Tag Archives: New Jersey

Phillies fans are a passionate lot

As I put my purchase onto the checkout counter at the sporting goods store, the clerk looked me in the eye and said bluntly, “Why did you take Hunter Pence from us?”Image

In a split second, I realized that this young man was a Phillies fan and had noticed my San Francisco Giants cap.

“I wasn’t involved,” I replied. “But what I can’t understand is why the Phillies let him go.”

Such exchanges with strangers aren’t unique here in the greater Philadelphia area, where fans are gonzo for their teams. And I like that.

Today’s episode — in the middle of the off-season, mind you — was at the Dick’s store in Princeton, N.J., nearly an hour’s drive to Citizens Bank Park. The exchange was similar to one I had with an Acme grocery store clerk shortly after I moved into our new home two summers back. I was wearing a Tim Lincecum T-shirt. The clerk at the register eyed it and said, “Why aren’t you a Phillies fan?”

“Hey, I just moved here from California,” I said. “I’m a Giants fan but I like the Phillies.”

The clerk’s reply?

“Lincecum sucks.”

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What exit? Yes, It’s the Jersey Turnpike World Series!

1985: The Cardinals and the Royals meet in an all-Missouri matchup, and it’s the I-70 World Series.

1989: The Giants and Athletics endure an earthquake to play in the Bay Bridge Series.

2000: The Bronx Bombers rumble with the Metropolitans of Queens in an all-NYC Subway Series.

This is 2009, Yankees versus Phillies, and there’s only one possible name for it: The Jersey Turnpike World Series!

It’s time the Garden State gets its due with a World Series of its own. New Jersey connects Manhattan’s George Washington Bridge in the north to Philadelphia’s Ben Franklin Bridge in the south. In between, millions of baseball fans from area codes 201, 609, 732, 908, 973, et al. are passionate the Yankees, Phillies or (rarely) both. From the Delaware Water Gap to Cape May, the people of New Jersey will be watching these games intently.

So come on, America. Recognize this series for what it is: A celebration of New Jersey!

The Associated Press in the Internet era

Five years ago today, I quit my job at The Associated Press. After 23 years of assignments from California to New York, I turned in the keys to my company car, said farewell to my staff and walked to the train station in Trenton for a long ride home. Over the next few days, nearly 100 of my former AP colleagues will be walking out of bureaus for the last time as they take early retirement. I write this post in their honor, for they are some of the finest — and certainly some of the most unheralded — journalists in the world.

Among them are people like Brendan Riley, who for the past 37 years has served the people of Nevada faithfully and fairly as correspondent at the capitol in Carson City. And there’s Andy Lippman, who as chief of bureau in Los Angeles directed some of the biggest stories of modern times. They and scores of others depart the AP as it and many other old-line news organizations struggle to find their way in the Internet era.

While well known in regional or occasionally in some national journalism circles, AP reporters and editors generally don’t get the wide recognition that  TV anchors or big-time newspaper columnists receive. While the AP news report remains one of the foundations of the daily efforts of most American news organizations, few people outside the AP give its employees much credit. I still remember a left-hand compliment one of my sports writers received from a newspaper columnist, who said she was impressed with his writing “for a wire service guy.”

The AP over the past few years has not endeared itself to bloggers and other advocates of Everything Should Be Free on the Internet. I wrestled with some of those issues myself as San Francisco bureau chief during the dot-com boom of the 90s and at corporate headquarters in New York early in this decade. I won’t judge recent policies, but I marvel at the cheek of some of AP’s critics who ignore the news service’s staggering contributions to the daily flow of news and information around the world. They care not a whit about the cost – financial or personal – incurred in gathering it. Over the years, it seemed to me that AP’s harshest critics were often those who flunked the AP writing test or otherwise didn’t get hired.

But this post is a tribute, not a rant. Above is a photo of my lone remaining AP ball cap. It sits atop the shell of an AP teletype machine that once delivered the sports wire to the Racine (Wis.) Journal-Times at 66 words a minute. The cap and teletype are artifacts from earlier times in journalism and my career. To me they represent the best of what AP stands for: fast, accurate, unbiased reporting of the news of the day.

To all my ex-colleagues departing the AP, I tip my cap to you.

Saluting the Devils’ Martin Brodeur

This is a great day for the Irish — and for hockey.

On this St. Patrick’s Day, Martin Brodeur of the New Jeresey Devils will will try to become the winningest goalie in National Hockey League history. Brodeur, who spent much of the season off ice with an injury, has been almost superhuman since his return to net a few weeks ago. He tied Patrick Roy for the most goals at 551 the other night in Montreal, and Brodeur will be on home ice in Newark tonight as the Devils face the Chicago Black Hawks.

I’ve had the privilege to see Roy and Brodeur for real, the former late in his career as a member of the Colorado Avalanche and the latter in the middle of his terrific career with the Devils.

So here’s a tip o’ the cap from this Irish American to the French Canadian Martin Brodeur. May the puck never be behind ye.

Keeping my head about me, thanks to a Giants’ batting helmet

Giants batting helmetWhile dangling Christmas lights from the tree on our front lawn this morning, I was reminded of how a few years back my giveaway plastic San Francisco Giants batting helmet saved my head.

I had to trim a branch from a tree in our backyard in New Jersey, and I stuck the batting helmet on my head to save my scalp from the small branches poking out of the tree. But the big branch I sawed off was what clobbered me, splitting the helmet in two. Fortunately, I stayed on the ladder and didn’t even get a scratch.

This past season, you had to be a little touched in the head to stick with the Giants. But there is hope since the team has acquired Edgar Renteria and two good arms for the bullpen.

Juxtaposition: New Jersey and Yosemite National Park

What possessed me to take my “Weird N.J.” cap to Yosemite National Park? I guess my subconscious mind was trying to make a statement about the breadth of the American natural experience. Whatever the motivation, I wore the cap yesterday on an absolutely gorgeous fall day. This was my third trip to Yosemite, and the weather finally was clear. That made for some great photos. I shot this one of my cap on a snag in the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoia trees near the south entrance to the park.

The cap is a souvenir of my New Jersey days, from a story I did on the two Jersey guys who publish the “Weird N.J.” magazine and Web site. They had just come out with a book by the same name, and they’ve since branched out into writing about all things weird across the United States.

The “Weird” book on New Jersey playfully reports on all the wacky sites in the Garden State, which once you get away from the refineries hard by Newark airport turns out to be a varied and charming place. I’ve visited 46 of the 50 states, and New Jersey must be the most unfairly lambasted of them all.

Yosemite, on the other hand, is one of the most praised locations in the United States, if not the world. After a warm day there in the November sunshine, I can state unequivocally that the park’s reputation is in no way overrated.

My goofy Holy Cross College cap

One of the oddest caps in my collection isn’t a baseball cap but this circular, beanie-like cap. I bought it at the Holy Cross College bookstore while I was in school there in the mid 1970s. I rarely wore the thing, which my friends routinely referred to as my “douche cap.” I once asked why. “Because you look like a douche wearing it,” somebody answered.

I trotted the cap out today in the wake of the Crusaders’ 25-24 loss to Harvard last night in Cambridge. The term “douche bag” has also been in the news this past week, thanks to whoever at the Baltimore Sun decide to do a story on guys who can be described as such.

I’d never heard the term until I went off to college. It was in common use by New Yorkers and Jersey guys. Still is.

Its vulgar sobriquet notwithstanding, I still get a kick out of my floppy Holy Cross hat — even if I still don’t have the nerve to wear it in public.