Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Five things for Phillies fans to be grateful on this Thanksgiving Day

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The Phanatic and the beautiful Citizens Bank Park are among many things for which Phillies fans should be thankful

 

Despite an eighth consecutive season without a winning record or postseason appearance, there remain a number of things for Phillies fans to be grateful when it comes to their favorite ball club on this Thanksgiving Day 2019.

In that spirit of gratefulness which most of us are examining on this uniquely American holiday, here are five things in no particular order which I believe all Philadelphia Phillies fans can agree on being blessed to experience.

ACTIVE, DETERMINED OWNERSHIP

It has become clear over the last two decades that few members of the Phillies ownership group are more interested and invested in winning than John Middleton.

Over the last five years in particular, Middleton has taken a more active role, becoming the public face of that ownership group. Three years ago, Middleton was elected as the club’s “control person”, making him directly accountable to the commissioner’s office.

Last off-season, it was Middleton’s direct involvement in the Bryce Harper negotiations that finally lured the young superstar to Philadelphia.

The owner has proven his willingness to get personally involved, and to write the big checks necessary to lure the biggest names to the Phillies. For that, we fans should all be grateful.

FRANCHISE HISTORY

This could be laughed off by anyone who wishes to point out that fact that the Philadelphia Phillies have suffered more losses than any professional sports franchise in American history.

However, most of that massive losing took place in the 1930’s and 1940’s. For the last four decades or so, the Phillies have given fans much to cheer, including 11 division crowns, five National League pennants, two World Series championships.

The Phillies have also become one of the best teams in all of baseball at celebrating their history. Numerous reunions and other celebrations and memorials of players and other significant figures are frequent and always well done.

The Phillies Wall of Fame has become a particular highlight. Established in 1978, there are now 41 individuals enshrined on the wall. Each year, one new person is added. The coming years will see many recent-era favorites join their ranks, with historic celebrations to honor those players and their teams.

CITIZENS BANK PARK

There are few more beautiful ballparks in all of Major League Baseball than this now 15-year-old shrine in South Philadelphia.

The facility itself is gorgeous on the outside, but it is even more so once you enter. From many sections you get a panoramic view of the downtown skyline. The open concourse allows a view of the game action from nearly everywhere you walk. Sight lines and seating angles are perfect no matter where you purchase.

The food options at Citizens Bank Park are the envy of baseball, in fact, of all sporting venues in the nation. From traditional Philly fare such as cheesesteaks and soft pretzels to traditional baseball fare such as hotdogs and Cracker Jack to pub-style bar food and sit-down restaurants, the ballpark has it all.

Chances to purchase all manner of clothing, paraphernalia, and memorabilia abound. You can find these items as well as the great food selections around the concourse, or along the outfield in the gathering spot known as Ashburn Alley.

There is plenty to keep the kids occupied. At the outfield section known as “The Yard” they can experience a miniature version of the ballpark, challenge themselves with a rock climbing wall, and more. In the Phanatic Phun Zone, smaller kids can lose themselves in a Phillies-themed playground.

And then there is that favorite of Phillies fans of all ages, the Phillie Phanatic. The big green fuzzy guy has entertained fans for more than four decades, and has become a beloved, and still fun, institution.

NEW GENERATION PLAYERS

When the Phillies began to turn the page from the winning decade of the 2000’s, the process of moving on from a host of fan favorite players was excruciatingly slow.

However, over the last year or two, new players have emerged from the farm system to become favorites to a new generation. The club has also swung a few key trades and made free agent signings to bring in more popular players.

Homegrown favorites include pitcher Aaron Nola, first baseman Rhys Hoskins, and versatile Scott Kingery. Trade acquisition J.T. Realmuto and free agent signee Bryce Harper were the two best Phillies players during this past 2019 season, and promise to  remain fan favorites for years to come.

Management and ownership are now under a mandate from the fans to continue adding to this new base of favorites, bringing in a few more players to finally push the team over the top and back to consistent contending status.

Oh, and of course, I would be remiss to not mention that we have a new manager with a mostly new coaching staff. Joe Girardi is a proven winner who did so in the media and fan crucible of the Big Apple. He was the Phillies fans choice, so again, someone for whom we should be grateful is now on board.

HOT STOVE ANTICIPATION

Just as with a year ago when the Phillies were considered leading contenders to land either Harper or the other major free agent, Manny Machao, this off-season finds the club again under the ‘Hot Stove’ spotlight.

Both general manager Matt Klentak, whose future may be directly on the line over the next three-to-four months, and Middleton have publicly stated that rebuilding is over, and the time to win is now.

That management and ownership knows that they have a solid base of players already who put together a .500 season this past year. Now their job is to find the pieces to make it a winner.

There are any number of free agent starting pitchers who would improve the Phillies rotation, from ace-caliber arms to mid-level experienced pitchers. The club needs to add two of these hurlers, and that process will keep fans interested over the coming weeks and months.

With needs beyond just starting pitching – at least one more starting caliber position player, a couple of proven veteran bench options, maybe even another bullpen piece – there will be much to keep fans interested during the long, cold winter to come. For true baseball fans, that is always something for which to be thankful.

 

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The history of Thanksgiving in America

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President George W. Bush visits the Thanksgiving Shrine at Berkeley Plantation, Virginia

 

Today is Thanksgiving Day here in the United States. As we gather to celebrate with family and friends, let me offer a short history lesson on the holiday origins in America.

In the fall of 1619 the ship Margaret set sail from Bristol, England on a roughly two-month voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. Captain John Woodliffe would bring his ship with 38 settlers safely to what was known as Berkeley Hundred on December 4.

Berkeley Hundred was a land grant from the Virginia Company of London, an English stock company formed by King James I in order to fund the establishment of colonial settlements in America.

The Berkeley Hundred land grant went to a group of five men, including John Smyth, who became the official historian of the group. Over the next two decades he collected documents relating to the settlement of what would be known as “Virginia”, and these still survive today.

The land grant was for some eight thousand acres along the James River a few miles west of Jamestown, which itself had been the first British colony in the New World just a few years earlier.

The proprietors of the Virginia Company had directed in their granting of the land charter that “the day of our ships arrival…shall be yearly and perpetually kept as a day of Thanksgiving.

The settlers of the Margaret did indeed keep that celebration, doing so more than two years prior to the popularly remembered landing of the Mayflower at Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Over the hundreds of years since, there have been many disputes as to the official beginnings of this holiday which has become formally known as Thanksgiving Day here in America. Most of those disputes have been sources of regional pride battles between Virginia and the New England area.



When he became the first President of the United States, George Washington proclaimed that Thursday, November 26, 1789 was an official “day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God.

It was from this Washington proclamation that most formal Thanksgiving celebrations were celebrated on the final Thursday in November. However, it was not an official national holiday. 

Following decades of lobbying by schoolteacher and author Sara Hale of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” fame, President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 called for such an official Thanksgiving Day holiday on the last Thursday in November. However, the rancor of the Civil War caused the celebration to become delayed until the 1870’s.



The United States would then celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November until the early days of World War II. On December 26, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law a joint congressional resolution moving the official celebration to the fourth Thursday in November. 


It was believed that the earlier celebration would give the nation an economic boost during the difficult war years. Ultimately, this move would lead to the modern follow-up retail shopping phenomenon known as “Black Friday”, the day after Thanksgiving. 

Most stores had been closed on the holiday itself. They would offer many sales promotions upon re-opening in order to entice shoppers back. This began to mark the opening of the Christmas holiday gift shopping season.

Over two decades later, on November 5, 1963, President John F. Kennedy issued a proclamation aimed at assuaging the hotly debated Virginia-New England origin battles. JFK’s proclamation read as follows:

“Over three centuries ago, our forefathers in Virginia and in Massachusetts, far from home in a lonely wilderness, set aside a time of thanksgiving. On the appointed day, they gave reverent thanks for their safety, for the health of their children, for the fertility of their fields, for the love which bound them together, and for the faith which united them with their God.”

Thanksgiving now continues to fall on that fourth Thursday of November here in the United States. This means that the formal date can range anywhere from the 22nd of the month through the 28th. We continue, to paraphrase President Kennedy, to set aside time to give reverent thanks for the faith which unites us with our God.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Sunday Sermon: Giving thanks for modern religious

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Another day marks the return of another regular series to my website. This time it will be the weekly ‘Sunday Sermon‘ series geared towards religious/spiritual issues.

This series is one of my oldest, beginning all the way back in September 2005. It ran fairly regularly through 2013, but then disappeared for the better part of three years.

I briefly resuscitated the series a year ago, but it turned out to be for just three installments. The last of those was published nine months ago.

Well, ‘Sunday Sermon’ is back for good now with this, the 70th installment in its history. All of the previous articles and any into the future can be viewed simply by clicking on that ‘Tag’ found immediately following this piece when viewed in its web version.

Today’s piece covers a topic of vital importance, one that speaks specifically to the Catholic Church. That would be the difficult decision made by young people in the 21st century in joining a religious order.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is currently engaged in its annual St. Charles Boromeo Seminary Appeal. The appeal is an attempt to raise money for the seminary through donations from parishioners.

There are currently fifteen young men at St. Charles who are in the midst of their studies to become a Catholic priest. They come not only from Philadelphia, but from all across the country. They entered the Seminary from high school and college, from careers on Wall Street, and from service to our nation’s military.

During today’s Mass at St. Christopher’s Parish in the Somerton section of Philadelphia, Father Sean English was the celebrant. In his homily, Father Sean spoke of his own decision making process after college. Father told of how, once he knew that he did indeed want to enter the Seminary and become a priest, the process of telling his family and friends took another nine months.

Father Sean’s last name may indeed be “English”, but he is a young Irishman through and through. There was a time when it was expected that a young man from an Irish American family would become one of three things: a cop, a politician, or a priest.

You would expect that his family might be overjoyed at having their son enter the priesthood. But it was still a difficult decision for Father Sean to tell his parents of his decision. To tell them that their son would not be having children to pass along the family name.

The Catholic Church has to be thankful that he heard a call from Christ, and had the courage to respond positively. Father Sean is an outstanding young priest. He is exactly what the Church needs more of, both here in American and across the globe.

It’s a difficult decision, surrendering yourself to a life of service to others. It is not so very unlike the calling that I felt myself at one point, to serve my community as a police officer. It is not unlike the call that many feel to serve the United States as a member of the military.

When called to a vocation, rather than simply taking a job in private industry, you have to surrender a certain amount of freedom. You must accept that you are going to help as many people as you can, under the most difficult circumstances. Not only will you face ridicule, but at times you will face outright opposition.

That call to the priestly vocation has been made particularly difficult in recent years by the priest abuse scandals which came to light over the last decade or so. Those scandals were then exacerbated by denials and cover-ups from some in the Catholic Church hierarchy.

But here is a fact. No matter those scandals, the Church needs priests. The priesthood is a vital institution for the survival of the Church into the future. The Church needs good men to step forward and become priests.

As a police officer, I have seen radicals charge that the entire profession is corrupt. There are some who believe that every police officer is racist, abusive, or both. I know from firsthand experience that is not only false, but that officers who fit into those categories are extreme rarities.

Do they exist? Yes. They exist in every profession. When those officers personal beliefs result in abusive actions, they often become newsworthy, sometimes sensationally so. But the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of police officers are good, decent people like everyone else. They try to help their community every single day while raising their own families.

Priests are the same. The vast majority are good, decent men just trying to serve their community and their Lord and savior Jesus Christ. I’ve said it many times regarding this issue: you cannot throw the baby out with the bath water. No one should turn away from their relationship with the Church because of bad priests.

The number of men hearing and then heeding the call to the priesthood has seriously declined in recent decades. However, the number of women heeding the call to service as a Sister or “Nun” had always remained far higher.

In his letter to our parishioners this week, Monsignor Joseph Garvin wrote of the decline in the numbers of nuns as well. Here is what ‘Father Joe’ wrote:

“As you may have heard, religious communities of Sisters are going through a very difficult time. There are few younger Sisters. There was a time that Sisters outnumbered priests five to one. Now the numbers are getting closer to one on one.”

 

Many young men and women today appear to be lost. They come out of high school and college to face a harsh, divisive world. That includes right here in the United States of America.

These young people would be helped greatly by praying on their situation. In turning our concerns, our trials, our lives over to God in prayer we can often find the answers. Unfortunately, many of those same young people just don’t know how to pray, or worse, don’t know to pray at all. They simply don’t believe.

The answer to the problems facing many of these young people could also prove to be the answer to the problems of the Catholic Church. If we can get more young people to be aware of the priestly and sisterly option, to seriously consider that option, and to pray on it, we might kill two birds with one stone.

There are three concrete things that we can do, and all of us can do at least one of these.

First, we can pray. Every Christian, and especially every Catholic, should pray for more young people to hear and then heed a call to service from the Lord.

Second, we can donate. Support the current St. Charles Seminary Appeal with a financial donation. You can do that right here, right now: DONATE NOW.

Third, we can guide our children’s spiritual development with purpose. We can further encourage our children and grandchildren to consider a life of service as a priest or nun.

This coming Thursday marks the holiday of Thanksgiving here in the United States. We should all give thanks to any young person in today’s world who is willing to take on the challenge and reap the rewards as they surrender themselves to a life of service as a priest or sister.

Thanksgiving 2016: Five Phillies Things to be Thankful For

I have been a fan of the Philadelphia Phillies ever since I became aware of their existence at around age nine in the 1971 season.
That year, Veteran’s Stadium opened virtually in my South Philly backyard. 
Over the decades since, I have attended hundreds of games as a paying customer between ‘The Vet’ and Citizens Bank Park, not to mention a few road trip excursions.
I watched the 1970’s team come to power and win the 1980 World Series championship. Even attended Game Two of that Fall Classic as an 18-year old.
I fell in love with the 1993 ‘Macho Row’ squad, still the most fun Phillies season from start to finish that I have ever enjoyed.
And I especially reveled in the greatness of the team from the last decade. The one that rose to power in the late-00’s, won the 2008 World Series, and captured five straight NL East crowns.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

But as we have all had to come to grips with here in the City of Brotherly Love, that time is over now. The Phillies have been losers on the field for the last four years, and are now in the midst of a major rebuilding program.
It is with all those memories in mind that I sit here on Thanksgiving Eve, putting down in words a handful of things that strike me as those for which I am thankful at this time in the club’s history.
Some of these are things that bring me joy regarding the Philadelphia Phillies, and which have little to do with the actual playing of the baseball games.
Others are vital to the team and the playing of those games, to the winning and losing. The decision-making and the moves that have been and still will be made to bring the club back to on-field contending status.

Phillies Thanksgiving 2015

The Philadelphia Phillies organization and fan base have much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.

That statement might seem a bit misguided considering that the Phillies finished with the worst overall record in Major League Baseball during the 2015 season.
The Fightin’ Phils finished in last place in the NL East for a 2nd straight season, and finished with a losing record for a 3rd straight season.
However, there are very real signs that the organization problems may have bottomed out. While real, measurable, on-field improvement may still take another year, there is now hope for the future.
First, consider the major changes in the management and ownership situations. 
We began the 2015 season with Pat Gillick still in charge on behalf of an old-school mentality ownership. Ruben Amaro Jr, who had overseen the demise of the club at the Major League level, was still the general manager. Ryne Sandberg, who seemed unable to make a real connection with his players, was still in the dugout.
Flash forward to the end of the season, and the two months since it drew to a close. 
New, aggressive ownership has stepped forward with the public emergence of John Middleton as the face and voice of the group. 
Andy MacPhail has taken control as team president. Matt Klentak has been hired as a young, new-wave, Ivy League educated general manager. 
Pete Mackanin has been given the opportunity to skipper a team into spring training for the first time in his career.
Every one of these developments is a positive one for fans to bank on moving forward. We will no longer see the same old mentality. 


Performance and production will rule the day, not who you may know, or how long you may have been around, or what you may have done in the past, no matter how glorious.
But the changes in the front office and in field management are not the only reason for fans to be excited. 
On the field, there is real, observable young talent emerging, and even more promising to come over the next couple of years from a vastly improved minor league situation, as well as a strong draft position.
Maikel Franco is just 23 years old, is the 3rd baseman now, and should be a strong corner infielder with big offensive production for years to come. 
Odubel Herrera turns 24 years old as the year ends, and is a speedy, exciting, naturally gifted hitter who could be the long term answer at either center field or 2nd base.
On the mound out of the bullpen, Ken Giles is 25 years old, and already one of the most exciting young closers in baseball. 
He is likely to stay, despite growing trade rumors. But even if he is dealt away, it would be a for a couple of players who would bring measurable upgrade to the minors system.
In the starting rotation, Aaron Nola is 22 years old, and looks like he will be at least a strong #3 starter, possibly a #2 for years to come. 
Jerad Eickhoff is 25 years old and was a revelation after coming in the Cole Hamels deal from Texas. He looks to have at least the same ceiling as Nola. 
Adam Morgan finally was healthy and emerged as a solid back-end option, and turns just 26 prior to spring training.
In the minors, top prospect shortstop J.P. Crawford turns 21 years old in January, and should be ready by later in the 2016 season. 
Outfielder Roman Quinn is 22 years old, has speed to burn, and could force Odubel back into the infield next season at some point. 
Nick Williams is 22 years old, and should push for a big league corner outfield job in 2016.
Jake Thompson turns 21 in January, and should push for a rotation role at some point next summer. 
Andrew Knapp turned 24 years old this month. The catcher and Paul Owens Award winner should be in the big leagues during the 2016 season. 
Franklyn Kilome is just 20 years old, but if he continues to develop at the pace that he has been, he could push for Philly by the end of next season.
The Phillies farm system is greatly improved, the club owns the top pick in the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft, there is new management in place, a new controlling owner calling the shots, and the new Comcast cable contract kicking in soon.
These are not yet the heady days of the mid-late 2000’s by any means. But after a couple of seasons wandering in the dark through the wilderness at the bottom of baseball, the fans of the Phillies can be thankful that their organization is finally on the right track.