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Top Five Iconic Cardinals Moments

 

Posted by JE Powell

The January (yes, I know, I am a little late putting this up) United Cardinal Bloggers  monthly project is for bloggers to list their top five iconic moments in Cardinals history. So, here are my Top Five:

5. The Ozzie Smith Backflip

My first taste of Cardinals fever started in the early ’80s when my dad and grandpa took me to my first game. Growing up in the ’80s I do not have a more clear or fond memory of Cardinals baseball than seeing Ozzie Smith do his backflip. As a youngster of five or six years, I was enthralled watching him do that and when I think of Cardinals baseball in the ’80s I think Ozzie Smith and his backflip.

4. McGwire’s 62nd Home Run

I realize that this feat has been tainted with Mark McGwire’s admission of taking steriods, but the home run race in 1998 between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa helped bring baseball back into the mainstream. The strike in 1994 had hurt the sport, but the home run duel between Big Mac and Sosa aided in bringing it back and the first one to 62 homers was Big Mac. I remember seeing him run the bases (nearly missing 1st in the process) and was extremely excited that the home run record now belonged to a Cardinal. I may take some slack for this pick, but at the time it was monumental.  Read More…

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It’s Starting To Look A Lot Like Baseball

Posted by JE Powell

The holidays are finally over. Yes, I certainly enjoy them, but as a parent with an ever expanding family (siblings getting married, getting ready to give birth [though not the same sibling], etc) the holidays can be a bit, shall we say, harried. In my neck of the woods we have had several days that were around 50 degrees Fahrenheit and has had a spring feel to it (though reports indicate snow is on the way; stupid Midwest weather) and with that it has served to remind me that baseball is once again right around the corner. In about five weeks St. Louis Cardinals pitchers and catchers will report to Jupiter, Florida on February 19th. That day, for me at least, is the official start of the baseball season.

My little blog will officially be over a year old on the aforementioned 19th. Well, I guess it depends on how one defines the blog’s birthday. I created the blog on February 15th, 2011. My first post was February 23rd, 2011. So, in human terms, I suppose one could argue that my blog had a gestation period of 8 days. Well, I guess that’s not really close in human terms. The closest would be the American opossum, which is 12-13 days and can be as short as 8 days, though, opossums are marsupials and give birth and then let the offspring develop in the ventral pouch of the mother. So, I suppose that my blog’s official birthday would be Feb. 23rd. So it will be just shy of a year old when pitchers and catchers report. But I digress.

Back to baseball. Since I am coming down with another case of Cardinal Fever (as you may recall, it’s a form of Bird Flu), well I guess I have had Cardinal Fever my whole life, so I am not coming down with it, let’s take a very quick peek at the 2012 season.

I hope to cover some of these topics more in depth at a later date, so these will just be quick hits for now. First, some of the questions for 2012:

  • Will Adam Wainwright be able to come back from Tommy John surgery and be as dominant as he was before?
  • Will Rafael Furcal and Carlos Beltran spend any significant time on the disabled list?
  • Will Jon Jay be able to able to produce with the bat having considerably more playing time at centerfield (while he put up good numbers last year, statistically speaking, his numbers declined as his playing time went up)?
  • Can Allen Craig come back from knee surgery and play as well as he did with limited playing time in 2011?
  • Can David Freese stay healthy and carry over his magnificent play during the 2011 playoffs?
  • How well will Mike Matheny manage the team?
  • Who will see the most playing time at 2nd base?

Time will be the only one who can truly answer these questions, but they are questions that will affect (effect? I still don’t know which one to use and I have looked it up several times) the outcome of the season.

But the best part, in my opinion anyway, is finding the answers out. I am anxiously awaiting the start to the real New Year, the first day of baseball season (which, as you may recall, I have stated to be February 19th. Sure, the regular season doesn’t start until April this year, but I cannot wait that long. I miss baseball.

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Top 5 Stories of 2011: UCB December Project

Posted by JE Powell

2011 certainly has been an interesting  year in Cardinals Nation. There have been many different, interesting, and sometimes frustrating stories throughout the year. Well, for the UCB December Project I get to pick my top five stories of the year.

#5

Wainwright Has Tommy John Surgery, Misses Entire Season

Losing Adam Wainwright for the entire season was a huge loss. Wainwright was a 20 game winner and the ace of the staff. Before he had to go on the disabled list, he was set to be the Opening Day starter. This story dominated Spring Training and overshadowed the fact that Albert Pujols showed up to Jupiter, Florida without a new contract. I would have much rather had Wainwright, however.

#4

David Freese Wins NLCS MVP and World Series MVP

The 2011 post season turned David Freese into “Absolute Zero” and a superstar. Yes, a superstar. Whether that will carry over to 2012 remains to be seen, but his performances during the post season gained the St. Louis area born 3rd baseman national fame. More importantly, to Cardinals fans at least, his performance did two things:  1) helped deliver an 11th World Series Championship to St. Louis and 2) help carve is immortality in Cardinals history and lore.

#3

Cardinals Win NL Wild Card on Last Day of Season, Game 162

Much has been written about this, but here’s a quick recap:

  • The Cardinals were 10 1/2 games out of the Wild Card on August 25th.
  • The Cards were 3 games out with 5 to play
  • The Cards won 23 of their last 31, a record of 23-8
  • This was, historically speaking, one the greatest late season surges to make the playoffs of all-time

#2

World Series Game 6

This is one of the best games I have ever seen. This game ranks at near the very top as one the greatest games in the Cardinals’ storied history.  It could be the greatest.

#1

St. Louis Cardinals Win the World Series

There is no other moment, in my opinion, that can top this. This was one of the most improbable World Series wins in the history of Major League Baseball, a World Series that will be talked about for years and decades from now. For me, there is no other story capable of being Number One.

Honorable Mentions

Pujols Starts Spring Training with No New Contract

Colby Rasmus Traded

Albert Pujols Signs with Angels

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2011 WS Champions DVD Set Review Part II: Bonus Material

Posted by JE Powell

The A&E Home Entertainment/MLB Productions Official 2011 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals 2 Disc-DVD Set (from here on out, I will just refer to it as the “DVD Set” because it’s just easier that way) is basically set up in three parts: The Official Film, the Bonus Material, and the entirety of NLDS Game 5 (Carpenter vs. Halladay). So, I have decided to review it that way. I now present to you, Part A&E Home Entertainment/MLB Productions Official 2011 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals 2 Disc-DVD Set (from here on out, I will just refer to it as the “DVD Set” because it’s just easier that way) is basically set up in three parts: The Official Film, the Bonus Material, and the entirety of NLDS Game 5 (Carpenter vs. Halladay). So, I have decided to review it that way. I now present to you, Part II: Bonus Material!

There were thirteen bonus segments on the DVD and most of them were just a few minutes long, but there were three great moments on the DVD that I liked. First I will list all the bonus material and then give you my favorite moments:

  • This Week In Baseball: Lance Berkman
  • Prime 9: Tony LaRussa
  • Cardinals Clinch NL Wild Card
  • NLDS Game 5: Last Out and Celebration
  • NLCS Game 6: Last Out and Celebtration
  • WS Game 6: Pujols’ Three Home Runs
  • WS Game 6: Freese Triple to Tie
  • WS Game 6: Berkman Single to Tie
  • WS Game 6: Freese Walk-Off Home Run
  • WS Game 6: Berkman and Freese Presser
  • WS Game 7: Freese Double to Tie
  • WS Game 7: Last Out and Celebration

Read More…

2011 WS Champions DVD Set Review Part 1: The Official Film

Posted by JE Powell

The A&E Home Entertainment/MLB Productions Official 2011 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals 2 Disc-DVD Set (from here on out, I will just refer to it as the “DVD Set” because it’s just easier that way) is basically set up in three parts: The Official Film, the Bonus Material, and the entirety of NLDS Game 5 (Carpenter vs. Halladay). So, I have decided to review it that way. I now present to you, Part I: The Official Film.

I think that best review of the movie I can give is that my mother-in-law loved it. She is not a sports fan at all (except for her New Orleans Saints and even that is just a “check the team’s record every few weeks” sort of thing) and while I know she watch parts of a few World Series games, she really didn’t care who won or lost. So, I had just started watching the Official Film on Thanksgiving Day when my mother-in-law came into the room, sat down, and asked what I was watching. I said, “It’s about the Cardinals winning the World Series.” She replied with a simple, “Oh.”

Read More…

UCB Cardinal Blogger Award Picks

Posted by JE Powell

It’s that time of year again when members of the United Cardinal Bloggers get to make their picks for for the Cardinal Blogger Awards. This year, however, readers get to vote for the Awards, too! Readers can vote here. So here’s your chance to make your voice heard. Well, not really your voice, but you get to make your picks known.

There are twenty categories and I have gone through and carefully determined who I feel is the best choice and why. So gather ’round and let me tell you the tale of the SS Minnow and its three hour tour…er, I mean let me tell you my picks:

Cardinals Player of the Year

Lance Berkman

This felt like an easy choice to me. Albert Pujols had more home runs and more RBI, but had trouble the first half of the season and grounded into a lot of double plays. Berkman was consistent all season long and filled in for Pujols while Pujols was on the disabled list. Berkman had 31 HR and 94 RBI, so he was pretty close to Pujols’ numbers and had a slightly better batting average at .301 (compared to .299 for Pujols). With Matt Holliday injured on an off all season, Berkman had to carry the team the 1st half and had some big hits in the playoffs.

Cardinals Pitcher of the Year

Chris Carpenter

Like, Pujols, Carpenter struggled the first half of the season, but turned it on the second half of the season and was huge in late August and all of September and October. Carp pitched a shutout on the last day of the season and, coupled with an Atlanta Braves loss, helped the Cards secure a playoff berth. He also pitched a 1-0 shutout in Game 5 of the NLDS and pitched on 3 days rest in Game 7 of the World Series to ensure the Cardinals 11th Championship.

Regular Season Game of the Year

September 7th vs. Milwaukee

Carpenter pitched a 2-0 complete game shutout of the Brewers and struck-out Nyjer Morgan, which caused Morgan to have a temper tantrum. That was the Cardinals fifth win in that last six games against the Brewers and Morgan’s temper tantrum may have been a sparking moment that sent the Cardinals onto the playoffs and World Series.

Post Season Game of the Year

World Series, Game 6

This game could probably win Cardinals Post Season Game of the Decade without much effort. This was one of the best games I have ever seen in my life, period. The Texas Rangers took a 4-2 lead and the Cards tied it. Texas took a 7-4 lead and the Cardinals tied the game when they were down to their last strike. Texas took a 9-7 and the Cardinal tied it, again down to their last strike. David “Absolute Zero”** Freese hit a solo shot in the bottom of the 11th to win the game. The Cards may not have officially won the WS until winning game 7, but in reality, they won the World Series in game Six.

Surprise Player of the Year

Lance Berkman

Berkman had a disappointing season in 2010 and was traded from Houston to the Yankees where he continued to disappoint. However, he signed a one year deal with the Cardinals and ended up winning Comeback Player of the Year and had 31 HR and 94 RBI while batting .301. There was quite a bit of speculation that he probably wouldn’t be able to play the outfield any longer or that he had lost his swing or whatever. He proved them all wrong.

Disappointing Player of the Year

Colby Rasmus

Rasmus had a strong first couple of weeks, but then began to slowly taper off and after 94 games played he was only batting .246 will 11 HR and 40 RBI. Not necessarily bad stats, but when a player whines and complains that he isn’t getting enough playing time when it seems obvious that he just isn’t trying very hard out in the field on defense, it’s disappointing. He had a lot of potential, but his maturing needs some work.

Rookie of the Year

Allen Craig

I think it’s fitting to pick Craig here, because this category follows Rasmus. Craig also had 11 HR and 40 RBI for the Cardinals, but did it in only 75 games. He also hit .315. Craig came up huge in the playoffs, especially off the bench in the World Series.

Pre-Season Acquisition

Lance Berkman

Sensing a theme here? I don’t think I can add much to what I said the last two times a picked. He was just very important to the Cardinals run this year.

Mid-Season Acquisition

Marc Rzepczynski

To steal a line from Mystery Science Theater 3000, Rzepczynski “isn’t a name, it’s a bad scrabble hand.” But this left hander really helped to solidify the bullpen and got some huge outs against left handed hitters in the playoffs.

Most Anticipated Cardinal

Shelby Miller

Jake Westbrook has really not worked out that well for the Cardinals. In fact, they only used him for one inning during the entire playoffs. He will be the 5th starter in the Cardinals rotation, but if he is struggling in late July or early August, I think the Cards will call up Shelby Miller. Miller has some maturing to do, but I think he will be a very important piece in the Cardinals rotation. Even if it’s not in 2012, I think he will be a starter in 2013.

Best Individual Cardinals Blog

C70 At the Bat

Daniel is the Godfather of all Cardinals bloggers. He started the UCB (United Cardinal Bloggers) and the BBA (Baseball Bloggers Alliance), but his blog is more than that. He is insightful and puts a lot of time and effort into his blog. His blog post Happily Ever After is one of the better Cardinal posts I have read in quite some time and when I got done reading, I went back and reread it. It was that good.

Best Team Cardinals Blog (A blog with 2 or more bloggers)

Pitchers Hit Eighth

Nick, Dennis, and Josh run an insightful, funny, witty, and enjoyable blog. I often find myself laughing out loud or nodding my head in agreement with something they have written.

Best Professional Cardinals Blog

Bird Land

Derrick Goold is a blogger and journalist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. His blog updated regularly and he often has inside information on trades, rumors, or anything Cardinals related.

Best Rookie Blog (Started after December 1st, 2010)

Aaron Miles’ Fastball

I had the pleasure of meeting Christine during the UCB Event at Busch Stadium the third game of the season and Tara and I interviewed each other for the Get to Know A UCBer monthly project in August and I had quite a bit of fun with that one. I have only read posts by Miranda, but I enjoy her upbeat writing style. AMF is a great site and I really do not see them having a sophomore slump.

Post of the Year

“Happily Ever After”

This blog post gave me goosebumps. It was just that damn good. I am not going to defend this pick. It can defend itself. Read it. Now! Go!

Best UCB Project

Get to Know a UCBer

Most Optimistic Cardinals Blog

Cardinal Diamond Diaries

Honestly, just check out the site. You will feel better about yourself and life in general. Trust me on this.

Best United Cardinal Bloggers Podcast

UCB Radio Hour

Best Cardinal Tweeter

@greenazn

Best Fake Twitter Account

@BuschSquirrel

I gotta be honest and say that I rarely tweet and I haven’t checked out any of the fake twitter accounts. I was listening to the MLB Network on XM and heard someone mention that an account had already been created just after the squirrel ran over home plate. That’s why I picked it.

Those are my choices for the Bloggies. You can read all the picks from the other bloggers at the UCB Official Site and don’t forget to vote for yourself, dear reader, the link is all the way back at the top of this post. There are many,  many wonderful Cardinals bloggers and blog sites out there, so make sure that you hop over to the UCB site and check them ALL out.


**I call David Freese “Absolute Zero” because when he was up to bat twice during game six of the World Series and again in game seven he didn’t have ice running through his veins, he was so cool that all molecular activity ceased.

The Wild Cards (The Nickname of the 2011 Cardinals)

Poste by JE Powell

Wow. One, little, simple word, but it sums up what is, in this writer’s opinion, one of the greatest endings to a baseball season ever. woW. There, I wrote the word backwards and it still has the same impact, even if it looks a little weird.

I must confess, back in late August I had wrote the Cardinals off. Now, to be absolutely clear, I did not (nor would I ever, even in the worst of times) stop watching and paying attention to my beloved Cardinals. But conventional wisdom (which I admittedly stole from a M*A*S*H episode) is that a team can pick up a game a week. The Cards were 10 1/2 with about six weeks to play. I even commented to a co-worker in late August that the Cards would have to go 23-8 in September (which only has 30 days in that month, so how the Cards would play one more game than there are days in that calender month, I do not know) and at that time Atlanta was playing pretty well. Stictly from anecdotal evidence, I think most Cardinals fans felt that the Cards were not playing like a playoff team and were more than like NOT going to make the playoffs. I am often wrong, but I cannot remember a time when I have been so happy to have been wrong.

In 2006 I had a mantra all season long that continued down to the last day of the season. “The Cardinals just have to make the playoffs.”

“But the Cardinals have had two eight game losing streaks and a seven game losing streak and even got beat by nearly 20 runs by the Chicgo White Sox,” I had someone say to me.

“The Cardinals just have to make the playoffs,” I replied. Over and over again I said it. Every Cubs fan was rubbing it in, even though the Cubs finsihed 30 games under .500 that season. “The Cardinals just have to make the playoffs.” And in 2006, they did. By 1 1/2 games over the Houston Astros and the Cards ended the sesaon with a nearly pitiful 83-78 record. I think that was the 2nd worst record of a playoff team ever (the 2005 Padres finished 82-80 and won their division). I kept the faith, as it were. But 2011 was different.

This season, it didn’t look like the Cards would make the playoffs. They were not playing very well and they had seemingly too far back to make the playoffs. But then something happened. I don’t know what happened, but something obviously did. They started winning and Atlanta started losing. All through September the Cardinals kept winning and the Braves kept losing. The Cards swept the Braves in a three games series and picked up three games towards the Wild Card. In fact, I think the 2011 Cardinals need a nickname like the 1934 Cardinals “Gas House Gang” and I present to you, my faithful reader, the 2011 Cardinals “The Wild Cards”. It just fits. It’s nearly perfect, if a bit on the nose, I guess. But it sums up everything nicely. On the last day of the regular season, the Cards beat Houston 8-0 and the Braves lost to the Phillies 4-3 in 13 innings. The Cards were in.

But really, what were they going to do? They had to face a Phillies team that won 102 games and had what many predicted would be one of the best starting pitching rotations ever. No way the Cards are going to beat Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, or Roy Oswalt three times. “The Cardinals just have to make the playoffs.” The 2006 and 2011 Cardinals proved that that mantra is one that every Cardinals fan should keep in mind. Because once the playoffs start anything can happen. Case in point, the 2011 Cardinals. In the NLDS (National League Division Series) the Cards were down 2-1 in the series and had to face Roy Oswalt and then Roy Halladay. The Cards won game 4 to tie the series and then Chris Carpenter beat Roy Halladay 1-0 in one of the best pitching duels I have ever seen. NLDS Champion St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals moved on, beating a team that many prediccted would win the World Series, to face the Milwaukee Brewers, a teamt he Cardinals haven’t faced in the playoffs since 1982 (when I was merely a year old). Nyjer Morgan, or Tony Plush, or whatever silly name he wants to give himself, made some silly comments (back in September) towards the Cardinals about them watching the Milwaukee Brewers on TV while Cards players sat at home. I love it when opposing players get cocky against the elder statesmen Cardinals. The Cardianls team, much to their credit, shrugged it off and did not retaliate. At least not with words. They did it with their bats and their bullpen. The Cards split in Milwaukee the first two games and then won on the road in Milwaukee (the toughest home team in all of baseball this year) to clinch a spot in the World Sereis. I certainly hope Nyjer Morgan enjoyed watching the Cardinals play in the world series. I am sure he has a very large, nice TV with high-def and could see everything nice and clear.

The World Series this year wasn’t the best played World Series, but damn was it entertaining. And Historic (with a capital “H”). The Cards won game one, then dropped game two in the top of the ninth inning when Texas scored two runs to take a 2-1 lead in the game. They headed to Texas for game 3. An Historic game because of one man, the true Prince of Baseball, Mr. Albert Pujols. Game 3 of the world series was a Wild (Cards) game, to say the least, but Albert Pujols put on, quite possibly the greatest offensive show you will ever see in the World Series. Sure, players have hit 3 home runs in a WS game (Ruth, twice, and Reggie Jackson), had 5 hits (Paul Molitor) and 6 RBI (Hideki Matsui) and 4 runs scored. But from what the experts said no one has ever had 3 HR, 4 Runs, 5 Hits, and 6 RBI…IN THE SAME GAME! Historic. When I saw Albert hit his first homerun, as soon as he made contact I said out loud, “It’s gone.” Just matter of factly. The sound of the ball off of a Cardinals bat in the WS is beautiful. Just Beautiful.

The Cards then dropped games 4 and 5 went to the Texas Rangers and the Series headed back to St. Louis with the Cards down 3 games to 2. I felt that whoever won game five would win the series. In game 6, when Texas went up 7-4 I thought, well, the Cards put in a hell of a season and the Rangers were definately a worthy adversary, my hats off to them. I kept watching, hoping for a miracle. I need to pause for just a moment to explain something. When the Cards fall behind or it looks like they are going to lose, I just assume they will. My reason is that if something great happens, it all the more great becasue I didn’t expect it, but if they do lose, at least I am not as dejected as I would have otherwise been. It’s a sort of defense mechanism. I didn’t give up, but I was kind of protecting myself, I guess.

So, the Cards are down 7-4 in game 6 when Allen Craig hit a solo shot to pull the Cardinals within two. Flashforward to the bottom of the ninth. 7-5, Cards sill behind. Pujols on 2nd, Lance Berkman on 1st. David Fresse up to bat. Has there ever been a more appropriate surname for a player in the history of baseball? David Freese had ice running through his veins. He gets ahead in the count 3-2, the Cards have two outs and are down to their last strike and that beautiful sound again, the ball of a Cardinal bat. A two run triple. Game tied.

Top of the 10th, one on and Josh Hamilton is up to bat. He swings at a ball a little low and outside and sends the ball over the fence for a two run home run. I texted my friend and fellow Cardinals fan (he is also the “official” STL: Fear the Red photographer, though I don’t post many pics) and said, “What was the point of the Cardinals tying the game up just to give the lead right back?” The Cardinals go to bat in the bottom of the 10th behind by two. Back to back hits, a bunt, and a ground out make it 9-8 Texas with two outs and the Cardinals have a player in scoring position. Lance Berkman gets up to bat and falls behind 1-2 in the count. Once again, the Cardinals are down to their last strike. If Berkman swings and misses the Rangers are champs. Oh, look at that, a single THE GAME IS FREAKING TIED AGAIN!!!! At this point I am curled up in a fetal position unable to take the drama any longer. OK, not really, but I was in my head, at any rate.

In the top of the 11th the Tony La Russa sends out Jake Westbrook to pitch, who hasn’t pitch in like a month. I’m thinking, oh no. But, oh yes, he holds them and keeps the game tied. Bottom of the 11th and up to bat is David “Absolute Zero” Freese. I say “Absolute Zero” because his veins are so ice cold that all molecular activity has stopped and he is no longer human. With one swing of the bat, a walk off home run, Absolute Zero has transcended baseball and become a Cardinals legend. I know with metaphysical certitude that one day when my baby daughter is older I will relive that moment over and over and over again as a bed time story. It was the greatest moment in my Cardinals lifetime, beating out Wainwrights curve to Carlos Beltran.The Cards made history for the 2nd time in the WS becoming the first team to come back from a two run deficit TWICE in the 9th inning or later. The also became the first WS team to score in the 8th, 9th, 10, and 11th innings of a World Series game. In my opinion, and I am sure the opinion of nearly all Cardinals fans, this was the Greatest World Series Game of Our Generation. Perhaps ever. Only time will tell, I suppose.

There was only one thing that would make this game better. A victory in game 7. A loss would diminish the heroics and the drama of game 6 in my mind. Game 7 was a good game, but couldn’t possibly rival game 6 and it didn’t. What it did do, though was, three fold: 1) Gave David “Absolute Zero” two more RBI (to tie the game again, so less) making him the current record holder for most RBI in the post season with 21,  2) Made Game 6 a perhaps legendary status, and 3) Made the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals World Series CHAMPIONS!!!!!!!!!

This season was one of the most memorable seasons I have ever seen, not just as a Cardinals fan but in general. All the Cardinals have done since last August is come back. They came back from 10 1/2 down to win the Wild Card; they came back from a 2-1 series deficit to win the NLDS; they came back FIVE times in game 6 of the WS to win; and they came back from a 3-2 series deficit in the WS.

Because when all is said and done, “All they have to do is make the playoffs.”

JE is a life long Cardinals fan and is still pinching himself. He can be seen very infrequently tweeting on Twitter at @stlfear_the_red and has a Facebook Fan page, though he has no idea what the address is. The Cardinals, at this time, have won the world series every year that he has had a blog.

* JE apolgizes for the lenght of the post and any grammatical and spelling errors. He will attempt to correct any mistakes that are pointed out and will eventually re-read through the long, long post to try and correct any he sees. That might not be for awhile, however, because he has alot of other UCB blogs to read through. Please forgitve him any mistakes that he has made.