We could spend all eternity plumbing the universe for another Broadway Charlie Wagner and never find one.There was only one Broadway Charlie, a gentleman who oozed class and charm with every grace note that punctuated his remarkable life.The life of Reading’s renowned baseball icon ended just past midnight Thursday morning at the ripe old age of 93.Ended in a car outside FirstEnergy Stadium where Wednesday night he had helped present the Charlie Wagner Unsung Hero Award to Reading Phillies relief pitcher Chris Key. Ended mere minutes past the Aug. 30th birthday of the legendary Ted Williams, his lifelong friend and former Boston Red Sox roommate.How utterly surreal that Charlie Wagner’s farewell from this world would transpire just outside the ballpark where he had spent countless evenings and so tantalizingly close to Teddy Ballgame’s birthday.That, my friends, is a coincidence of cosmic proportions. There had to be a divine author scripting this exit. Wagner became famous because of his friendship with Williams and because of his dapper dress.But Charlie was as good looking on the inside as he was on the outside. He seemingly invented niceness, and had a marvelous sense of humor. He used to joke that he was so old that he remembered when the Dead Sea was alive. In a sport that sometimes is populated with human goiters, his presence and personality always were refreshing and revitalizing.Charlie pitched 100 games over six seasons for the Red Sox, a major league career that undoubtedly would have had more duration if not for his World War II military service. He was a quality pitcher, going 32-23 with a 3.91 ERA before retiring in 1946. And to complete his career pitching chronicles, he even faced Babe Ruth.But Wagner was much more than just a pitcher. He was a scout and special assignment instructor for the Red Sox for decade upon decade. He was a Red Sox coach during the 1970 season.More than all of that, he was one of the great ambassadors of the game — a beloved figure who grew almost mythical in stature as the years drifted like leaves from the calendar. Now that Broadway Charlie has passed on, I pray to God that there is a ballpark somewhere in heaven where souls can nosh on hot dogs and soda while they root for the home team. Because baseball made up most of Charlie’s DNA.Of course, God already had bestowed upon Charlie a large slice of paradise when his cherished Red Sox finally terminated their infamous jinx and won the 2004 World Series. The next time I see a thin smile on the moon, I suspect it actually will be Broadway Charlie Wagner grinning down upon all of us here in Baseballtown.
I don’t know a heckuva lot about cattle.But I did milk a cow prior to a Reading Phillies game years ago. Considering I squeezed about an ounce or two of milk out of her, that hardly qualifies me as an expert. I don’t think that cow liked me.Yep, I’m a real greenhorn about cattle. I really don’t even know the difference between a steer and a cow, except I reckon if they were humans the former would use the men’s room and the latter would use the ladies’ room.So obviously I have no clue why a Black Angus steer can be so elusive. But apparently they are more difficult to catch than a butterfly zipping across a sun-splashed meadow. Evidently they’re even harder to capture than a smile on George W. Bush these days.Why this fascination with steers?Well, pardner, glad you asked. A month after vandals released 20 Black Angus steers from a Longswamp Township farm, the last of them was found and killed by their owner Sunday.Thirteen of the beef cattle were captured alive and lived to moo about it; one had the misfortune to collide with a tractor-trailer; one died after being tranquilized; and five had to be killed after eluding capture.Perhaps it’s just me, but it seems like a serious waste of serious beef to shoot AWOL steers instead of somehow rustling them back to the safety of their farm.Again, I have no clue about the particulars involved in somehow herding such steers into a cattle truck or something. Still, I am somewhat surprised they had to be killed so they wouldn’t threaten motorists by playing bump cars or chomping down crops with uproarious appetites.Somehow if John Wayne were still alive, I reckon those steers would be back on the farm and doing whatever Black Angus steers do on a late summer day.On second thought, I guess I’m as naive as a tinhorn. I guess the whole point of these steers is to raise them to kill them for their beef. Evidently their time on the lam merely accelerated the process for five of them.Still, I imagine the price of their meat on the hoof was somewhat compromised by adding a couple ounces of buckshot.
Koy Detmer — gone!Todd Pinkston — out of here!A.J. Feeley — back in town!Big deal.Yep, the Eagles were busy again today in the transactions sanctum.Still, these moves were predictable and should elicit mere yawns. Detmer stopped being a functioning backup quarterback about three seasons ago. His fastball disappeared somewhere in the twilight of advancing years.Pinkston only true value as a wide receiver was his vertical dimension. But his twanging Achilles’ tendons robbed him of his fifth gear and he always has been loathed to risk his toothpick frame in traffic. The arrival of Donte Stallworth made Pinkston even a lamer duck.Granted, Feeley was a feely-good (excuse that stretch for a pun) story for a few games way back in 2002 when he overachieved filling in for Donovan McNabb and Detmer. But he subsequently washed out as the Dolphins’ starting QB and then couldn’t even cut it as a backup with the Chargers. Now he gets to caddie for McNabb and Jeff Garcia.
Well, apparently it will be a day of reckoning for our town at the ballot box in November.The fate of citywide trash collection now will be in the hands of Reading voters. Forgive the sarcasm but that certainly doesn’t leave us in good hands, does it?After all, a similar referendum in 1998 voted down citywide hauling by a 2-to-1-margin.Do you think Reading voters got any smarter in the interim? I, for one, have my sincere doubts.So the sequel seems likely to follow the original script. Which means the citywide collection plan scheduled to kick off in January probably won’t happen. The status quo of independent haulers doesn’t work because supposedly up to 10 percent of residents don’t hire haulers and just throw their trash in front of their neighbors’ homes or in abandoned yards and houses.Oh, well. The heaps of trash piled up everywhere can be used as shields whenever gunplay erupts.Just trying to find a silver lining as our town takes a misstep in its meandering march back from hard times.
Kerry Collins and the Titans have been flirting with each other most of the summer while the former Penn State and Wilson star pondered retirement and Tennessee waited to see if Billy Volek could fill in for Steve McNair while wunderkind Vince Young tried to rub the green off greenhorn.If you still have some breath left in your lungs after reading that god-awful long previous sentence, Collins, cut by the Raiders in the spring, signed with the Titans today.Volek, who has starred in a supporting role, showed he’s no leading man this preseason. And Young still is a raw as an open wound.Which has opened an opportunity for Collins, who has started for the Raiders, the Giants, the Saints and the Panthers in his frequent-flier NFL career. Assuming Kerry is a quick study and sticks in his nose in the Tennessee playbook 24/7 for the next couple weeks, he could be the Titans’ starting quarterback until Vince Young, the Texas Longhorn Superman, learns how to operate his cape in the NFL.
Everybody but Andy Reid thought the Eagles were thinner than Paris Hilton at wideout.Granted, Reid and thin are planets apart.But at last the pass-happy Eagles head coach finally realized that Donovan McNabb needs more than Cigar Store Indians to run pass routes.So today the Birds acquired veteran wideout Donte Stallworth from the Saints in return for disposable backup linebacker Mark Simoneau and a conditional fourth-round pick next year. Assuming both players pass their physicals, this could be a deal as huge as Reid’s grocery bill for the Eagles.
The Fatal Foursome.Four people now have died this month from a shooting on the streets of our city. An 18-year-old man completed the quartet Sunday morning.Bullets exiting the chamber and lives exiting this world. And the Grim Reaper is working overtime.The people pulling the trigger obviously are not paying a shred of attention to all the rage and rhetoric spewing forth over this epidemic of death.These folks aren’t reading the newspaper, responding to blogs, listening to talk radio, attending city meetings on crime, and pondering whether we should have a county police force.They are just wrapped up in their turf wars until an ounce or two of hot lead puts them in the grave or in prison.Which means since they are still four days left in this month, some punk talking jive might try to make it five when it comes to fatal shootings.
The Good Ship T.O. loves to roil the waters.No wonder Bill Parcells has been grumping and glowering every step of the way through this preseason even though the rest of his Cowboys have been as inspiring as trumpet music. Now comes word that the Cowboys have fined Terrell Owens $9,500 for missing a team meeting and a rehab session. Apparently T.O. also was late to an offensive meeting and has been late to multiple rehab sessions.I guess T.O.’s cranky left hamstring has messed up his sense of timing. If he’s a step slower, perhaps he should leave a tad earlier for his appointments.Of course, that would spoil all his fun. The dude revels in cutting through a team’s chemistry and serenity like pruning shears through a thicket.Still, he should be stepping rather gingerly these days. And that has nothing to do with his strained hammy.Because if he blows perhaps his final NFL shot at the Last Chance Saloon in Dallas, he’s a dumbbell.
Well, now we’ve gone out and done it.Yep, the we I’m talking about here is us at the Reading Eagle. You know who we are.For instance, we’re the folks who brought you a Page One story this morning touting where you all can eat breakfast dirt cheap in Berks County.Yes, indeed! For instance, a mere 73 cents will purchase you a breakfast of two scrambled eggs and one piece of toast at the Pleasantville Diner on Route 73 in Oley Township.Hell, if I ever discovered the energy to turn my living room sofa upside down, I’d probably retrieve enough coinage to eat breakfast there for the next two years.But let’s see the big picture here folks. A picture that is bound to get even bigger in a burp or two.The real story here is not about eating frugally. Save the thrift for the discount clothing stores.The real story is that Berks Countians already eat way too much. I swear some folks around here need to be buttered before they can be squeezed through doorways.If we taxed folks by the pound around here, we could throw property taxes into the dumpster and still have enough tax dollars around to hire an army of cops to patrol Reading. I know they’re calling the city Greater Reading these days. Now that everybody and their fat brother will be gulping down (or gobbling up, depending on their chewing style and dentures) these cheap breakfasts since the Eagle let the cat out of the feed bag, we likely soon will be calling the county XXX Berks.And it won’t be because of Excitement Video..
The narrative arc in Greater Reading is stuck like a turntable needle on scratched vinyl.Darkness seems to grace every page of our town’s daily diary. It reads like one of Shakespeare’s dark dramas.Violent crime, trash hauling, residency requirement — the not-so-holy trinity of themes seemingly playing on an unending loop.Every day is Groundhog’s Day around here.It’s enough to make sane folks cackle and scream at the same time.