15 April 09: But other than that, Phillies fans, how was the game?

Harry Kalas' abrupt departure from our lives on Monday totally altered an otherwise welcome and anticipated trip to the nation's capital to see its one year old Major League Baseball stadium. I got to the Navy Yard Metro station and Nationals Park's centerfield gate intentionally early to walk around and check out the park, see how the area's development has come along in the four years since I was last there (and since current Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Andy Altman was the CEO of the now defunct Anacostia Waterfront Corporation, who championed a new ballpark to spur development in an otherwise stagnant part of DC). The news of Harry's death came not 20 minutes after I arrived, and its heaviness overtook any other direction I had (and blew up my and everyone else's phones to a point of "all circuits are busy").

Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen's radio broadcast and, to a lesser extent, the TV broadcast by Tom McCarthy, Chris Wheeler and Gary Matthews were what we'll remember from the day Harry Kalas died. Their work was cathartic -- for Harry -- much like Harry's was the day Richie Ashburn died in 1997. The pre-game cigarette shared by Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, Ryan Howard, Scott Eyre and others, picked up by David Murphy, was as heartfelt a tribute to a journalist as you'll ever see athletes pay. It also paints a beautiful picture of Harry's blunt humanism, without having to stoop as low as Stu Bykofsky's opportunistic drivel not even worth linking to. Everyone else in the local media, especially those at the Inquirer (Bill Lyon), Daily News (Bill Conlin) and Comcast SportsNet (in addition to all the Phillies blogs, ZoZone, The Fightins, The 700 Level et al), have paid their respects respectfully.

The news today is that the Phillies will hold a memorial service at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday morning and that the team will wear a black HK patch on their uniform for the remainder of the season. I haven't heard it discussed yet, but I can't imagine that a statue is too far behind. Connie Mack stands as Mr Baseball on the leftfield side of the ballpark, and Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton and Robin Roberts welcome visitors to the three main entrances. The Chicago Cubs installed a shrine to Harry Caray under its Wrigley Field main gate as a tribute to that most famous singer of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame". I don't think the Phillies will have to look too far to find a sculptor who'll want his or her likeness of that most famous singer of "High Hopes" installed, say, outside of the central Pattison Avenue entrance to CBP, under the "PHILADELPHIA" in the brickwork.

Back down in DC at Nationals Park on Monday, the visiting nine exercised their own catharsis, holding off several Nats rallies on the way to a 9-8 win and yet another dramatic, teetering-over-the-edge save by Brad Lidge. At this juncture, I'd give Nationals Park a B. It's an all right ballpark, with plenty of room to move around and a decent selection of concessions (Ben's Chili Bowl and Wild Goose beer are pluses), and it's only one year into the development push it was meant to catalyze. As Larry Andersen is quick to mention, it put the press boxes way too high, which you can see on TV when the press box camera angle looks down on the players like the NFL's flying skycam. The absolute worst part of "America's greenest stadium" is the placement of two enormous parking garages in left and centerfield, in plain view (but accessorized by ads for Geico, Miller Lite and Mobil oil) and high enough to block the view of the lower half of the Capitol Building. I mean . . . duh.

The Anacostia Riverfront is . . . well, I don't actually know because I didn't make it down there after Harry's death rocked any other intentions I'd had. The views of Washington from the upper levels, which are really upper, aren't bad. You can see the Washington Monument, Old Post Office tower, National Cathedral and Arlington Cemetery Air Force Memorial all looming on the various horizons, beyond the two and three story rowhomes, ugly apartment buildings and hundreds of low slung office buildings.

The Phils play two more (today and tomorrow) then head back down to DC the weekend of May 15-17, so if the Nats are as crappy a month from now as they are currently, you shouldn't have any trouble finding a ticket. A Metro one day pass is $8.70 and -- how novel! -- their machines actually take credit cards. And it's DC, so supplementing a weekend visit around a baseball game is easy. I might recommend Great Falls National Park, not fifteen miles west of the US Capitol Building on both sides of the Potomac.

One more time for Harry Kalas, the man who died as he lived. We'll miss you, Harry the K. For a mini-essay (25 pictures) of photos from the Phillies' 9-8 victory over the Nationals -- The Day The Voice Died -- please click

–B Love

14 April 09: Day of mourning

I hadn't even finished wiping the little bit of Wild Goose Pale Ale that spilled on my hands en route to my seat in section 116 when I got a phone call from Steve Ives asking if I'd heard Harry Kalas had died. Uhh, no? He had not confirmed it himself, but he was, like so many of us, one in the chain asking if it was true. About two minutes later, my other buddy Steve got to our seats with a half smoke and a bowl of chili from Ben's, right as my wife's text message came through: harry kalas died!!!! :(

Devastating. That's the only word I think is accurate to describe Harry Kalas' death right now. It seemed like just yesterday that he was calling Matt Stairs' go-ahead homerun in the comeback win against the Rockies. Wait a minute, that was just yesterday!

Being at the game, I didn't get to hear how Scott Franzke and especially Larry Andersen handled themselves on the radio broadcast, and for as little as I like Tom McCarthy (he's the only weak link on an otherwise very strong broadcast team), I think it was important to have a sturdy voice carry the TV broadcast that Harry left so suddenly vacant. It was really this morning during Comcast Sports Rise's tribute that it all crashed down.

Richie Ashburn left the Phillies family three years before I moved here, so my knowledge of his and Harry's camaraderie has come through highlights spliced from their time together -- the 1980 NLCS and (recreated) World Series, Mike Schmidt's 500th homerun, Mitch Williams' extra-inning walk-off hit at the long end of a long doubleheader. My eight, and now nine, seasons of Phillies baseball has always had Harry's voice first and the supplements of those lucky enough to be partnered with a legend.

And now, without any advance warning or time to prepare for it, the legend is gone and the game goes on. The Washington Nationals were very gracious to offer to postpone the game on account of Harry's death, but the Phillies rightfully marched on, as Harry would have had it. In the hour or so Phillies fans had to soak in the sad news, the Nationals' pregame festivities blared on the PA and the jumbotron uninterrupted, making me wonder if it was even true; and after the player introductions by NBC's David Gregory, a moment of silence was held for Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart, raised in nearby Silver Spring, but not Harry. It was just before the players took the field that the Nationals finally made the announcement, confirming Harry's death with another moment of silence.

Philadelphia baseball fans are very fortunate to have had Harry Kalas' voice attached to our memories. His work with NFL Films and tv commercials (and the Puppy Bowl!) have carried him to the national masses, but he was genuinely ours. The monumental sadness at his sudden passing is only surpassed by the sheer joy we all lived in October. Hearing his "the 0-2 pitch . . . swing and a miss, struck 'im out! The Philadelphia Phillies are 2008 world champions of baseball!" will, at least for a little bit, shift us from goosebumps to choked-ups.

I'm glad the Phillies and Nationals played out the game, and I'm sure Harry is too. As so many have said, he died doing what he loved, and what we loved him for. And it was a hell of a game to boot -- a slugfest of seven homeruns and a Brad Lidge save for a Phillies victory. This one's for you, Harry.

Major League Baseball has a great tribute section with video and audio on mlb.com HERE.

–B Love

11 April 09: Patconian Time Capsule

This archaeological object was unearthed in Camden by a woman near and dear to Philly Skyline hearts, one who's got a little Philly Skyline fan growing near and dear to her own heart.

Michelle Schmitt, who's paid her dues as Center City District's manager of research and analysis, Philly Skyline's supervisor of Skinny (whose overdue need for an update is on one Bee Love, not Michelle), and currently, project coordinator for Temple's Metropolitan Philadelphia Indicators Project (a fancy way of saying Kickass Analytical Maps), and her award winning filmmaker husband Ben Herold, will within six months be contributing their part to the reversal of Philadelphia's population drain, and for that we all say thank you and congratulations!

Michelle sent this photo along with the comment, "this sign made me happy and sad for our lost and soon to be lost sporting venues," and I think it's safe to say that she speaks for all of us. The Patco sign, at Camden's City Hall station, dates itself at at least 20 years by the inclusion of JFK Stadium, whose last public performance was a Grateful Dead concert in July 1989. It was demolished in 1992, and the Corestates Center opened on its grave in 1996, before its name change to First Union Center and then Wachovia Center (and soon Wells Fargo Center???). The Vet was demolished on March 21, 2004, two weeks before the Phillies opened Citizens Bank Park. The Spectrum? It's still there, but its death watch is on overdrive, even though its replacement Philly Live is on hold.

Here's hoping that someday, some magical distant day of convenient practicality, the need to buy separate Patco and Septa tickets for the same single journey will join those stadiums in the past.

–B Love

10 April 09: 10 for 10

On this day number ten of April, let's catch up on our Rittenhouse Square number ten, especially for my man Horace in NYC.

And, I suppose, for my man Roy Lichtenstein, late of NYC. Lichtenstein's Brushstroke Group, created a year before his death in 1997, is his only outdoor installation in Philadelphia. It was purchased and installed by the Duane Morris law firm at United Plaza in 2005.

10 Rittenhouse is zipping right along, nearing completion and opening. The only glass still to be installed in the tower is in the penthouse and the sections where the hoist is still mounted. On the Walnut Street side, all the windows have been installed in the former Rittenhouse Club and the fencing there has at last been removed, in anticipation of Barney's opening in the coming weeks.

This web site's 10 Rittenhouse Square construction section just got a 24 photo update, and if you would like to view it, you may do so HERE.

Down here is an enlarged version of one of those, especially for your desktop. This lovers-tossing-frisbees scene was going down with the sun at Judy Garland Park about 20 minutes before maximum Shackamaximum consumption down at the Doob.

–B Love

10 April 09: Saucer magnolia, blossoms blooming

Time to get yr Philly Skyline hippie on again, and this one here is a summer love for spring, fall and winter.

The saucer magnolia tree wastes no time making a statement in early spring. Its fragrant tulips bloom around right now every year on bare branches, i.e. before any leaves come in, so it's always a stark pink-on-brown. They're very popular for decoration, especially right here in Rittenhouse Square.

Consider this Philly Skyline Sugar Magnolia Skyline a placeholder for the next 10 Rittenhouse update, which is in the mail.

Meanwhile just across the way, just across town and all over the country is this old familiar white guy:

The bradford pear tree was one of the early arbor exhibits on this web site. (That's archived HERE.) While the white flowers are pretty for a couple of weeks in the spring, the bradford -- a cultivar of the callery -- is not an especially good tree to have near your house or on the street. It's a non-native tree, only introduced in North America a century ago, and it doesn't age well. It gets top heavy after 20 years or so and breaks easily.

But if you're up on your gardening and can tend to your bradford with care, it's a mighty fine tree.

–B Love

9 April 09: More on "casinos"

It's been a banner week for gaming news in greater Philadelphia, hasn't it? The Sugar House Thing emerges with the worst redesign possible and the backing of the Nutter administration, Foxwoods officials were heckled and chased out of the Gaming Board meeting, and a new slot parlor was approved for Valley Forge.

That would make five slot parlors within a half hour drive from Center City. Two key words from that statement: "slot parlors" and "drive". That these licenses are for slots only (yeah yeah they have video blackjack . . . ooooh, video blackjack!) just shows how half-assed Pennsylvania has done it and what a missed opportunity gaming has been. Barring table games from the outset (or even saying they're an option, but only in the future after a test run) perpetuates Pennsylvania's reputation for backwards, backwoods politics. (Then again I suppose a sudden urge for gaming of any kind does, too.)

Slot parlors aren't exactly high stakes. There won't be any World Series of Poker tournaments or Ocean's Eleven remakes in an "interim" mobile home in the middle of a parking lot on the Delaware River. I could, though, see a Dale Chihuly chandelier hanging above the boar sculpture in the former Strawbridge's, which I've heard Foxwoods has pledged to preserve, along with the elevator lobby ornamentation. Of the two, SHT and Foxwoods, the latter is a much better fit. Before the licenses were awarded, 8th & Market was the place in the city I thought a casino would work. It's exactly halfway between the two biggest tourist draws in the city and the Disney Hole is tailor made for a large scale development. I truly think it can be well done.

As a full casino, not a slot parlor. As long as it's a slots-only operation, I don't see how Foxwoods is going to be the big draw they expect it to. In fairness, I'm certain that Foxwoods is banking on the state eventually legalizing the table games and poker they have at their Connecticut resort, but until that happens, there will be a grotesque cheapness about it.

Still, of the five slots parlors in the region -- Foxwoods, Sugar House, Harrah's Chester, Philadelphia Park and Valley Forge -- the Strawbridge's site makes the most sense. In these economic times, who else is going to fill that space? (Target?) Foxwoods' Brian Ford acknowledges the vitality that once was the Strawbridge's department store and, to his credit, the transit system that is directly beneath him. The el, the subway spur, Patco and Market East Station are all accessible without ever stepping outside. But does anyone not drive to casinos?

It's hard to interpret Ford's references to the transit below as anything but lip service to rationalize fast tracking Foxwoods. The original plans for Foxwoods' South Philly riverfront plan -- which are still the plans featured on the official web site at foxwoodspa.com -- call for a 4,500 car garage. Four thousand, five hundred cars. In addition to all of SHT's surface parking, they're anticipating a 3,000 car garage that will be the largest in the city. The Septa-Patco options under Strawbridge's will pare that 4,500 figure down, but I still doubt the several-hundred space garage attached to the rear of the building will be adequate.

Enter the Disney Hole. Already a surface parking lot, the large scale development that that site winds up being is a parking garage. How can it not? The Disney Hole surface parking lot holds less than 400 parked cars, and it runs the length of the block between 8th & 9th, as deep as Ranstead Street and the back side of 833 Chestnut. And there's another surface parking lot on the corner of 8th & Chestnut -- directly across the street from another entrance to Patco.

As I see it, if Foxwoods is an inevitability -- they have funding in place where SHT does not -- so too is a Disney Hole parking garage. If that happens, I sincerely hope they spend a little of that Foxwoods cash on an innovative design. The Planning Commission's Market East strategic plan (in pdf form HERE), which was prepared when Foxwoods was looking to plop into Burlington Coat Factory a couple blocks west, calls for shops on Market Street, a modest frontage and "Market Street architecture" for integrating the potential casino. The Strawbridge's building already does or can do all of those things. A new garage across the street could, but I would hope for something more inventive, closer to the 40th & Walnut Fresh Grocer than the existing 7th & Market garage (with Dunkin Donuts and Geator Gold Radio).

Foxwoods' choice of signage could challenge the modesty principle, too. How garish a sign would a casino have at 8th & Market? And would it be any more garish than the big neon guitar the Hard Rock Café affixed to the classic Reading Terminal?

What was it Popkin said? It will operate, but it won't perform. And what was it Corcoran said? It will generate jobs and keep the social security dollars of those Marlboro smokin' flinty broads in the state, but it sure won't dazzle.

Casinos in Philadelphia are looking inevitable.

So did a Hillary Clinton presidency.

–B Love

8 April 09: Interim load of SHT

Much like the Phillies are starting the new season with a cold splash of reality that the joy and jubilation of championship is history, Philadelphia's New Day and New Way have faded into New Yesterday and the Same Old Way. If this push for an "interim" Sugar House is any indication, anyway.

Look at that picture right there. Or if you can stomach it, open and enlarge the PDF for the details. It, and several other "new and improved" renderings of the slot barn that may eventually be a casino -- let's call it the Sugar House Thing ("SHT" for short, one syllable, rhymes with "spit") -- are at the bottom of Kellie Patrick Gates' really well done story on Plan Philly HERE. Speaking strictly upon the objectivism for such a painfully drawn out and contentious issue, Kellie's has been superb.

Here on Philly Skyline, the casino issue has been largely nonexistent for several reasons: 1, there are a million people out there, mostly anti- but some pro-, already shouting through megaphones and riding buses to Harrisburg and generally making a ruckus about the casinos we've heard about for so long but for which we've still seen little more than dirt pushing; 2, I really don't buy all the worst case scenarios -- I don't, for example, think there will be a sudden well of prostitution at Penn Treaty Park if a casino opens next door; and 3, a casino really can be well done if its developers let it, participating in an existing/growing energy and infusing the local economy as promised. My wife and I bought a home six blocks from where SHT was awarded a license after it was awarded a license. SHT wasn't even close to being a part of that decision.

But it's hard to ignore the 'new design' that's being pushed by the Nutter administration, to the tune of "do[ing] everything within our power to assist Sugar House's efforts to move forward with this design and to open an interim facility by this time next year." It's the "interim" design that's the problem. "These economic times" lead every newscast and car commercial and standup comedian routine . . . and if they carry into the next several years, the "interim" is what we'll have to live with.

And the interim . . . is AWFUL.

There's a Phase I and a Phase II, and prior to those, the interim. So really, it's three phases: two further out that depend on the economy and a closer one, the interim, that depends on design approvals from the state gaming board, the extension of the gaming license already expired, the acquisition of another property (which also requires approval from the gaming board), and the pesky issue of funding. Let's suppose those things happen and Philly takes an interim SHT. Man, does it stink.

Just look at that SHT. The pink outline there, and on the plot just downstream on the other side of Waterfront Square, and on the two insets -- central Penn's Landing on the upper left and the Pier 70 Wal-Mart on the lower right -- are same-scale comparisons of the surface parking lots that currently dot and will really dot our forlorn Delaware Riverfront that tries so hard.

It's the surface parking lot that makes this interim SHT so hard to swallow. The biggest key, the key, to the Central Delaware study, was to cohesively sew the riverfront's many pieces together with pedestrian oriented activity and development, transit encouraged where possible. At the 'Declaration on the Delaware' last June -- at the very beginning of the Summer-turned-year of the Delaware -- both Penn Praxis' Harris Steinberg and Mayor Nutter stressed that as planned, the Sugar House (and Foxwoods, who had not yet proposed the move to Market East) development did not fit within the Civic Vision, the plan endorsed by the city.

The idea being pushed now is that the long term -- phase II buildout -- Sugar House Thing does fit within that vision. These economic times, however, call for an interim plan, and the interim seems poised to be the most realistic, and lasting, of the three phases. Even Phase I embraces Delaware Avenue with two enormous surface parking lots, two "primary" entrances (one which will employ the traffic light at Frankford Avenue and the other which is slightly off of the one at Shackamaxon Street), and a smaller third parking lot and third entrance, presuming Sugar House is able to purchase the Bogatin parcel to the north.

All in all, it's a very ugly picture. The interim SHT, whose length figures to be indefinite, will feature the largest surface parking lot yet on the central Delaware Riverfront. (The one from Best Buy to Ikea to Target, on the other hand, has them all beat, giving even Camden's riverfront parking lots a run for their money.)

The Spectrum is scheduled to be demolished at the end of this year, despite the Phantoms not having a new home, and despite Ed Snider's admission that the development of Philly Live will rely on a healthy market. In the interim? Can't imagine they'll let a big hole in the ground sit there idly when they can make money from paving it over with more surface parking, leaving the Broad Street Subway's patrons to walk through three city blocks of surface parking just to reach Citizens Bank Park, Lincoln Financial Field and the Wachovia Center. The ballpark is the only one of these even remotely close to pedestrian orientation, and still then you encounter two logjams along Pattison Avenue in which cars cross the path of the pedestrian to enter the parking lot, just like I called it on Radio Times six years ago and was shot down by the so-called ballpark "expert" guest who said that that would not happen.

Remember St George's Hall? The kinda-sorta historic building no one fought for that sits directly across the street from two other surface parking lots that was demolished with no immediate plans for a replacement? Guess who just applied for a permit for a surface parking lot.

The early 19th century maritime buildings demolished two years ago? Surface parking lots, still good and interim.

Seems like the more we talk about the right way to move ahead, the more we keep doing the same old wrong SHT. I don't get it.

–B Love

7 April 09: And now, the annual springtime
"photos presented without comment" post

Just a few recent photos of springtime being springtime, nothing more, nothing less.

–B Love

6 April 09: New season, new stuff, new expectations

Down at the ol' ballpark last night, the Phillies started off the season the way they know best: with a lot of fanfare and a big L at the end.

While it was a drag to see Brett Myers give up three homeruns in the first two innings, including one to a kid in his first Major League at bat, there was a lot to take note of at the ballpark. After mustering only two hits against Derek Lowe, who looked exceptional, Eric Bruntlett and Jayson Werth got the Phils going on a little 9th inning rally against Braves closer Mike Gonzalez and his weird delivery, and after a Chase Utley walk, there were two on with one out, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibañez coming to the plate. RyHo swung at two garbage sliders and watched a fastball right down the pike for strike three, and Ibañez capped his 0-for-4 first impression with a strikeout to end the game. Sigh.

This makes four straight opening day losses for the Phillies, so considering the team's finished product over those same seasons, it's no major cause for concern. Remember the spanking from the Cardinals three years ago, Edgar Renteria's two-HR day two years ago, and Tom Gordon's five-run ninth-inning meltdown last year? The last time the Phillies won on opening day was in 2005 -- in the first game of the former Montréal Expos as the Washington Nationals. Ehh, who cares. 161 games to go.

Opening Day is always fun anyway. The hoopla, especially this year, is only ever matched by the playoffs. Especially for the national tv audience, a red carpet was rolled out for the champs, who were dropped off via a shuttle bus on 10th Street near the Holiday Inn, from which they paraded into the ballpark to the marching band sounds of TSOP, via Ashburn Alley, where Charlie Manuel (who heard a nonstop "Charlie! Charlie!" chant) and Mayor Nutter raised the 2008 pennant in the presence of the World Series trophy.

Opening Day is also good for seeing what's new at the ballpark. Some observations I made from section 108 and in the general Citizens Bank Park vicinity . . .

• On the way into the game, it was a treat to see Sonny Forriest Jr has not only returned for another season of serenading, but he's upgraded his look with a new Phillies uniform, and he's carrying CDs for sale of his "Go Phillies Go" song (based on "Love is Like a Baseball Game" by the Intruders, of which he was a member in the 70s). Sonny's also got some tunes on Myspace HERE.

• In at least one at bat, Jimmy Rollins came out to "Chief Rocka" by Lords of the Underground. True story -- I shared a blunt with those guys after a concert in college and Mr Funke told me it was proper. The lords chief rocka number one!

• Pat Gillick's ceremonial first pitch was a strike, right down the middle. Attaboy, Pat.

• Miss America(!) sang the national anthem, and it was . . . not great. Go figure. I wanted to know why men have to remove their hats and she didn't have to remove her tiara. I mean come on.

• The ballpark vendors got a uniform upgrade this year. Their numbers are now embroidered in the red, curved Phillies font, as opposed to the old black, blocky iron-on letters.

• Yards Philly Pale Ale has returned to the Brewerytown stand at the leftfield entrance, YESSSSSSS. Kudos to Kehoe for that one -- that's his entrance, too.

• AIG didn't renew their mini-billboard sponsorship. Shame. There were a few companies with new signs I've never heard of, including the Philadelphia Cheesesteak Company, whose 'Philadelphia' logo looks so close to Philly Mag's that from across the ballpark I thought that's whose ad it was. After reading their web site, I still don't understand who they are or what it is they do with their cheesesteaks.
Today, the Philadelphia Steak and Chicken Steak sandwich is being offered and served in most delis, restaurants, chain restaurant operations, diners, pizza parlors, convenience stores, college campuses, cafeterias, stadiums, kiosks and mall food courts throughout the U.S., Canada and other parts of the world.
On the other hand, plus points for the single-word "cheesesteak" and the incorporation of Comcast Center into their skyline logo.

• Speaking of Skyline Inspections, I was also wondering if the graphics they use on the jumbotron when players are batting are MLB-issued or are done in-house by the Phillies' graphics team. This year, they're using the city skyline in the background for all teams.

In the On Deck series, I noticed that the skyline they used for Tampa Bay was that of Tampa, not St Petersburg where the Rays play. (Few people would notice this.) And jeez even I know better places to photograph the Atlanta skyline than the one they used. But for the Phillies, seen here, the image used is from the Mann Center, with Murano topped off but still under construction and with crane. And it's panned to the right so as to not feature Comcast, but it's got Cira Centre.

And with that Skyline Inspection, we'll wrap it up for yr Monday Morning Phillies Opening Day report. If mini-photo-essays are a thing you enjoy, then you might enjoy this mini-photo-essay of last night's game HERE.

–B Love

PS: A shout to my traveling post-game el companions Elliott and Rich.

5 April 09 Look who's back

Of course I'm talking about the national pastime and the reigning World Champions of Baseball, the fightin' Philadelphia Phillies.

Any sentiment and nostalgia for Pat Burrell this past weekend was incidental, if the very name of Friday evening's promotion was any indication. Major League Baseball's standard "On Deck Series" -- the lethargic official end to spring training and anticlimax of the otherwise exciting return to the home ballpark -- welcomed the dearly departed Pat the Bat and the dearly defeated Tampa Bay Rays to the scene of the championship with "Pat Burrell Recognition Night" . . . not Pat Burrell Appreciation Night, not Pat Burrell Celebration Night, but Pat Burrell Recognition Night. Much as I loved Pat and all his ups and downs, "Pat Burrell Recognition Night" is pretty hilarious -- almost as hilarious as the montage of his highlights being set to Foreigner's power ballad classic "I Want to Know What Love Is".

It really was a love fest worthy of a ballad. It was great to see Pat Burrell again, but it hurt to see him in crip blue after so many years in our blood red. Thanks for the memories, Pat. Now take your On Deck single, walk, unbelievable stolen base and leadoff homerun and get the hell out of here.

At least that's what I think I heard this guy here say.

Raul Ibañez is one of few new faces on the WFCs' roster, and he's a formidable one. His stats are on par with Pat's -- Ibañez is good for more RBIs -- and though he's five years older than Pat, he's in incredible shape, he's obviously not slower than Pat, and they say he's Pat's equal in terms of likability and clubhouse chemistry. You might say he's the opposite of Gary Sheffield who, as you might have read from one reader at TheFightins.com, could not be a better perfect fit for the New York Mets: he's old, he's an outfielder, and he's an outspoken asshole. He is also especially fond of Latino players, which I'm sure will go over well in a locker room of Reyes and Delgado, Beltran and Perez, Santana and Rodriguez.

It seems like every sportswriter in America -- Joe Morgan, Peter Gammons, Sports Illustrated -- forgets not only who just won the World Series, but that the team who did has almost every player back, almost every one of them in the prime of his career. (We'll give Jamie Moyer a pass -- the man led the champs in regular season wins with 16.) The Mets may have strengthened their bullpen with JJ Putz and "K-Rod", but the Phillies' was already the best in baseball.

But enough about those also-rans, it's Go Time for the home nine, and they're looking to defend their title.

The Phils didn't exactly burn up the Grapefruit League (13 wins, 19 losses, 2 draws), but 1, they never do, and 2, that 12-18-1 in last year's spring training didn't turn out too badly in the end, did it? Likewise, it's a bummer that Cole Hamels won't be starting his first Opening Day when the Phils host the Braves this evening, but no one wants to rush the ace's return to form (and return to his fastball velocity, especially in the much cooler Pennsylvania April air), and again, the last two seasons in which Brett Myers started Opening Day turned out pretty well.

Baseball is in the air, and Mother Nature is clearly a Phillies fan. Sunny and 65° on Opening Day? 58°, clear and low wind at first pitch? You kiddin' me?

Opening Day is here!

Beautiful, wonderful, Phillies baseball. It's back, and with a new, world effin championship flavor. This photo, click-n-enlarge, is the first Philly Skyline Phillies Skyline of the 2009 season. (The second is just below, at the end of this post.)

Brett Myers' first pitch comes tonight at 8:05, the champs in the ESPN Primetime opening slot. The Braves send out their offseason's blue chip acquisition Derek Lowe, who we last saw in South Philly as the loser of NLCS Game 1, serving up blasts to Chase Utley and one Pat Burrell along the way. Fun trivia: he was relieved by the Phils' new #5 starter Chan Ho Park. Larry Wayne Jones, the personification of the class he professes, will be back for his 16th season. Don't worry Chipper, you're a safe bet to "lose with class" again this year.

Speaking of safe bets, vegas.com currently has the Phils at 17:2 odds to repeat as champs; they're ahead of the Mets, but behind the Yankees, Cubs and Red Sox.

Hot damn, the 2009 Major League Baseball season is upon us. Refresh yr bookmarks -- Beerleaguer, The Fightins, Zo Zone, We Should Be GMs, The 700 Level, and of course Phillies.com -- crank up The Big Talker, and play ball.

* * *

If you like limericks -- and who doesn't? -- then you'll love the effort Edmund Weisberg put into his tribute to the 2008 WFCs. Check that out HERE.

A big shout to my man Jimbo, representing Phillies fans in the Tampa Bay area by NOT getting a mohawk nor ringing a cowbell, for the On Deck hookup. A mini-series of photos from Friday night's game and Pat's somewhat triumphant return is HERE.

Finally, that Philly Skyline Phillies Skyline. It's a little grainy (taken well after sundown, ISO 1250, which I shoot in for night games at the ballpark), but it's all there -- a finished Ritz-Carlton, a near-finished 10 Rittenhouse, and a rising 1706 Rittenhouse.



–B Love

3 April 09: Calendar Companion: At Penn

OOOOOOOOOOOPS. Looks like I missed my obligation to paying customers on the first of the month! Blame conficker.

Philly Skyline, The Calendar: April 2009. Here we are with yet another ode to Frank Furness. His Fisher Fine Arts Library gets the big page treatment this month on the calendar, but this is less about him than it is about America's Oldest University.

That proclamation raises the eyebrows and ire of many an Ivy Leaguer, especially those from Princeton. Penn was the first higher learning institution to use the word 'University' in its name, changing from 'College of Philadelphia' to 'University of the State of Pennsylvania' in 1779 by way of state charter. Another state charter finally gave it 'University of Pennsylvania' in 1791.

Exactly when it was founded is also a matter of discussion. Benjamin Franklin is recognized as the founder of the university. He's deified on Penn's campus with a statue as a young man on 33rd Street outside the football stadium named for him, another statue as a wise old man on a bench with a pigeon, and as God himself seated outside of College Hall. (Split Button, by Claes Oldenburg, is not a direct allusion to Franklin, though it was placed prominently within view of the seated Franklin.) In 1749, Franklin published his pamphlet Proposals relating to the education of youth in Pensilvania to organize a system of learning not specifically related to clergy, as Harvard, Yale and William & Mary, three established existing colleges of the time, had been. When the 'Academy of Philadelphia' formed that year, Franklin as its president, their first concern was a location for the school.

Conveniently for the budding college, a previous attempt at a school never really got off the ground. In 1740, the evangelist preacher George Whitfield and his followers convened the 'Charity School of Philadelphia', an effort to provide education for poor children. Their enterprise got as far as the erection of a good sized building at 4th & Arch, but Whitfield left town, his following fell out of favor and the school never materialized, so the Academy purchased the building in 1750 with a promise to keep the Charity School. The college's first classes began at the Whitfield Building in January 1751. The Charity School for Boys started classes later that same year, and the Charity School for Girls in 1753.

So . . . what would become Penn was formally established in 1749, but incorporated a previous attempt at a school from 1740. The College of New Jersey -- what would become Princeton University -- was formed in 1746, also officially non-sectarian. Herein lies the dispute of who came first. If we're referencing the starting point from their charters, Princeton wins. Harvard (1650), William & Mary (1693), Yale (1701), Princeton (1746) and Columbia (1754) were all chartered prior to Penn's in 1755. Of course Penn beat them all by establishing the first medical school in 1765, making it the first university before it officially adopted that title. At any rate, whether Penn is or is not the oldest university in America is a matter of semantics, but I think if you claim Ben Franklin as your founder, you stick with his 1749, rather than the earlier date that's conveniently older than your arch rival's.

* * *

Skipping ahead 260 years to today, the University of Pennsylvania is still at the forefront of American learning institutions -- and just as importantly, at the forefront of Philly Skyline readership. (Seriously -- upenn.edu and phila.gov are consistently among the top five in visitor origins, as is, strangely, l-3com.com . . . why Lockheed Martin is visiting phillyskyline.com, I can only guess.) Penn's history is well documented. A university timeline HERE and an essay by George Thomas, "Building Penn's Brand," HERE, are good starting points. And the list of Penn's accomplished alumni is endless, from 19 Nobel laureates to Wharton schooled businesspeople like Warren Buffett and Donald Trump to artists like John Legend and Louis Kahn, whose acclaimed Richards Medical Research Laboratories is pictured at right -- and on the calendar.

As mentioned above, the large photo for this month is the Anne and Jerome Fisher Fine Arts Library, designed by Frank Furness in 1888 and built as the central library for the university, which had moved across the Schuylkill to its current location in 1872, after outgrowing its space at 9th & Chestnut, where it had resided in a campus by William Strickland (after outgrowing its previous location at 4th & Arch and collected other nearby buildings). It's also referred to colloquially as the Furness Library. Its main entrance faces the Blanche P Levy Park -- The Green. Meyerson Hall, the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library and College Hall, the alleged inspiration for the Addams Family's house (created by Penn alumnus Charles Addams), ring the perimeter of the Green.

Mixed about the Green are artworks including a copy of Robert Indiana's LOVE statue (1966), Sandy Calder's Jerusalem Stabile (1976), the aforementioned Split Button by Oldenburg (1981) and seated Franklin (by John Boyle, 1899), and the other image on the calendar, Robert Engman's Peace Symbol*, from the summer of love, 1967. Engman's Triune, outside what is now the Residences of the Ritz-Carlton, is a repeat subject on this web site, but he has other installations on Penn's campus and in Southwest Philly. Check out his page on philart.net HERE.

* Penn's facilities page lists David Linquist as the artist, but as nearly as I can tell from this listing at the Smithsonian, Linquist was the lead of a group of students who Engman oversaw in the sculpture's creation. If anyone knows the whole story behind this, drop me a line.

Go 'head, Penn, ye of your ENIAC and Biopond and anthropology/archaeology museum and Palestra and Kelly Writers House and ever growing hospital system and ever growing campus. Just do us a favor and build that pedestrian bridge -- bring Locust Walk to the rest of us.

April 2009. This month's for U Penn.

–B Love

2 April 09: Live at the Skyline Con,
where everyone loves a pork parade

And now, as promised, the super block super update. Here be four photos examining the growing girth and glut as the Pennsylvania Convention Center blobs itself out toward Broad Street. Click them to enlarge them. Grow their girth and glut.

The first photo, above, will soon be the exciting conclusion in the Convention Center's Arch Street Façade Trilogy, extending the same, contiguous building from 11th Street to Broad Street, where it will meet the old Liberty Title & Trust Company Building, which last I heard was slated for hotel conversion.

That hulking three block monster makes tunnels out of 12th Street and now 13th Street. In the photo below, the columns rising behind the grand marshals of the cold cut cavalcade will support the building's suspension across 13th Street.

I hope the Boars Head Baloney Boss doesn't catch wind of this picture, though -- the fourth guy back is text messaging while pedaling his tripe-cycle. When you're in the prosciutto procession, you are representing the lunchmeat elite, and you're endangering both yourself and your booty of ham. Don't text and turkey.

Finally, two broad overviews. The photo above looks from the 13th & Arch area out toward Broad Street, while the one below looks over Broad Street. That's a lot of construction right there.

–B Love

2 April 09: It's doing that thing again

Out and about this morning, I swung over to a construction site that I've gotten more emails about than I ever expected to: the Convention Center's expansion. (Photo updates will be posted right after this one.) Around 9:30, the fog was in the process of lifting off the skyline, the tops of the tallest buildings dusting themselves off before showing up for work.

Walking back from Broad & Race toward the el, I saw the reverse shadows from the second sun shining off Comcast Center. PAFA students out for a smoke were shading their eyes while milling about an unusually bright Cherry Street.

So here again was Comcast Center, the 975' mirror, beaming its beams through the fading fog, the tiniest opaque breaks between glass panels transmuted as simple shaded strokes to underscore the tower's glittering glow.

I already have that eye floater thing in my right eye (it's like a little out-of-focus squirming coil that you try to catch but YOU NEVER CAN), so staring into the sun (or at least the very reflection of the sun) through two layers of glass in a camera's viewfinder is probably not the brightest idea. But I do a lot of stupid shit when the end result is a good time. This photo here is one of those good times.

Comcast Center, 9:45am, between the PAFA main building and the Hamilton Building on Cherry Street. ISO 400, focal length 131mm, f18, 1/4000th. Circular polarizer for extra blue, just for you, shooby dooby doo!

–B Love

1 April 09: Sad day on the Parkway

This here is a dedicated shout to my man HughE Dillon. In between all the party pictures and celebrity spotting, his Philly Chit Chat drops some pretty big scoops, and a huge one from this morning HERE is, as he notes, sadly, not an April Fool's joke.

The Calder Garden, with its rotating installations of stabiles and mobiles by artist Sandy Calder, has been, since 2001, a formidable consolation to the Parkway for the unattainable funding to build a full fledged museum. Make that "had been," since as of today, the garden is no more. HughE has photos from yesterday of the sculptures being dismantled and removed via flatbed truck. The collaborative funding between Pew Charitable Trusts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Calder Foundation and the City has apparently run out.

This is obviously a very sad moment for the city's art community, the Calder family, and, especially, the hopes for the Parkway's transformation into the Champs-Élysée it's always meant to be. The Barnes is coming, but it's still a few years away. Removing the Calders, at least for now, guarantees another block of desolation along that not-so-grand boulevard and, as HughE notes, an invitation for the homeless to reclaim the block now that the weather is warming up and there's no reason for anyone to hang out there.

Chalk another disheartening ending up to the economy, I suppose.

Alexander Milne Calder's sculpture adorning City Hall and Alexander Stirling Calder's Swann Fountain work will forever remain in prominence, but the work of the youngest Calder will have to wait for another day to claim its place in the public eye with his father's and grandfather's iconography. Still, Sandy's mobile Ghost anchors the opposite end of the Parkway in the Great Stair Hall of the Art Museum -- and is visible for the cost of admission ($14).

The removal of the Calder Garden is a serious blow to a Parkway that, by and large, seriously blows. While the central branch of the Free Library and the Franklin Institute (I refuse to call it by the shortened name they've been using to try to hip the place up) are invaluable institutions at the Parkway's Logan Circle gateway, reaching the Art Museum from there is, the Rodin Museum aside, uninviting and awful. On the right, you have a demolition/construction site (which will be fine when it's finished -- in three years), the Rodin Museum occupying about a third of a city block, and some Little League fields. On the left, there's an empty plaza, another empty little block that fails to mask the wail of the Vine Street Expressway behind it, the now-former Calder Museum that will be an even bigger empty block, and the wasted space fronting Park Towne Place, itself a giant waste of space. And straight ahead, right up the middle of the Parkway, you have the surface parking lot that greets you to Eakins Oval. And once you've finally reached the Washington Monument, looking directly across the street to the Art Museum's famous steps, you realize you have to walk a few hundred feet out of your way to cross the street just to get there, or else play chicken with the traffic coming on from Kelly Drive and Spring Garden Street.

O! Ben Franklin Parkway, how far you have yet to go.

Photo from the Philly Skyline Archives: Alexander Calder's Ordinary, 1969, taken March 2003. Ordinary was moved to the Seagram Building in New York in 2006. See Inga Saffron's story about it HERE.

–B Love

1 April 09: Out like a lion

Forgot to mention this the other day. How about that super surprise storm Sunday? Apparently I was so fixated on college basketball that I paid no attention to the severe storm on its way and I phoned in a take-out order for dinner . . . exactly 5 minutes before the loud weather warning's red letters scrolled across the television. I was good and hungry by the time I went out to fetch my food 45 minutes later, boy.

I'd been up to the roof earlier in the day to get some photos of the sun burning off the fog, and watched it turn into such a nice Sunday, so the quickness and ferocity of that storm was pretty remarkable. I took the above photo about five minutes before watching the skyline be eaten whole by the cloud whose charge was hurried and yellow, and five minutes after that the hail rained so hard I thought for sure the new skylight was a goner.

6ABC made a nice time lapse of the storm HERE, and City Paper's Flickr photo stream got a few fantastic contributions of the approaching storm and the wrath of the hail. Check out Paul Gentile's G-Ho shots HERE and odhusky's East Falls shots HERE. Great stuff.

And here's a Philly Skyline Stormy Skyline of our own, zoomed in a bit from above, the dark clouds rolling in.

–B Love

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