Like many Americans back in the day, I first got into Thomas & Friends through Shining Time Station, a slice-of-life, sitcom-esque family show that ran most knowingly on PBS from 1989 through the '90s.
Aside from adapting Thomas & Friends and introducing it to American audiences, it had three major hires in its run: Didi Conn, Ringo Starr, and George Carlin after Starr left. also has a very iconic intro (after George Carlin was hired) and outro, sung by Kevin Roth. I was a huge fan of this show as a kid and still am more than twenty-five years later.
Earlier this year, I discovered the full theme on Soundcloud, and its calm, soothing music and vocals remain as nostalgic as ever. Have a listen:
It's no big secret to long-time users here that I'm a huge Bob Ross fan. Painting was and remains one of my big pastimes, which I hope to return one day.
There are 403 episodes, but my favorite comes from near the beginning: a seascape painted with the top half white and bottom black. It was the first of its kind in the series and is a joy to watch. Have fun watching!
American chess master Paul Morphy is widely considered to be the greatest chess player in the 19th Century. Many of his chess matches are used to teach others about the game, from rapid piece development to sacrifices. His most famous, and widely considered the most beautiful, game took place in a Paris opera house in 1858. Morphy — playing the white pieces — faced the partnership of the Duke of Brunswick and Count Isouard. Watch how it unfolds.
Following the acclaimed Momsong in winter 2014, Old Spice produced a sequel later that year, called Dadsong. There's a little twist in the formula, but it's no less hilarious. XD I still laugh it now as I did one-and-a-half years ago.
Cooperstown will only have two former players enshrined, but it's nonetheless a hell of a class.
Back in the 1990s, Ken Griffey Jr. was the Michael Jordan in baseball. He had not just the strong core to help form the amazing swing of all-time. He epitomized coolness in fashion. Why do so many people wear that baseball cap backwards? Because of him, and he kicked so much ass with it. There was a swagger to him that you couldn't help but not watch. I've seen him play baseball when I was a kid, including in 2007 when the Reds faced the Yanks in the old Stadium. One of the most likable guys in all of sports.
Ten Gold Gloves, 1997 AL MVP, 13x All-Star. 630 home runs. All for the most part playing in a position that's been criminally underrepresented. Since Duke Snider was elected in 1980, only three besides Jr. were elected: Kirby Puckett, Andre Dawson, and Larry Doby (Veterans Committee).
Great to see another CF in the Hall. The first #1 overall pick to be elected. When Chipper Jones gets his chance in 2018, he'll be the second. No Mariner will ever wear #24 again. The question is will his plaque have him wear his cap backwards? I personally don't care that three people of the 440 didn't put him on the ballot. The fact that he got the highest vote total is more than enough to satisfy me.
Mike Piazza should've been elected to Cooperstown on the first ballot. Only suspicions of steroids locked him out. But he was one of only two people to climb the ballot in 2014 (Craig Biggio the other). When he was at 69.9 percent last year, he was very likely getting in.
He was fantastic with the Dodgers. Mark my words, if the Dodgers didn't lose out on the West in 1997, he might've won the NL MVP. By the way, Mike Piazza was a major NL Triple Crown threat in '97 (.362, 40 HR, 124 RBI).
When he went to the Mets after a pit stop in Florida, he re-energized the Mets fanbase and turned what might've been a decent Met team into a great Met team for the first three seasons. 396 home runs as a catcher is the most all-time (427 overall). A .308 career average. A much better defender behind the plate than the stats present. At the 1,390th pick in the 62nd round, he's the lowest draft pick elected to the Hall.
We don't know right now what cap he'll wear for his plaque, but he's said he'd love to wear a Mets cap. Regardless, no Met (and hopefully no Dodger) will wear #31 again.
It's a shame that Bagwell and Raines didn't get in this time. The good news for both of them is their astronomical climb (Bagwell fifteen shy, Raines twenty-three). Next year is Raines's last on the ballot, so he's going to get a significant jump so he gets elected in the Hall. With Piazza out of the way, it paves way for Bagwell to getting in in the next year or two. The only other possible player to get elected next year is Hoffman, who entered in his first ballot at 67.3%.
For those curious about the overall totals, click here.
With Griffey and Piazza off the ballot, we'll be seeing brand-new people into the ballot. The premiere former players include:
555 home runs in nineteen seasons. A very amazing swing. Very casual and lovable attitude. Two-time suspender for PED's, the latter the result of him retiring in 2011. He's not getting in and won't be on my unofficial ballot for next year.
5x All-Star, World Champion, Silver Slugger. A member of the Core Four. From 2000-'11, more RBIs than any other catcher. Third in the 2003 AL MVP race. #20 jersey retired. He'll get some consideration.
Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez
One of the best hitting, fielding, and throwing catchers in all of baseball. 311 home runs, .296 average, 2,844 hits. 2003 Champion. 1999 AL MVP. 14x All-Star, 13x Gold Glover. At 45.68%, the highest caught stealing percentage of all-time. If it weren't for PED suspicions, he'd be a lock.
I've followed his career since he played for the Expos. One of the freest free-swingers I've ever seen, but he was also one hell of a hitter. A .318/.379/.555 slash line, 449 home runs, 2004 AL MVP. Of all the players in my era, the best outfield arm I've ever seen.
As you see here, if I had a ballot (which I don't, not a BBWAA member), I'd vote for ten guys: Griffey, Piazza, Bonds, Clemens, Edgar Martinez, Raines, Bagwell, Mussina, and Schilling. Griffey and Piazza are off the ballot, and the remaining eight players will be on my 2017 unofficial ballot. That leaves two slots open.
One of those two slots goes to Wagner. He had a shorter career, but he was as dominant a closer as I've ever seen. A 100-mph fastball, a filthy slider, and all the stats that I compiled in the earlier blog.
That leaves one guy left. For obvious reasons, I won't vote for Ramirez. Posada had a great career, but I don't know if it's enough. Jose Canseco claiming Pudge took steroids won't convince me to not vote for him. If it wasn't illegal to take it at the time, Canseco's whining won't convince me to say no. Vladimir Guerrero also had a fantastic career. If he makes it to the Hall, he'll be the first Dominican positioned player to make it.
Right now, I'm juggling between either Pudge or Vlad.
Tomorrow afternoon, at least one player will be voted into Cooperstown, who in turn will be enshrined. Another player, on his fourth ballot, has a great shot of getting in. You have two more with an outside shot of getting in, though perhaps unlikely.
For those who are curious, here is the official Hall-of-Fame ballot. The closest to make the HOF last year is Mike Piazza at 69.9 percent. He might get in this year. Ken Griffey, Jr., a first-time person on the ballot, is getting in. Out of the 130+ ballots, Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell are above the 75% threshold, but they may not get in because you have more than 300 unannounced.
One very key process to voting for the Hall is its limit. You can abstain (which won't affect the percentage) or submit a blank ballot (which decreases everyone's chances). But you can only vote for ten people maximum. You can't vote for any more. As a result, it becomes extremely difficult to fill out. You have several writers of the BBWAA who literally spent hours and days filing out the ballot.
So, with that, here's my unofficial ballot:
Ken Griffey, Jr.
Self-explanatory. 630 home runs, ten-time Gold Glover, 1997 AL MVP, .284 average, was the fastest to hit 400 home runs when he hit it in 2000, and a hell of a person off the field.
Because of the suspicion of steroids, what should've been a first-ballot HOFer is on his fourth ballot. The most home runs by a catcher (396, 427 altogether), the greatest hitter in Met history, nearly won the NL Triple Crown in 1997 (.362, 40 HR, 124 RBI), two-time NL MVP runner-up, career 142 OPS+, 1993 NL RoY. As catcher, the all-time leader in HR, slugging percentage (.545), OPS+, and offensive WAR (65.9) for catchers.
I don't give a damn if he took steroids. Because it wasn't illegal in baseball (unlike gambling), it's fair game. 762 home runs, was second all-time in RBIs (when it became an official stat in 1913) by the time he retired, 7-time NL MVP, single-season home-run king (73 in 2001), 14-time All-Star, 8-time Gold Glover, most BB and IBB (2,558 BB, 688 intentional).
Same thing as Bonds. 354 wins (third all-time in modern era), 4,672 K's, 3.12 ERA, seven CY's (six in the AL, one in the NL), 1986 AL MVP, back-to-back Pitching Triple Crown, two-time WS champion.
Look up all the stats. He's one of the greatest DH's in history. .312 average, .418 OBP (fourth-highest since WWII, c. 5,000 plate appearances), responsible for the two most important hits in Mariner history in the 1995 ALDS: 8th-inning grand slam off John Wetteland in Game 4, The Double in Game 5 to clinch the series and keep the M's in Seattle.
Why the hell he isn't in the Hall? I don't get it. Even without the Sabrmetrics, he's a first-ballot HOFer. 808 stolen bases (fourth-most all-time, 84.7% success rate the highest at a 300-SB attempt rate), one of the greatest switch-hitters ever.
Potseason numbers aside, he was as elite a reliever as he can be. 601 saves (second-most all-time), 88.8% save success (third-most at 300 save opportunities), many thirty-save seasons, did it for almost his entire career with one of the greatest Bugs Bunny changeups.
PED suspicion, I don't care. He was one of the greatest players in Astro history. 449 home runs. Superb baserunner. 1994 NL MVP. .297 average, 1,529 RBIs, 1991 NL RoY, 202 stolen bases. He should've been in the Hall of Fame a long time ago and shouldn't be penalized because of PE suspicion.
Not as glamorous as everyone else, but he's a HOFer. 270 wins, one than 100 over .500. 7x GG winner. Pitched his whole career in the AL East during the Steroid Era, 60% of his games in Fenway, Oriole Park, and Yankee Stadium. During the DH era, the most wins of any AL pitcher. At .638, the same winning percentage as Jim Palmer.
Since 1900 with at least 3,000 IP, best K/BB ration at 4.4. Struck out more than 300 in a season multiple times. An amazing postseason pitcher (including the bloody-sock game in 2004). Outside of Randy Johnson and Clemens, he was one of the best starters ever. He deserves more HOF votes than what he's got.
And if I didn't have that limit, I'd vote for maybe seventeen. Jeff Kent, Fred McGriff (SERIOUSLY underrated!), Gary Sheffield, Jim Edmonds, Larry Walker, Billy Wagner, and Alan Trammell would be on my ballot.
ETA: Replaced Wagner with Jeff Bagwell. Hare are my reasons why he should get in:
His biggest pitfall is his innings accumulation. He pitched under 1,000 in his career. But during his time, he was amazing. 1,196 K's (highest live-ball K/9 average at 11.9; best live-ball WHIP at 1.00), 7-time All-Star, 2.31 ERA, 422 saves.