Saturday, June 30, 2012


The Cyclone in Coney Island turns 85 today. If you lived in the Coney Island area, this and the Parachute Jump and the Wonder Wheel, are iconic landmarks.

I remember the first time that I rode this roller coaster. It was the fastest and scariest thing that I had ever rode. This coaster gets up to speeds of 60 mph on some of the drops. I think the scary part of this ride is that it is made completely out of wood. The ride definitely has a shakiness to it. It has been said that the coaster is so shaky and fast, that a person once lost their dentures on the ride.

The ride today will cost 25 cents, just like in 1927.

I remember when I was growing up, Coney Island was a desolate place. I was told that Coney Island was at one time the place to be but that all seemed to disappear. In the late 60's, the Cyclone was condemned because of a lack of riders. In 1971 the City of New York bought the roller coaster and spruced it up. In 1975 the city re-opened it and it has been declared an official landmark. It also has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Happy Birthday!!!!

Friday, June 29, 2012


Friday night is the first game of the season for the Grey Cup Champion BC Lions. They will be playing the Edmonton Blue Bombers at BC Place. This will be a replay of Grey Cup 2011.

First year head coach, Mike Benevides will have Travis Lulay, the reigning MVP of the CFL under center. Lulay will be part of a record breaking event on Friday. Geroy Simon can become the CFL's all time leading receiver. Simon needs 67 yards to surpass Milt Stegall's current record of 15,153.

Most important is to start this season strong and start the march to another Grey Cup appearance.


It has been one of those seasons for the Yankees pitching staff.  All of them seem to have this knack of getting hurt. First you have Joba jumping on a trampoline that ended with a broken ankle, Mariano doing his best impression of a pitcher playing the outfield and ruining his knee for the season and possibly his career.  When these two went down, the pitching staff looked a little thin in the bullpen. Then without missing a beat, Robertson decided to hurt himself. This left Soriano as the closer.

Outside of the thin bullpen, the starting pitching was suspect. They even started the season with the loss of Michael Pineda to shoulder problems. Could they now pitch enough innings to avoid using the bullpen? They answered that question with a resounding yes. The starting pitching was on fire. They were pitching better than any team in the majors and they catapulted to the leagues best record and into first place. Things were looking good, for now.

In one day, the starting rotation was decimated by two. CC went down with a groin injury and Pettite went down with a fractured ankle after he was struck by a Casey Kotchman grounder. Boy these Yankees like to make it interesting. What I find interesting is that we are going to get a look at some AAA pitchers. Maybe one of them will be a diamond in the rough and he will come in to save the day. Tonight the Yankees are going to start 24 year old Adam Warren, a right hander and Freddy Garcia is being moved into the starting rotation. It is going to be an interesting summer for the Yankees pitching staff.

Who would of seen this one coming. Rafa Nadal exits Wimbledon with a loss to No 100 ranked Lukas Rosol in 5 sets. This was Nadal's quickest exit from a major tournament since 2005.

And then there is the soccer team from Italy. The way they played against England, it appeared that they were not going to be up to the task of defeating the Germans. The Germans appeared to be a well oiled machine. Mario Balotelli, the 21 year old striker for Italy, stepped up his game and scored two goals in the first half. This was good enough to carry the Italians past Germany and setting up a showdown with Spain in the Euro Cup Final.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

EURO 2012

On Wednesday afternoon, Spain, the reigning World Cup and Euro Cup Champion will face off against Portugal in one of the semi-final matches of Euro 2012.

Portugal will be a tough opponent for Spain. Ronaldo has stepped up his play for the Portugese team. If Ronaldo is able to carry his team past Spain and through either Italy or Germany for the Euro crown, Ronaldo might just take the world player of the year away from Lionel Messi. Ronaldo has gotten the reputation of being the Lebron James of soccer, never able to win the big one.

Spain has a tough task. No team has ever won three straight major titles and two consecutive European Championships.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


I went to Hollywood Park on Saturday for some racing, some wagering and as usual the antics of the characters. My buddy and I were the first to arrive and our block of seats were saved by one of the Hollywood Park workers. He knows all of these characters are showing and he doesn't want to miss the show.

Just as we get ourselves situated, Stu the Swim Coach shows. The three of us start talking about the day's card and what to expect. Saturday was not a Triple Crown day but you had the Mother Goose Stakes from Belmont and also the Hollywood Oaks at Hollywood.

I really wanted to get at it because the system that I developed has been on fire. Two weeks ago on Belmont Stakes day, I went three for three, with a bomb at 32-1 which paid $21.40. I had 20 dollars down on that horse, so the total payout was 214 dollars with a profit of 194 dollars. I left that day with a profit of 329 dollars. There is a reason why I wanted to get at it.

I was wondering if my buddy's luck was changing. On Belmont Stakes Day, he couldn't hit water if he fell out of a boat. It was rough watching his luck go from bad to worse. On Belmont Stakes Day I asked him if he wants to try my system and he pretty much refused. My buddy is very set in his ways and he is very stubborn when it comes to any sort of change.  It is insane to keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. Every single system has it's run of good fortune. All of his systems have probably just run it's course. I hate to see a friend battling so hard when my system is hot. Believe me, it won't be hot forever, so you have to jump on it now.

Just as the first race from Belmont started, Sandman showed up. We had a Mush spotting and some of the Stooges slowly straggled in.

We all started very slow in terms of our wagers. There were not many plays early on. The track at Belmont was muddy which cut down the betting interests due to scratches. Arlington started up and still there were no plays, same with Woodbine and Churchill Downs. Then came that one race that was going to open the flood gates of winning and shenanigans.

The seventh race at Monmouth was a mile and a sixteenth turf race. My system came up with one horse, At The Disco, and he was going off at 8-1. I made my 20 dollar bet and then proceeded back to our seats. Stu the Swim Coach had just got back to our area with his lunch. Stu is a very nice guy but as Sandman would say, "He is an RA, a big RA." RA stands for Roots Against. Stu has no betting interest in my Monmouth Race and when the race goes off, my horse goes out to the front and stays there until the stretch. About halfway through the stretch, the number 1 horse, Don't Wait Too Long, comes a charging on the rail. Stu is now pulling for this horse. Don't Wait Too Long ends up winning and my horse finishes second. Stu who does not have a dime on this race would rather watch you lose than win. No biggie because my system had me betting the horse to place, so I won. Would of been bigger if he was first but hey, I cashed a ticket. It paid 7.40 for place and on a 20 dollar bet that's 74 dollars with a profit of 54 dollars.

Stu told me that I should of asked him about the Monmouth Race because he would of given me the number 1 horse. Thanks Stu. Sandman loves to give Stu a hard time because Stu makes the smallest of wagers and is always rooting against your horse. Stu is sitting there and he is showing his 10 cent superfecta that cost him a total of $1.80 and his 80 cent superfecta. Sandman gets nauseated by this. I don't have a problem with you wanting to bet small but if you know everyone is betting big don't root out loud for your horse that is going to give you a profit of 10 cents.

As the day went on, my buddy found a long shot at Woodbine in the eighth race. The horse, Drago's Best, was going off at 16-1. My system liked Excaper, the heavy favorite. I was not going to bet it because of the low odds. My buddy went on to tell me that Drago's Best has this and has that. Once again, it is insane to keep doing things the same way and expecting different results. I said to him, maybe you should go across the board on this horse and he said to me, "I would rather lose than bet a horse to show." Drago's Best showed and my buddy's skid is still ongoing. To add insult to injury, Excaper, nosed Drago's Best out for place.

Immediately after that race, the 7th race from Arlington went off. I had no betting interest but Stu had the number 4 horse, Dontbetelinme.  The race gets run and just as the horses come into the stretch,  Dontbetelinme, cuts off the number 1 horse. The race ends and Stu thinks he has won. To his chagrin, Dontbetelinme was disqualified. Stu is beside himself. Knowing Stu's betting habits, he probably made a two dollar bet on that horse.

Almost immediately, I have a race at Churchill Down and I am betting the number 7 horse, Delaunay. He comes out of the gate at 7-1. He runs a good race but while they are in the stretch there is some bumping going on. Stu, who is still hot, starts to scream DQ the 7 horse. We all look at Stu with disbelief. There is an inquiry and Stu keeps going, he is going to be DQed, he is going to be DQed. Everything stands and I collect another 70 dollars.

Stu is now wound up. He decides to make a comment to Sandman about Sandman actually rooting for the chalk in one race. Sandman who was already disgusted with Stu at this point says, "Look, when you want to make a profit, come talk to me, otherwise shut up."

I had one more race and that was the Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont. My system picked Disposablepleasure. It was going off at 10-1. My profit on that race was 59 dollars.

All in all not a bad day for wagering. I showed my buddy the statistics for how my system worked on all the race cards. I told him if you would of placed a 20 dollar bet on all the races that qualified, you would of had a total of 220 dollars in bets. You would of won 499 dollars and would of shown a profit of 279 dollars. For some reason he does not want to give it a try.

Everyone has always said that Hollywood is the entertainment capital of the world.

Friday, June 22, 2012


We recently just returned from a trip to Cuba. No we did not sneak into Cuba from Mexico or Canada. We were given the Official Sherman Potter Okee Dokee from the United States. The present administration has relaxed some of the laws in regards to Cuban travel. We were going with a legal group for educational purposes.

I know that there are people who are reading this who are anti-Castro and will not have anything to do with the country until Castro has been removed. I am not here to make any political statement nor am I taking any sides on the issue. Some of my family had left Eastern Europe before they were rounded up by the Nazis. They were refused entry into the United States and instead of sailing back to a certain death, Cuba allowed them a port of entry and welcomed them.  For that, I thank the Cubans.

We arrived at Jose Marti International Airport and instantly we turned the calendars back to the 1950s. You could not help but tell that Havana was the land that time forgot. The below picture was not out of the ordinary, it was common.

We noticed right away that the Cuban people were the friendliest and the most hospitable people we have come across in our travels. We also realized that no matter what their lot in life has given them, they were happy and passionate people. They have a passion for cigars (which are phenomenal), coffee (wow, never tasted anything like it), rum (Havana Club smooth as silk) music (jazz clubs all over the place and salsa bands in every bar). I knew they liked baseball but what I experienced was the most amazing sporting experience I have ever experienced.

We were able to obtain a few tickets for the Havana Industriales against the team from Matanzas. These were tough tickets because it was the play-offs. The Cuban Baseball League plays during our winter because it is the rainy season in the summer. Our tour guide was able to get a few tickets and they were a whopping three dollars. We were also right behind home plate.

We left the hotel and jumped into a taxi. It just happened to be a pink Chevy Impala convertible.

The driver was so excited for us because we were going to see the Leones of Havana in play-off baseball. We drove through the streets of Havana en route to the Estadio Latinoamerica and you can tell this was going to be something different. As we got closer to the stadium, everything was decked out in the Blue and White of the Industriales. The throngs of people that were headed towards the stadium were cheering and dancing and a lot of them had musical instruments with them and the ever present vuvezela.

We were dropped off and we got in line. We had no idea where we were going because nothing is really marked. This stadium is old and I mean old. We were told that there are no concessions. No beer, no hot dogs, just baseball. While waiting in line to get in, vendors were hawking homemade snacks.

And don't think of sneaking alcohol in, as we witnessed a poor sap who didn't listen. He was grabbed by five police officers and forcefully removed from the stadium. As Eddie Murphy said in Trading Places, "Officer, may I suggest using your nightstick!" When the Cubans say no, they mean no. We followed the crowd in and as we entered the police just grabbed purses and I mean grabbed, without asking and searched for contraband.  Remember we are in a communist country.

We entered the stadium through the left field bleachers. We walked up the steps that lead to the walkway around the stadium and the first thing we noticed was a section of nothing but military troops. The second thing that we noticed was the noise level. It was 45 minutes before game time and the stadium was pretty much packed. The stadium holds close to 60,000 people and I think that 59,900 people were already seated. There were salsa bands playing, there was reggaeton blaring over the PA system and everyone was on their feet dancing.

We got to our seats and the noise level was still at an unreal decibel.

We looked around and we could see that there were police officers every few feet and we could also see a section all in red. Those were the Matanzas' supporters. The police were surrounding their section, just in case anyone got any bright ideas.

After the Cuban National Anthem, the Havana team took the field and the noise was incredible. A cultural thing that we learned is that when play starts, you park your butt in a seat. People very politely ask you to sit down and it is just done. When action happens, everyone stands up. When play started, every fan was on every pitch and everything Industriales did was met with an ovation. The first Industriales batter walked and the crowd stood up in unison and roared. The excitement was incredible. When a foul ball would go into the seats, I was expecting a rush of fans to attack the new found souvenir. Instead one or two fans would walk over to the ball and pick it up and proceed to throw it back on the field.  We asked the locals about this and they said that the league can't afford to lose balls.

What you don't realize is that the Cuban League can not use American baseballs because of the embargo. The Cubans receive their baseballs from China. They don't use any American made bats because of the embargo. American baseball products will not be on the field. I can almost guarantee that their equipment is sub par to what our MLB players use.

Just watching the starting pitcher for Havana warm-up, I knew I was in for a treat. Frank Montieh was throwing hard and his ball had some movement. His catcher, Frank Morejon was extremely animated to watch. He had no problem walking halfway to the pitcher's mound with his hands up and scream something at Montieh. They definitely did not have a communication problem. The defense behind Montieh was as smooth as silk. Juan Carlos, the second baseman and Rayko Olivares, the shortstop, played their positions effortlessly. When they would field ground balls, they would be so fundamentally sound and there were no tosses to first. They would fire the ball.

Two players for the Havana team really stood out. Havana's first basemen, Alexander Malleta and the center fielder, Yoandri Urgelles. Malleta is 6'2", 210 pounds. Known to the crowd as cinco cinco, 55. When he came to the plate, you could tell that this guy was big and not steroid big. When he swung, he put a hurt on the baseball. What was extremely impressive was his fielding. He was so agile and quick. One inning, he dove to his right to snag a shot and he was on his feet in no time and made the put out himself.

Urgelles was a phenomenal center fielder with a cannon for an arm. In one inning, Mantanzas had a man on first and their batter crushed one to deep centerfield. Urgelles got on his horse and made the catch on the warning track. (Dead centerfield is 408 feet away) Urgelles set himself and threw a laser to second base. Mantanzas wasn't even thinking of tagging up. That was the respect they had for Urgelles' arm.

One thing that really stood out was the way every ball player hustled on every play. When they would throw the ball around the horn, they would really zip it. They had an interesting way of going around the horn, it was almost like they were seeing who would drop the ball. The catcher would fire it to first, first to third, third to second, second to short, short to second, second to short, short to second, second to third, third to first and first would fire the ball to a streaking short who was in full sprint to the pitchers mound. Once he received it, he would toss it to the pitcher. Even the batboy would sprint to pick up a bat or collect a piece of equipment from a player standing on second.

We learned from the locals that all of the ballplayers are paid the same. No one gets more money because they are a better ballplayer. Interesting.

We learned from the locals that the Victor Mesa, the manager for the Matanzas team, was a Cuban baseball player and Olympic Gold Medalist. His nickname is "El Loco" and he is a baseball legend. His antics make Ozzie Guillen look subdued. While the line-ups were being brought  to the umpires, Mesa (wearing all red) got into an argument with the Havana manager. Over what? Who knows, he is known for just arguing. As you will notice, the umpires just stand back. I guess in Cuba it's "Victor being Victor.

When Victor Mesa decides that he needs to go make a visit to the mound, watch out. He jumps out of the dugout and while sprinting to the mound, he is screaming at his pitcher. When he gets to the mound,  Victor Mesa berates his pitcher. If he is going to remove the pitcher, he grabs the pitchers arm and yanks the ball from him and with a wave of his hand the pitcher sprints from the mound and into the dugout. We witnessed this on a few trips to the mound.

I already said that the Cubans have a passion for a number of things but I failed to mention that one of their passions is arguing. Early in the game, one of Matanzas' light hitting players hit a double. The ball boy jumped out of the dugout and sprinted to the tossed bat. At the same time the Havana manager jumped from his dugout and sprinted towards home plate. An argument began over the legality of the baseball bat. Mesa was arguing, the umpires were arguing, Industriales' manager was arguing and the fans were screaming. This argument took one hour and the final result was the bat was considered legal.

The game remained tied until the bottom of the eighth when Industriales scored two runs and eventually won the game 4-2.

The game was exciting, the fans incredible and the experience was once in a lifetime but I was a little saddened. I knew that a number of these ballplayers will never be seen by the world because of their situation. I also knew that a number of these ballplayers would be superstars in Major Leagues. We have been lucky to see a number of great Cuban ballplayers who have defected but there are so many more.

I did come away with a new found passion for the game of baseball (bought a Brooklyn Dodgers hat in honor of my father), the Cuban League (bought a Industriales hat) and a new found passion for my team.

The trip was definitely an educational experience.