The "Outta Leftfield" Weblog

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Never leave a ballgame early

This is why we never leave a ballgame early. My good friend Ted drove out from Illinois for a visit last weekend. Ted is one of the original Iron Undershorts Boys — guys who drive long distances without stopping much just to do things that most women would consider idiotic. In this instance, Ted was driving 881 over 14 hours and 8 minutes just to attend a Steve Forbert concert as part of the Bryn Mawr Concert Series presented by the Lower Merion Parks and Recreation department. Ted is a big fan of Steve Forbert, a singer songwriter once hailed by critics as the “new Bob Dylan.” Ted is also a big fan of Bob Dylan, owns every album of the guy has ever made and has seen him numerous times in concert, so it comes as no surprise that he would drive straight through halfway across the country to see a guy from the Dylan fold. So we had a perfect plan: That morning, Saturday, June 23, Ted and I worked the Montgomery Media table at the Souderton 125th anniversary parade and block party. I had tickets for the Phillies that afternoon and the ballclub accommodated us by having the start time at 4:05 p.m. The Forbert show in Bryn Mawr was scheduled for 7 p.m. that evening, but there was an opening act so we figured Forbert wouldn’t actually go on until closer to 8 p.m. We could do all three activities. There was no problem getting from Souderton to Philly for the first pitch. And with a relatively cleanly played game with good pitching, that should have given us enough time to get from the ballpark in South Philly to the gazebo in Bryn Mawr. The flaw in that plan was that this year’s Phillies don’t often play clean games that feature good pitching for nine innings. At least not as often as we fans are used to experiencing for the past four or five years. So when it got to be around 6:30 p.m. and the Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays were only in the sixth inning — with the good guys leading 5-3 — we had to violate one of my longtime rules about leaving a ballgame early if we were going to get to Bryn Mawr on time. After all, my friend is a Cardinals fan and he hadn’t driven 14 hours and 8 minutes in one day to see the Phillies blow another lead late in the game. He had trekked the 881 miles to see Steve Forbert sing. As it turned out, Phillies closer Jonathan Paplebon did indeed blow that two-run lead in the ninth inning just as we were sitting down in our lawn chairs for the concert in Bryn Mawr. It was now 5-5 going into the bottom of the ninth inning. Now I like these community concerts and I like Steve Forbert’s music. But what happened next made it difficult for me not to squirm in my lawn chair. I learned by checking my Twitter account that the first Phillies batter in the bottom of the ninth — the Hall of Fame bound Jim Thome — hit a walk-off home run to win the ballgame! And instead of me sitting in my regular seat at the ballpark watching that excitement, I was in a lawn chair in Bryn Mawr watching Steve Forbert tune his guitar. Argh. Not only that, but it was Thome’s 13th walk-off home run of his career, the most ever by any other player. With that home run, Thome passed the likes of Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musical, Jimmie Foxx and Frank Robinson — all Hall of Famers — in career walk-off home runs. No disrespect to Mr. Forbert, but given the choice of showing up late for his concert or staying in the ballpark for a walk-off home run by one of my favorite players, I’m going to choose the latter. But it was a great show and my friend got to see the artist he drove all those miles to see. It was a plan that nearly worked. In the end though, it was me singing a different tune. Having not seen the exciting and historic Thome home run, I was singing the blues.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

The special moments of the DIMU party

Life’s special moments are sometimes few and far between. But when they happen and one is able to share them with family and friends, they become even more special. I was lucky. I got an entire evening of special moments at the launch party June 12 for my new book, “Dancing in My Underwear: The Soundtrack of My Life,” ( Despite the rainy weather, we had a big crowd, sold a lot of books and got a wonderful performance from Philadelphia singer-songwriter Dan May (there’s a chapter about him in the book) and his band mate, the ridiculously talented guitarist and singer Tom Hampton. I got to sit on stage with the band (what a unique perspective that is for a show), telling stories from the book and leading into the songs. The set list included: “Never My Love” by The Association; “China Grove” by the Doobie Brothers; “An Old Fashioned Love Song” by Three Dog Night; “Sister Golden Hair” by America; two Dan May tunes, “That One Song” and “Paradise”; “That’s Why They Call it The Blues” by Elton John; and the big finish, “Surfer Girl” by the Beach Boys. The even bigger finish was song No. 9 and the final one of the evening, “Dancing in My Underwear,” an original Dan May song that he wrote for the occasion. I heard it for the first time with everyone else that night. Wow. What else can one say when someone as talented as Dan writes a song about my book? What a wonderful gift to receive from a friend. The whole evening was a personal highlight-reel. But “Surfer Girl” was a little more special for me. There is a chapter in the book that details why (in fact, the book has a heavy Beach Boys influence with five different chapters), but the nickel version is that I associate that song with the birth of my oldest daughter, Kiley. She was a preemie, weighing only a little more than 2 lbs. at birth. There was a question of whether she would survive. I turned to Beach Boys music to help me get through that difficult time and all turned out right. She is healthy and happy. When Dan and Tom broke into “Surfer Girl” after my lead-in story, I got up and moved to the side of the stage where I met Kiley. I had not given her a heads up before the show that “Surfer Girl” was going to be performed, but she must have sensed it because she didn’t hesitate to join me on stage for a father-daughter dance. The picture you see here is me wiping away tears from Kiley’s face as we get near the end of the song. It couldn’t have been any more special. I got so lucky, and there are a lot of people to thank. The Blonde Accountant put together a wonderful event and has shown so much love and support for this book project. I am truly blessed to be her husband; my daughters, Kiley (along with husband Mat) and Lexi have always been the lights of my life and I’m glad I got a chance to share it all with them; my mom was here from Illinois and I’m so thankful she got to see everything; my stepchildren, Kaitie and Kevin, were a tremendous help during the party and handled themselves like the fine young adults that they are becoming; my in-laws, Walt and Anne, drove back from their vacation at the shore so they could be part of it; Dan May and Tom Hampton are two of the most talented musicians and nicest guys and they really stepped up by allowing me to share the stage with them and add the soundtrack to my words; the folks at the Ambler Theater were tremendous; and my editor, Frank Quattrone, who always had faith in the book project, has been a stalwart supporter from the first chapter. To each and every one of you who came out, I can’t thank you enough. I hope you enjoy the book.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A manly man bus trip

I have to hand it the Men of La Salle, the dads’ group at La Salle High School: Those guys certainly know how to organize a manly man bus trip. Dave Lagner, the chief cook, bottle washer and grand poohbah, put together a great trip to Camden Yards in Baltimore on Sunday. The excursion included all the things needed for a manly man father-and-son day: luxury buses complete with DVD players and bathrooms
(an important aspect for guys); great seats, 12 rows from the field down the third-base line, to watch the visiting Oakland A’s take on the Baltimore Orioles; 72 degrees, blue skies and a slight breeze (not sure who Dave knows to get that pulled off but I suspect he may have dated Mother Nature in his younger days); and a post-game excursion to a manly man joint in the Inner Harbor called “Dick’s Last Resort,” a place that can only be described as “highly entertaining for cavemen,” where the fathers and sons consumed massive quantities of nachos, hot wings and ribs while being mercilessly insulted by the waiters. As a bonus, Game 1 of the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs was on the big screen during the chow down, and the Philadelphia Flyers scored in overtime to take a 4-3 win over the New Jersey Devils sending the LaSalle contingent into a frenzy of high-fives and flying spittle, otherwise known as more manly man stuff. By the way, that’s a picture of me with Dick — taken by my cohort for the day, Son of Blonde Accountant — outside the establishment after the meal. It appears by the looks on our faces that we both had loaded up on too many nachos. I’ve always enjoyed Camden Yards. It’s a beautiful ballpark and it features “Boog’s BBQ” out on the right field concourse in front of the distinctive warehouse. This is, of course, Boog Powell’s place — a former Orioles first baseman in the 1960s and 1970s who played on some pretty good Orioles teams — and as usual, Boog was perched on a stool near the barbecue pit greeting fans and signing autographs. I’ve seen Boog several times over the years, and there have been times when I thought, “Hey Boog, mix in a salad.” Boog has always been a large fellow, and in past years, it looked like he was eating more of the barbecue beef than he was selling. But this year, Boog has slimmed down considerably and he looks great. And he’s always friendly and accommodating to the fans. I had the “Big Boog Beef” sandwich, which is double the meat and indigestion. I was so full that three guys had to carry me from the right field concourse to my seat on the other side of the stadium near third base. The Phillies should offer that amenity to the overeaters in their stadium. Although many in our group were Phillies fans, most were root, root, rooting for the home team, and the Orioles delivered a walk-off win in the bottom of the ninth by scoring five runs, three of which came on a game-ending home run. It was my first Men of LaSalle father-son bus trip and Son of Blonde Accountant and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I can’t wait for next year’s trip and another day of manly man activities.

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Father 10th Man and his holy water

I’ve seen a lot of wonderful and magical things happen on a baseball field over the years, but I saw something last weekend that I had never before seen at a baseball game: A priest in a wheelchair was pushed around the infield where he blessed each of the bases and then home plate with holy water taken from the River Jordan in West Asia, where Jesus was baptized.
Very cool.
The pre-game ceremony was held in conjunction with the opening of St. Joseph’s University’s new baseball/softball complex. It was the first home baseball game played on campus since 1958.
Father James Moore, escorted around the bases by St. Joe’s players Kevin Taylor and Drew Stoll, did the honors with the holy water. (The photo that accompanies this post was taken by Jim McWilliams.) Father Moore even mentioned in his pre-game prayer that the St. Joe’s faithful have forgiven God for making them wait so long to play another baseball game on campus.
The opponent for the historical tilt was Iona College, in New Rochelle, N.Y. (A baseball trivia sidebar: New York Yankees Hall of Fame first baseman Lou Gehrig lived in New Rochelle, N.Y.)
Hey, if I’m on the Iona squad, I’m thinking the holy water blessing stacks the deck against my squad and provides quite a home field advantage for the St. Joe’s nine.
Which is apparently exactly what happened. St. Joe’s – off to a disappointing 1-11 start up to that point – got a stellar pitching performance from junior right-hander Kyle Mullen – the pitching may indeed have had more of an impact on the outcome of the game than did the holy water – to defeat Iona 5-1 and christen the new ballpark accordingly.
The reason I was there is that my father-in-law, Walt Wiesenhutter, was a pitcher for the Hawks in the 1960s. In addition, The Blonde Accountant is a graduate of St. Joe’s, so we’ve got some family history there.
And it’s a nice ballpark. It’s got some charm and character. I’m not crazy about the Astroturf surface, but in the northeast, weather usually is a factor for baseball teams, so the synthetic surface makes sense from a field maintenance perspective.
But knowing how superstitious ballplayers can be, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Father Moore will be asked to bless each base with holy water from The River Jordan before each home game, at least for the rest of the season.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

One more run at fun in the sun

Although I’m not normally one for awards shows, I did watch the 2012 Grammys from start to finish.
And I’m glad I did. For those of us who have been around for a while, the show offered great performances from some of rock’s biggest names, from Bruce Springsteen leading off the show to Paul McCartney closing the festivities.
But I tuned in for the 50-year reunion of all the surviving members of the Beach Boys. The band’s music — and more specifically the music of the group’s co-founder Brian Wilson — have played an important role throughout my life.
Essentially, the Beach Boys have been the foundation of the soundtrack of my life. So it was a personal pleasure for me to watch them reunite publicly for the first time in more than two decades on what was such a big stage for the music industry.
I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing nearly all of the surviving members — Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston — at one time or another in my career. They were all interesting and unique conversations in their own way.
As a matter of record, David Marks, who was one of the original Beach Boys performing on the band’s first four albums before quitting over financial and managerial issues in late 1963, is part of the 50-year reunion tour and was included in the Grammys appearance. It would be interesting to score an interview with him and get his take on the reunion.
And Bruce Johnston, while not one of the original members, joined the group in 1965, replacing none other than Glen Campbell, who was briefly with the group and was himself subbing for Brian Wilson, who had decided not to tour with the band anymore at that point.
Joining the Beach Boys tribute at the Grammys was Maroon 5, which did a credible job on the Beach Boys’ hit “Surfer Girl,” and “Foster the People,” which did likewise on “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” There are those who didn’t think these other two bands were needed to sing Beach Boys songs in a Beach Boys tribute at the Grammys, but it didn’t matter much to me. The Beach Boys themselves and their performance of “Good Vibrations” was the main event.
There is supposed to be a new CD and tour scheduled around the 50th anniversary of the Beach Boys. The hope here is that they will perform here in Philly.
If so, I’ll be there for all the fun, fun, fun.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tailgating with Larry the Cable Guy

Larry the Cable Guy knows weenies. As a cocktail weenie aficionado myself, I appreciate that.
Why, Larry even has his own recipe for something he calls “Beanie Weenie Casserole” that he says is sweeping the nation. I know all this because I asked him about it at Sunday’s Eagles game.
Dan Whitney — and his redneck-hillbilly character Larry the Cable Guy — were both in town as part of something called “A Better Way to Tailgate” challenge. Larry is pitching the heartburn-relief product Prilosec OTC and an online contest that gives tailgaters a chance to win tickets to the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis.
I’m all for heartburn relief, but I’m more for the things that give one heartburn to start with, something like the Beanie Weenie Casserole.
That’s the really important news associated with Larry’s visit.
“I filled in for Regis one day on ‘Regis and Kelly’ and they wanted me to bring a recipe,” said Larry, standing out in the freezing cold at the Prilosec tailgate tent Sunday. “And the favorite thing my wife makes is ‘Beanie Weenie Casserole.’ It’s beans and weenies with barbecue sauce baked in a cornbread crust. And we call it the ‘Beanie Weenie Casserole.’ I tell everybody, though, you need to be careful because the last time I had it, my Glade plug-in started a carpet fire. It’s deadly. It ought to come with a side order of Prilosec OTC. But it’s an unbelievable recipe and it’s sweeping the nation.”
I’ll tell you what, that’s funny right there, I don’t care who you are.

Whether he’s in character as Larry or just being himself, Whitney is a hoot to hang with for a while. I got several minutes with him for a one-on-one interview, in which he answered my softball questions. (What, I was going to ask Larry the Cable Guy about how to solve cancer or world hunger? No, when one gets a chance to talk to Larry the Cable Guy, there has to be at least one professional journalistic question about farting.)
“I don’t have the walking farts as bad as my grandmother does,” said Larry. “You know when you get older it’s harder to keep that kind of stuff in. As a matter of fact, she’d be here right now but she’s in a lawsuit with Wal-Mart. She used to get her hair cut up there but they kept screwing up her sideburns. That’s why she’s not here. We sure do like her, though.”
I also found out that Dan and I — both Midwesterners; he from Nebraska — shared an affection for the Oakland Raiders teams of the 1970s. Of course, we thought it wise not to discuss it within earshot of the Eagles fans.
It was a kick talking to both Dan and Larry the Cable Guy. Both seem like guys you’d want to spend the afternoon with at a tailgate party. If it wasn’t so dadgummed cold on Sunday, I would have stayed longer. But the Eagles fans seemed to appreciate spending a little time with Larry and he in turn was fun and gracious with the fans.
When it came to the interview, I was able to “Git-R-Done!” without any problems and it was a hoot. As Larry would say, we “Got-R-Did!”

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Stretch limousine on fire

In Catie Curtis’ newest CD titled, “Stretch Limousine on Fire,” there are these lines in the title track:

“How come the rich just keep on getting richer
while the rest of us are paying dues?
I try to keep the faith, but when I get the blues,
I think of that . . . stretch limousine on fire.”

It’s a catchy, happy tune with a contemporary message. (In an earlier verse, Curtis writes that “everyone got out alive” so the limo fire didn’t exactly hurt anyone other than maybe the well-to-do folks who were hoping to ride in it prior to the blaze.)
I always enjoy discovering a new singer-songwriter that I haven’t heard before, and Saturday night at World Café Live provided another opportunity to add to my list of favorite artists to come out of the Philly music scene. (I’m unofficially titling Saturday’s date night with The Blonde Accountant “Occupy World Café Live For A Few Hours, At Least Until The Cops Get There With The Pepper Spray.”)

Curtis is from Boston and has been around for a while now, but is new to The Blonde Accountant and me. She’s got a pleasant sound tied to compelling storytelling that makes for an enjoyable evening of music.
Her songs are mostly happy and she appears genuinely pleased up there on stage sharing them with the audience.
Another singer-songwriter, Meg Hutchinson, opened for Catie and I liked her music quite a bit as well.
I got a chance to briefly talk to Catie afterwards. She asked how we found out about the show and I answered that we try to keep an eye out for artists who perform in Philly and attend the shows of the ones we like. I had been on Catie’s website and listened to some of her stuff a few days before the show and based on that, I was pretty sure we would enjoy her music. I think she’d also be an interesting interview if I ever got the opportunity.
So add Catie Curtis to the list of storytellers like Dan May, Mutlu, Lizanne Knott, Carsie Blanton and Anj Granieri. Not only are they artists who are easy on the ears, I like to have their CDs in my car to keep me company.

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Location: Fort Washington, Pennsylvania

Mike Morsch has been executive editor of Montgomery Newspapers since 2003. His award-winning humor column "Outta Leftfield" has been recognized by the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, the Suburban Newspapers of America and the Philadelphia Press Association.

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