November 23, 2019

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