Friday, August 24, 2007

World Series and Remembrance, Part 2 - The Seventies

Orioles 3B Brooks Robinson had a lot to celebrate at the 1970 World Series, won by his Baltimore Orioles over the Cincinnati Reds

1970 - By the Brooks - By the time the 1970 baseball season rolled around, I was 16-years old and a brand new resident of suburban Philadelphia, the so-called Delaware Valley. 1970 was the last year for Connie Mack Stadium in north Philadelphia. It was disconcerting to walk over broken glass to get to the antiquated stadium just to sit behind a post, but we did it once. The new Veterans' Memorial Stadium was being built on a pristeen slab of concrete in south Philly.

Five years of following a non-contending Yankee team was getting old, so I decided to take on a National League allegiance. Why couldn't we have moved to Cincinnati? No, the Philadelphia Phillies were the home team and my allegiance quickly fell to them. I was thrilled by being able to watch almost every road game on television and to read reports from beat writers who traveled with the team. The only downside was that the Phillies won fewer than 70 games that year and were worse and seemingly further away from a pennant than the Yankees.

The regular season highlight of 1970 was a performance by Phillies' pitcher Rick Wise. Wise threw a no-hitter on a night when he hit two home runs. Other Phillies' "stars" of that year were rookie SS Larry Bowa, who was 22-years old and weighed about 140 lb, 3B Don Money, who offered more potential than performance, and retread 1B Deron Johnson, who was probably the best player on the team.

I maintained dual loyalties and rooted for the Yankees as well. They were probably better than the Phils, but no more serious contender to the continued AL reign of the Baltimore Orioles, who followed almost the same script as when they won the 1969 pennant--great regular season, wipeout of Twins in ALCS. The National League champions were the Cincinnati Reds, a developing powerhouse featuring "Charley Hustle", aka Pete Rose, young phenom Johnny Bench at catcher and dependable Tony Perez at 1B (or maybe 3B, as the Reds also had Lee May, who was definitely a 1B). The Reds beat the Pirates in the NLCS.

Despite the 1969 result, the Orioles were favored (though I read a quote from Robinson that says they were the underdog). Everything worked for the Earl Weaver led club, but 3B Brooks Robinson demonstrated a series-dominating level of play that remains among the standards. He seemed to get every clutch hit and fielded like a bionic vacuum cleaner. One play on a wicked shot down the line by Lee May gets shown also annually in the highlight reels. Playing deep on the slugging and slow-footed May, Robinson fielded the hooking shot far in foul territory and threw across his body what seemed like about a 300-foot peg to beat May by a step. He made almost equally as impressive plays charging slowly hit balls on the third base line. Always known for his slick fielding, Robinson cemented his reputation as the greatest fielding third baseman of all time in the 1970 World Series, won by the Orioles in five games. Maybe some of this series got played at night. Despite being in school, I have the sense that I saw most of it.

1971 - San Clemente - Or maybe not, because I have the definite sense that I saw not very much at all of the 1971 World Series between the Baltimore Orioles and the Pittsburgh Pirates, and wishing I had. But first a rewind to the regular season. Led by superstars Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell, the Pirates won the NL East easily. I think they beat the Giants in the NLCS as the Reds had an unexpected off year. I forget whether the Orioles beat the Twins again, or if the up-and-coming Oakland A's, featuring future "Mr. October" Reggie Jackson, were their victims.

In my non-contending corner of fandom, I remember very little about Yankees and somewhat more about the Phils, who by this time were my primary team. Mickey Mantle had long since retired by 1971 (actually in '68). His anointed replacement was Bobby Murcer, also from Oklahoma. That was the major resemblance between the two players in their primes (other than being converted from SS to OF at a young age), as the young Murcer had about half the power and half the speed of the young Mantle. Mel Stottlemyre continued to toil honorably for the Yanks. He's the player I most directly associate with my years as a Yankee fan, as his career lasted from 1964 to 1975, almost directly corresponding to my career as a Yankee fan (1962 - 1973).

Slugging 1B/OF Greg Luzinski joined the Phils in 1971 as did the exciting Puerto Rican OF/1B Willie Montanez. Aging Jim Bunning was ace of the Phillies staff. By far the biggest event of the year was the opening of "The Vet". 1964 team holdover Tony Taylor was still the fans' favorite. Tony always crossed himself before hitting. When asked if it worked, he responded, yes, if you can hit. Despite the team's poor record, we went to several games and marvelled at the clean sight lines and day-glo colored seats (far upper deck yellow; below that orange; red downstairs). A ticket in the upper deck entitled to the bearer to a long climb up the ramps, but cost only $2.25. In its dotage 30 years later, the Vet would be considered a mausoleum among major league stadiums, and eventually was blown up, but in 1971 it was like a wonderful concrete spaceship that had landed in south Philly for our summertime pleasure.
But back to the subject of this post--the World Series. As Brooks Robinson dominated the 1970 Series, the Pirates' incomparable Roberto Clemente dominated 1971, using his entire range of skills--slashing line drives, running catches, daring baserunning and laser-like throws. However, the Orioles were a skilled and poised opponent and actually won three of the first four games. Behind Clemente, the Pirates stormed back to take the last three games and win the world championship, eleven years after their amazing triumph in 1960. I remember pitchers like Steve Blass and Dock Ellis throwing for the "Bucs". Panamanian Manny Sanguillen, he of the big smile and bigger strike zone (Manny wielded a 38" or so war club, and almost never saw a pitch he wouldn't take a swing at) was the Pirate catcher. As I remember, I hadn't switched league loyalties from the AL to NL yet, and was actually rooting for the Orioles, despite the Pirates being in the same division as the Phils. I had to think about this, but I remember distinctly rooting for the AL in the All-Star Game in Detroit that year, which turned out to be a rare AL win when Reggie Jackson hit a home run off the light pole in Tiger Stadium.

Owner of one of the best baseball minds around, Joe Morgan was a key cog in the Big Red Machine.

1972 - One for the Counterculture - Another non-contending year for the Yankees--the memories grow dimmer and dimmer as I and other Yankee fans lost interest in this increasingly boring team. Future wife-swapper Fritz Peterson was the Yankees ace. Stot was still around. I'm confident that they played out the schedule, but I remember almost nothing of it, despite having graduated high school in June and having lots of time to follow baseball (though now that I think about it, I had a job as a night janitor that prevented me from seeing anything but weekend games, including the All-Star Game which I listened to on radio while sweeping and vacuuming a room where penicillin was tableted.)

The Phillies grew worse as a team, but were beginning to assemble the players that would lead them to future success. Foremost among these, and a baseball phenomenon in 1972, was left-handed starter Steve Carlton. Carlton was acquired in an off-season deal for no-hit Rick Wise, a deeply unpopular trade in Philadelphia. It's said that Cards owner traded the future Hall of Famer Carlton over a salary dispute totalling $5,000. Carlton pitched like a taller Sandy Koufax. With a team that won only 59 games all tolled, Carlton amassed a 27-10 W/L record. He won 15 decisions in a row at one point. His season ERA was 1.98. With little bullpen help available, he threw more than 300 innings, completed about half his starts, and struck out more than 300 batters. On more than one occasion it seems, he won 1-0 and drove in the winning run himself. Delighted to play behind such a pitcher, the Phillies fairly glowed in the field when he pitched (though truth be known, they had a decent defensive team--Bowa, Montanez and Don Money were all fine fielders). My dad and I went to a game against St. Louis in which Carlton and Bob Gibson were pitching. We were running a little late. When we sat down, the 4th inning was underway. After about an hour more of play, somebody had won 1-0 in one of the fastest games played in the last 50 years. Willie Stargell commented that trying to hit Carlton's slider was like trying to drink coffee with a fork, i.e. impossible. Carlton's old Cardinal teammate Tim McCarver was in his fourth season with the Phils, and though near the end of his career, found a niche as Carlton's caddy, his regular catcher. Mike Schmidt also had a played a few games with the Phils as a September call-up.

But back to the World Series and me. I started college that fall and was living in a dorm when the Series came on in October. My dorm was old and decrepit, and the TV in the common room worked about half the time. I walked across campus to a newer dorm's common room and watched both the Series and the Olympics there. The 1972 Series was a classic, matching AL champ Oakland A's in their first appearance (having beaten Detroit in the ALCS), with the Cincinnati Reds, who defeated the defending champion Pirates which much the same team as lost to the Orioles in 1970. A major upgrade for the Reds was the replacement of light-hitting Tommy Helms with short and speedy slugger Joe Morgan. Probably know more these days for his announcing than his playing career, Morgan was one of the smartest baseball players ever. In 1972, his first year with the Reds, he walked 115 times and struck out only 44; he stole 58 bases while being caught only 17 times. Morgan finished fourth in NL MVP balloting, which his teammate Johnny Bench won for the second time in three years with another ridiculous season in which he played 147 games and hit 40 home runs (after 45 HRs and 148 RBI in 1970).

The Series was closely fought and well played. Two managerial styles regarding handling pitchers were on display. Reds' manager Sparky Anderson preferred the "bullpen by committee" approach--keeping a number of both left and right-handed pitchers ready for relief to gain maximum matchup advantage against the batter. A's manager Dick Williams had one reliever he liked above all others, his "closer", though I don't think the term was used so generally in 1972. This was the mustachioed Rollie Fingers. In contrast to the clean-shaven Reds of America's heartland and Nixon's "Silent Majority", many of the A's, who played near radical Mecca Berkeley, California, sported bushy mustaches and hair sticking out from under their caps. Bushy won the week, but not by much, as the A's won in seven games with Fingers saving every victory. I think I was still an American League fan, but I don't remember clearly who I rooted for in this one. I would end up voting for Nixon in my first presidential election a month year, an error I write off to youth.

1973 - Not Quite a Miracle - I divorced the Yankees in mid-1973, even though and in part because the team got off to a great start, contending throughout the first half. We even went as a family in early summer to a game at Yankee Stadium against Cleveland. The player I best remember from this team is DH Ron Blomberg--a Jewish DH, what a fit for NY. I think he was the first DH to either get a hit or hit a home run, as the designated hitter was first used in the American League in what has become a 35-year "experiment." After the All-Star Game, the Yankees season went sour just as dramatically. They won about one game a week for long stretches, and eventually finished well off the pace of whomever won the AL East, probably the Orioles. That team was summarily dispatched by the A's, who built on their 1972 success to dominate the American League. The A's stalwart starter was lefty Vida Blue, kind of the American League version of Carlton or Koufax for a couple of years--lots of wins, low ERAs, big strikeout totals--all as a very young pitcher. Yankee management had enough too, as they fired Ralph Houk at season's end. But I'd had enough. I didn't consider the first half to be a sign of promise for the future. I considered the second half to be a harbinger of another decade of bad and boring teams. Well we can't all be seers (particularly those who voted for Nixon in 1972).

1973 was an odd year for the hometown Phils. Carlton of all players fell off his perch, going 13-20 with an ERA of almost double his 1972 number. He resented a long piece that ran in one of the Philly papers and stopped talking to the press, a policy he maintained for many more years, even when he was successful again. The Phillies fans (surprise!), who fell before Carlton's feet in worship just a year earlier, began booing. Mike Schmidt played semi-regularly at third. Management saw something special as they gave a lot of ABs to a guy who ended the season with about a .200 average. With all of this bad news, the NL East was bad enough to keep the Phils on the fringes of contention. Manager Danny Ozark said that you could "throw a blanket" over four or five teams in the East (NY, Pgh, Chi, StL, and Chi). The Phils slipped out from under the blanket on the losing side. Peeking just a nose above the others were the Mets, who then took on the mighty Cincinnati Reds in the NLCS.

Certain baseball happenings are inexplicable. The Mets NLCS win over the Reds in '73 is one of those, although, as they say, anything can happen in a short series. The Mets did have good pitching with Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman joined by Jon Matlack (who went to my high school) and backed up by emotional closer Tug McGraw (father of country music star Tim McGraw). I will have more on Tug later when he joins the Phils.

The Mets squeezed past the Reds in five game to face the A's, to whom they succumbed more logically in five games. My main memory of the Series is a painful one. Honorary captain and sometimes starting centerfielder of the Mets was baseball legend Willie Mays, who was about 41 years old at the time. With anguish I recall Mays stumbling in the outfield under what in past years were fly balls he could catch with his teeth. The A's continued to be an impressive bunch, despite not liking their owner (Charlie Finley), their manager, or each other very much. If you've watched any of the ESPN series "The Bronx is Burning" about the Yankees of the mid-to-late '70s, you can understand the A's dynamic. Reggie Jackson was the star of both teams. I think I rooted for the Mets in this one. By this time, the A's were a powerhouse, and I rooted for the underdog, particularly one with a player from my hometown, even if they were the hated Mets, tormenter of the Phils in the NL East (no one more so than Tom Seaver).

The Mariano Rivera of his day, Rollie Fingers and his manager Dick Williams perfected the modern role of closer.

1974 - Three and Out - There will be no more commentary on the Yankees unless they play in the post-season, which of course they did several times between 1976 and 1981. Now a full-time NL fan, no longer burdened with the dilemma of who I'd root for between the Yankees and the Phillies in the World Series (talk about wishful thinking), I gave myself fully to the Phils, attending several games, including Opening Day, at the Vet. I'm not sure what I was thinking when I headed to the ballpark on an April afternoon in a T-shirt and shorts. The wind blew and the temperature dropped into the 40s and I froze. Oh, the Mets won.

Steve Carlton regained most of his '72 form and Mike Schmidt became the best third baseman in the game. 2B Dave Cash came over from the Pirates--he "knew how to win." Cash was a gamer--hardly missing an inning in his three years with the Phils. I even voted for him over Joe Morgan at 2B for the All-Star game. At heart he was a phenomenal outmaker--grounding to third seemingly hundreds of time a season as he almost never struck out (13 times in 1976) or walked (peaked at 56 in 1975). He recorded more than 660 ABs in every season with the Phils, and finished between first and third in outs for five straight years. I wanted to tell you about P Ken Brett, but he was gone from the Phils after 1973. "Kemmer", brother of George, was the best hitting pitcher I've ever seen. In his one year with the Phils he collected 20 hits and 4 homers, driving in 16 runs. He did even better the next year with the Pirates with 27 hits and a .310 average.

The Phils trailed the Bucs at a respectful distance for most of the year, eventually finishing 3rd with a sub-.500 record. Still, the fans had more hope going in to 1975 than they'd had since the collapse of 1964.

But onto the World Series. The Los Angeles Dodgers, with one of the most vertically-challenged infields in baseball history, beat Pittsburgh in the NLCS. The Pirates showed great resilience staying near the top of their game after the tragic death of Clemente following the 1972 season. Short and muscular Steve "Popeye" Garvey (after his large forearms) and Ron "The Penguin" Cey (after his duck-footed gait) led the Dodgers. Later Garvey was nicknamed "Daddy" because of his reportedly high number of out-of-wedlock chidren. Speedy Davey Lopes and steady Bill Russell rounded out the stellar Dodger infield.

By this time life was getting pretty monotonous in the AL with Oakland taking its third straight pennant, again beating the Orioles in the ALCS. In the Series, the A's were the A's--timely hitting, solid pitching and lights-out relieving. The Dodgers fit somewhere between the '72 Reds and the '73 Mets, closer to the former as they lost 4 of 5 very close games---three of them by 3-2 scores, with Fingers again saving every win. Despite the dynastic tendencies of the A's, I think I rooted for them. For some reason, I've never been able to work much of a lather for the Dodgers, despite their Brooklynesque origins.

1975 - Great Teams; Great Series - Go team! The Phillies put it together well enough to stay in second most of the year. A key off-season trade brought CF Garry Maddox to the team for 1B Willie Montanez, a fan favorite. I don't remember a time when we really threatened the Pirates for first, but that may be from 32 years having passed at the time. Having a daytime summer job that I hated, I went to more than a dozen games at the Vet. I remember in particular going alone to a twinight doubleheader vs. the Expos that started at 5:35 p.m. I couldn't think of a better way to spend an evening that summer. I think this was also the year when a friend and I attended another twinighter that featured two 12-inning games and three rail delays, the longest of which lasted 2-1/2 hours. We left the Vet at about 3 a.m. I know that the second game was extended in extra innings when Tim McCarver failed to score from first with two outs on a double to the wall--slow freight (whew--the stats bear me out--McCarver played 47 games with the Phils in '75 in his second stint with the team)

Cincinnati's "Big Red Machine" was completely assembled and operating at peak efficiency by 1975. For the third time in six years they beat the Pirates in the NLCS. Their devastating lineup featured Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, and Tony Perez. Their bullpen included a pitcher with the best patrician name of any baseball player Rawlins J. Eastwick III. The Boston Red Sox ended the A's reign in the AL (actually, Finley helped by trading many of his star players before their salaries got too high) and brought their own powerhouse to the World Series--young sluggers Jim Rice and Fred Lynn, veteran OF Dwight Evans, and New Englander catcher Carlton Fisk led their attack.

There's no doubt whom I was for--the Red Sox all the way--after all, they were going for their first world championship in almost 60 years. Like many other fans, I have the clearest memories of Games Six and Seven. By this time I had a larger dorm room and had converted about $100 of my summer job earnings into a tiny GE black and white TV. It was still almost new in the fall of 1975 and we watched the Series, now played primarily at night from the comfort of our very old and smelly dorm furniture. I don't have to tell you how Fisk's "English" shot saved the Sox in Game Six, or how the Sox then blew a 3-0 lead in Game Seven with Joe Morgan winning it all for the Reds with a soft single to centerfield. These are two of the most indelible memories of any baseball fan from the 1970's and I'm no different.

Here's the wonderful character actor John Turturro as Yankees manager Billy Martin in a photo from the ESPN series, "The Bronx is Burning. The facial resemblance is uncanny. I think that the real Billy was a little scrawnier.

1976 - The Too Big Red Machine - Next year finally arrived for the Phils. With Schmidt and Luzinski slugging and Carlton in Cy Young form, the Phils raced out to a 15-game lead in NL East midway through August. Phillies mainstay of the '60s, now "Dick" Allen even joined the team to provide some more power. However, as fans gathered funds for playoff tickets and figured out the post-season pitching season, the Phillies went into a 1964-like swoon, losing 19 of 25 games to cut their lead from 15 game to 3 with still two weeks left in the season. Young starter Larry Christenson broke the spell with a complete game and home run and the Phils never looked back, eventually winning more than 100 games and leading the Pirates by 9 games. Had the Phils blown the 15-game lead, I might have walked the streets looking for another team.

The NL West was a familiar scene as the Big Red Machine subdued all competition. The Phils might have been the best team in the NL for 3/4 of the season, but everyone knew who was the best overall. I ponied up $6 to be in the far right field stands on a frigid October night for Game 1, which the Reds won by a bloodlessly efficient 6-1 score. The next game was no better: 6-2 Reds. The Phillies at least competed in Game Three, losing 7-6 in a tiebreaker as I like to say. Straight sets to the BRM.

As we've learned from "The Bronx is Burning", George Steinbrenner took over the ownership of the Yankees in 1975 and brought in Yankee sparkplug of the '50s Billy Martin as the manager. Martin had managed the Tigers to their 1972 NL East title. New York fans loved Martin. He feuded with players (some of whom had come over from the feuding A's), especially Reggie Jackson, but coaxed the Bronx Bombers to their first post-season action since 1964. They even got past the (pause while I look this up) George Brett-led Kansas City Royals (how could I forget?), who made their first playoff appearance since being expanded into existence in 1969.

The BRM was another matter as the Yankees went as quickly and quietly as the Phils. Four games to none with only one game close. John Turturro as Billy Martin cried in his office until Oliver Platt as Steinbrenner came in and reamed him out. Later these two giants of marketing did a famous beer commercial series in which Steinbrenner repeatedly hired and fired Martin.

Wounded from the NLCS blow, I paid almost no attention to the Series, an odd reaction since I'd been a diehard Yankees fan just three years before. In fact, I went to a high school football game during one of the games in an crazy attempt to demonstrate that I could be a sportswriter, despite having been educated for four years as a chemical engineer. The editor of one of the local papers liked my article about the game, but he had no budget for an assistant. I soon found a headhunter and a job in my field, in which I still work today, but in a capacity pretty far removed from chemical engineering.

Reggie "The Straw That Stirs the Drink" Jackson hits his third home run of the game in the 1977 World Series.

1977 - The Drink Is Stirred - I got a job at a South Carolina chemical plant and moved directly after Super Bowl XI (Raiders and Vikings, I think). The sunny south greeted me with a week of January days when the temperature never exceeded freezing. Later on this would be averaged out with weeks of summer days when the temperature routinely exceeded 100 degrees. Clearly, this discussion has nothing to do with baseball. Back to the topic.

I celebrated the '76 season by leaving my South Carolina home late one March evening and driving all night to Clearwater, Florida, the spring training home of the Phillies. I was first in line at the Jack Russell Stadium box office for the next day's game. I remember seeing Phillies pitcher Wayne Twitchell up close (heretofore almost every game I saw was from the upper deck at the Vet--about 200 feet above the action it seemed). Ooh, I thought, Wayne Twitchell. I went back to spring training every year I lived in South Carolina (through 1987) and even once from Louisiana, but that's a story for another year.

To their credit, the Phillies built on the success of the 1976 season rather than dwell on its dismal ending. After all, they were up against one of the best teams of all time in the 1976 Reds (at that time, the best team since the 1967 Cardinals, but built more around offense than pitching). The 1977 regular season was like 1976 but without the swoon. Greg Luzinski had 90 RBIs by the All-Star break. Carlton pitched his way to a third Cy Young Award. Defensive mainstays Bowa and Maddox remained at the top of their games. OF Bake McBride came over from the Cards to help the offense.

The Dodgers beat the Reds in a close race for the NL West, even though Reds' OF George Foster won the MVP award with 52 home runs. Garvey, Lopes and Cey again led the Dodgers with help from a very solid pitching staff. Still, we Phillies fans felt we had the best team in the NL all year and with the experience of '76 behind us, we would almost certainly get to the Series for the first time since the Whiz Kids of 1950 (far before my time, but I bought into the backstory as my own). Still in the best-of-five format, the NLCS got off to a decent enough start with the Phils and Dodgers splitting the first two (the first Phils post-season win since 1915). Game Three was nearing the end and looking good until late when Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda inserted two pinch hitters. Ageless Vic Davalillo laid down a bunt single. Manny Mota, one time Clemente protege, lofted a fly ball to deep left field, where Phils LF Greg Luzinski rumbled back to take off the wall on a very short hop. From this sad moment it was a short trip to doom. The Dodgers completed their Game Three comeback and won Game Four easily in a drizzling rain as Dodger lefty made it rain ground balls. I laid prostrate in bed for some of this game. To this day, almost 30 years later, I wonder why Luzinski was still in LF with a lead in the late innings, instead of his usually defensive sub, Jerry Martin, a CF by trade. I will never know. I went to some kind of oyster roast or barbecue on a lake after the series and thought how it would feel to walk into the lake and drown. I can't swim very well, so I didn't. I mean, it was only baseball.

The Yankees once again beat the Royals to reach their second straight World Series, this time against their old rivals from the '50s and 1963--the Dodgers. I could hardly watch, devastated by how close the Phillies had come to being there. I couldn't root for the Dodgers. I couldn't root for Steinbrenner's mercenary Yankees. I watched parts of some of the games. It seems like Reggie Jackson hit some homers and Howard Cosell ran his mouth during ABC's broadcasts, but that could have been later. You probably know more than I do.

1978 - Deja Vu In More Ways Than One - The NL East caught up to the Phils in '78, but the team had just enough to hold off the Pirates and get to the LCS again, again vs. the Dodgers. I guess that bad LCS's come in threes. This one had its own brand of sorrow as once again the Phils had a chance to win Game Three of a tied series. This time the Secretary of Defense, the man who covers the part of earth that is not covered by water, CF Garry Maddox, dropped a short fly ball to CF, paving the way for the Dodgers to win Game Three and ultimately the series.

The whole playoff bracket in 1978 was a repeat of '77. I imagine that Royals fans were as frustrated as Phillies fans as their boys lost for the third straight time to the hated Yankees. Once again the Yankees and Dodgers met in a World Series that did little for me despite its popularity in television's two largest markets. The Yankees won again and I think that Reggie Jackson shook his booty to allow a throw to bounce of his hip for an error. I also remember that the Yankees' Graig Nettles was a very great third baseman during these series--on par with Brooks Robinson--nothing got by him as he played deep and used his strong arm to record outs at first.

Looking like a giant lemon popsicle in his yellow double knits, "Pops" Stargell led the Pirates "Fam-a-lee" to victory in the 1979 World Series.

1979 Pops Goes the Family - The axe fell on Phils manager Danny Ozark in 1979. He was replaced with Farm Director and martinet Dallas Green in mid-season. The team struggled throughout with the season's highlight occurring in April when the Phils beat the Cubs 26-23 on windy day in Wrigley Field. Pete Rose joined the club as the new 1B that year for the highest salary in baseball. Here my outstanding powers of clairvoyance shown again. I wrote a letter to Sports Illustrated which was published in which I predicted that Rose would become the first player ever to be elected unanimously to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. We all know how that worked out.

Among the winners, the Pirates retook the NL East after a 3-year Phillies reign. Most of the '71 championship had moved on, except for "Pops" Stargell, who led the "Fam-a-lee"--CF Omar "The Outmaker" Moreno, 2B Rennie Stennett, and star RF Dave Parker. The Reds, with a substantially retooled Red Machine, won the NL West, but provided little (actually no) competition for the Pirates in the NLCS.

As in 1971, the Pirates' World Series opponent would be the Baltimore Orioles, even more reshaped than the Pirates. Jim Palmer was still around, but this team belonged to 1B Eddie Murray and P Mike Flanagan. By this time, my conversion to NL fan was complete and I rooted for the Pirates, even with them playing disco music (their theme song was "We Are Family" by the Staple Singers) with every win. Baltimore fans had to be a little creeped out (ok, maybe a lot)when once again the Pirates stormed back from a 3-1 deficit to win a 7-game series, with the last win coming in Baltimore. NL co-MVP Willie Stargell was also the MVP of the World Series, a fitting climax to classy and productive career.

Grab a cold beverage and a comfortable seat. The year of years, 1980, comes next in Part 3 of "World Series and Remembrance" (a work in progress). Here's the link:

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Even More Marketing - Entries in Theme Song Contest for NPR's "All Things Considered" Radio Program

National Public Radio's "All Things Considered", which was my favorite radio program even before they read my recent e-mail about parallels between the Iraq War and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, is conducting a contest to choose lyrics for their theme song. The music was written in 1973 and has remained lyricless and lonely since then.

Submissions can be sung or entered by e-mail. I did some of both.

Here's my own choice as my best entry because it shares some of my personal connection to the program. I sang this one into NPR's answering machine at 202-898-2395.

"As I drive home in

Rush hour traffic

All Things Considered

Keeps me sane."

Here's a link where you can hear the tune. As you can imagine, it's not very complicated.

Here are two more entries of the more generic variety.

"N P R's

All Things Considered

News and Views

You Need to Know"


"All Things Considered

Every weekday

On National Public

Ra - di - o"

Let me know what you think. Do I have a chance?

For all you NPR fans, here's the link where you can enter the contest.

Look for the Submit Your Lyrics subhead.

World Series and Remembrance - The Sixties

I was too young to remember the moment when Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski shocked the baseball world on October 13, 1960 with a seventh game, ninth-inning World Series-winning home run to beat the vaunted New York Yankees.
(Photo by Bruce Bennett Studio / Getty)

Prologue - I wrote a long article with the same title years ago on a different PC. There might be a hard copy somewhere in a box, but there's no electronic version, so I'll start over here with my remembrances of every World Series since 1961. This is an interesting starting point as I'm reading a biography of Roberto Clemente where the famous 1960 World Series between the Yankees and Pirates is underway. I was six at the time and hadn't quite become aware of the major league baseball scene, or if I was aware, the memories have been pushed out by other memories, trivial knowledge, beer or all of the above.

The Sixties

1961 - A Fleeting Glimpse at Age Seven - I have just a fleeting memory of this series between the Yankees and the Cincinnati Reds. It was playing on the black-and-white TV in the family room of my aunt and uncle's house in upstate New York. I wish I could tell you more, but that's all I remember. I don't even remember Mantle and Maris chasing and Maris breaking Babe Ruth's single season home run record that year. I remember my mother telling me some time earlier that 1) Dwight Eisenhower was President, and that 2) she wasn't going to die anytime soon enough for me to worry about. Clearly, baseball wasn't that big a deal to my family in 1961. The Yankees won yet another Series--four games to one to come back from their shocking loss to the Pirates in the 1960 World Series.

1962 - Felipe Alou Makes Me a Yankee Fan - With this World Series, my life as a baseball fan began. The games were played in the afternoon and with the San Francisco Giants challenging the Yankees, many of the games were played in late afternoon when I could watch them after school. My mother, who didn't become a big baseball fan until later in life, was rooting for the Giants because their lineup included Felipe Alou (that's his picture at the top of this article), who she thought had a very beautiful sounding name. To be contrary I rooted for the Yankees. In truth I probably would have become a Yankee fan anyway. They were the only game in town, with games being carried on the radio and sometimes TV from New York City. The expansion Mets weren't even a blip on my 8-year old radar screen.

This series went on for a long time because of multiple rainouts in San Francisco and ended with a vicious line drive by Willie McCovey that Yankees 2B Bobby Richardson caught for the final out of Game Seven. This Series was a great way to catch the baseball bug.

As an aside, I also thank my mom for keeping me on track as a football fan. The NFL was important in central NY back in the early '60s, as former Syracuse University star Jim Brown ruled as the best running back in the league for most of his career. You were either a Browns' fan (because of Brown) or a New York Giants fan. My issue was a technical one when at age seven or so, I inexplicably forgot what 3rd and 6 meant. My mom explained and I never forgot again.

1963 - Infallibility Denied - Having won the last two World Series (and most of the last 14 I would learn later), the Yankees were considered invincible (at least in central New York). Boy, were we in for a shock. I was in 4th grade at the time. The games were still played in the afternoon and both 4th grade teachers were big baseball fans. They set up a TV in the other classroom and we all crammed in to watch our beloved Yankees dispatch the Dodgers. Even in 1963, we were too young to know of the past rivalry between the teams that ended when Dodgers left Brooklyn just seven years earlier.

We watched in disbelief as Dodger lefthander Sandy Koufax struck out 15 Yankees on the way to the Game One win, beating our ace Whitey Ford in the process. I don't remember any more from the school setting, but I remember being out with my father, who was shopping for a new car for my grandmother. (Boy, baseball really had us in its grip.) While we shopped, we listened to another Dodger win on the radio. The Series ended in four quick games, with the vaunted Yankees scoring a total of about 5 runs. Other generations had experienced this crushing loss of innocence (in 1955, when the Dodgers finally beat the Yankees in the World Series, and in earlier years (1946 and 1948 were two) when the Yankees didn't even win the pennant), as we learned in 1963 that our Yankees weren't infallible (though we wouldn't have known what that word meant). Life as a Yankee fan would get a lot worse, and soon.

1964 - The Last Hurrah, Well Almost - But not a lot worse so soon as 1964. I don't remember much about the pennant race, it seems like the Yankees were relatively unchallenged. Rookie pitcher Mel Stottlemyre was a big reason. He came up in mid-season and won at least 10 games, establishing himself as one of the mainstays of the Yankee pitching staff heading into the World Series (I almost wrote post-season, but the World Series was the post-season in 1964).

The National League pennant race was a different story. I remember checking the standings in September and noting the Phillies big lead--OK, I thought, so the Phillies will be the Yankees opponent in the Series. At least they don't have Sandy Koufax. Well the Phillies weren't the NL champs, losing a 6-1/2 game lead with 12 games to go, the sad mantra I learned after I moved to suburban Philly in 1970. The St. Louis Cardinals won behind a pitcher nearly as frightening as Koufax, tall and powerful Bob Gibson. As the Dodgers' offense had featured the base stealing prowess of Maury Wills, the Cards leadoff man Lou Brock was as nightmare for pitchers and catchers when he got on base as he often did. We Yankee fans weren't the least bit cocky.

I was in the fifth grade that year--still elementary school, but I don't specifically remember watching any action in school. I don't remember many details about the action other than Gibson and Brock's general heroics. I do remember watching one game on the color TV in my aunt's living room. This was a special treat, as that TV was generally reserved for reverent viewings of Bonanza. We didn't have a color TV at our house and wouldn't get one until the move to PA. The series went the full seven games, with Gibson getting the better of Ford in Game Seven. A tough loss to a good team, we all thought. We'll get 'em next year.

1965 - More Koufax - Yankee management tried to get a leg up on the Cards for 1965 by hiring their manager, Johnny Keane, to replace Yankee skipper Ralph "The Major" Houk, who, horror of horrors, had now led the team to two straight World Series losses. (Correction: Keane replaced Yogi Berra, who managed the 1964 AL pennant winners; Berra replaced Houk, who lost one World Series in a row.) April 1965 came and the whole Yankee team, substantially unchanged since 1960, seemed to all get old at once. They won about 3 games out of the first 15 and never got close to contending--one of the worst seasons in Yankee history. Keane was fired at season's end. (Correction 2: Keane was fired in mid-1966 and Houk was restored to the job, where he stayed through 1973)

The Minnesota Twins, a much rebuilt team that had been the hapless Washington Senators just a few years earlier, won the AL pennant behind hard-hitting Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva and pitchers Mudcat Grant and Jim Kaat. Twins SS Zoilo Versailles (a great name) was another mainstay. Back in the Series for the NL were the Dodgers, carried again by their ace Koufax and his right-handed counterpart Don Drysdale. Wes Parker, Maury Wills and Tommy Davis were other players on a team built with pitching, speed and defense. This time the seasoned Dodgers were favorites over the Twins and form held as Sandy Koufax and company won a 6-game series. I remember watching this series on the television in our new family room, added to the back of our small ranch house that year. My dad would come home from work and ask me for an update on the game in progress--nice of him given that I don't think he really cared now that the Yankees weren't involved.

1966 - When Orioles Fly - The regular season was dominated by the two teams that made it to the World Series and by the two players who lead their teams--Sandy Koufax of the Dodgers, and Triple Crown winner and MVP Frank Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles. The Yankees were terrible again. I'm blocking on who they hired as manager to replace Keane--maybe they brought Houk back. (Confirmation, per above, they did after about one month.) It didn't matter. For this year and two more Yankee fans concentrated on seeing Mickey Mantle get to 500 career homers before he had to retire because of his bad legs. The seeming invincibility of Koufax and the Dodgers' wins in two of the last three Series made them the decided favorite.

Given the era of play, the pitcher-dominated mid-'60s, the low-scoring games of the 1966 World Series weren't a big surprise. How few were played and who won them was a big surprise. The young Orioles pitchers dominated the Dodgers and won the series 4-0. I think that as an American League fan I was happy about the outcome, though I was probably disappointed that so few games were played.

1967 - Simply The Best - The Red Sox won a great four-way race among themselves, the White Sox, Twins and Tigers, becoming the first "worst to first" team (Correction: Actually 9th to first. The Yankees were 10th in 1966.) in my memory. The St. Louis Cardinals were clearly the class of the National League as Sandy Koufax shocked the baseball world by retiring at age 30 with an arthritic elbow. The Cards were a complete team, but again led by pitcher Bob Gibson and LF Lou Brock, who if anything were more menacing than in 1964. Triple Crown winner Carl Yastrzemski led the Sox, the second AL Triple Crown winner in two years, and the last one in any league to this day.

I was in middle school and I remember the '67 Series being the last one to be broadcast inside the school. A TV was set up in the cafeteria. I don't remember going there as a class, but we could stop by between classes and keep up with the action. I had no trouble rooting for the Red Sox, the underdog from the American League. In fact, I remember being pretty bummed out about all of Bob Gibson's strikeouts and Lou Brock's stolen bases, as these two stars picked up right where they left off in 1964.

The series went back and forth before being decided in Game Seven. Gibson started his third game on his regular spot in the rotation. Sox ace Jim Lonborg pitched on two days rest. The pitching mismatched proved to be too big for the Sox and the Cards won easily. This was the best team I'd seen up to that point and I can still remember the starting lineup--Cepeda at 1B, Javier at 2B, Maxvill at SS, Shannon at 3B, Brock in LF, Flood in CF, Maris (over from the Yankees) in RF, McCarver C and Gibson P.

1968 - The Year of the Pitcher - Perhaps the worst Yankee team ever (Correction: The '68 Yankees actually finished above .500. The '66 and '67 clubs were terrible--10th and 9th places respectively) was no competition for the Detroit Tigers, who won the AL handily behind 30-game winner Denny McLain. Portly lefty Mickey Lolich won at least 20 more games. We had seen a few of the Tigers when they were Syracuse Chiefs a few years earlier--OFs Willie Horton and Jim Northrup were two that I remember. The Tigers had a solid lineup and appeared ready for the challenge, which was nothing less than a repeat pennant by the defending champion Cardinals. The Cards brought their powerhouse back intact. 1968 was the apex or nadir of the Years of the Pitcher, depending on your point of view. Bob Gibson led the NL with a 1.12 ERA. Luis Tiant of Cleveland led the AL at about 1.6. Yaz led AL batters with a .301 average-- the only .300 hitter in the entire American League. Don Drysdale set a new record with 56 consecutive scoreless innings. The Yankees hit about .220 as a team for the year (Bobby Cox played 2B for awhile on this team).

There was no TV at school, even in the cafeteria. I conveniently contracted a case of bronchitis (or was it mono) for the Series and watched most of it from home. The favored Cards won three of the first four games, beating McLain in the process--with Gibson and Brock leading the way yet again. Lolich salvaged the Tigers only win in Game 2, but came back in Game 5 with another strong game to keep the Tigers alive. I forget how the Tigers won Game Six, but the Tiger manager went with Lolich over McLain for Game 7, a gutsy call and the right one it turned out as Lolich pitched a fine game. Still the Cards might have pulled it out if not for a misplayed fly ball by Gold Glove outfielder Curt Flood. He turned a fly ball into the triple that helped the Tigers take the lead and win the game and the series. Very exciting stuff and one of my Series watching highlights.

1969 - It Was a Miracle - By now I was in 9th grade. The Baltimore Orioles demolished all comers in the AL race, winning well over 100 games. The Yankees improved dramatically but were still never in the race. Over in the NL a miracle occured as the Miracle Mets did their own "worst to first" act behind young pitchers Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Nolan Ryan. The Cubs held the NL East lead most of the season (this was the first year of divisional play) and are accused of choking, but the real story was the amazing play of the Mets over the last 50 games, of which they won about 40. The Mets quickly dispatched Henry Aaron's Braves in the first National League Championship Series. The Orioles did likewise to the Twins in the first ALCS. All, except maybe Mets fans, expected the Series to look a lot like the ALCS--an Orioles rout. The Mets had most of the position players from their last place team of 1968--CF Tommy Agee, LF Cleon Jones, 1B Ed Kranepool, SS Bud Harrelson, RF Ron Swoboda--an unintimidating lot compared to an Orioles lineup with Brooks and Frank Robinson and giant slugging 1B Boog Powell. The O's also had many of their kid pitchers of 1966 back as established stars (including future Hall of Famer Jim Palmer). I didn't see much of this series, but you know how it turned out--with the Mets winning in five games, led by the likes of Ron Swoboda and Al Weis. Only seven years removed from a laughable first season under Casey Stengel when they lost 120 games, Gil Hodges' Mets pulled off the biggest World Series upset of the '60s--approached only by the Pirates defeat of the Yankees in the first series of the decade.

I hoped for better times for my beloved Yankees (I picked my gym locker number, 234 (Correction: 236--how could I forget?), because that was Whitey Ford's lifetime win total) in the '70s to come. Read all about it at:

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ex-SPOILER-amus! Curse of the Dadlak Blog - "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" - To The End and Then Some

August 21 - I finally catch up to J.K. Rowling, Harry, my daughter and wife and millions of other readers of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." Here are my comments on the last two exciting chapters and the Epilogue.

No spoiler warning this time. If you've come this far with me, you're on your own. But thanks for reading.

Chapter 35 - King's Cross - At first I wasn't quite sure what Ms. Rowling was going for - a near death experience or a trip by a Jesus-like Harry not through hell, but to a Space Odyssey-like setting. In any event, my feeling that "Dumbledore the White" might make an appearance was borne out, though he appears more in an explanatory role than an active one. His presence is comforting to both Harry and the reader (at first). Later on I got bogged down in all the interplay among Voldemort, Harry, Dumbledore and the Hallows.

But getting back to the story, Harry "awakes" from Voldemort's Killing Curse naked and in very diaphanous surroundings. He wishes for clothes and new robes appear. He wonders where he is and the setting develops into an enormous Great Hall, empty except for a small naked child, himself and Dumbledore. Dumbledore confirms that he is dead, but denies that Harry is so. He coaxes Harry to realize that the part of Voldemort's soul that was inside Harry died with the Curse.

Dumbledore explains that Voldemort took Harry's blood to rebuild his own body and in the process Harry became the seventh Horcrux. By doing so he kept Lily Potter's sacrifice alive.

As for the triumph of Harry's wand, Dumbledore has to guess--he speculates that because of the strange relationship between Voldemort and Harry, their wands were twins. When Voldemort attacked Harry, Harry's wand recognized the attacker and responded with some of Voldemort's own dark magic.

This all seems pretty complicated, even in summary. Maybe the bigger message is that there's good and evil in all of us and the trick is to be guided by our better nature, ala Harry, but be ready to use our dark side to combat those who aren't so benevolently inclined.

Dumbledore then moves on to the Hallows. He calls Harry "the better man" and admits that he was tempted by the prospect of becoming the master of Death by possessing them. The Hallows drew Dumbledore and Grindelwald together. The Cloak had been passed down for generations, owned by the Potters just before they died, when Dumbledore "borrowed" it. Once Voldemort killed the Potters, Dumbledore despised both the Cloak and himself.

Dumbledore describes his resentment ove his mother's death, which caused him to have to care for his damaged sister Ariana. The responsibility was a real career-threatener to a young wizard with vast potential. At this point, Grindelwald arrived and captivated Dumbledore with a vision of a wizard-dominated world.

Albus and Aberforth Dumbledore got into a fight. Grindelwald's darkest side was revealed and Ariana was killed. Grindelwald fled. Dumbledore never trusted himself with power, turning down the Minister of Magic post and going to Hogwarts.

Grindelwald raised an army, but Dumbledore won their eventual duel and with it the Elder Wand. He also possessed the Stone and the Cloak, but turned out to be the wrong man to possess the Hallows. Harry was the right one. And now the right one to take on Voldemort in the ultimate battle. The boy who lived now becomes the man who chooses to live.

P.S. Do we ever learn who the infant in the scene is? Harry as a baby?

Chapter 36 - The Flaw in the Plan - The title refers to Voldemort possessing the Elder Wand and Snape's role in its passing, I think, but I'll have to confirm.

Harry "awakes" again, this time at the scene of his "death". Voldemort is down as well. Voldemort orders that Harry be examined to make sure that he is dead. Narcissa comes to Harry and whispers "Is Draco alive?" Parental love is right up there. Harry breathes back, "Yes." Narcissa reports that Harry is dead. Voldemort plays with the "body". Harry plays dead. Hagrid is assigned to carry Harry's body (I had to look back to Chapter 34 to confirm that Hagrid hadn't been eaten by giant spiders--his arm was waving at the end, apparently he was waving). Voldemort shows Harry to his supporters to demonstrate that their leader is dead.

McGonagall, Ron, Hermioine and Ginny keen for Harry. Neville rushes Voldemort. Voldemort offers a position as a Death Eater, but Neville is true to Dumbledore's Army. Voldemort responds by disbanding all the Hogwarts houses except Slytherin and my setting Neville on fire.

Harry wants to act, but has to play dead. At the best possible moment Grawp storms onto the scene, he and Voldemort's giants creating enough havoc for Neville to escape the flames. Neville pulls out the Sword of Gryffindor and decapitates Nagini. (There goes the seventh Horcrux, which should be a problem for the Dark Lord.) Voldemort howls at the loss and a huge battle ensues, first outside and then inside the castle. Even the house elves join the fight.

Bellatrix fires a Killing Curse at Ginny, which prompts Mrs. Weasley to charge and defeat her in a duel. McGonagall, Kingsley and Slughorn battle Voldemort. Voldemort turns his attention to Molly Weasley which causes Harry to emerge from the Cloak and cast a Shield Charm.

At this point the battle is reduced once again to Harry and Voldemort. A shouting match follows, with Harry belittling Voldemort's powers in comparison to Dumbledore's. He tells Voldemort didn't die at his hand, rather in his own chosen manner and that Snape was Dumbledore's man. Voldemort reminds Harry that no matter the circumstancs, that he has the Elder Wand, (the flaw in the plan).

Harry challenges Voldemort (whom he now addresses by the boyhood name Riddle) to consider remorse. He tells him that Snape never beat Dumbledore because Dumbledore's death was planned between them (the flaw in Voldemort's plan). Voldemort counters that stealing the wand from Dumbledore's tomb gave him ownership.

Harry reminds him that the "wand chooses the wizard" and that Draco Malfoy was possessor of the Elder Wand, which Harry took from Draco in battle and that Harry is now the true master of the Elder Wand.

An exchange of curses follows--the ever-popular "Avada Kedavra" and "Expelliarmus", which collide in mid-air. The Elder Wand soars into the air, but Harry catches it with Seeker skill.

Voldemort is beaten--killed by his own reflected curse. Celebration follows. Harry decides to put the Elder Wand back where it belongs (Dumbledore's grave) and to seek some peace and quiet.

Harry, Ron and Hermione all survive--a good outcome for what is ultimately a children's series. Snape died, not unexpectedly as he lived a difficult life. Hagrid survived after appearing not to. Neville proved heroic (as my friend also predicted). Other losses were sad but minor--Hedwig, Dobby, Fred Weasley, Lupin and Tonks. For me, Dobby's death was the saddest in perhaps the entire series.

Epilogue - Nineteen Years Later - Harry and Ginny have married, as have Ron and Hermioine. The Potter children are James, Albus and Lily; Ron and Hermione have Rose and Hugo. Albus, James, and Rose are going to Hogawarts, Albus for the first time. Draco Malfoy and son Scorpius are also at the station. Teddy Lupin, son of Remus and Tonks, is a regular guest of the Potters. His girlfriend is Victoire, daughter of Bill and Fleur. Neville is professor of herbology at Hogwarts. Albus is concerned about which house he'll be assigned to. Harry tells that either Gryffindor or Slytherin would be fine--but that his preference will be considered by the Sorting Hat. It's all a very calm, simple and bucolic scene (maybe Ms. Rowling was going for the anti-Tolkein approach). Harry's scar hasn't pained him in 19 years and all is well.

With this epilogue, Ms. Rowling doesn't really close the book on the story. Nineteen years are unaccounted for--though with Harry's scar no longer paining him, it's likely that the story of those 19 years would be nowhere near as exciting as the story of the previous seven.

Blogging Potter - My analytical skills need a lot of work, especially on the fly. I also found myself doing plot summaries far too often, sometimes to help myself understand what had happened; other times to move the blog along and get back to reading. I'm sure I would have read the book in three or four days without the blogging process. But as I said at the beginning, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" was a once-in-a-lifetime publishing experiecne that warranted more than the three-day read and three-paragraph review (though I'll try to do one of those at the end of the month for

If you read all the way to here, many, many thanks. Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts on the book, the blog or anything else.

August 18 - The end is in sight. Just Chapters 35, 36 and the Epilogue to go. Here are my thoughts on Chapters 32-34.

Chapter 32 - The Elder Wand - Fred is dead, (that's what I said) but the battle rages on. Giant spiders have been released from the Forbidden Forest to join the dark side. Ron is ready to kill more Death Eaters. Harry and Hermione convince him that destroying Nagini is more important.

Harry's mind-sharing with Voldemort takes us to the Dark Lord's lair. Voldemort challenges Lucius Malfoy's loyalty, saying that Malfoy wants to stop the fight to save his son. Voldemort summons Snape to "perform a service."

Harry has figured out that Voldemort doesn't need to join the fight; that Harry will come to him to destroy Nagini and for the ultimate battle. HH and R try to escape the castle, successfully fighting their way out. Hagrid comes to join them but is . . . get ready . . . consumed it seems by the giant spiders. From somewhere comes a giant aligned with the Dark Lord. Grawp comes from behind the castle to battle it. Dementors advance on our heroes, who are too weak to summon their own Patronuses. Luna, Ernie and Seamus summon theirs, a hare, boar and fox respectively, and the dementors are driven back. With greatest effort, Harry summons his stag, and the dementors scatter. They narrowly escape the monster's footprint and head for the whomping willow, where there's an entrance to a tunnel that they apparently used in Book 3. At the end of the tunnel is Voldemort's lair, where the Dark Lord is meeting with Snape.

He complains to Snape that the Elder Wand holds no special powers for him. He's concerned that he won't be able to defeat Harry in the final battle. He explains to Snape that this is because Snape is the true master of the Elder Wand, having taken possession of it from Dumbledore. Only when Snape is dead will the Elder Wand do Voldemort's bidding. Nagini kills Snape--is this a good thing or a bad thing? Voldemort and Nagini leave the "Shrieking Shack" to take charge of the battle. Harry goes to Snape. Snape is clearly dying, but he manages to say "Take . . . it . . . Take . . . it." before gushing a blue material into the air, which Hermione cleverly conjures a flask to collect. "Look . . . at . . . me." are Snape's last words, but when Harry looks in Snape's eyes, there's nothing there.

Chapter 33 - The Prince's Tale - (or Snape's, the Half-Blood Prince's, backstory) - Voldemort makes a open speech to those still in Hogwarts and to Harry in particular. He calls an immediate retreat and gives Harry one hour to report to the Forbidden Forest. No one new will die if Harry complies. Many will die if he doesn't.

The next scene is in the Great Hall--reminiscent of Atlanta in "Gone With the Wind"--corpses and victims everywhere. Fred, Lupin and Tonks lie dead there. Harry can't bear to witness this, so he heads for the headmaster's office. Harry's plea of "Dumbledore!" proves to be the password for entrance. He pours the blue substance, Snape's memories, into the Pensieve and dives in after them.

Snape's disgorging of his memories answers a lot of questions. His story starts with Snape, Lily Potter (then Evans) and Petunia (later Dursley) growing up in the same neighborhood. Snape is the first one to tell Lily that she's a witch. Lily asks the young Snape if it "makes a difference" that she's Muggle-born. He tells her no. We sense that Snape is OK.

In the next scene, Lily goes to Hogwarts. Petunia writes to Hogwarts to try to get admitted but is rejected. Lily and Snape are still friends as she starts Hogwarts, though she joins Gryffindor and he Slytherin. Lucius Malfoy is a prefect at this time. Lily disapproves of Snape's friends and their "dark magic". Or is he?

A reference is made to the tunnel from the whomping willow to the Forbidden Forest. Snape is happy when Lily calls James "an arrogant toerag".

In an emotional moment, Snape calls Lily "mudblood", which offends her deeply. I mean really?

In the next scene, Harry sees Snape and Dumbledore. Snape thinks that Lily is marked for death. He pleads with Dumbledore to save Lily, even at the expense of her infant son. Dumbledore refuses, but asks Snape what he's willing to offer for his protection of Lily. Snape's loyalty to Dumbledore is hereby established.

However, Voldemort manages to kill Lily (and James), but Harry survives (as we all know). Dumbledore reminds Snape that if he truly loved Lily, his new role is to protect Harry. Kudos to a friend from work who predicted that Snape's love for Lily would play a big role in the last book.

Next we see Snape acting as Dumbledore's agent in Voldemort's court. Then we see Dumbledore and Snape in Dumbledore's office. We learn that Dumbledore is mortally wounded by the Horcrux ring, but that he tempted by its power.

Dumbledore has learned that Voldemort plans to have Draco Malfoy murder him, though he doesn't expect Draco to succeed, just to die trying to punish the Malfoys. Both Snape and Dumbledore think that Snape will be chosen as Dumbledore's next assassin. Dumbledore tells Snape to kill him at some point in the future. He thinks that Snape can kill him in a quick and relatively painless way.

The next part gets complicated as Dumbledore explains to Snape how Voldemort lost a part of his soul to Harry. This part allows Harry to speak parseltongue. Dumbledore tells Snape that Harry must be sent to his death t the hands of Voldemort, which in turn will mean the end of Voldemort. Snape protests and shows Dumbledore and Harry his Patronus, the silver doe.

Dumbledore instructs Snape to give Voldemort the correct date for Harry's departure from Hogwarts (remember back to Chapter 1 or 2?).

In the next scene, Snape suggests the "Seven Potters" ploy to Mundungus. Back in the motorcycle scene, Snape, whom Dumbledore has instructed to play his part well, takes off George Weasley's ear with a spell.

The memories are coming faster now. Harry sees Snape reading an old note from Lily, which he secretes in his robes.

In the final scene from Snape's memory he takes Gryffindor's Sword to the Forbidden Forest, where he will give it to Harry.

Chapter 34 - The Forest Again - From all of what he's heard, Harry interprets that his job is to die at Voldemort's hand, eliminating himself as one of Voldemort's Horcruxes. Harry realizes that someone else will have to kill Nagini the snake to finish Voldemort. He thinks of Ron and Hermione, but happens first on Neville, and tells him that Nagini must be killed, by Neville if Ron and Hermione aren't around for the job.

Wearing the Invisibility Cloak he passes Ginny, but he doesn't talk to her. Harry becomes very aware of his own life, thinking as he does that the end of it is soon imminent. He then cracks the Resurrection Stone (inside the Snitch). Mom and Dad, Sirius and Lupin all appear. Harry apologizes to Lupin for his death so soon after the birth of his son. Harry asks that they all "stay close" to him.

Death Eater sense Harry's presence, then deny it. Under the Cloak, Harry follows them into the forest to meet Voldemort.

They find Voldemort accompanied by his senior followers--Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy, and Bellatrix, among others.

They are all talking about how Harry hasn't come to meet the one hour deadline, but Hary makes himself known. Hagrid is tied up in a tree at the scene. (I had to check back to see how Hagrid was still arrives--in his last scene he's seen waving an arm above the swarm of giant spiders---apparently he escaped them at worst and trained them at best). He yells for Harry to save himself. Harry stands firm and takes Voldemort's worst curse head on.

August 17 - I'm reading Chapter 32. Only five chapters and the Epilogue left. Here are summaries of Chapters 29-31.


Chapter 29 - The Lost Diadem - I wasn't alone wondering what a diadem is, though I think I've seen the word on a spelling bee list.

The chapter begins with Neville telling Harry about the new world at Hogwarts as HH and R meet Dumbledore's Army and others in the Room of Requirement. The Carrows, Amycus, Professor of Dark Arts, and sister Alecto, Professor of Muggle Studies ride herd at Hogwarts, which is now under the headmastership of Severus Snape. Neville's Gran vehemently resists the new order and as a result, Neville is now a full-time member of the resistance.

Dumbledore's Army thinks that HH and R have returned to stay, but of course, they're on a mission to find the "last" Horcrux. Harry goes to Ravenclaw tower in search of a clue which he thinks he might gain by seeing the diadem on the head of the statue of Rowena Ravenclaw. Harry and Luna find the statue, but they are met by Alecto Carrow, who immediately alerts Voldemort.

Chapter 30 - The Sacking of Severus Snape - Luna alertly stuns Alecto. Amycus comes to the "rescue" of Alecto, but is held up by the Ravenclaw tower door, which asks him to solve a riddle. He can't, but Minerva McGonagall can in her first appearance in 591 pages. In the discussion inside, Amycus spits at McGonagall. Gallantly, Harry comes out from under the Cloak to defend McGonagall's honor. An imperius curse subdues the Carrows, but Snape comes on the scene. Snape and McGonagall battle, with Professors Flitwick and Slughorne coming to their colleague's aid. Snape flees out a window, changing into a bat to fly away.

McGonagall agrees to evacuate the younger students from Hogwarts to Aberforth's and to secure it with the staff and older students while Harry searches for whatever he's trying to find.

At some point in all this, Hermione and Ron go missing (they had a task of some sort). Harry starts looking for them, but McGonagall reminds him of why he's there.

Chapter 31 - Battle of Hogwarts - You knew this was coming, but while everyone deploys for battle, Harry searches Hogwarts for the diadem. Nearly Headless Nick gives him a lead--talk to the ghost of Ravenclaw, the Gray Lady. She agrees to help when she realizes that he's not just looking to improve his grades (the diadem is supposed to increase wisdom). Sadly, to her knowledge, the diadem was hidden in a hollow tree in Albania. Harry figures out that Voldemort, aka Tom Riddle, returned the diadem to Hogwarts when he asked Dumbledore for a job.

At this point, Hagrid literally crashes back into the picture accompanied by his boarhound, Fang. Grawp gave him a boost. Harry, Hagrid and Fang go off in search of the diadem. On the way, the ruins of two stone gargoyles create a mental picture of three statues for Harry--Rowena Ravenclaw's at Lovegood's house; the felled gargoyle; and a statue of a warlock adorned with a wig and tiara that Harry saw in the "Room of Hidden Things" during his reckless youth exploring Hogwarts. (This connection seemed a little flimsy to me). Sir Cadogan leads Harry by way of wall paintings. At end of a hall me meets Aberforth, who suggests leaving some Slytherin students behind as hostages. Harry rejects the idea.

At this point, Ron and Hermione burst on the scene with the skull of a dead basilisk, which Ron lured with first year parseltongue. Using it they "killed" the Hufflepuff cup, their fourth defeated Horcrux (the diary, the locket, the ring, the cup).

On the way to the diadem Harry remembers that the Hogwarts house elves should be evacuated too. At this point, Ron and Hermione somewhat inexplicably ("it's now or never," says Ron) have their big kiss (but isn't love that way). Harry breaks it up with an "Oi!"

Sure enough, the diadem is right where Harry remembered it, hidden (as junk) in plain sight in a room that Riddle thought was secret, but that many Hogwarts students knew just as well. And sure enough too, it's not that easy, as Draco Malfoy and his henchmen Crabbe and Goyle are already there. Crabbe and Goyle aren't sure what a die-dum is, but they're willing to wreck the room to keep Harry from getting it. Malfoy resists their destructive instincts, but Crabbe tells Draco that he's no longer calling the shots. Crabbe tries to kill Harry with a Crucio, which misses Harry but hits the bust wearing the diadem. Hermione retaliates with a spell that Malfoy pulls Crabbe away from. A moment's confusion by the bad guys allows Harry to use "Expelliarmus!" (my favorite spell) to disarm Malfoy and Goyle. But Crabbe fires "Avada Kedavra"s Hermione's way, the last one of which sets the whole place on fire, with the fire chasing our heroes. HH and R fly out of the inferno on old brooms. Harry rescues Malfoy and Goyle (what a guy!). Crabbe isn't so lucky. Harry grabs the diadem from the ruins on the way out. On the outside it falls apart. The fiendfyre (the cursed fire) has destroyed it. Five down! (Nagini the snake may be Number Six).

Saved once again, there's little rest as the battle comes to them. Fred and Percy Weasley back into view fighting Death Eaters. Minister of Magic Thicknesse is turned into a sea urchin. But at think point, all hell breaks loose as the Hogwarts castle suffers a massive attack. Both Harry and Hermione are injured but alive. Fred Weasley is dead, casualty number three (four or five if you count Wormtail and Crabbe).

August 15 - I'll blog Chapters 25-28 tonite. I'm reading Chapter 29. Less than 200 pages left. Still a lot of work to do for Harry and the gang.


Chapter 25 - Shell Cottage - Harry second-guesses himself for pursuing Horcruxes rather than trying to prevent Voldemort from getting the Elder Wand. Hermione supports him.

Harry continues his negotiation with Griphook in the Gringotts caper to get at whatever Horcruxes might be in the Lestrange vault. Griphook asks for the Gryffindor Sword. Harry agrees, but without specifying when that will happen (he wants to use the sword in the vault).

Griphook accuses Godric Gryffindor of stealing the Sword from the Goblins, way back when.

Lupin arrives at Shell Cottage to announce the birth of Teddy Remus Lupin. He asks Harry to be godfather. Harry accepts and then wonders if he'll be the kind of crazy godfather ot Teddy that Sirius was to him.

Bill Weasley gives Harry a lesson in Goblin economics as they relate to the Sword. The Goblins consider a sale to be more of a long-term rental to be reversed upon the death of the customer. This does not comfort Harry.

Chapter 26 - Gringotts - The gang prepares for the break-in at Gringotts. Hermione has the key disguise as Bellatrix Lestrange, which she accomplishes with polyjuice potion. Ron has a less elaborate disguise as an unknown Bulgarian wizard. Harry hides under the Invisibility Cloak.

When they get to Diagon Alley they see lots of "Number One Undesirable" posters with Harry's picture. The mood has changed everywhere. Death Eater Travers joins the group. He questions "Bellatrix" about why she's not held up in Malfoy Manor. Hermione provides an arrogant enough excuse to convince Travers that she's really Bellatrix.

An Imperius curse gets them past the Goblin guards. However the Thief's Downfall, a waterfall that washes away all their magical concealments, leaves our heroes completely exposed. Beyond the waterfall a dragon serves as the last line of defense for the vault. Imperius gets the Clankers (jangling metal that will subdue the dragon) away from the Goblin and they get inside the vault.

There Harry finds the Hufflepuff Cup (a Horcrux), but the vault has been cursed such that everything inside burns and multiplies when touched. Harry "spears" the cup with his sword, but the exploding number of items in the vault knocks it off. Harry goes for the falling cup like it was a Golden Snitch. Griphook regains the Sword. Disappointing, but not a bad trade.

A "relasho" curse frees the dragon just as the vault is about to consume our heroes. They climb aboard the dragon and flee Gringotts, moving aside rock with dragon fire and a steady stream of curses from Hermione. By my count, the dragon flight marks our heroes' sixth hairsbreadth escape.

Chapter 27 - The Final Hiding Place - HH and R leap off the dragon into a shallow lake. About the same time, Voldemort learns of the lost Cup and kills the reporting goblin on the spot. Voldemort begins to worry that Harry will get all the Horcruxes. He decides to revisit all the Horcrux hiding places and to redouble protection. He worries about the loyalty of all his senior staff, including Snape.

Harry senses Voldemort's plan and that the last Horcrux is hidden at Hogwarts--the final hiding place (last? I'm counting only four discovered--diary, ring, locket, cup). The set-up for the final battle may be in place.

Chapter 28 - The Missing Mirror - It turns out that the eye in the mirror shard from Chapter 1 (and other times) was not that of Albus Dumbledore, but of his brother Aberforth Dumbledore. Now a barman in Diagon Alley, Aberforth saves the trio from Death Eaters and dementors. Harry has to use his stag Patronus to ward off the dementors. Aberforth convinces the Death Eater patrol that the stag was his Patronus, a goat, going out for a late-night walk.

We learn where Hagrid's been all this time--hiding in a cave with Grawp. Things indeed are tough.

Aberforth advises Harry to get away from Hogwarts. He doesn't favor Voldemort, but thinks the battle is lost. He's quit the Order of the Phoenix. He tells a story that casts more doubt on the motives of Albus Dumbledore by telling the story of their sister Ariana. Ariana was attacked by Muggle boys (raped?) as a young child. After the attack she was uncontrollable so Aberforth kept her out of sight. One day when Aberforth was out, Ariana accidentally killed their mother. Albus then took over care of Ariana. About this time, Grindewald began visting Albus and talk began about a new order with wizards ascending and ruling over Muggles. A fight erupts among Albus, Aberforth and Grindenwald. Ariana is accidentally killed during the fight. Aberforth blames Albus. Harry thinks that Grindewald was the villain as he remembered Albus crying to save the life of his brother and sister during their last time together.

Harry decides to trust Dumbledore. He expresses his determination to defeat Voldemort and convinces Aberforth to help. A portrait of Ariana in Aberforth's room turns out to be a secret passage into and out of Hogwarts. At the end of the chapter, Neville Longbottom steps out of the picture, bruised and bloody, to welcome Harry back to Hogwarts. Neville's reappearance is the most welcomed since Dobby's. These are true, if somewhat meek and clumsy, friends of Harry.

I've been thinking that this chapter in particular reads like a tribute to resistance fighters--maybe in World War II; maybe elsewhere in the world. Harry "gets by with a little help from his friends", not with the help of the mighty Order of the Phoenix, at least so far.

August 13 - I'm into Chapter 26, but will blog 22-24 tonite so as to not get too far behind.

Chapter 22 - The Deathly Hallows - Our reunited heroes discuss whether the Deathly Hallows are real or a story meant to teach young wizards and witches a lesson. Harry comes down on the side of "real", particularly when he surmises that the Resurrection Stone is inside the Snitch that Dumbledore willed to him. Hermione remains unconvinced.

We also meet Radio Free Potter, known here as Potterwatch--the voice of the resistance that is fighting Voldemort, his followers and the Death Eaters.

Harry goofs near the end of the chapter by speaking the name of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Soon after his return, Ron told Harry and Hermione about the Taboo and that Snatchers chase down those who speak the Dark Lord's name aloud. I guess we know who we'll see next.

Chapter 23 - Malfoy Manor - The action picks up in the best chapter of the book so far. Harry is disfigured by the Snatchers. He, Hermione and Ron all try to adopt false identities, but an article in The Prophet reminds even the stupid Snatchers who they've caught (though they're not 100% sure about Harry). The Snatchers take HH and R to Malfoy Manor to await Voldemort, where they're thrown into a dungeon. To their surprise and somewhat relief, they meet Luna, Dean and Ollivander in the dungeon. They're happy to find Luna since they've been envisioning her at Azkaban. Lucius, Bellatrix and Narcissa are all at the manor.

After a hiatus of almost five books (my daughter says he has appeared briefly in at least one other), who should show up but Dobby. Ever loyal to Harry Potter, whose subterfuge freed him from Lucius Malfoy, Dobby first disapparates to Shell Cottage (home of Bill and Fleur Weasley) with Luna, Dean and Ollivander. While Dobby is out, Harry and Ron defeat Wormtail, sent below to check on the prisoners. Wormtail actually kills himself after he shows Harry mercy while trying to strangle him (Harry reminds Wormtail that he once saved his life.)

When Dobby returns, Hermione is being tortured and Harry and Ron are tied up. Dobby creates havoc as only he can by crashing a chandelier atop Hermione and her tormentor. In the confusion, Dobby disapparates again, this time with Harry, Ron and Hermione, but Bellatrix impales him with a silver knife just as Dobby is fleeing the scene.

Dobby's death in the last paragraph of Chapter 23 is the most touching scene in the book so far. His dedication to Harry and heroism at the time of need are inspiring--all because Harry slipped a sock into a book to set Dobby free. The counterpoint of those two scenes is beautiful and rewards the reader whose worked his way through the entire series.

Before Dobby's rescue the goblin convinces Bellatrix, et. al. that the sword of Gryffindor recovered by the Snatchers (along with Harry and crew) is a fake. This is key for what comes next, and also to prevent Bellatrix and crew from using the powers of the sword in their fight against Harry.

Major question from Chapter 23--how did Dobby know where to go? I first laid it off to elfin magic, but later Harry asks the same question.

Chapter 24 - The Wandmaker - Harry begins his time at Shell Cottage by giving Dobby a proper burial, with a grave dug by hand and an engraved headstone, "Here Lies Dobby, A Free Elf". He then gets back to business, considering the weighty question of Horcruxes or Hallows (it's clear by now that the three Deathly Hallows aren't Horcruxes, and can in fact be used to capture the Horcruxes). He wonders if it's right to follow Dumbledore's instruction to destroy Horcruxes, or to pursue the Hallows. Harry is definitely attracted by the power of the Hallows (Tolkien's ring?) .

To determine what to do next, Harry interviews Griphook the Goblin and Ollivander the wandmaker. He wants Griphook to get them into Gringotts bank to search the Lestrange (Bellatrix) vault for more Horcruxes. Griphook asks for time to think about their request. Ollivander tells them much about wands, including the history as he knows it of the Elder Wand. He thinks that Harry can be competitive with Draco's wand (which he acquired by force at the manor), but that the thought of the Dark Lord with the Elder Wand is "formidable". However, the trail of the Elder Wand ends with Dumbledore. As Harry recognizes where the Elder Wand is, Voldemort is destroying Dumbledore's grave to retrieve it from the coffin, having used the Cruciatus Curse to torture info from Ollivander. Still Harry decides to pursue Dumbledore's path and find and destroy the Horcruxes.

Just 250 pages to go, and Harry's still at least three Horcruxes short with the prospect of Voldemort becoming even more powerful with the acquisition of the Elder Wand--maybe four or five runs down going into the 7th inning? This should be some comeback.

August 11 - Chapters 19-21 are now behind me. I read them in the car while waiting for my wife and daughter to go shoe shopping after lunch.


Chapter 19 - The Silver Doe - Things are finally starting to look up for our hero. The silver doe, a Patronus with unknown origins, visits Harry and Hermione in the Dean Forest, their landing point after they apparate out of Godric's Hollow. The doe leads Harry to a frozen pond, at the bottom of which appears Gryffindor's Sword. Harry strips down for the icy plunge, but fails to remove the locket and its chain. While he's under water, the chain tries to strangle him. Once again, it looks like the end, but this time, none other than Ron comes to the rescue, back after his brief hiatus. Harry realizes that they can take out a Horcrux if Ron will smash the locket with the sword. Ron is reluctant, but does it, even in the face of Voldemort/Harry and Voldemort/Hermione spirit figures shouting his deepest fears about his mother and Hermione.

When Ron and Harry return to camp, Hermione is furious and lashes out at Ron. She cools down a little when she hears how Ron saved Harry. Most thoughtfully, Ron has a new wand for Harry.

The identity of the wizard behind the silver doe seems like a key piece of information. Harry thought it was Ron and vice versa--others are ruled out as well, but no one identified. Still, as Ron points out, someone other than Ron and Hermione is on Harry's side and doing something about it.

Chapter 20 - Xenophilius Lovegood - I was delighted to see this chapter title as Xenophilius in his appearance at the wedding seemed like the most intriguing new character in the book. I'm surprised he hasn't shown up in some capacity on the Hogwarts faculty.

Before HH and R reach Lovegood's, Ron reveals some of what he's learned on the outside. "The Taboo" (on speaking Voldemort's name) helps Voldemort track and identify those working against him, since the likes of Dumbledore and Harry have been the only ones to speak his name over the last few years.

I would love to see a picture of Lovegood's house--in writing it's the most fantastic place outside of Hogwarts yet--right out of a Dr. Seuss book. Is that giant thing on the wall a Snorkack or an Erumpment horn (which Hermione recognizes as a Class B Tradeable Material (very dangerous)? The answer turns out to be important. The creativity headgear with the Wrackspurt siphon and the Dirigible Plum (KEEP OFF THE DIRIGIBLE PLUMS) seems especially Seuss-like, with a little Lewis Carroll thrown in--something the Mad Hatter would have loved.

Ron seemingly shames Lovegood into helping, though we later learn why Lovegood is so reluctant.

Finally on Page 404 comes the first mention of the Deathly Hallows--turns out that the symbol that Xenophilius's wore around his neck at the wedding was the sign of the Deathly Hallows. On to Chapter 21 and more answers.

Chapter 21 - The Tale of Three Brothers - The tale that Lovegood tells HH and R to explain the Deathly Hallows is also in the Beedle the Bard book that Dumbledore left to Hermione (it was inscribed with the sign as well).

Are the Hallows (the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone, and the Cloak of Invisibility) more Horcruxes? It sure would be convenient, finding out about three of them at once.

When the Hallows are unified, their owner becomes the Master of Death. The sign of the Hallows appeared on the gravestone of the Peverells in the Godric's Hollow cemetery.

According to Lovegood, the Peverells are the three brothers of the story, which is more than just a story.

HH and R discuss which Hallow is best. Hermione likes the Cloak, the one that gave the best result in the story. Harry prefers Resurrection Stone because it could bring his beloved parents, Sirius and Dumbledore back from the dead. Ron wants the wand--no more Quidditch losses for him.

At this point we learn that The Quibbler is printing "Wanted" posters of Harry. Voldemort has kidnapped Luna and demanded such as ransom with Luna being released when Lovegood turns over Potter. Lovegood is ready when the Death Eaters arrive.

Hermione saves the day, turning the power of the Erumpent horn on the Lovegood house and the Death Eaters. By my count this is narrow escape number four (the motorcycle ride, the snake, the frozen pond and Lovegood's house).

All the years of dedicated study have made Hermione the best magician of the group. I think we'll see Luna again and she'll be a major player in whatever happens. The pictures of Harry, Hermione, Ron, Neville and Ginny make me think that Neville and Ginny, the two most prominent characters uninvolved so far in Year 7, will also be a part of whatever happens.

August 9 - I read Chapters 16-18 a few days ago and then stopped because I couldn't keep up with blogging from the road. I bought "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" by Lisa See at the airport. It's a wonderful book and I'll probably spend the next couple days finishing it before resuming HP and the DH with Chapter 19.

That said, here are my thoughts on Chapters 16 through 18.


Chapter 16 - Godric's Hollow - The story had to find its way here--birthplace of both Godric Gryffindor and Harry Potter, early home of Dumbledore, and burial site of Harry's parents, James and Lily Potter. It looks like Year Seven at Hogwarts is almost a total loss as Harry and Hermione spend Christmas Eve in Godric's Hollow. Grindelwald's mark becomes more and more important, though I'm losing some of the details having read this chapter going on five days ago. Harry and Hermione become convinced that Dumbledore left the sword of Gryffindor with Bathilda Bagshot. The end of the chapter finds Hermione creating and Harry laying a Christmas wreath on his parents' graves--both of whom died at the young age of just 21. I always pictured them being older. The death date of October 31, 1981 also places Harry's story in time--starting in 1991 and proceeding to Christmas 1998 at this point. Whether just thrown together by circumstance or something more is developing, Harry and Hermione seem to be drawing closer together at this point, now that both have accepted that Ron is gone. I predict that we've not seen the last of Ron by a long shot.

Chapter 17 - Bathilda's Secret There are lots of surprises for Harry in this chapter. Bathilda is not what they hope to her to be--rather than Dumbledore's guardian of Gryffindor's sword, she reveals herself as a Death Eater in snake form (her apparently unintelligble babble being parseltongue) for Harry to survive, but this time at a high cost as Hermione breaks Harry's wand in the course of cursing "Bathilda" and saving Harry's life. I guess we'll learn more about whether Harry or his wand has the most powerful magic.

Harry also does some channeling of Voldemort--back to the hideous day when James and Lily were killed. Voldemort uses the some unsatisfying curse "Aveda Kedavra" (awfully close to Abracadabra, don't you think) to kill James and Lily.

Chapter 18 - The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore - Harry and Hermione get an unexpected look at Rita's expose on Dumbledore as she's sent a pre-publication copy to Bathilda, a primary source of sorts--the inscription "You said everything, even if you don't remember it" made me laugh. A picture in the book further links Dumbledore at an early age with Gellert Grindelwald, the second most dangerous dark wizard of all time. Dumbledore and Grindelwald exchange a letter about "The Greater Good", the theory that everyone including Muggles would be better off under pureblood wizard control (another Nazi/Aryan parallel it seems). Rita also continues to cast doubt on the circumstances of the death of Dumbledore's sister Ariana, reporting that Dumbledore's brother Aberforth accused Albus of causing her death. Having seemingly lost Ron, his wand and his faith in Dumbledore and having gained only the locket, Harry seems to be falling further and further behind in his race to defeat Voldemort in now just under 400 pages.

August 4 - I read Chapters 10 -15 mostly during travel on the 3rd. Here are my thoughts.


Chapter 10 - Kreacher's Tale starts with HH and R searching Grimmauld Place. Harry discovers that Sirius' room has been previously searched by others. There he finds half a letter from Harry's mother to Sirius.

We meet a historical character, Death Eater, Regulus Arcturus Black, Sirius' brother, R.A.B. of the locket. However, they can't find the locket. Harry orders his inherited house elf Kreacher (a good name to pronounce) to help. Kreacher admits that he had the locket, but that Mundungus Fletcher stole it. Harry has to tackle Kreacher to prevent the house elf from beating himself with a fireplace tool. He demands that Kreacher tell the whole truth--hence Kreacher's tale of the chapter title.

The Dark Lord took Kreacher to a black lake, where he made Kreacher drink poison that is in the lake. The DL then drops the locket into the empty lake basin (Kreacher was very thirsty it would seem). However, Kreacher escapes the lake using his underestimated elf powers. Regulus tells Kreacher to switch lockets--replacing the one in lake with a fake. Kreacher brings the locket home, but can't open it.

Harry sends Kreacher to find Mundungus. Harry gives the fake locket to Kreacher, which of course overwhelms Kreacher emotionally--still it's not a sock and doesn't give Kreacher his freedom. You get the feeling that Harry will free Kreacher some day.

Chapter 11 - The Bribe - The title event of the chapter comes on the last page. Remus Lupin tries to hook back up with HH and R. Harry is now a fugitive of sorts as the Ministry of Magic advertises that he is needed for questioning regarding Dumbledore's death. A full-blown coup is on at the Ministry, although it's being covered up with stories about the resignation of certain individuals. The Ministry has formed the Muggle-Born Registration Commission. Muggles are beginning to look more and more like Jews.

We also learn that the recent marriage of Remus and Tonks is on the rocks. Remus senses that werewolves are lower than Muggles in the magical caste system.

The Daily Prophet publishes an incendiary excerpt from Rita Skeeter's book about Dumbledore. Finally we learn the nature of the bribe--Mundungus has given it to Dolores Umbridge (boo!!) to avoid a fine for trying to sell it without a license.

Chapter 12 - Magic is Might - HH and R take us inside the infamous Ministry of Magic, the odious nexus of bureaucracy and evil. The chapter starts with their preparations. Hermione's handbag owes its design to a wonderful witch who might have trained at Hogwarts--Mary Poppins.

Headline - Serverus Snape now headmaster at Hogwarts--fun times coming up for all.

New security measures at the MoM require our heroes to flush their way into the building. Despite being literal bathroom humor, this is the funniest scene in the book so far.

Polyjuice potion is playing an ever-increasing role. After creating the seven Potters, it allows HH and R to enter the MoM relatively unnoticed by taking on the identities of MoM staffers.

The title of the chapter refers to sign above the entrance to the Ministry -Magic is Might, eerily similar to the Nazi slogan, Arbeit Macht Frei "Work Sets You Free", that appeared on a banner above the entrance to the park.

Chapter 13 - The Muggle-Born Registration Commission - It seems like HH and R's targets to mimic at the MoM are chosen at random. Hermione becomes Mafalda Hopkirk and is almost immediately to assist Dolores Umbridge (boo!), the Head of the Muggle-Born Registration Commission with the case of Mary Cattermole. Quite coincidentally it seems, the puking pastille convinces Mary's husband Reg Cattermole to go home for the day, even though his wife is on trial. Ron gets some of Cattermole's hair and assumes his identity. Harry can afford a slight power trip as he assumes the identity of funtionary Albert Rumcorn (Rumsfeld?). Harry spooks around a good bit with the help of his disguise and the invisibility cloak, an old standby. He finds Arthur Weasly's file in the new Minister's office, in which Harry finds himself referred to as the No. 1 Undesirable. He also finds the eye of Mad Eye Moody installed in Umbridge's door as a peephole. This is a bad sign for Moody.

As helpful to our heroes as polypotion juice are the trusty patroni (patronuses?) A stag and an otter play a big role in the rescue of the Muggle-borns from the Registration Commission--an obvious kangaroo court. Harry does use a new trick to throw off new Minister of Magic Pius Thicknesse (a reference to Pope Pius's infamous refusal to stand up to the Nazis during World War II?). After all of this, Harry brilliantly concludes that the sword is a horocrux. Harry also manages to free all the Muggle-borns awaiting trial in Umbrage's kangaroo court.

Chapter 14 is titled simply The Thief. We don't learn his identity in something of a surprise--only that he is a young, blonde man. The chapter begins with a new word -- splinched -- to have a large hunk of tissue cut out as a whole piece. From the MoM, HH and R escape to the woods adjacent to the witch convention rather than to the Forbidden Forest of just a few years ago. The thief of the title stole a wand many years ago. It seems like the wand could easily be a horcrux. Harry's wand becomes a source of speculation. Is it Harry or the wand? (like MJ or the shoes).

Chapter 15 - The Goblin's Revenge is one in which we learn enough. The horcrux locket appears to be like Frodo's ring. It corrupts everything it touches. The kids learn to take turns carrying it. Harry's plan is to retrieve the Sword of Gryffindor - bequeathed to him Dumbledore. He figures out that it's the destroyer of horcruxes. Its power is increased by enemy blood. He also deduces that a snake is Horcrux 6.

We also meet Xeno Lovegood of the publication "The Quibble"; their quibble is with the Ministry.

Our young fugitives meet Tonk's father (on the run) and Dirk Cresswell, on the run from his unfair imprisonment at Azkaban.

Near the end of the chapter we learn that Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood and Ginny Weasly were caught trying to steal the Sword of Gryffindor. I heard one guess of a big role for Neville. I'm not sure than an off-camera shot in Book Seven will get him there.

Addenduarum! This curse is used after posting late at night and missing several important points about a particular chapter. The most critical omission about Chapter 15 is that Ron checks out (goes home, that is) after he and Hermione continue to have "doubts about the mission", as HAL9000 said in "2001." He's beginning to think that Harry is leading them on a wild goose chase. "I thought you had a plan," and "Didn't Dumbledore tell you anything? (my paraphrase) are two concerns he expresses. Of course, Hermione is crushed, such that 3 minus 1 barely equals two.

I also failed to explain the meaning of the chapter title. HH and R overhear the story of the sword from two new characters, Griphook and Gornuk, goblins from the Gringotts bank. The sword being held at Hogwarts and subsequently moved to Gringotts after the attempted theft is a fake. The whereabouts of the real sword, which was forged by goblins are still unknown.

August 3: I got reading done last night and at the physical therapy office and the haircut place today, finishing Chapters 8 and 9. I just noticed the "sticker price" on the book--$34.99--maybe the highest I've ever seen for a popular novel--bordering on coffee table book territory. I don't think my daughter paid nearly this much at Wal-Mart. Also, the stats on first printings and cover price are fascinating. Initial printings - 50,000; 250,000; 500,000; 3.8 million; 8.5 million; 10.8 million; 12 million. Popularity exploded between Books 3 and 4. Cover prices - $16.95, $17.95, $19.95, $25.95, $29.99, $34.99. Similarly, the price jumped the most between Books 3 and 4. The first movie came out about the same time--between Books 3 and 4, which probably increased interest in the series. Interesting how Scholastic snuck those extra 4 cents in there between Books 4 and 5.


Chapter 8 - The Wedding - Maybe it's getting too late in the game for Rowling to come up with much that is new, but I was disappointed by the wedding of Bill and Fleur, which seemed very Muggle-like to me. Another possibility is that keeping scenes like this short is how she held "Hallows" to less than 1,200 pages.

Eschewing spectacle (although I'm anxious to see Emma Watson as Hermione in the Book 7 movie arrayed in her gown--she was so beautiful at the Yule Ball in "Goblet of Fire"), Rowling uses the wedding to advance the plot, particularly Harry's growing doubts about Dumbledore as he listens while disguised as Ron's "Cousin Barny" to 106-year old Auntie Muriel talk about Dumbledore's past. Daily Prophet writer Doge is also there to support the positive view of Dumbledore.

We also learn more about the mysterious Gregorovitch from surprise wedding guest Victor Krum. Turns out that he's a wandmaker.

We also meet the strange (even by wizard standards, it seems) Xenophilius Lovegood, whom Victor accuses of being in the thrall of Voldemort, as evidenced by an amulet he wears--the sign of Grindelvald, a Dark wizard defeated by Dumbledore. Our heroes rather like Lovegood, both for his eccentricity and for being the father of their friend Luna.

The term "squib" (a Muggle born to wizard/witch parents, I presume) makes its first appearance (at least in this book) in reference to Dumbledore's sister Ariana.

I would have loved to see Hagrid's love Madame Maxime, the headmistress of Beauxbatons, attend the wedding as his guest. They were so adorable together in "Goblet of Fire."

The chapter (and wedding reception) ends with the appearance of a Patronus, a lynx who announces the death of Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgouer. Rufus, we hardly knew ye.

Chapter 9 - A Place to Hide - Our young heroes skedaddle from The Burrow as Harry's disguise potion wears off and Ron and Hermione long to get out of their dress clothes. They end up in Muggleland--Tottenham Court Road in a dingy diner that turns out to be the literal Highway Cafe of the Damned (both a song title and album title by the irrepressible Austin Lounge Lizards). Ron insults the cappucino and a battle with two Death Eaters disguised as fellow cafe patrons ensues. Off to lunch myself. More later.

Having survived another encounter with Death Eaters (in a cafe, no less), our heroes zip over to their second "place to hide"--Grimmauld Place, the family home of Harry's late godfather Sirius Black. It's whereabouts are well known to the wizard world (including the feared Severus Snape), making it not much of a hiding place. There they communicate with the dead, thought-dead and near-dead for awhile before brushing their teeth and going to sleep.

I'll read more while I'm on the road and in the air this afternoon. Hopefully, there'll be an available computer where I can post more at my destination.

August 2 - I didn't get much reading done today (Chapter 7 only thus far) but I did find a website with short synopses (that sounds redundant, but these are really short) of Books 1-6.

This helped me with some of my continuity issues from "Half-Blood Prince".


Chapter 7 - "The Will of Albus Dumbledore begins with Harry recounting a mysterious dream about someone named Gregorovitch that he thinks works for Voldemort. Next, young love makes its first appearance as Harry and Ginny share a brief kiss before being interrupted clumsily by Ron. Harry might not risk himself for the Worsleys, but Ginny is another matter. Rufus Scrimgouer, Minister of Magic, bursts on the scene with Arthur Weasley, bearing bequests from Dumbledore's will, which the Ministry has held for six months per policy. To Scrimgouer and Ron's surprise, Ron gets a deluminator (can suck the light from a room), Hermione gets a book of magical children's stories by Beedle Bard, and Harry gets two gifts--an old Snitch and the sword of Godric Gryffindor. Harry can't claim the last bequest as it is an historical artifact. Scrimgouer is very suspicious about why Dumbledore has bequeathed these items, and the kids are almost as puzzled. Scrimgouer, like most at the Ministry except Arthur, seems like he's on the wrong side. Still that doesn't provide much protection--he could be an early "bad guy" casualty in the war. Swirling around Chapters 6 and 7 are the preparations for the wedding of Fleur Delacour (French contestant for the Goblet of Fire) and Bill Weasley. Though many weddings are magical, we've never experienced an authentic magical wedding. This could be fun.

July 31, 2007 – I got my turn with the last tale of the young wizard of wizards and the Hogwarts gang this evening. My daughter bought “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” at Wal-Mart just after midnight on Saturday, July 21, its first day of sale. She spent most of the next 30 or so hours awake reading its 758 pages. On Sunday, July 22 she passed the heavy, dustjacketless volume on to my wife who read it on and off for the next ten days. During this time, I was wading through “Breach of Faith” by New Orleans Times-Picayune reporter Jed Horne, a book about Hurricane Katrina’s impact on New Orleans and its citizens, both during the storm, the ensuing flood and in the following year. The timing worked out well as Kay finished HP just hours before I finished B o F. I felt like a publishing phenomenon of this magnitude should get more than a three paragraph review on Amazon (joining more than 1,000 other reviews so far). So here goes with "Harry Potter and the Curse of the Dadlak Blog."

August 1, 2007 – As I write this I’ve read the first three chapters (make that six). Unlike some other readers, I didn’t prepare for the experience by rereading Years 1-6. I haven’t even seen the movie version of “Order of the Phoenix” yet. What I remember most about Year 6, “The Half-Blood Prince," is that Harry still has about five or five-and-a-half of seven challenges or demons or something to overcome, and his most able supporter, the estimable Hogwarts headmaster, Albus Dumbledore is dead. I figured that J.K. Rowling would need at least 1,000 pages to cover so much remaining ground, even without a 300-or-so page preamble (such as the account of the Quidditch Olympics that preceded the real story in “Goblet of Fire”). Based on this analysis, the 758 pages of “Deathly Hallows” should be a blistering action-packed adventure.


In Chapter 1 - The Dark Lord Ascending, Rowling indicates straight away that she means business. Voldemort assembles his team to tell them that he assigns himself to the task of killing Harry Potter. No lurking around in the shadows for the Dark Lord this time. He also embarrasses Lucious Malfoy both by taking his wand to help with Potter’s disposal (without offering his own wand in return), and by belittling a marriage between Malfoy’s niece and a “mudblood”, even while the Malfoy’s house Voldemort and host the meeting. Malfoy commits to cleaning up that mess. Racial purity, a theme in “Half Blood Prince” looks like it will become an even stronger theme here as Voldemort starts resembling Hitler. Former Hogwarts Muggle Studies professor, Charity Burbage (naming characters is among Rowling’s best talents) finds herself unconscious and suspended above the meeting table. She committed the irredeemable sin of promoting wizard-Muggle cooperation, and for it she gets eaten by Voldemort’s pet snake (off-camera, but still “ick!”). Severus Snape makes an obligatory appearance at the meeting as we wonder where his true loyalties lie—not to Ms. Burbage as he turns a cold eye to her entreaties for rescue. Voldemort’s henchman Wormtail is also keeping a “prisoner” who moans during the meeting, but whose identity we don’t yet learn.

In Chapter 2 - In Memoriam Harry comes back on the scene, living once again at the Dursleys’, number four Privet Drive. In back issues of the Daily Prophet he reads conflicting “tributes” to his mentor Dumbledore—selfless hero, as Harry has always assumed and experienced, or scheming opportunist, as intimated by muckraker Rita Skeeter in a tease for her new book. While rummaging through a trunk of items from Hogwarts days, Harry cuts his finger on a broken mirror, one in which he thinks he sees the eye of Dumbledore. Good to know the old wizard is still looking out for our hero.

Chapter 3 - The Dursleys Departing may or may not be our final look at Harry’s portly Muggle foster family as they make their usual "early-in-the-book" appearance. Harry’s convinced them that at age 17 he’ll lose his protection as a juvenile and come under direct attack by Voldemort (this should be rough—I thought he was being attacked pretty vigorously up ‘til now) and that the Dursleys could be targeted as well—perhaps even kidnapped to flush Harry out to come to their rescue (would he, really?). This idea seems preposterous until Dudley admits that Harry isn’t a “waste of space” to him. (“Diddy” as Petunia calls him, recalls that Harry saved his life from dementors (I forget which book this was in)).

Rowling takes a light shot at blustering conservatives, of whom Vernon is certainly one, when she has him say that the Ministry of Magic will protect him (a strange point of view given Vernon’s distrust of both government bureaucracy and magic). Harry reminds Vernon that the Ministry has been infiltrated and can’t be trusted. In the Order of the Phoenix’s version of the Witness Protection Program, the Dursleys leave Privet Drive for parts unknown. Under different cover, Harry prepares to leave as well.

Chapter 4 - The Seven Potters - I discovered an error in my earlier posts--the Dursleys are Harry's aunt and uncle, not foster parents. And Harry is protected until age 17 not by the state but my his late mother's charm.

The seven Potters scheme is a nice touch--invisibility via expanded visibility. Saddam tried a form of this in Iraq, building two dozen or more palaces and filling them with activity so that no one could be sure which one he was in at any given time.

The first important character to die is an owl. Nice of Rowling to ease us into the concept of death.

What is a threstral? (answered in Chapter 5 it turns out--flying creatures with batlike wings)

Who is Selwyn--a name called out during the flying chase scene involving Harry, Hagrid and Voldemort.

Harry uses "expelliarmus" curse to drive off Voldemort. Pretty close to my blog title, and the pun I was going for. This all on memory. Not bad.

Chapter 5 - Fallen Warrior - Ted Tonks is introduced--father of Nymphadora Tonks, the niece of the Malfoys who married the mudblood Remus.

Harry reinforces the "good guys" vs. "bad guys" dichotomy--he "won't blast people out my way just because they're there."

Snape loyalty test, Part II - he curses off George Weasley's ear, making him "holey", which Rowling acknowledges to be a very lame pun. Snape also told Voldemort of the date change for Harry's rescue. Who told Snape? Snape has got a lot of "splainin'" to go in the words of Ricky Ricardo--first the death of Dumbledore, and now these transgressions. If he's Harry's friend, I'd hate to meet an enemy.

"Mad-Eye" Moody is the second to die (first human)--though they don't recover his corpse, so I'm not counting him out for good. Still the chapter title is "Fallen Warrior", so maybe Mad-Eye is really gone.

Chapter 6 - Ghoul in Pajamas - Two references to the challenges left for Harry and friends from Year 6--horcruxes and the initials R.A.B. I hope Rowling will provide more background information for those of us who haven't studied "Half Blood Prince" more recently than when it was published in 2005. They do refer to their being five horcruxes left to destroy--consistent with my recollections about how much work was left--Tom Riddle's diary was one; Dumbledore's ring another, it appears.

The ghoul of the chapter title is a ruse intended by Ron to confuse those who will be looking for Harry, Ron and Hermione as they disappear to destroy the horcruxes. The pustule-covered, red-haired ghoul is supposed to be Ron suffering from some rare and highly contagious disease. Pretty good thinking for Ron, but bound to go awry at some point.