Wednesday, January 28, 2015

SLAP SHOTS

     Call Arnold Slick from Turtle Crick, it's a great day for hockey! Your Pittsburgh Penguins take their show on the road tonight as they travel to the nation's capital to faceoff against the Craps. These are your keys for tonight's game. 1)The Pens are 10-5-5 on the road this season. The Craps home record this year is 12-5-5. Something's got to give. Time for a Black-N-Gold home invasion! 2)LW David Perron found the net in the Pens 5-3 win over Winnipeg. Since coming to Pittsburgh from Edmonton, he's collected six goals and three assists in nine games. Carry on, Perron! 3)Washington has dropped 4 in a row. #5 would not be jive on Rivalry Wednesday. Pack up the Crue and the Goals, Goals, Goals! Let's Go Pens!!


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

SLAP SHOTS

     I'll be cow-kicked, it's a hockey night in Pittsburgh! Your Pittsburgh Penguins return to action tonight at Consol Energy Center as they faceoff against the Winnipeg Jets. These are your keys for tonight's game. 1)The Pens desperately need to find the win column as they struggled into the All-Star break, going 4-4-3 in their last 10, 4-6-4 in their last 14 and have lost 4 in a row. The Jets have been flying high, going 7-2-1 in their last 10 on the way to winning 5 straight. #6 would not be great. Ground the Jets! 2)As if the Pens injury situation can't get worse, word came that C Evgeni Malkin would be out indefinitely due injury. C Sidney Crosby also missed the All-Star Game due to a lower-body injury. The NHL requires that he miss tonight's game because of his All-Star absence. What kind of ridiculous rule is that? This team needs to pull itself up, strap on the skates and get after it. Score early, score often, score BIG! 3)The Pens are 16-7-3 on home ice this season. Winnipeg is 14-5-5 on the road. The Pens have to take advantage of the home ice advantage and get the home crowd fired up. Crank up the Crue and the Goals, Goals, Goals! Let's Go Pens!!!


Sunday, January 25, 2015

BLUES N'AT

     Yesterday marked the birthday of the great Etta James, one of the most remarkable performers to ever grace the stage. Born Jamesetta Hawkins on January 25, 1938 in Los Angeles, Etta could do it all and do it with a style and grace all her own: blues, gospel, jazz, r&b, soul and rock & roll.

     Beginning at the age of 5, young Jamesetta started performing professionally at the St. Paul Baptist Church in LA. After moving to San Francisco as a teen, she began singing doo-woop with girl group the Creolettes. The 14 year old met legendary impresario Johnny Otis who re-named the group the Peaches and gave Jamesetta the stage name "Etta James" as well as getting them a deal with Modern Records. In 1955, their first song, "Dance With Me, Henry" was released and shot to the top of the Hot Rhythm and Blues chart. The group also earned an opening slot on tour with Little Richard.

     In 1960 Etta left the Peaches and Modern Records to sign with the Chess label. Her first solo effort, "All I Could Do Was Cry" reached #2 on the R&B charts. May 1960 saw the hit "My Dearest Darling" chart as high as #5. "At Last", her 1960 debut album for the Chess imprint Argo featured "A Sunday Kind of Love" and "I Just Want to Make Love to You", songs that would go on to become Etta classics. During the next several years, Etta continued to record R&B, soul, jazz and gospel hits.

     Her career eventually began to wane. But Etta came back strong in 1967, recording her hit "Tell Mama" at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL. The B-side, "I'd Rather Go Blind" became another signature track. During the 1970s Etta continued to tour and record to critical acclaim, opening for the Rolling Stones, earning Grammy nominations, and performing at the world-renowned Montreux Jazz Festival. She ultimately left Chess Records and the recording industry for a time to battle drug and alcohol addictions.

    Etta stepped back into the spotlight with her performance of "Rock & Roll Music" in the 1987 Chuck Berry documentary "Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll". She released her comeback album 1989's "Seven Year Itch" on Island Records. In 1992 she worked with famed producer Jerry Wexler for the Elektra release "The Right Time".

     She was honored with her induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. 1993 also saw the release of her Billie Holiday tribute album, "Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday" which garnered Etta her 1st Grammy Award for 1994 Best Jazz Vocal Performance. In the mid '90s Etta's earlier music began re-entering the charts as many commercials incorporated her music.

    2001 marked Etta's induction to the Blues Hall of Fame. In 2003 the Grammys honored her with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Sadly, an April, 2009 appearance on "Dancing with the Stars" marked Etta's final television appearance. The Blues Foundation named her "Soul/Blues Female Artist of the Year" for the 9th time a month later.

     She ultimately had to retire from touring due to dementia and leukemia, passing away on January 20, 2012. The voice that spawned such hits as "Tell Mama", "At Last" and "I'd Rather Go Blind" continues to live on. Rolling Stone magazine ranked her 22nd of the "100 Greatest Singers of All-Time". They also placed her at #62 of the "100 Greatest Artists of All-Time". Etta's influence also spans generations, from the Rolling Stones to Bonnie Raitt to Rod Stewart on through to Christina Aguilera to Shemekia Copeland to Adele. Her beautiful, soulful voice will never be forgotten. Etta once sang "Something's Got a Hold on Me". Her voice has a hold on all of us. Until next time, boys and girls. Keep It Bluesy!



   

SLAP SHOTS

     The words "It's a hockey night in Pittsburgh" won't be uttered in these parts until Tuesday night but the puck does drop today in Columbus for the NHL All-Star Game. Since most of your Pittsburgh Penguins are taking a break, all except for G Marc-Andre Fluery who will be competing in the exhibition, Mrs. Black-N-Gold takes a look at the Boys of Winter.

     The Pens record at the break is 26-12-8, 60 points. Although they were tops in the Eastern Conference Metropolitan Division for most of the 1st half of the season, the Pens have fallen on hard times, of late, dropping them into 2nd place. Losing 4 in a row and going 4-3-3 in your last 10 has that effect of a team. They are still ranked in the top 10 of the NHL in goals per game, 7th at 3.0, goals against, #9 at 2.5, power play, 6th with 22.1% and penalty kill, 3rd with 87.1%.

     1st year coach Mike Johnston has had to juggle many a lineup as he's dealt with injury and illness. LW Pascal Dupuis and D Olli Maatta have both been lost for the season due to injuries. The Dupuis injury is all the more debilitating as Duper is looked upon as a guiding force in the locker room. The Pens had similar issues last season as they suffered through 523 games-worth of injuries. They may be well on their way to breaking that mark this season.

     The Baby Pens that have received the call to join the big club have done tried their best, to no avail, to keep the team pointing in the right direction. New GM Jim Rutherford has also tried his darnedest to bring in much-needed help. The problem is he's working with a salary-cap-strapped team that can ill-afford any missteps.

     Individual players have shone flashes of brilliance this season. The Flower's stellar play earned him his second career All-Star nod. C Evgeni Malkin was earning rave reviews as an MVP candidate early in the season but has tailed off of late. He and C Sidney Crosby will both miss All-Star weekend due to injury.

      "Due to injury". The phrase is constantly uttered when speaking of the Pens. In fact it's repeated so often that it should become the latest and greatest of the Pittsburgh faithful's drinking game. Every time someone says "due to injury" you must drink.

      The Pens situation as a whole is enough to make one drink. No one is stepping up to pick this team up. Not any of the stars and not any of the youngsters that are getting the call at WB/S and the opportunity to impress the Penguins brass. Their play has been sluggish, uninspired and downtrodden. These Penguins need to pick themselves up and re-invent themselves in the second half.

     Ever since they won the Stanley Cup in the 2008-2009 season, the Penguins have laid big eggs in big games. Any time they face a potential playoff opponent during the regular season, they choke. If the game is on Rivarly Wednesday, Hockey Night in Canada, or NBC, it seems like they falter. This was a trend that started in the Bylsma Era and is continuing under Coach Johnston. The Pens tend to sleep-walk through the games that matter. They're not playing up to the level of competition like they should.

     Mrs. Black-N-Gold hopes that MJ and his coaches see this disturbing pattern and nip it in the bud over the break. They'll face a tough Winnipeg team at home on Tuesday. Then it's another Rivalry Wednesday as they play their 2nd game in a row, facing off against Washington. They close out the week on Friday night at New Jersey.

     One time, several years ago, the Pens slogan was "Get Fired Up For The New Ice Age". It's time for your Pittsburgh Penguins to "Get Fired Up" again. Make it happen. Let's Go Pens!!!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

BLUES N'AT

     It's time to pack up the hacky sacks, incense, and sun block, load up the VW van and hit the road this summer. The four core remaining members of the Grateful Dead have announced a set of shows to commemorate their 50th anniversary.

     Dubbed "Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of Grateful Dead" the shows will run July 3, 4, 5 at Soldier Field in Chicago. Original members Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart will perform together as the Dead for the final time. They will be joined each night by Bruce Hornsby on piano, guitarist Trey Anastaio and keyboard player Jeff Chimenti. Each musician has a history of playing with the Dead or in a Grateful Dead-like project. The band promises to perform 2 sets each night.

     This event also marks, almost 20 years to the day, the final concert of the Grateful Dead with Jerry Garcia, also at Soldier Field. Captain Trips passed on about a month after the last curtain call. The remaining musicians carried on in one form or another for the past 20 years but decided on this one last hurrah to celebrate their golden anniversary with one last trip down the Golden Road to Unlimited Devotion.

     Although it certainly won't be the same without Jerry, you know he will be smiling down upon the throngs of Deadheads in attendance along with Pigpen and Brent and Keith and Vince. There will be a hell of a jam going on in Heaven to match the twirling transcendence going on down in Chi Town. So break out the tie-dyes one last time. It's going to be a trip like no other. Until next time, boys and girls. Peace.

Friday, January 23, 2015

THE BULLPEN

     Mrs. Black-N-Gold closes out her series of 6 Players To Watch This Season for your Pittsburgh Pirates. These are all players that our Buccos are depending on to help them get to the top of the NL Central and on to a World Series victory. Today we finish up with a man who says he is finishing up his MLB career in Pittsburgh this season, RH AJ Burnett.

      The 38 year old made headlines this offseason by turning down more money in Philly and returning to PNC Park to help the Pirates settle unfinished business. AJ brings with him a championship-caliber pedigree, having won a championship while with the New York Yankees in 2009.

     AJ's career has taken him all over the place, Florida, Toronto, New York, Pittsburgh, Philly and back to the 'Burgh, where he has enjoyed his most recent success. In 2012, AJ had a 16-10 mark for the Bucs with a 3.51 ERA, 180 strikeouts, 62 base on balls and a WHIP of 1.241 in 202 1/3 innings. AJ's 2013 numbers were a record of 10-11, a 3.30 ERA, 209 strikeouts, 67 walks and a 1.215 WHIP with 192 innings pitched.

     Last year, AJ did not do as well across the state. His record fell to 8-18, his ERA rose to 4.59 as did his walk total of 96. His losses and walks led the Majors. Of course, Philly's team was atrocious  and playing in a hitter's park such as Citizens Bank didn't help matters. Neither did the fact that AJ played with a hernia injury for much of the season.

     AJ is no longer a frontline starter but the Pirates are counting on his innings and to help along the younger pitchers in the organization. It always seemed like AJ bristled under the bright lights, big city. He is better suited as the big fish in the small pond, or river as it is in Pittsburgh. He excels out of the spotlight.

     However, the Pirates are hoping there is one more moment in the sun available this season for AJ Burnett to help the Buccos get over the hump  and to the top of the NL Central, leading them to a 6th World Championship. Let's Go Bucs!!!!!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

THE BULLPEN

     It's time to call to The Bullpen again and see who Mrs. Black-N-Gold has as #5 of the 6 Players To Watch This Season for your Pittsburgh Pirates. Today we'll go behind the plate for a look at newly acquired catcher Francisco Cervelli.

     Francisco came to Pittsburgh in November in a trade with the New York Yankees for LH Justin Wilson to replace free agent C Russell Martin. Francisco was signed by the Yanks as an international free agent in 2008. Prior to signing with New York, Cervelli played second base, shortstop and pitched in his native Venezuela. The Yankees brought him on board as a catcher. The 28 year old was a member of the Yankees championship team of 2009.

     With a career batting average of .278, 10 HRs, 92 RBI and a .348 OBP, Francisco has never played more than 93 games in a season. Dealing with various injuries, including a concussion, fractured foot, broken right hand, hamstring issue, has slowed the youngster's progress on the field.

      The Pirates insist that Francisco is not expected to post Martin-like numbers. However, many of the talking heads feel that he could be the "steal" (pun intended) of the offseason. Francisco brings with him a career 22% caught stealing mark. He has been complemented for his handling of pitchers and his pitch framing, also favorable attributes of Martin's game. Former and current teammate AJ Burnett gives him glowing recommendations.

      Sometimes a change of scenery can do a player good. Francisco gets a fresh start at PNC and a chance to shake the injury bug. If he can "catch" on in Pittsburgh, he can help the Buccos capture the NL Central crown and a world championship. Let's Go Bucs!!!!!