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Shining On Brightly

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By John R, Philadelphia, PA

When my friend heard that Efrem Zimbalist Jr died a few years ago he immediately thought of his dad and his shining his kids’ shoes.

How did he draw that connection? Efrem Zimbalist Jr was the star of show called “The F.B.I.” a crime drama in 1960s and 70s. The announcer’s booming voice would come on and announce Efrem as the star over the opening credits. The show aired on Sunday nights in an era when families would gather around the TV to watch a show together –it was the only time the show would be on – you would need to check your TV Guide to see what the show was about that night. No “on demand” or watch whenever you want options like today.

It was a weekly routine –. as the family enjoyed that week’s episode, his dad would shine the shoes getting them ready for the next week.

Think about that – shining shoes for the next week. Simple. Touching. Caring. It was done by a man who was a Korean War vet, part of the “greatest generation.” That generation really set the standard for how to live your life. How to be a great person. Showing that family, friends, neighborhood and doing what is right for others – not just for yourself – is paramount. To do it without fanfare, without the need to draw attention. To be a stand-up person and accept life’s challenges and take responsibility for your actions.

Shining shoes – a simple action that triggers a wonderful family memory. And a respect for those that lived life for others and not for themselves.

The Wonderful Wizard — in color

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The Wonderful Wizard — In Color

By Mary W.

Sicklerville, NJ

Our uncle Frank and Aunt Mary who lived around the corner from us were the only ones in the family to have a color TV. And every year – it was only once a year – when the Wizard of Oz came on TV –we would go to their house and watch and just be amazed when Dorothy steps out of the house and the movie transforms from black and white into color.

Our cousins got to see the color TV all year – but the Wizard of Oz was the time we all crammed into the South Philly rowhome to watch that Zenith TV. (It was more than a TV — it was a piece of furniture that had a record player and bar in it). We would look up in the TV Guide to see when it was coming on and we would walk to their house eager to see the best movie ever.

Now, with the on-demand the ability to watch whatever you want and whenever you want takes away that time. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the Wizard of Oz and am happy to have the chance to watch it whenever I want.  What I really miss is that the TV was the way we shared things- it was a common thread to bond us. It captured all the events and we saw it together.

I’ll always treasure my set of Wizard of Oz ornaments and hang them on my tree every year.

The Ears Have It

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By Beth C, Palmyra, NJ

Mouse ears. I love my mouse ears. They remind me of taking my kids to Disneyworld and just watching their faces. My enjoyment came from watching them enjoy themselves. We went at Christmas and what a trip. The lights. The decorations. The parades. The music. They loved meeting the characters. Riding the rides.

Everything was magical. It was the happiest place on Earth. And as soon as our grandchildren get just a little bit older, we will take them too and relive that joy and happiness again. This time through their eyes.

Pizza by the Sea

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By Larry G., South Philly

We grew up going down the Jersey Shore. Not the one from TV, but the South Jersey Shore. Ocean City. Sea Isle City. Avalon. Stone Harbor. Wildwood. Those great resorts making our summers special as we went from little kids to as local Philly celebrity Jerry Blavat called us “Yon Teens” , through college, post college and finally married adults with kids of our own.

So we continue the tradition. And those kids are now going through the rituals and passages which take them Down the Shore.

Like pizza. Manco & Manco Pizza

Plain, with toppings, any way you want the thin crust is perfect and we love the pizza so much that people will make the hour and a half drive in the winter time from Philly to get the pizza and then bring some back to finish baking at home.

When our daughter was six months old we took her to the beach for the first time. Of course we stopped in Mack & Manco. It’s a gotta have and gotta have it at least 5 times in a vacation week in Ocean City. It was the week after Memorial Day so the weather was great and the crowds had yet to come.

We walked into Mack & Manco and sat this adorable 6 month old in a red and white outfit on the counter. Immediately all the guys working there were drawn to the baby. We took a picture of her and to this day it is one of our favorite pictures with the her smiling on the counter and the guys making a fuss over her.

A quick stop at Mia’s Christmas Gallery and we bought an ornament of Mack & Manco to hang on our tree. It wasn’t fancy, it was one of those that is kind of fragile as it has the building outlined in thin metal. It can even get lost in the branches of a tree.

To further commemorate our shore visit we purchased ceramic booties It would remind us of the great times at the Shore. They were baby shoes tied together by a pink ribbon with the words written by a sharpie on the soles of the shoes “Baby’s First Visit. 2004.” We needed to be extra careful as the shoes clank together and could easily chip or break.

But there was a change coming. Mack & Manco changed its name for the summer of 2012 dropping Macs and calling itself  “Manco and Manco.” Somehow when someone calls it Manco & Manco it just doesn’t sound right and makes you want to clean out your ears to make sure your hearing was OK. Maybe to my daughter and the children who when they are grown will go to the Shore will remember it as Manco & Manco.

I mean, not only us but the millions of people who have enjoyed the pizza over the decades will still call it Mack & Manco. We had some on our visit at Manco & Manco. Guess what? The pizza tasted the same. Great as ever. And we had it five times that week.

So the booties remind us of that precious first time we went to the Shore as a family. The walking on the boardwalk with her in the stroller. Only worrying if her diaper needed to be changed. And making sure she had enough sun screen to cover her up. Having the beach and salt sea air help her to nap in a big tent. (You can never have enough cover up from the sun for a six month old.)

We recently bought another ornament – a small wooden replica of the long paddle used to put the pizza and take out of the ovens. It has a prominent place on our tree.

And the yes, we will always have the ornaments to remind us that even though names change, memories of the Shore — and great tasting pizza — will always stay.

A Dog’s Sweet Tail

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Pizzelle; traditional Italian cookie

By Abby, Havertown, PA

My favorite ornament – that’s easy. It’s the dog’s paw with my name on it – Abby.

My family put it up high on the tree to make sure that I can’t get to it. Pity. It’s really the only one I like. The only one I can reach is that silly stuffed Sponge Bob one that hangs off the bottom branch. Yeah, Bob looks real good in that Santa hat (please note the sarcasm.)

This is my third Christmas with my family. I am hoping for something more than a bone and fuzzy faux-animal that squeaks. How about a burger with my food? Or bacon? Yeah…bacon.

I like to get presents. Beside food I could really go for a nice chew toy. Or a new ball. A soft, fuzzy blanket to lie on. Or better yet — How ‘bout throwing the dog a bone!

If you don’t have a bone, then throw me a pizzelle. Yeah, a nice sweet pizzelle.

My family made these pizzelle’s this year. I heard the name when they were baking but didn’t really know what they were.

I think they added a little too much of something because the smell is driving me nuts. It’s taunting me from on top of the stove. It keeps drawing me in. Drawing me in. Drawing me in.

Hmmm. I can’t get to them, not without making a lot of noise and attracting attention.

Hey, I’m no fool. I know if they see me trying to get to those pizzelles they will put them somewhere where I have no shot to get them. At least where they are now I can leap and leap and maybe eventually get them to move a little so I could snatch them.

So I’ll wait. And plot. And scheme. But I don’t know how much more I can take before I try to get them  –no matter what.

Ok. Finally. A break. I see the family getting a lot of the bags and gifts together and putting on their coats. I think they’ll be gone for a while.

Here it is — my chance.

The house is empty except for me and those sweet, sweet, sweet pizzelles.

I leap once to get to the tray. No luck. I leap again. No luck. Here comes my third leap. BAM! Got it.

Yikes! The tray went flying, some kind powder got all over me. But the pizzelle’s are MINE! No savoring them for me — just gobble them up. Pizzelle pieces flying everywhere as I dig into the whole batch. I don’t know, 10. Maybe 20 of them. Who cares!?

Hmmmm … something else. When I leaped to get the pizzelles I tipped over a bottle of something and the liquid is leaking out. Think I’ll try it.

WOW! That is very sweet. And it kinda tastes like the pizzelles.

I am thirsty. Let me go to the water bowl. Drink. Drink. Drink.

Drained it.

Oh, boy. I am walking around the house with less purpose than usual. Yep, around the living room. In the TV room.  In the kitchen. Oops, bumped into the dining room table.

Think I’ll just settle down for a while and rest.

UH OH! I hear the car. WHAT — they’re back already! I thought that this would be a long outside visit. What am I going to do? They’ll see the pizzelles. They’ll know I got into them. They’ll see the bottle. Well, they were going to find out anyway.

I. Think. I. Am. In. Trouble. Maybe if I give them my biggest happy smile and wag, wag, wag.

Something’s wrong. I’m standing up but can’t feel my legs. Hey, there they are. Maybe. Let me walk in a circle. I think I’m in a circle. Oh no! The door is opening.

“Abby! Hello Abby!” I hear the big guy say.

“Abby!” It was a harsh screech from Mom. “Abby, what did you do?”

“What’s up?” It was the big guy again.

Concentrate Abby. Concentrate. Wag. Wag. Wag your tail off!

“Abby got into the pizzelles!”

“You’re kidding? How many did she get?”

Wag. Wag. Wag.

“Looks like ALL of them”

“All of them?!”

Busted. More than busted.

“Abby, you ate all the pizzelles!”

Of course I did — what did you expect? I’m a dog.

“Oh, no,” I heard Mom cry. “She knocked over the bottle of Anisette and the rest of it is gone.”

Anisette? So that is what that liquid was. Pretty good.


Now, I am feeling a little woozy. I slowly started walking around. My tail was wagging — slowly. V..E..R..Y   S..L..O..W..L..Y.

“What’s wrong with Abby?” little blondie says. I faintly hear her.

The big guy points to me, “Look at her, she’s standing crooked, just licking her chops.”

“It looks like she’s smiling at me…but it’s not a smile…”

“She looks…”

“She looks..”

“She looks drunk!” It was Mom that first pointed it out.

“How could she be drunk?” It was little blondie.

Mom and the big guy looked at each other. “The pizzelles! The Anisette!”

Yep. Mom had made the pizzelles and apparently loaded them with Anisette. Then I had the good luck to drink the rest of the bottle when it tipped over.

“The Anisette should have burned off in the baking” Mom said. “I only put in enough for taste!”

Yep. Enough for taste. Great taste.

“But she also got into the Anisette. Is that good for her?” the big guy seemed concerned.

No need to be concerned – I am a very happy dog right now.

“Look at Abby — she looks like a crooked letter ‘S’”

“Oh, Abby — are you OK”

Hey, doin’ just fine. Doin’ just fine and looking to stumble on over to my blanket and lay down.

I slept. A nice, deep sleep. No visions of sugar plums dancing in my head. Just sweet, sweet pizzelles.

I was the lucky one who got to sample the pizzelles – all of them — and wash them down with straight Anisette. Pizzelles may have just taken over from bacon as my favorite food.

Another change — I am changing my mind as to my favorite ornament —  it is no longer the one with the paw but instead the new one they just got.

The one shaped like a pizzelle.

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Mark’s stories

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In the true spirit of telling ornament stories, Mark Casasanto from South Philly has been sharing a story a day for 25 days. Here are a sampling of these great stories. You can read all Mark’s stories on Facebook. Thanks Mark! Enjoy!


Ornament #28 on the 26th day of December…
For me not just the day after Christmas, more importantly, my father’s birthday.

He was taken from me when I was just 19 and the good years that should have been never were. Still, he remains the biggest influence in my life and there’s not a day some fiber of his personality doesn’t shine through in me. For that, I am a better person. e of humor, love of life, ability to sniff out bullshit and call you on it, walk with my feet on the ground and my head on a level plain, trusting, loyal and loving to a fault. If that sounds like me, then thank my dad.

So for today’s ornament I offer this… my father was country when country wasn’t cool. Hank Williams, Freddy Fender, Don Williams, Loretta Lynn… He walked the walk with taps on his shoes, white cotton tees, faded Wranglers, the cowboy hat, his loyal dog and the Kenny Rogers beard. The crazy bastard was cool and he would do anything for anyone. One of a kind.

I miss him everyday but cherish the 19 years that he shaped my life.

For him and my love of cowboy boots… giddy up y’all!



Ornament #27….

It’s Christmas Eve and to me, Christmas Eve was always a little bit more special than Christmas.

There was a certain kind of magic about Christmas Eve growing up. In our house you just never knew who would pop in, pop up or pop off. But it was always fun and entertaining. The Seven Fishes… the alley way escapes to your aunts and uncles on either end of the rowhome backroads… the poker games… the sing-a-longs and jam sessions… those who did midnight mass and those who did not… keeping the decorations on all night… chestnuts roasting maybe not on an open fire but definitely roasting on the stove top in a crude yet effective home made pan.

Magic I tell ya. So as for Aladdin…

By far the most naturally funny person for me to ever grace a stage or talk show was Robin Williams. I thought he was an underrated actor and an under appreciated comic. If there’s someone in the biz I genuinely miss, he’s in the top three.


When I look at this ornament I smile and sometimes laugh out loud. In many ways, it reminds me of the laughing, good humor and family fun shared by my large, crazy Italian family, especially during the holidays.

If I could rub that genie lamp and ask for one wish, I would ask for one shot at togetherness again, all of us as one, those who have gone before us and those who have come along since…

Because, we as a society need some help. We need a little magic, a little laughter, more good will towards all, we need a little Christmas now.

doc the dog

Today’s ornament, #21 represents the best gift I ever received.

In spring of 2000, a minor car accident left me hospitalized with MTBI (mild traumatic brain injury), vertigo and eventually post concussion syndrome. Somewhere during the early stages of about a 2 plus year recovery that included countless neurologists, ENT visits, testing, pokes, prods and Magee Rehab, my lead Neurologist at TJU, Dr Steven Mandel recommended to my then wife that if we didn’t have a dog, it might be best to get one. Apparently those with these types of injuries often feel alone, afraid and introverted during recovery. And dogs serve best as a therapy aide and companion for patients during recovery. I have no recall of any of these conversations and very little recall of that entire time period. I do know from being told, that I was capable of bizarre behaviors and crazy mood swings. It wouldn’t be uncommon to find the sugar in the refrigerator and the half n half in the cabinet, grabbing baking dishes from the oven without mitts and fun stuff like that.

What I do remember is….

The afternoon this big, black, ball of energy came bouncing out of a friend’s car. Already struggling with my balance, he damn near knocked me into the facade of my home as a permanent fixture. This was my first day with my new best friend Doc. It was perfect timing as he needed a home for this 10 month old, beautiful Lab / Shar pei mix.

He became my sidekick, companion and guardian of my home and family. Never, ever did he ever leave my side through the MTBI, and ruptured quadricep and Achilles’ tendons surgeries and recoveries. Not too mention every sports injury my children suffered and rehabbed through. He’s now 15 years old and has slowed down considerably.

I miss him terribly but made the best decision for him to let him stay in the home he knows and is comfortable in. I would be doing him a great disservice by moving him with me to a 2nd floor apartment. I treasure the few seconds I get with him when I pick up or drop off my daughter. Still with that big stupid face giving big sloppy kisses.

Here’s my boy….

shell-angel angel

In honor of today’s Feast of the Immaculate Conception(December 8), today’s ornaments are my two angels…

Ornaments #5 and #6 in the quest for 25.

The first reflects my love for seashells and purchased in San Diego, CA and the second was an ornament that originally belonged to my very own blessed mother, Mary.



On the 12th day, God thankfully created Francis Albert Sinatra.

Ornament #10 came to me courtesy of my friend Jean N Fritz who not only went up to Hoboken for Sinatra’s Centennial last year, but always remembers her friends and fellow Sinatra admirers whenever she goes or does something fabulous.

Anyway, I remember vividly listening to The Summer Wind on this wonderful new invention called a CD player. Talk about music to my ears!

Seeing Frank many times at the legendary Spectrum and of course, The Sands are wonderful nights of music, fun and friends forever etched into my musical soul.

Truly the best ever. Happy Birthday To the Chairman of the Board. C’ent Anni!

santa-wine santa-hamock

Ornament #2 & Ornament #3 in honor of December’s 25 days ’till Christmas

From that wonderful Christmas Shop on the Boardwalk in Ocean City, New Jersey:

Santa and I share a common interest… nothing like wine, the beach and a nap on the hammock. In vino veritas!

Nothin like wine, the beach and a nap on a hammock. In vino ver


From a quaint little Christmas Shop in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is one of my favorite and also happens to be one of my oldest ornaments. Not a big fan of mice, but just love the craftsmanship and detail. Something about it just shouts “Colonial” plus we all know the story of the Christmas Mouse.



And on this December Sunday morning we turn to ornament #9 on the road to 25….

My love of the piano came in high school when I was unexpectedly thrust into the choir freshman year at St John Neumann HS (an all boys school for those who know not). Initially, I removed myself out of fear but a family friend convinced me to reverse course. I did… not only was it some of the best advice I ever received but one of the best decisions I ever made. I learned that I had a voice, c.. could carry a tune, had an ear for music and picked up piano without ever really knowing how to read music, but more importantly, taught me how to go it alone or as an integral part of a team without fear or embarrassment and stand on my own two feet when I needed to hold my own for the good of a group.

With that said, on the strength of my first job, my dad took me to buy my very own piano. Three versions later, I still turn to the keys when I want to unleash, unload or unwind… #SingAlongsRule

Play It Again Santa…

Not a fan of mice, but just love the craftsmanship and detail in this ornament. Something about it just shouts “Colonial”. Plus, we all know the story of “The Christmas Mouse”!

Not a fan of mice, but just love the craftsmanship and detail in this ornament. Something about it just shouts “Colonial”. Plus, we all know the story of “The Christmas Mouse”!

Not a fan of mice, but just love the craftsmanship and detail in this ornament. Something about it just shouts “Colonial”. Plus, we all know the story of “The Christmas Mouse”!

The Big Jump

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While not “technically” an Ornament Story, this submission was too good not to post. Hope you enjoy it! — Editors


By KRCG, Merion, PA

The light blue water was waiting for me as I looked down. Laura had told me diving off the block was scary, but I did not think it was this scary. I waited for the whistle to blow. It seemed like three hours when the starter announced my name. Then I heard it. The whistle. The dreaded whistle.

“Swimmers step up,” said the starter. I stepped up on the slippery white block and looked at the pool. Why? I thought. “Swimmers take your mark,” said the starter. I bent my legs and held the edge as tight as I could. I prayed as much as I could to win this race. A six-year-old, in an eight-year-old race, and going off the block for the first time ever, this was going to be a show.

I looked down trying to relax, waiting for the loud beep, which was my cue to jump into the water. To my right, a girl jumped off the block into one of the most terrible stream lines I have ever seen. I guess I didn’t hear the beep! I quickly jumped off, not in a dive but feet first, in a total state of panic. I was trying to do the correct strokes, between the water and my cap I could barely hear anything, yet I could hear the faint screams of people saying Stop! Stop! So I quickly stopped trying to swim, kicked to the surface and there were two girls still on the block, and including me, four girls in the water. False start. Oh brother, I thought.

I hopped out, the icy cold water dripping from my bathing suit. The boys group went before my heat so we could catch our breath. Then of course that darn whistle again! I stepped back up on the block. Now, I know what to do I told myself in my head. “Swimmers take your mark,” I bent down for the second time clutching the edge of the block. Beep! Everything went so fast, I pushed off the block with all my might and tightened my arms around my head, locked my legs together (and made sure my toes were pointed), and I hit the water with so much energy I had no clue what was going on. I kicked my legs as hard as I could, brought each arm up and down, This isn’t that hard, I thought. I saw the wall coming closer and closer. Almost……there……YES! I hit the wall with my loose fingers.

As I took my head out of the water and looked up I realized: I didn’t come in first, but I did come in second! My first race ever, second place, and a six-year-old too! I climbed out happy as I could be, I was determined to win at the next JV meet. I reminisced the jumping off the block and hitting the water. I am so doing that again, at the meet and at practice the next morning. My mom came over with a towel and gave me a big hug and was asking me questions about the race. Still dripping wet (and shaking a little too), I then looked to my right and saw my coach, Laura.

“Katherine, that was awesome! Maybe you can swim in the next Varsity meet!”  

Oh, brother.

Lou the Barber’s Story

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Little boy visiting hairstylist in barber shop


By Ronnie C., Philadelphia

Lou had a glass eye. Not the best thing for a barber. But a barber who cut kids hair? Took a lot of faith to send your sons to Lou’s Barber Shop in the mid-1960s to get their hair cut.

But every boy in grade school went there. Lou’s shop was right across the street from the school. Moms would give Lou the few bucks he charged for a haircut and then directed their sons to go to get their haircut right after school.

Lou was in his mid- 50s, with a bad comb over and a gray goatee that accentuated his jowls. His chubby belly bumped up against you while he cut your hair. When he lifted his arms to trim the top of your head, a brief waft of BO hit you. It was quickly overcome by that barber shop smell of Pinaud Clubman aftershave.

Lou called everyone a “kumquat.” To this day I never had a kumqut – don’t really know what it is.

He spoke in the semi-butchered language of South Philly pronouncing “sandwich” in a way that it sounded like “sang – witch.” He also dropped the ending “g” on many words so “running” became “runnin” or “eating” became “eatin.”

While Lou was providing his wisdom, he cut hair with his one eye alternately focused on the boy’s head and then checking out what was going on outside the window. Each haircut looked the same when he was done. 

If he was talking and you weren’t paying attention to his words he would get your attention by looking directly at you and tapping his glass eye with a scissor. To this day I’m still not sure how he didn’t snip more ears than he did.

The best part about Lou’s Barber Shop for us 10-14-year-old boys — was that we learned a lot of stuff at Lou’s. Learned about girls, learned about sports, learned about politics, learned about hard work, learned about pride in yourself, your family, your neighborhood.

Oh yes, there were some magazines to check out while you waited. Nothing objectionable, or “racy” as it was called back then. The heck with Sports Illustrated or The Sporting News. An Esquire magazine with a well-placed ad for shaving cream featuring a stunning blonde got everyone grabbing and clawing at it to get a look.

It was a great place to hang out and hear Lou talk about life, about the times, about the neighborhood. 

Lou loved the neighborhood. It meant everything to him. He always told us how great it was and that there was no place and no people like those in South Philly. He loved to sing — poorly — most of the songs of the day, especially those by the South Philly teen idols — Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon, James Darren, Chubby Checker, Fabian, Charlie Gracie. I remember Lou had a small black and white TV that was tuned in to the local Philly dance party show “The Discophonic Scene” with Jerry Blavat. If the TV went fuzzy or started to drift Lou would take one of the combs resting in that bizarre blue liquid and flick the watery substance at the rabbit ears – somehow it cleared up the picture.

“Now ‘dats real music and dancin'” Lou would proclaim as he broke out the straight razor and slapped it on the leather strap so he could trim the hair on the back of our necks.

“Gotta make you boys look good. Remember to comb your hair the right way. Youse don’t want to hear your mother’s complain dat da part in your hair looks like Ridge Avenue.”

I loved going to Lou’s and enjoying the time with my buddies. Hearing Lou talk and remembering what he had to say. Lou is the reason I became a barber. When I told him Lou gave me an ornament, a little straight razor which I hang on my tree every year. It’s a shame, Lou died a few years ago. Still miss him.

One day I was talking to a bunch of my buddies who used to go Lou’s and now come to my shop. As we had a few beers, we were reminiscing about some of the wisdom from Lou. Here’s some that we remembered.

“If youse guys are goin’ on a long drive always have a full tank and an empty bladder.”

“If youse kumquats spend too much time worryin’ about missin’ somethin’, youse gonna miss somethin’.”

“Always hold the door for a broad, that way you can get a good look at her keister when she walks in front of you.”

“Every day atheists should thank God he gave dem the free choice to be atheists.”

“Don’t overreact to things. Remember, youse don’t need to go turkey huntin’ with a handgun.”

“If you have daughter, remember to chaperone her dance carryin’ a ballpeen hammer.”

“Always buy the first round. People remember who bought first and you won’t have to pay the rest of the night.”

That was Lou. That’s why we loved going there to get our haircut and learn about things. Thanks Lou.

Fightin’ Phils

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phillies ornamentphillies logo


By Larry G., South Philly

Billy Champion. That name represented the closest the 1969 Phillies would even get to being a champion. You see, Champion, a pitcher, was supposed to be one of the fantastic young talents that would carry the Philllies into major league history. Instead he was in the middle of a historically bad stretch which covered a generation from the 1950 Whiz Kids, who were swept by the New York Yankees in that year’s World Series, through the devastating 1964 collapse, up until the team’s playoff appearances in the mid-70s. That was 25 years.

For those of us who lived through that era, well, we cherish the success of the Phils knowing what the other side felt like. I have an ornament showing the Phillies 2008 World Series win. It is heavy. So heavy that you really can’t hang it on a tree — it will bring the branch down and maybe even break it.

You need to have it under the tree, or in a special place where it can be appreciated and viewed. After all, these championships come once in a generation. First one in 1980. Second one in 2008. The franchise has been around since the 1800s!

I’ve come full circle – loving baseball as a kid, playing all the time (including stickball, fastball and half ball.) Then shifting to hockey and football as sports to follow intensely. Now, as I get older, I am back to baseball again. I enjoy going to a game. Relaxing. Watching. Taking it easy. No crazy tailgating or face painting. Just enjoying a beer and a game.

It was really the opening of Veteran’s Stadium that gave me my first real pleasure of baseball. It was right there in South Philly and I could walk to the game. And don’t let anyone tell you stories about “sneaking in” to the Vet to watch games.

Everybody got into the Vet. For free. We all knew somebody. Joe selling papers outside. John at the gate to let you in. Maria the usherette finding you a good seat. Somebody’s dad selling sodas. Somebody’s mom working a concession stand. Friends on the ground crew.

It was perfect. Warm summer night. Hanging out. Harry and Whitey on the radio.

Someone says, “Let’s go to the game.” So we went.

The team wasn’t very good in the 1960s and early 70s. Deron Johnson, Wayne Twitchell (who could turn a 2 and a half hour game into a 4 hour nightmare with his deliberate work on the mound), Dick Selma, Joe Lis. (Need I go on?)

We learned to love those teams because they were ours. We ha d a nice run starting in the mid 1970s through the mid 1980s, but then tailed off again. Except for the 1993 lightning in a bottle (or maybe it was HGH in a syringe) when “Macho Row” when to the World Series, we continued to live in the baseball wasteland.

Those last few years at the Vet were terrible. No one at the games (everybody gets a foul ball), Chad Ogea pitching every time we had tickets. The Vet was crumbling. Walking around the empty corridors, you could hear the echo of your voice even if you were speaking to the person next you.

The only entertainment came from the fans that latched on to players (mostly pitchers) and formed mini fan clubs primarily for their own amusement. Remember “The Wolf Pack” for Randy Wolf? How about “Padilla Flotilla” for Vincente Padilla, a politically incorrect group that had sombreros and kayak paddles as if they were paddling across the Rio Grande. One of my all-time favorites was the self-identified “Generic Fan” who sat in the upper deck, all alone, wearing a white pants, white sneakers, white hat and a white shirt with a bar code on it.

As Phillies fans, we are anything but generic. We have passion, we have knowledge and we know bad baseball when we see it. I think it is our genetic baseball history. That feeling of joined misery that keeps us Phillies fans going. That euphoria when they finally won in 1980 and then – a generation later – in 2008.

They are our team. And I can’t wait to go the games this year.

Go Phillies!


Among the many charities and good works in the community, the Phillies organization holds an annual “Strike Out ALS” festival. Visit for more information or visit to learn more about the disease and how you can help.

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A Christmas Song

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Traditional Christian Christmas Nativity Scene of baby Jesus in the manger with Mary and Joseph in silhouette with wise men


Once in Royal David’s City stood a lonely cattle shed,
where a mother held her baby.
You’d do well to remember the things He later said.
When you’re stuffing yourselves at the Christmas parties,
you’ll just laugh when I tell you to take a running jump.
You’re missing the point I’m sure does not need making
that Christmas spirit is not what you drink.

So how can you laugh when your own mother’s hungry,
and how can you smile when the reasons for smiling are wrong?
And if I just messed up your thoughtless pleasures,
remember, if you wish, this is just a Christmas song.

(Hey! Santa! Pass us that bottle, will you?)

–Jethro Tull, from the “Living In The Past” album

Copyright 1972