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November 27th, 2009:

Bob Sheppard officially retires

The legendary Bob Sheppard, the amazing longtime PA announcer at Yankee Stadium, has called it a career.

Bob Sheppard has no intentions of returning to his longtime job as the public-address announcer at Yankee Stadium, reported yesterday.

Sheppard, 99, hasn’t worked a game since late in the 2007 season due to illness.

“I have no plans of coming back,” Sheppard told the Web site in a telephone interview. “Time has passed me by, I think. I had a good run for it. I enjoyed doing what I did. I don’t think, at my age, I’m going to suddenly regain the stamina that is really needed if you do the job and do it well.”

More here and here. Sheppard’s voice over the PA, along with Eddie Layton on the organ and Robert Merrill singing the National Anthem, were what made games at the Stadium so memorable. In fact, I’m so overcome with nostalgia as I read this, I need to hear Merrill’s version of the Anthem again:

The singing begins at about 1:30. That, my friends, is how you do the Star Spangled Banner. I’m glad they still maintain the tradition of Merrill performing on Opening Day, and I’m glad Sheppard’s voice will continue to introduce Derek Jeter. The Yankees have always been about their history, and this is a great way to honor it. In the meantime, my best wishes to Bob Sheppard in his retirement, even if he doesn’t like to use that word.

Friday random ten: Thanks for giving

In honor of the holiday weekend, ten songs about thanking and giving.

1. Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again) – Sly and the Family Stone
2. Thank You Girl – John Hiatt
3. Thank You Friends – Big Star
4. Thank You Mario But Our Princess Is In Another Castle – The Mountain Goats and Kaki King
5. Thanksgiving Song – Mary-Chapin Carpenter
6. The Thanksgiving Song – Adam Sandler
7. Give A Little Bit – Supertramp
8. Give It Up – Fishbone
9. Give Me The Love – The String Cheese Incident
10. Give Blood – Pete Townshend

You can be thankful you didn’t have to wrestle with any demonic lawn furniture for your Thanksgiving.

At least, I hope you didn’t have to do that. What songs are you thankful for this week?

Special Friday video break: As God is my witness…

I give you the 1970s precursor to “The Office”, the wonderful and underrated “WKRP In Cincinnati” and their all-time classic Thanksgiving episode. Seriously, if you’ve never seen this, you really need to watch it all the way through. If you have seen it, you don’t require my encouragement for that:

While Mr. Carlson’s iconic line about the turkeys at the end is what everyone remembers, I can’t really pick a single funniest moment in this. I’m giggling as I type this post. Time to watch it again, methinks.

District A runoff overview

Now that we’re into the runoff season, it looks like the Chron will finally do a bit more in depth coverage of the races that are still unresolved. Yesterday, they ran this overview of District A and the remaining candidates Lane Lewis and Brenda Stardig.

Lewis, 42, a community college instructor and Democrat who lives in Oak Forest, was the runner-up in the seven-candidate Nov. 4 election.

Lewis proposes that the city buy the closed 227-acre Inwood Forest Country Club and turn it into a flood control basin and park. Then, he wants to give businesses tax incentives to locate on the park’s periphery.

“I think we have the opportunity to go into our blighted areas and create opportunities for growth,” Lewis said.

Stardig, 47, a real estate broker and Republican who lives in Shadow Oaks, was the top vote-getter with nearly 32 percent of ballots cast.

Stardig said she has specific flood control projects in mind, but did not want to speak publicly about them out of a fear of hurting property values. Instead, she emphasizes that she already is trying to recruit businesses to the district the same way she sells homes, by selling the virtues of District A.

“This is a huge opportunity, because nowhere else in the city like District A or northwest is there a greater return on investment,” she said.

You can listen to my interview with Lewis here and my interview with Stardig here. There will also be a candidate forum for the two of them, apparently the first such one they’ve both engaged in, this coming Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 7:00 PM. It will be held at Woodview Elementary School in SBISD, 9749 Cedardale, (near the intersection of Bunker Hill and Westview), Houston, Texas 77055. Here’s a map to the location if you need it.

Locke releases his tax returns

On Wednesday, Mayoral candidate Gene Locke released his tax returns, about two weeks after Annise Parker released hers. I’m not sure what took him so long, since apparently there’s nothing particularly remarkable about them, but that’s neither here nor there at this point. He released them, and good for him for doing so.

School districts feeling the crunch

The state’s budget problems, which are caused to some degree by the economic slowdown, aren’t just problems for the state. They’re local problems as well, and the entities that have been hardest hit are those that had been given short shrift by the state long before the economy went into a nose dive. I’m referring to school districts, which are feeling all kinds of pain right now, and which have even bleaker short term forecasts.

[B]y far, school districts have reported taking a much harder hit from the economic downturn than have municipalities. For instance, Cy-Fair is predicting a $10 million shortfall in its 2010-11 budget. School authorities say their fiscal problems are exacerbated by funding limits and state regulations.

“Every district has a complaint on the way their funding is figured. It all boils down to that we’re not getting enough from the state,” said Robert Robertson, spokesman for Klein ISD.

Texas schools get their income from allotments paid by the state for each student as well as property taxes that the district levies.

Despite increasing expenses, state funding has been frozen at the level that districts received three years ago — with the only exception being a small shot of stimulus money that was dedicated mostly to teacher raises and programs to help disadvantaged students.

At the same time, lawmakers have capped the property tax rate that districts can levy to cover their operating expenses at $1.04 per $100 valuation. It can be raised by an additional 13 cents, but only if approved by voters in a special tax election.

You know, I’m thinking there’s an opportunity for a Democratic candidate for Governor to win some votes in these suburban, Republican-leaning parts of the state by promising to work hard to find real solutions to these problems. Some of that may include saying words or phrases that might be considered no-nos in Texas elections, and that’s a scary thing to do. But it should be clear to most folks what kind of path we’re on right now, and it should be clear to most folks that without a change in the Governor’s mansion, that path isn’t going to change, either. Certainly, unless someone makes the case for doing things differently, we’ll keep on doing what we’ve been doing.

The ideal candidate

Former State Rep. Rick Green is running for the State Supreme Court.

While in the House from 1998 to 2002, Green drew fire for using his Capitol office as the backdrop for a health supplement infomercial. He also came under scrutiny for successfully arguing before the parole board for early release of a man convicted of defrauding investors (who just happened to have loaned $400,000 to Green’s father’s company); allegedly pressuring the state health department on behalf of ephedrine maker Metabolife International, one of his law firm’s clients; and squeezing lobbyists to pony up at a fundraiser for a private foundation he started. He made Texas Monthly’s list of the 10 worst legislators.


Green, a lawyer, has worked with the Aledo-based group WallBuilders, whose founder David Barton says the Founding Fathers did not intend for there to be a formal separation of church and state.

(Link added by me.) So he’s a religious wacko with ethics problems. Throw in a sex scandal, and he’d be the perfect distillation of your modern Republican Party. He’s running for Position 3, the bench vacated by Harriet O’Neill, for those of you who may be inclined to vote on the GOP side of the street in March.