Friday, October 30, 2009

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Yes, I know, it's actually tomorrow, but in my neighborhood Trick or Treat Night is tonight, so here's an eerie little ditty from Landscape to put you in the Halloween-y mood. And who knows? More ghoulish delights may appear here tomorrow....MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Now Taking Requests...

Over on Twitter (where you can follow me at @berutt, if you like), I was recently given a handful of suggestions for future New Wave for the New Week entries. Some band names that were tossed around I have already written up and are sitting in my drafts folder as we speak, but others were mentioned that made me say "Great suggestion!"

I've decided to expand a bit upon that Twitter conversation. November will be "All Request Month" in the NW4NW series. Beginning next Monday, November 2, and continuing through Monday, November 30, I will be posting NW4NW entries about the artists YOU ask for! Please post your requests in the comments section below - tell me the artist you want to request, a specific song if you like, and a screen name I can use in the post to credit you for your suggestion.

You can review all of the past NW4NW entries here.

So, I turn it over to you guys - for the month of November, New Wave for the New Week is in your hands! November has five Mondays, but if response is strong enough, I will consider doing additional NW4NW posts throughout each week.

New Wave for the New Week #33

Polyrock album coverImage via Wikipedia

Despite a remarkable pedigree - being associated with American minimalist composer Philip Glass, who performed on and co-produced both of their albums - Polyrock never quite got passed the level of "historical footnote" in the history of the New Wave scene.

Formed in late-70s New York City by the Robertson brothers, Billy and Tommy, Polyrock created a fidgety, phobic, but nonetheless almost ethereal sound clearly influenced by Glass's own sparse, rigidly patterned compositions. Billy Robinson's vocals fell somewhere between Ric Ocasek and David Byrne, causing many to immediately liken the band to a more severe version of The Cars or Talking Heads. As such, they were often dismissed as derivative, when in fact the music they were making was quite cutting edge for the time.

This week's NW4NW entry is the clip for Polyrock's "Romantic Me" single, from 1980. The David Byrne comparisons come to the forefront here, both in sound and look, but pay attention to the odd burbles and scrapes going on in the music. The melody loops endlessly, wavering ever so slightly each time around the cycle to create a sound that is alienating and yet satisfying. Enjoy!



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Saturday, October 24, 2009

20,000 Pies in the Face: Soupy Sales
(January 8, 1926 – October 22, 2009)

Soupy is DeadImage by John McNab via Flickr

Soupy Sales passed away on Thursday.

Through the 1960s and 1970s, Sales was known as one of those "do anything for a laugh" comedians. Unlike many who traded in the over-animated goofball ad-lib slapstick style and relied on being loud and clownish enough to cover for weak material, Soupy was a genuinely funny person. Yes, he was responsible for, by his own count, over 20,000 pies thrown in peoples' faces over the years (most often, Soupy himself being the recipient!), but if you only focused on the zany, broad physical shtick he was doing, you missed a lot of wit in the one-liners he'd throw out there: "You show me a giant rooster chasing a member of Parliament, and I'll show you a Chicken Catch A Tory!"

Whether hosting his own shows (Lunch with Soupy in 1965-66; the brief comeback New Soupy Sales Show in 1978) or appearing as a guest panelist on numerous game shows throughout the 1970s (including a steady gig on the panel of What's My Line? in the early part of the decade), Soupy brought his insane world to every corner of television. His high-energy craziness was not for everyone's tastes, but those who got it often found themselves literally doubled over in tears laughing.

The characters he created and interacted with on his shows were legendary: Pookie the Lion and Hippy the Hippo, puppets with whom he would interact through a giant picture window on the set of his show, often pantomiming along to records; and his "dogs" White Fang and Black Tooth, who were only ever seen as giant white or black paws, respectively, and who communicated in hysterical growls and grunts which Soupy would translate.

Soupy had been having health issues in recent years, and was in hospice care in New York when he passed at age 83.

RIP, Soupy. The world is now a little less funny, and a little less silly.



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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Oops - There Goes Another Rubber Tree Plant!



The Phillies have won their second consecutive National League Championship by defeating the Dodgers 10-4 in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, winning the series 4 games to 1. This is the second year in a row the Phillies have beaten the Dodgers for that title, repaying a 30-year old debt: the Dodgers had taken two straight NLCS titles from the Phils in 1977-78.

Now, it's on to the World Series against the winner of the American League Championship Series, which the Yankees currently lead 3 games to 1. The Phillies are looking to become the first National League team to repeat as World Series winners since the Cincinnati Reds in 1975-76.

Personally, I'd like to see them play the Yankees. The Phillies and Yankees met in the World Series in 1950; the Yankees won in a 4-game sweep. That's a 59-year-old debt that just might get repaid this year as well!

Let's go Phillies!



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Monday, October 19, 2009

New Wave for the New Week #32

“Being Boiled” coverImage via Wikipedia

Like so many of the New Wave acts who became big crossover pop stars, The Human League had actually been around for several years before achieving international chart success with 1981's million-selling "Don't You Want Me?" single. Although that song essentially set the template for mainstream synthopop to come, (can you imagine Men Without Hats existing without having heard that dun-dun-d'dundun keyboard riff?), it had taken Phil Oakey three years of studio noodling, tape manipulations, and electronic experimentation, as well as a complete overhaul of the band's lineup, to find that sound.

And, like so many of the New Wave acts who became big crossover pop stars, The Human League managed a few more enjoyable tunes before succumbing to the Music Industry's demand for another massive hit single and sliding into MOR pop schmaltz (remember their last hit, "Human"?)

Their early work remains fascinating, and at times difficult to listen to. Beginning as a rather somber trio of Oakey, Martin Ware and Ian Marsh, they created a claustrophobic, Kraftwerk-inspired drone out of early synthesizers and processed recordings looped endlessly on tape machines. They were a studio-only band for a long time, as their electronic din was difficult to recreate live with no overdubs; in fact, their first single hit the shelves before the band ever performed in front of a crowd.

This version of the League delivered two full albums before disintegrating amid creative differences, with Ware and Marsh splitting off to form Heaven 17, leaving Oakey to remake The Human League into a more radio-friendly product. While Heaven 17 had their UK hits and achieved minor airplay here in the States, it was Oakey's revised League who found the magic sound that led them to global success.

While I've always been a fan of The Human League, I've grown particularly fond of their early work over the years. This week's NW4NW entry is the earliest incarnation of the band performing their first single, "Being Boiled," on UK television in 1978. Enjoy!



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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Phillies vs. Dodgers: Once More With Feeling

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 15:  Jimmy Rollins #...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I have really needed this two-day break in the playoffs to catch my breath. The Dodgers/Cardinals, Yankees/Twins and Angels/Red Sox series were each decided in fairly bland three-game sweeps, but the Fightin' Phils really had to live up to that nickname in taking the victory in their series with the Rockies 3 games to 1. The last two games of that series left me wrung out emotionally, what with games going until 2:00 in the morning and leads changing hands right up to the ninth inning.

But the Phils prevailed, and now it's on to LA starting tonight for a best-of-seven series with the Dodgers - a team I have despised from the start of my Phillies fandom. I began following the Phillies as a ten-year-old in 1977. That year, as recounted in Mitchell Nathanson's highly recommended book The Fall of the 1977 Phillies: How a Baseball Team's Collapse Sank a City's Spirit, the Phils won the NL East pennant and went into the playoffs against the Dodgers, and were picked by many sports scribes to triumph and move on to the World Series. It didn't happen, thanks to the team's internal strife and two of the oldest players in the league, Dodgers Vic Davalillo and Manny Mota, who started a two-out ninth-inning rally in Game 3 of that series to overcome a 5-3 Phillies lead. The Dodgers won that game and the next, and the Phillies were eliminated.

A year later, the Phillies again won their division, and again found themselves face to face with the Dodgers. For the second year in a row, the Dodgers stopped the Phillies in four games and again kept them from the World Series. The 11-year-old me decided then and there that I hated the Dodgers.

Last year, when the Phillies and Dodgers met again in the NL playoffs, the roles reversed, and the Phillies finally, thirty years later, saw a measure of revenge. This time, the Phils took the series four games to one, and the 41-year-old me took great relish in seeing them defeat the Dodgers.

And now, the chance exists to fully repay the three-decade debt; to do to the Dodgers what they did to the Phillies in 1977-1978; to, for the second year in a row, stop the Dodgers from going to the World Series. Believe me, I will be rooting a little extra hard for the Phillies to do just that!

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Revolution Will Be Downloaded


The first sign of the impending revolution was a cryptic message on Twitter on June 25: "The French Revolution is coming..." was posted by @TFRevolution. Then, months of silence.

The next volley was fired September 21, when both Twitter and Facebook received the warning, "Nobody expects The French Revolution..." A fan page had been set up on Facebook by The French Revolution, to compliment the Twitter page, and now the battle was ferociously joined. Over the next several days, both sites saw constant salvos:
• "Aren't you tired of having the same old thing spat back at you?"
• "Your patience with the Revolution will be rewarded"
• "Good morning. Hope you all have slept well. The Revolution never sleeps..."
• "In just a few short weeks, mysteries will be revealed. Stick with us, and thanks for following!"
• "October 13 will be a landmark day for the Revolution. Mark your calendars!"


I am personally not a fan of the "it's all a big mystery" approach to marketing. Oh, it works - these Revolutionaries certainly got people talking, trying to figure out what or who this was - but for me, the payoff better be well worth the wait for it not to be seem hokey and manipulative. Today being the landmark day, the big reveal turned out to be a letdown.
Wait, allow me to rephrase that: the big reveal turned out to be The Letdown, the excellent debut album from Lancaster's newest musical project, The French Revolution.

Friends Daniel French and Jeremy Bentley, each veterans of local bands, form the core of The French Revolution. The project began back in 2007 as both French and Bentley found themselves fed up with trying to play by the Corporate Music Industry's rules for establishing a career in music. As they wrote in the initial blog post at their long-standing MySpace page,

"...once you forget the fun involved in creating and giving your music, and start playing it for reasons beyond the pure joy of it (say... to impress labels, or get on tours with bands you don't really like but who have more "industry clout," to try and get a deal with an agent, etc. etc. etc. the list goes on and on and on), the life and joy tends to get sucked right out of music."

Feeling drained and frustrated, French and Bentley made a pact to thumb their nose at the whole machine and go back to making the music they want to make, sharing it with people who enjoy it, and above all else having fun doing what they love to do: writing and playing rock music. Today, that vision has resulted in The Letdown, a thoroughly enjoyable collection of a dozen tunes available for free download both at their own site and through Gimme Sound.com.

Supported by fellow Revolutionaries Patrick Kirchner (of the band Slimfit) and Matt Campbell (of Ex Education), French and Bentley aren't necessarily breaking any new ground here, but that's entirely by design. This is Cheap Trick wearing a Green Day costume; this is what was good about '70s-'80s-'90s rock without all the pompous overblown overtones; this is every alternative band reimagined as mainstream rockers; this is power chords and ra-ta-tat-tat drums and a party that overflows into the street. It is, simply, a FUN album - almost an anachronism in today's musical universe.

And, in the ultimate gesture of disdain for the Industry they have turned their back on, they're giving the whole shebang away for free! It's not about anything more than the music, period - it's not business, it's not product, it's music that is meant to be shared and enjoyed.

A follow up album is in the works already, this time as a three-piece with guitarist Jason Sherman. Bentley says, "Each new album by TFR will most likely include a different member, or changed membership, to spice things up and add different influences, but it will always be the core of Daniel and myself for as long as we wish to continue The French Revolution." If they keep making music like this, let's hope this Revolution goes on for quite awhile!

Listen to my personal favorite cuts from the album, "WMD" and "Force Field":


WMD



Force Field


Then, go download the whole album and join the Revolution!

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Monday, October 12, 2009

New Wave for the New Week #31

The Three O'ClockThe Three O'Clock via last.fm

Forefathers of what became known as the Paisley Underground scene in LA, The Three O'Clock began life in 1981 as The Salvation Army. Made up of Michael Quercio (then calling himself "Ricky Start"), John Blazing and Troy Howell, they released their self-titled debut on the independent Frontier Records in 1982. Armed with farfisa organ, trippy neon colors, and appropriately titled songs (the wonderful "She Turns To Flowers" is one of the finest things ever to come out of Los Angeles), The Salvation Army unleashed a dose of happy, jangly psychedelia that caught the hardcore kids off guard.

The actual Salvation Army complained about the band using their name, so Quercio and his band renamed themselves The Three O'Clock. A bit of a shake-up in the lineup also occurred about this time, with ex-Quick drummer Denny Benair joining along with Louis Gutierrez taking over guitar. With a mildly poppier influence in their psychedelic sound, the newly rechristened band released a series of albums that received positive notices in the fanzines of the era (Baroque Hoedown, Sixteen Tambourines and Arrive Without Traveling, all of which are highly recommended), and had a few college-radio hits including "With A Cantaloupe Girlfriend," "Jet Fighter," and this week's entry, "Her Head's Revolving." They had found a formula that gave them a certain level of success, but couldn't push through to larger commercial acceptance. They made the mistake of fixing what wasn't broken in the hopes of making that leap.

A misguided 1986 experiment with a more synth-heavy sound, Ever After, had the single "Suzy's On The Ball Now" and not much else going for it, and sank from view quickly. An even more poorly thought out project, 1988's Vermillion saw the band team up with Prince (!) in an obvious grab at mainstream gold, but they were grasping at air. Nothing more was heard from The Three O'Clock.

Quercio soldiered on with a new band, Permanent Green Light; Gutierrez formed Mary's Danish and saw some college radio airplay. Jason Falkner, who came on board just in time for the failed Vermillion, went on to form the band Jellyfish, and Denny Benair continued to play drums for several LA bands.

For this week's NW4NW entry, enjoy The Three O'Clock's last great moment in the sun, "Her Head's Revolving" from the 1985 album Arrive Without Traveling:



And here's the original line-up, The Salvation Army, with their finest moment, "She Turns To Flowers":



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Thursday, October 8, 2009

RIP Sam Lugar

The Sharks (Sam Lugar / Shea Quinn / Doug Phil...Image via Wikipedia

Here today
Gone tomorrow
I'll be far away...
- "On My Own" by The Sharks

Sam Rawhauser passed away this morning after a brief battle with lung cancer.

As "Sam Lugar", Rawhauser was the guitarist and lead singer of THE local band here in Lancaster throughout the 1980s, The Sharks. The Sharks began life in 1979, and built a devoted following in and around Lancaster and York, PA, initially as a new-wave cover band. Though they were faithfully playing songs by Elvis Costello, A Flock of Seagulls, Talking Heads and the like, the raw talent that Sam and bandmates Shea Quinn, Doug Phillips, Steve Zero, and Mark Showers possessed was obvious. Before long, originals not only crept into their sets, but soon formed the bulk of the material they played.

Cultivating a sound that was likeable to both new wave and pop ears in the 80s, and with eye always toward the audience having a good time, The Sharks legend grew beyond local boundaries, beyond the regional circuit, to national notice when they entered MTV's Basement Tapes competition in 1985, winning with the largest margin of any band to ever win the competition thanks to their black-and-white and oh-so-80s clip for "On My Own." Their victory secured them a major-label record deal with Elektra Records, who (as major labels often do) chewed them up and spit them out in no time at all.

In A Black And White World was overproduced and under-promoted. The bland, antiseptic MOR sound of the record sucked every bit of personality out of what was truly a great band. I remember the year I became the music director for the University of Richmond's radio station, WDCE, I found The Sharks' major-label fiasco LP in the station's record library. Whoever had been music director at that time had written a note on the album cover that said something to the effect of, "Remember that band from PA that everybody said was going to be the next big thing? This is them. They aren't."

Truly a shame, because listening to their pre-Elektra recordings, the Holiday EP and the Backs Against The Wall album, you really do get the sense that they could have been huge.

The Elektra experience, sadly, seemed to take the wind out of their sails, and The Sharks went their separate ways for awhile, reuniting for annual shows around Thanksgiving each year since about 1999. Apparently, new material was being written for a possible reunion album when Rawhauser was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of lung cancer. That was barely a month ago; this morning, it took his life.

The band's website is now a memoriam page to Sam, and directs donations in Sam's memory to be sent to his wife and son, Sandy and Ian Rawhauser. According to the very well-written tribute Gil Smart posted on his blog here, there is also talk of a benefit concert to help Sam's family with the medical bills.

The video below was put together in tribute to Sam; you can see a clip of their finest moment, the Basement Tapes-winning "On My Own" video, towards the beginning of the compilation.

RIP, Sam. Your music will be missed.



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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

So Close...So Very Close...

One of the original impetuses behind the creation of the the wild card in MLB playoffs (along with both leagues expanding to the point that three divisions were needed) was the sad tale of the 1993 San Francisco Giants, who won an amazing 103 games that year but finished second in the NL Western Division behind the Atlanta Braves, who won 104. The Giants didn't make the playoffs, and a lot of people thought they really should have because they had a better record than the NL Eastern Division winners, the Philadelphia Phillies, who only won 97. I, of course, did not subscribe to that particular line of thinking, but many did. How was it right that a team could win over 100 games in a season - no easy feat in a 162-game schedule - and not be in the playoffs to determine the best team in baseball?

So, after the 1994 strike-shortened season had no playoffs, 1995 brought about the birth of the wild card: out of the three second-place teams in each league, the one with the best record gets into the playoffs as well. Problem solved. The most deserving second-place team gets into the post-season, right?

Part of what makes baseball such a wonderful game is that, although it is a game whose very identity is found in its precise numbers and meticulous statistics, and although every effort has been made throughout the years to insure that the rulebook takes into account virtually any situation that might arise, there remains in every fan, every player, every manager and coach, every umpire, every person associated with the game, the knowledge that each game and each year brings about the distinct possibility that a situation no one ever thought of before could occur. It took 15 years for the Grand Old Game to show us that the wild card slot indeed does not insure that every deserving team makes the playoffs, but show us it did. Just ask the Detroit Tigers.

After the full 162-game season was played, only seven of the eight playoff berths were determined. Both leagues' wild card teams were already decided. The only spot not decided was the pennant winner in the AL Central Division. The Tigers, who had been in first place needing to win only one of their final four games to secure the pennant, and the Minnesota Twins had finished with identical 86-76 records, tied for first place.

Today, they played their 163rd game of the regular season to decide the victor. After three innings, the Tigers led 3-1 and were cruising along nicely, until the bottom of the 7th, when Twins pulled ahead 4-3. The Tigers promptly scored in the top of the 8th to tie the game at 4-4, and when neither team scored in the ninth, a season that had to go an extra game to decide a winner saw that extra game need extra innings to make that call.

The Tigers scored in the top of the tenth, pulling ahead 5-4, and just needed to set the Twins down in the bottom of the inning to advance to the playoffs. But the Twins wouldn't cooperate. They, too, scored, and the game went on. Two more innings, in fact, when in the bottom of the 12th inning Minnesota's Alexi Casilla singled in Carlos Gomez with the winning run. The Twins took the pennant, and the Tigers - who were in first place until the last half of the 12th inning in the 163rd game of the season - don't go to the playoffs at all.

The Twins certainly proved their worth, having won 17 of their final 21 games to catch the Tigers. And the Tigers did choke in their final four games. They only had to win one of them to have taken the pennant; instead the 2009 Detroit Tigers take their place in baseball history next to the 1993 San Francisco Giants among the best teams not to make the playoffs.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

New Wave for the New Week #30

The cover of The Beat's 1979 self-titled debut...Image via Wikipedia

One of the more popular bands to come out of the early 1980s was The English Beat. With their ska/soul sound and hummable hits like "I Confess," "Mirror in the Bathroom," and "Save it for Later," it's hard not to like them. But they were only called The English Beat here in America; in their native UK they were simply The Beat. How many of you know why the origin-specific identifier was added to their name here?

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Paul Collins.

Back in 1976, Collins was one third of the legendary L.A. power-pop band The Nerves, along with Jack Lee and Peter Case. The Nerves released one record, a much sought-after four-song EP that nowadays fetches a pretty penny if you can find a copy. The record includes their most well-known composition, "Hanging On The Telephone," which was later very successfully covered by Blondie (most people who know the Blondie version have no idea it was a cover!)

The Nerves shattered soon after, and the three gentlemen went their separate ways, each landing rather well: Peter Case would go on to form The Plimsouls (whose signature song "A Million Miles Away" was featured in the movie Valley Girl) as well as release several solo records; Jack Lee would become a song writer of some note, scoring his biggest success writing the Top 40 hit "Come Back And Stay" for Paul Young. And Paul Collins put together a very Nerves-like combo called...wait for it...The Beat.

The timing was just off: as Collins and his band started to gain recognition on the west coast and landed a recording contract with CBS, the other band from the UK using the same name was starting to make people sit up and take notice. Hence, both bands made name adjustments: the UK-based band became The English Beat here in the states, and the American band became The Paul Collins Beat overseas. (In fact, they used the adjusted name for one album here in the US as well, but after the name changes settled out, they went back to being just The Beat here.)

For those of you who have never heard them, this week's NW4NW entry is The Beat...er, The Paul Collins Beat that is...with one of their finest moments, "The Kids Are The Same." As a bonus, take a listen to The Nerves' original recording of "Hanging On The Telephone." Enjoy!





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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Post-Season Baseball!

Philadelphia Phillies Wallpaper [iPhone/iPod T...Image by Brian Wilson Photography via Flickr

We're in the midst of the final weekend of 2009 regular-season baseball, and depending on how your team did, you're either gearing up for the playoffs or turning your attention to football.

For me, this is an exciting time, as my beloved Philadelphia Phillies have won their third consecutive National League Eastern Division pennant, a feat they only previously accomplished in the 1976-1977-1978 seasons. Further, they are the defending World Champions, looking to become the first National League team to win consecutive World Series since the Cincinnati Reds turned the trick in 1975-1976. Those who, like me, are lifelong Phillies fans also know that the joy we feel seeing our team winning is only magnified by the many, many dreadful losing seasons we have suffered through.

I haven't posted a great deal about baseball and the Phillies on this blog this year; my baseball conversations mainly take place on Twitter (follow me: @berutt). However, as the playoffs progress, expect to see a bit of baseball talk here as well - especially if the Phils do well!

I would, however, like to call your attention to a post I made here back in April, on Opening Day, which you can read here. Therein, I made my predictions as to who would win each division and wild card spot. Let's see how I did...

I called the National League like this:

NL East - Philadelphia Phillies
NL Central - St. Louis Cardinals
NL West - Los Angeles Dodgers
NL Wild Card - Chicago Cubs


Hey - 3 out of 4! The Phils and Cards have indeed clinched their divisions, and while the Dodgers are still battling with the Colorado Rockies to determine which team takes the Western Division pennant and which gets the wild card, they have at least clinched the other playoff spots (The Dodgers are leading in the division by 1 game at this writing.) The Cubbies did finish in second place in their division, but their record was just not good enough this year to grab that wild card slot.

It figures I'd do well picking the NL teams - I'm a National League fan through and through. I can watch American League ball, but I have always despised the designated hitter rule. Pitchers should bat. Removing them from the lineup removes so much of the intricate strategy that makes the game so wonderful. That's an argument for another time, though; let's check the results of my American League predictions...

I called it like this:

AL East - Boston Red Sox
AL Central - Cleveland Indians
AL West - Texas Rangers
AL Wild Card - Minnesota Twins


Oof. I got one team for sure - although not in the right spot; the possibility is there to have a second team, also in the wrong spot. The Boston Red Sox are indeed in the playoffs, but they took the wild card slot, not the Eastern Division pennant. That was claimed by the New York Yankees. The Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim, in addition to having the most pretentious team name in all of professional baseball, clinched the Western Division pennant over my pick. The Rangers did finish second, however, so I wasn't so far offbase there. Now let's look at the Central Division, which is still being decided. Cleveland?!? What in the blue hell was I thinking? They're 20 games out of first place, only half a game better than the basement-dwelling Kansas City Royals. Meanwhile, the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins are battling it out for the pennant, and unless Detroit wins tonight, the potential exists for a one-game playoff to decide the victor.

I also predicted a Phillies - Red Sox World Series with the Phils repeating (an admittedly hopeful prediction!), and that still has the possibility of occurring. The first round of playoffs begins on Wednesday...get your peanuts and popcorn - and rally towels - ready!

GO PHILLIES!

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