Category Archives: Blogging/WWW

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I remembered to submit my DC-IBWA 2014 Nats predictions

Every year, the DC Internet Baseball Writers Association sends out questionaires for the Natmosphere about the state of the Washington Nationals. Some years I get to them, some years I don’t. This year, I got to it. Fire away:

1) Who will lead the Nats in home runs in 2014? – Bryce Harper
2) Who will lead the Nats in RBI? – Bryce Harper
3) Who will lead the Nats in stolen bases? – Denard Span
4) Who will lead the staff in wins? – Stephen Strasburg
5) How many games will Ryan Zimmerman play first base? – 11
6) Who starts more games: Ross Detwiler, Taylor Jordan, Tanner Roark, Ross Ohlendorf? – Taylor Roark
7) Who will get more at bats for the Nats this season: Danny Espinosa or Jamey Carroll? – Danny Espinosa
8) Which minor leaguer are you most interested in keeping tabs on this season? – Lucas Giolito
9) Who will reach majors first: Sammy Solis, A.J. Cole, Lucas Giolito or Matt Purke? – Matt Purke
10) How many all-stars will the Nats have? Who? – 3 – Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Wilson Ramos
11) Total wins and what place in the division? 92, 1st

Essay: What should be the single most important development for the Nats this season?

The Nationals single biggest development should be playing smarter. The talent is there, as we saw in 2012, but last season they had a tendency towards defensive lapses that extended innings and wore down pitchers. Another part of playing smarter is not playing with serious injuries. Harper played hurt for the bulk of the season and Espinosa played his way out of the majors. In the outfield at least, an improved bench should make it easier for manager Matt Williams to give Jayson Werth, Span and Harper some days off with Nate McLouth as the fourth outfielder, so nagging injuries may bee mitigated somewhat. In the infield, Espinosa is a big question mark as the utility man coming off of injuries to both arms.

Strasburg also faces a big year at the top of the rotation after an “off” year in 2013. A recent Post article suggests he had an epiphany about his approach. Strasburg has always come off as intelligent, but very sensitive at the same time. If he has overcome his perfectionist tendencies and self-flagellation, he could dominate with more regularity. Simply put, a focused Strasburg, more comfortable with being an ace and all that entails could be devastating to NL hitters.

Lastly, I believe that Williams approach to defense and hiring of a “defensive coordinator” could help address defensive lapses. Not necessarily because shifts in and of themselves can anticipate where batted balls are going, but also keeping the fielders a little more focused. The question will be whether this will help overcome the learning curve that Williams will face as a rookie manager. Thus far, the tone he is setting for the team is refreshing after Davey Johnson’s casual approach in 2013.

I’ll be surprised if the Nats win 98 games like they did in 2012 — I think that was the peak year in the regular season at least, but I don’t see the Braves winning 96 again either. I believe the Braves will challenge to for the NL East title and probably make the play-in game. After that, it’s all about matchups in the playoffs, so, who knows?

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This blog is 10 years old

Ten years ago today, this blog was officially launched, but I’m not going to get maudlin about it. It’s been an interesting and fun ride which started in my final days in my first apartment through the present in a increasingly claustrophobic condo and #dadlife.

It all started out because I like writing and figured it was an easier way to spread the news my friends and I would email about during the day. Not long after launching, it became a DC Baseball and Penn State football blog.

v12

I used blogger for six years but spent at least half of them wondering if something else would be better, only to have Blogger add some helpful new feature like labels. At times, it was kind of fun figure little hacks around Blogger’s limitations. I even started using Blogger in my professional life.

I finally moved over to WordPress in 2010 and have been generally been happy with it, even though the latest migration was a bit annoying. I even used that platform professionally.

v14wwn

Now, I’m using WordPress’s twentyfourteen responsive design. I like some aspects of it, but I think I’ll look for something else. We’ll see, time for such things is limited and the weather is about to get good again. Maybe next winter!

Okay, enough talk about designs and how I manage this content.

I’ve changed my focus content-wise over the years. For a long time, it was “executive news summary” style headlines for the Washington Nationals or Penn State Nittany Lions. Occasionally, I had some Q&As with an local author, cult filmmaker, the Blue Sapphire (twice), a future Pulitzer Prize winner, a hockey team owner and more. For a while, youtube videos were great for quick posts, but that’s more for tumblr or facebook now.

Speaking of facebook, it kind of killed personal blogging, didn’t it? I was never too personal (and have actually made some personal posts private) as this was mostly about stuff I was interested in, rather than myself. Nonetheless, all those games, travel and other adventures (like bicycling and skiing) are something of a diary that might be fun for my offspring to read several years from now. I hadn’t thought about that at the time, but it was a good point a friend of mine made.

By the way, Twitter hasn’t been as disruptive as facebook for my blog traffic which peaked in the spring of 2008. Twitter was new enough to be really helpful and Google Reader was still going strong and the Capitals were surging back to the playoffs and Nationals Park was new. Then my son was born and I slowly started blogging less of the years. No regrets. well, maybe the name — a proto-blog was called Weekly William News after the much lamented investigative newspaper, the Weekly World News and I wanted to keep that theme going.

Every now and then I still get a big spike, usually because Uni-Watch linked to me, but also DC Sports Bog. That’s always fun. So are the Q&As with opposing fans in my guest prognosticator series. I’ve really enjoyed doing more D.C. sports history posts as well as resurrecting The Beltway @ Yurasko.net; a name I used for all those highway pages I built in college. I like blogging about Metro too, though I’m not happy about the Silver Line right now.

At times this felt like a burden, but overall, it’s been a really fun ride. Thanks for reading and mostly thanks to my wife Erica for putting up with it.

Okay, now off to start adding some links (which you probably won’t go to anyway :p)

More highlights – Best of WWN

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Capitals Brand Thunder browser theme no longer has former players

Earlier this month I noted that the Washington Capitals Brand Thunder browser theme had two former players, Tomas Vokoun and Alexander Semin on it:

capitals-browser-theme

Brand Thunder even got back to me on it:

As of this morning, Brand Thunder has updated the browser theme which no longer has the former players or any players in the new tab window:

caps-new-browser-theme2

There is still an issue though:

caps-new-browser-theme1

The tiles of Alex Ovechkin make the tabs and bookmarks toolbar hard to read. Previously, that area had a “Weagle” to the left of the menus and a red background. It was sharp and legible. I’ll let Brand Thunder know, they were pretty responsive last time.

MORE FEEDBACK

They fixed it!

caps-new-browser-theme3

That was a pretty quick turnaround time by Brand Thunder. Looking good…

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MLB’s Home Run Derby countdown clock doesn’t know what day it is

While writing my post Bryce Harper in 2013 Home Run Derby; Harmon Killebrew vs. Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays in the 1960 TV version (videos of Killer vs. Mickey & Willie!) I noticed that the Home Run Derby countdown clock has a little issue:

Home-Run-Derby-2013

I took a screenshot with my system clock beside it. The Derby is tonight, but the countdown thinks it is on Tuesday. Somebody most have copied over the All-Star Game script and forgotten to change the date. Oops!

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Clark Griffith-Connie Mack foot race – why Nats fans should visit dcbaseballhistory.com daily

Here is a good example of why you should read D.C. Baseball History every day:

April 4

1948 Prior to an exhibition game in Orlando between the Philadelphia Athletics and the Senators, A’s owner-manager Connie Mack, age 85, and Senators’s owner Clark Griffith, age 78, stage a footrace. After entering the field in an ambulance, Mack and Griffith race from 3rd base to home plate and finish in a tie.

Also, Gil Hodges, the Washington Senators manager for several years in the 1960s was born on this day. He was mostly known as one of the great Brooklyn Dodgers and as manager of the miracle Mets that won the 1969 World Series. He should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame for the sum of both parts of his baseball career.

As for D.C. Baseball History, there is also an active Facebook Group. Now all they need to do is get the modern Nationals into the “This Date in…” feature.

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30 years later, the short and strange history of the USFL’s Washington Federals – Q&A with David Kendrick

Thirty years ago today, the Washington Federals and the United State Football League debuted. Washington Federals LogoI was pretty young, so I don’t remember too many specifics other than one of my older neighbors had his birthday party at a game and another one was still using a Federals key chain a decade later. I also remember green and white uniforms and somewhere in my parents attic, there is an old Post sports section with the story of SMU’s Craig James signing with the franchise. I would see that every year when we went up to get the Christmas stuff down. There is a USA Today sports section previewing the NFL conference championships, but I’m getting off topic.

The upstart spring football league had a national TV contract with ABC. Some of the first Federals game is posted on youtube:

That was Jim Lampley & Lee Corso on the call. The opposition was George Allen’s Chicago Blitz, so I’m sure the former Redskins coach’s appearance in RFK Stadium was a big storyline. I think Corso went on to coach in the USFL — maybe even the successor to the Feds, the Orlando Renegades.

I’ve been aware of The Unofficial Revival Site of the Washington Federals by David Kendrick and I have been waiting for this anniversary to ask about a Q&A and I’m delighted he agreed to one.

WFY: Why were you a Washington Federals fan and what motivated you to start up the Federals tribute site?

DK: The Federals were just getting started the year the Redskins beat the Dolphins in the Super Bowl. I loved football and being a football fan. I was just in 10th grade, and my family didn’t have Redskins tickets, so I got Federals tickets and became a fan.

In 2001 my son and I went to a Birmingham Bolts XFL game, and I shared some memories of the Federals with him, which led me to building the Federals site.

WFY: How many Federals games did you attend? Did the stands ever rock like the did for the Redskins? What was the average home attendance of the Federals?

DK: The first year of 9 home games I went to 6 including the debut vs. Chicago and their first win vs. Michigan. The second year, of 9 home games, I went to 7, including the farewell vs. New Orleans. The stands never rocked for the Federals. You have to remember that the Feds home games were all played either in driving rain or scorching heat. There weren’t any nice spring days at the stadium except maybe in ’83 vs. Boston and a beautiful spring night in ’84 vs. New Jersey. I won’t speculate on “average home attendance” since the house was pretty frequently papered up.

WFY: Did the Federals receive much local coverage in print and broadcast during their stay?

DK: At first they did, there was a lot of excitement and interest since DC didn’t have baseball and the Redskins were on top of the world. As soon as the losing and foul weather set in, interest really tapered off. This was before the Internet, so you couldn’t follow the team except on ABC if you were lucky while they were showing the Herschel Walker Game of the Week, or if you caught George Michael at 11:30 on Channel 4. The Washington Times’ coverage of the Federals was much better than the Post’s; at that time the Times ran color photos every day, which was unique, and put a lot of effort into it.

WFY: Were the Federals able to develop any rivalries?

DK: Not really. The nearest team was Philadelphia, but they were just unbeatable. There was a sort-of rivalry with Chicago because of the George Allen connection. There was no Dallas team in the USFL, so a copycat rivalry wasn’t going to happen.

WFY: Other than Craig James, did any other Federals make it into the NFL? Has James subsequent broadcasting career brought shame to the legacy of the Feds?

DK: There were several Federals who made it into the NFL after they left the USFL. Obed Ariri played for Tampa Bay; Mike Hohensee, of course, was the “replacement” quarterback for the Bears during the ’87 strike; Reggie Collier was the replacement QB for the Cowboys. Joel Patten played for the Raiders; Kevin Kellin had a good career in the NFL; D.D. Hoggard played a number of years for the Browns.

Don’t forget Myke Horton, who went on to a career as “Gemini” on American Gladiators. (WFY notes: Horton was on Press Your Luck which you can watch on a sketchy youtube wannabe with risque thumbnails)

I have a special place of loathing in my heart for Craig James, and not just because he is a hypocrite and thief. He took lots of money from Mr. Bernhard, played when he felt like it, quit as soon as he could, and then blamed the team for his bad performance in Washington, never mind that Billy Taylor and Curtis Bledsoe both had excellent years behind the same offensive line that Craig James couldn’t manage to work with. The whole fracas with his son in college is just more evidence that he’s a look-at-me guy with no backbone, and since he was just as much on the take as everyone else at SMU in those days, he ought to shut his stupid mouth. James’ time with the Feds is an embarrassment, but only to himself.

WFY: Some USFL teams have had reunions, have the Federals? Have any of them found your site?

DK: I have reached out to a number of ex-Feds like Kim McQuilken and Walker Lee, who scored the first TD in Feds history. Most of them speak fondly of the Feds and the USFL but clearly have moved on. There was a sort-of reunion in ’88 at a benefit for Gurnest Brown, who was having severe health issues and later passed away. I’ve been in contact with Mr. Bernhard and have an invitation to interview him about it the next time I’m in D.C.

WFY: Which version of the uniforms did you prefer, the white/green or the silver/green combo? Did they typically wear white or green at home?

DK: I never really cared for the silver/green/black combo. A lot of team events in ’84 still used the team’s ’83 uniforms and merchandise, like the press conference to introduce Reggie Collier had “1983 Inaugural Season” team pennants in the background.

In 1983, they wore white at home and away for the first part of the season because their green jerseys were delayed. For the rest of ’83 and all of ’84 it was green at home and white on the road.

For a while my site linked to a company called Ra Ja Sha, which made USFL memorabilia merchandise like jerseys and hats, but they folded after a year or so.

WFY: What was the high-water mark for the Federals? Was the owner calling them “trained gerbils” the low point?

DK: No, the low point was the ’84 game vs. Vince Evans and the Chicago Blitz at RFK. They would have won the game with a chip shot field goal – their kicker then was Jeff Brockhaus, who wasn’t bad. The holder, I think it was Dave Smigelsky, dropped the snap, dove on it, and the game was over. I don’t think Smigelsky would have been able to do anything with the ball if he’d picked it up and tried to make something happen, but still, it’s the last play of the game! You’re a professional football player! Don’t just FALL ON THE BALL with ZERO ON THE CLOCK and you’re LOSING!!!

The official USFL retrospective video has a whole section on how bad the Federals were. They called Feds fans “Impervious to the obvious.” That’s embarrassing.

The high point was the Friday Night Surprise in ’84 against Brian Sipe, Herschel Walker and the New Jersey Generals. Greg Taylor returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, from somewhere they came up with a 98-yard scoring drive, and they won the game. The weather was perfect, cool and dry; the stadium was pretty full with Donald Trump’s traveling all-star show in town; the Federals showed up ready to play. That was the high point.

WFY: How tough was it for you when you found out the Federals were moving away?

DK: Not tough at all. It was understood that Mr. Bernhard had lost his shirt, so to speak, and couldn’t endure the financial losses any more. The writing was on the wall, and the first sale of the team, to Sherwood Weiser in Miami, was actually announced before the ’84 season was over. At the farewell game everyone knew it was over. They won the game over New Orleans on a drizzly gray day. Afterward the players started throwing equipment to the fans in the stands; I almost caught Dave Pacella’s helmet – and we all knew it was over. Weiser was going to move the team to Miami, but that deal fell through, and eventually they were sold to the guy from Orlando who moved them to Florida and renamed them the “Renegades.”

WFY: Where else online can we learn more about the USFL?

DK: There is a pretty good site called RememberTheUSFL which covers the entire league. Wikipedia should be avoided; like all crowdsourced media, it’s full of nonsense.

AFTER YOU CHECK OUT KENDRICK’S FEDS SITE

It Was Up, Up And No WaySports Illustrated (May 14, 1984)
“For the hapless Washington Federals, the USFL ain’t what it used to be”

Washington Federals Punter

Oursports Central Washington Federals

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Remembering when Google Reader was great

Google Reader was wonderful. The feed reader made it easy to keep updated with RSS, share/like favorite posts internally (with other users) and externally (via blog widget). In my experience Google Reader gave blog updates a longer shelf life than Twitter does. Plus, it was easy to organize feeds via topic. Unfortunately, Google didn’t seem to realize or care about what it had and eliminated all the useful functionality in favor of the half-assed Facebook wannabe, Google +. The history is broken down by Buzzfeed FWDGoogle’s Lost Social Network.

I wasn’t as invested in Reader as much as the people in the article, but the beauty of Reader was that it was simple and functional at either end of the user spectrum. Google really blew it.

h/t @kevin_reiss

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Social Media and sports panel tomorrow night

A long-time WWN reader passes along that Weber Shandwick is hosting a panel calledSocial Media in Sports and How It’s Changing The Game tomorrow evening. Some details:

Thursday, December 6, 2012 from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM (EST)
Weber Shandwick Event Center
733 10th Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20001

We’ll explore topics such as the business incentive for a “socially responsible personal brand,” the upside/downside of athletes using social media for sharing their personal beliefs, and how player organizations are evolving their digital policies for athletes.

Panelists:

Mike Donnelly, Senior Communications Manager, Head of Social, NFLPA
Chad Kurz, Director of New Media, Washington Nationals
Chad Williamson, Director of Philanthropy for Dhani Jones & CEO, BowTie Cause

Moderator:

Matt Winkler, Associate Dean, Georgetown University Sports Industry Management Program

Also, there will be beer.

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Q&A with Tom from Ghosts of DC

Launched in January, Ghosts of DC quickly became a must-read local blog. I recently asked the creator of Ghosts of DC, Tom, about why he is motivated to share the history of Washington and its surroundings, how he does it and of course, about the patron saint/badass of his blog, Officer Sprinkle.

WFY: You mention in the About section that you have lived in the District since 2000. Did you live elsewhere in the area prior to then? What brought you here?

GoDC: I moved to the area and started out in Ballston for a year, then Vienna for another year and finally into Adams Morgan in 2002. I was originally born in the area, but I grew up overseas in Asia. After I graduated from college I had job prospects in Houston and D.C. (well … Fairfax). The one in Fairfax worked out, so here I am, over a dozen years later.

It’s funny, because when I originally moved to the area, I fully intended on “checking the box” and then head out to the Bay Area or overseas again. I liked the city a lot, but when I finally moved into the city, I really fell in love with it.

It’s both a northern city and a southern town. It’s a big city, but not overwhelming. You have the monuments, the Mall, the White House and the Capitol … but then you also have the real neighborhoods of the city. There are old row houses and new “high-rises.”

It’s a young city, full of extremely smart, driven and engaging people. It’s the city that all your relatives want to visit and are impressed when you tell them you live within walking distance of the White House.

If you don’t think this is one of the best cities in the world, then either you’re not trying hard enough or looking in the right place.

WFY: Why did you start Ghosts of DC?

GoDC:I love history, I love D.C. and I love the Internet. I wanted to find a hobby that merged all three of these.

The benefit of the blog is that I feel like I’m adding value to people’s lives (at least I hope I am). Also, to satisfy my own curiosity, I wanted to know about my city … and what fascinates me the most are the untold stories of neighborhoods, buildings and people who walked the streets before us.

WFY: The volume of posts on Ghosts of DC is impressive, how do you find so much time to research and write? What are you typical sources?

GoDC:I spend far too much free time on the blog, but I really love it. The stories I uncover are fascinating to me and it’s worth the countless hours I spend digging them up. I do have to figure out a better way to manage the volume and I’m now working with a system of cranking everything out on a weekend and lining them up to post during the week. That frees up my weekday nights to permit me to have an actual life and maybe take my wife out on a date.

WFY: How did you come across Officer Sprinkle, the site’s patron badass? Have you had/do you want have any contact with his descendents?

GoDC:Total serendipity … I wrote a story about a cop who chased down some drunk ruffians who ran out on a bar tab. The story was one of my early ones, back when just about every readers (a dozen or so of them) was a friend or acquaintance of mine.

My friend mentioned that Officer Sprinkle (the cop who was the hero of the story) had a name that sounded like a cat. I agreed and wanted to find out more about this guy. Several hours later, through some research, I began to paint this picture of a truly amazing character.

Here was a guy, originally from Ohio, who served in the military, fought against the Apache Nation, helped capture Geronimo and escort him to prison camp in Florida. He then moves to D.C. in 1890 and at the age of 24 becomes a policeman.

There are stories of him chasing criminals down in the street, dealing with bomb threats and serving as a body guard for President Wilson. It was clear that Officer Sprinkle was a badass who needed his story resurrected and shared with everyone.

WFY: What books should be on every Washingtonian’s shelf, historian or otherwise?

GoDC:John DeFerrari is one of my inspirations and a great guy. He’s the guy that blogs at Streets of Washington, which evolved into his book Lost Washington. That’s a must read. James Goode is the godfather of awesome D.C. history and nobody even comes close to the quality of his research. My favorite book from Goode is Best Addresses, with great history on classic old residences and apartment buildings in the city. Garrett Peck is another fellow history nerd who is cranking out books in his spare time (he has a corporate day job and I have no idea how he balances the two). And the final dude of this D.C. history quadfecta would be John Muller who is literally days away from releasing a book on Frederick Douglass.

WFY: Do you have a defined geographic area that Ghosts of DC covers?

GoDC:Anything within the 68.3 square miles of D.C. would be our primary focus, but anything near or related to the city is fair game.

If there is a connection to the District, then it’s worth sharing as part of the untold history of our city. The post about Alcatraz the other week was cool because one of the three escapees from the prison was originally from D.C. That makes a cool story.

There is a clear division between the District, Maryland and Virginia, but it’s very important to include the latter two in a blog about D.C. history.

WFY: What is the cutoff date to be considered “history” on Ghosts of DC?

GoDC:I would say there is no rule on what is or isn’t history. It’s important to share contemporary history just as much as stories from the 19th century. The Space Shuttle Discovery flying over the city is a good example of something that we included. It’s probably a cheesy History Channel marketing pitch, but history really is made every day, so it’s important to share today’s stories with yesterday’s stories through the same medium.

WFY: The focus of Ghosts of DC seems largely positive or interesting history, but there have been periods that weren’t positive at all. How are you going to handle those difficult topics?

GoDC:It will be shared honestly and with as few euphemisms as possible. The blog is not here to dilute or filter the stories of the past.

The language of 100 years ago was clearly dramatically different and, what we would see today as, blatantly racist. However, my role is not to reinterpret or soften history. If something derogatory or inappropriate by today’s standards was printed in the paper, it should be shared as is. It is up to the reader to process it and come up with their own reaction. I’ll even make sure typos from the articles get in there because I think that adds to the authenticity.

Also, I wouldn’t say everything is largely positive. I see it as sharing stories that I find as is, objectively … at least from the GoDC perspective. The woman who threw herself down the elevator shaft in the Washington Monument would be an example of a highly unpleasant story.

WFY: How much of the coverage comes from first person accounts and will there be more moving forward?

GoDC:Unfortunately, very little. I haven’t yet done interviews of older residents, neighbors, unofficial “mayors” of the block, etc. I’d love to do that, but right now, I just haven’t.

WFY: You have a lot of baseball posts, celebrating the legacy of the Washington Senators and Homestead Grays. As a Nationals fan, how do you feel about the current team’s handling of D.C.’s baseball legacy? Will you be doing more with the other DC teams?

GoDC:I certainly have a baseball bias. I’m a huge baseball and Nats fan and it has only gotten worse (better?) as they surge into the postseason.

They also have a unique position in this city, in that we lost our original team in 1961 when Calvin Griffith selfishly convinced MLB to allow him to move to Minneapolis and put the expansion team in Washington (originally, expansion was supposed to by in Minnesota). He ripped out the heart and soul of the team, just leaving a shell (i.e., just the Senators’ name). The new Senators were essentially set up to fail.

So, our city lost a generation of baseball fans and we were unjustly robbed of the National Pastime by two self-serving, greedy owners — and I’m not being hyperbolic.

I think it’s really important that people rooting for the Nationals realize how deep baseball’s history is in D.C.

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