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Reading posts here can be a little on the depressing side. But sometimes I come across a nice story. Usually not even directly, or even indirectly related to politics that makes me smile. Well if you are a baseball and/or sports fan, or you just would like a short feel good story, then follow me below the fold for more.

You have to either be a St. Louis Cardinals fan or a baseball geek to have heard of Rick Ankiel before this weekend. Rick Ankiel just a few years ago was the Cardinals fresh-faced phenom with a jaw-dropping curveball and blistering fastball. It was thought he would be the best lefthanded pitcher the Cardinals ever had.

In 2000, during Ankiel’s rookie season with the St. Louis Cardinals, the young left-hander struck out 194 batters in 175 innings. His fastball topped out in the mid-90 mph range, complemented by a curve that had the aerodynamic action of a Whiffle ball.

Then it all came undone, against Atlanta, in Game 1 of a 2000 NL Division Series. Taking a 6-0 lead into the top of the third, Ankiel became the first major-leaguer in 110 years to throw five wild pitches in an inning.

It was one of the most painful things I've ever watched. My friends, even those die-hard fans of the Braves called and emailed to say how sorry, yes how sorry they were. These were not just wild pitches, several hit the backstop without bouncing. With every pitch that went to the backstop, you could see the look of helplessness on Ankiel's face. It was gut-wrenching. And not once, until he was pulled, did manager Tony LaRussa ever visit the mound. In the minds of many Cardinals fans Tony could win 10 World Championships in a row and he'd never be forgiven for this.

He tried to come back in 2001 but was ineffective in six starts. He was sent down to the minors. To make matters worse he then blew out his elbow and required surgery that sidelined him for most of the next two seasons. When he threw only three strikes in a 23-pitch "simulated" training game in 2005, Ankiel was put on waivers. No takers.

Everybody thought his short career was done. Everybody but Rick Ankiel. He told the organization he wanted a chance to become an outfielder. Well, a few days ago he was called up from the Cardinal's AAA Memphis team. He'd been playing excellent defensive in the outfield. But he also had 32 home runs (leading the league) and 87 RBIs (leading the league).

In his first game, home run. Second game, two home runs and an RBI hit. Ankiel is 6-for-16 with three homers and six RBI and a 375 BA. The three curtain calls at Busch had to be nice for both Ankiel and the Cardinal faithful. It is still early, and there may be more sad days ahead for Ankiel and Cardinal Nation, but right now everything is as it should be.

Oh, did I mentioned the Cardinals have another failed pitcher-turned-outfielder in their history, his name was Stan Musial!

Originally posted to webranding on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 12:26 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  As a Cardinals fan who (13+ / 0-)

    was at the playoff game in 2000 when he threw the 5 wild pitches, the last few days have been great.  Ankiel may well become a star as an outfielder.  He has real power, as evidenced by three homeruns in three days.  Good outfielder also.

    "The greatest anti-poverty movement in American history is the organized labor movement." John Edwards

    by TomP on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 12:30:09 PM PDT

    •  So Was My Father (6+ / 0-)

      And since that day can't find a single nice thing to say about LaRussa.

      I was with my parents this weekend and my 92 year-old grandfather, who likes to joke that while I was in the womb he'd put a radio next to my mother's stomach so I could catch Buck's call of the game.

      There were a lot of high-fives and more then a few tears this weekend.

      "It is not enough to win, all others must lose," Sun Tzu.

      by webranding on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 12:33:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I was there too (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      N in Seattle, jnhobbs, TomP, Greasy Grant

      and it was just painful.  I've NEVER forgiven Dave Duncan for that (anybody who's been around me and talked baseball for more than 2 seconds knows how much I hate Dave Duncan - and this is why.) Sure Tony bears ultimate responsibility.  But Duncan was the pitching coach - he should never have allowed it.

      I'm so happy he had such a good weekend.  

      "...the conscience is a vital organ, and not an extra like the tonsils or the adenoids." Martin Amis

      by maryb2004 on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 12:41:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  never held it against Tony or Dave (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TomP

        another die hard Cards fan here.

        Yes, it hurt to watch (wasn't there, but damn near cried anyway) but I can't blame the coaches cause I remember how good, I mean really good, Rick was.  After each of the wild pitches, I kept thinking "he's good enough to get past this".

        I admit I was wrong then, at least as far as pitching goes.  I've been rooting for Rick since he took the steps to stay in the game by going to the outfield.  If anything, the coaches and higher ups that gave him the chance earned my respect for that alone -- they didn't know it would work.  It's not that common any more for big league teams in any sport to treat players with that kind of confidence.

  •  In the words of Mel Allen ... (11+ / 0-)

    How About That!

    This space for rent.

    by bherner on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 12:30:41 PM PDT

  •  This is an awesome story (11+ / 0-)

    As a baseball fan, it was really cool to hear about this and see the highlights of Rick Ankiel this weekend.  Good for Rick Ankiel for not giving up.  Good for Tony LaRussa for not giving up on him, either!

    ...don't blame me, I voted for Ned!

    by theark on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 12:31:48 PM PDT

  •  great story (6+ / 0-)

    Anyone who watched the game remembers him.  He was very famous in baseball circles.

  •  Nice story... (8+ / 0-)

    But I'm a Phillies fan, so while I root for Ankiel on a human level, I won't root for him on the field unless the Cardinals are playing the Mets or the Braves.

    And I think more people have probably heard of him than you suggest (given that he pitched in the World Series), it's just likely that those who aren't Cardinals fans or baseball geeks have forgotten who he is.

    "All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent." -- Thomas Jefferson [-4.25, -5.33]

    by GTPinNJ on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 12:33:02 PM PDT

  •  I never thought he would make it back (8+ / 0-)

     to the majors. My only complaint is that he hit his two HRs against my hometown team which is now struggling to get hits of any kind. It is a long season!

    I'm not a Limousine Liberal; I am a Prius Progressive

    by Zack from the SFV on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 12:36:24 PM PDT

    •  That would be the Dodgers (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Zack from the SFV, TomP, Greasy Grant

      or the TinMen as us defending NL West Champs Padre fans like to call them.  And so I have to disagree and say that Ankiel could not have picked a better team to hit his two homeruns against.

      All men want to be rich. Rich men want to be king. And the king ain't satisfied till he rules everything. Springsteen

      by howd on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 01:33:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm an NL West fan (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        howd

          so when the Bums miss the playoffs I will root for the Pads in the postseason. Or even the Snakes. Just not the ColoRocks (not likely) or the SF Barrys, whose big excitement of the season was last week...

        I'm not a Limousine Liberal; I am a Prius Progressive

        by Zack from the SFV on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 02:52:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for sharing (8+ / 0-)

    I've been pretty much out of touch with baseball this summer since I am a Reds fan and there hasn't been much reason to watch.

    My son and myself wonder each new baseball season what ever happened to Rick Ankiel. Now we know! Hope it lasts.

  •  Back, with a vengeance! n/t (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    theark, jnhobbs, tj iowa, TomP

    "We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims." R. Buckminster Fuller

    by scoff0165 on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 12:41:04 PM PDT

  •  Yeah, baby. Great story. Thanks (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP
  •  Go Ricky! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jnhobbs, tj iowa, TomP

    Sure is fun to watch him nowadays.

    The dogs are in the motherfuckin' street

    by GenXWho on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 12:50:37 PM PDT

  •  This is such a good baseball story (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BachFan, tj iowa, TomP

    at a time when baseball really needs it. I was born bleeding Dodger blue , but I'm really rooting for this guy.

    " Son, some people are just no damn good." ....N.S. Hobbs

    by jnhobbs on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 12:50:52 PM PDT

  •  Hollywood calling (8+ / 0-)

    An amazing story.

    I'm rooting for him, all the way, unless he plays against the Red Sox in Series.

  •  Good for him (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BachFan, jnhobbs, tj iowa, TomP, Greasy Grant

    I remember a bit about this guy, and I actually felt bad for him (even though I'm a Cub fan). Maybe I empathize because we've had far too many players that either didn't live up to their promise or were taken out by injury.  

    •  Oh I Heard Yeah (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      turning blue, jnhobbs, tj iowa, TomP

      I mean Cards/Cubs ... enough said. But I want all your best players on the field when we beat you :)! Prior and Woods, just to name too, are very sad stories. I know "life isn't fair" and all that stuff, but with those two it just isn't fair nor right.

      "It is not enough to win, all others must lose," Sun Tzu.

      by webranding on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 12:57:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Wood and Prior...and Being a Fan (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        N in Seattle, Greasy Grant

        Kerry Wood has returned...as a one inning pitcher coming out of the bullpen.  It's great to have him back (and he is to be congratulated for not giving up through all of these injuries) but I can't help think of what could've been.

        Mark Prior is another sad story as well. His future is very much in doubt, both as a Cub and as a pitcher.  I haven't heard anything recently about how he is doing.

        I remember how excited everyone was at one point: a rotation with Prior, Wood, and Zambrano that was sure to dominate for years.  But, sadly, nothing ever works out so well for the Cubs.

        And, yeah, life isn't fair to Cub fans! Things were rolling along and Soriano got hurt. We're still in it, though, because Milwaukee hasn't been doing much either.  World Series this year!  (Ah, what can I say?  I'm a delusional Cub fan who has not once been rewarded for my investment in this team.  But I'm not alone: we are a very loyal bunch.  And some day, we will win...just hope I'm around to see it).

        •  don't hold your breath (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          turning blue

          Then again, your username already describes what will happen if you do.

          You're only young once, but you can be immature forever -- Larry Andersen
          Blogging at Peace Tree Farm

          by N in Seattle on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 01:21:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Oh I Hear Yeah (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          turning blue

          I am a Cards fan, but also a baseball fan. I've never understood why some fans seems to wish bad things on other teams. Makes no sense to me. I mean it is just a game.

          BTW: I went to college at Western Illinois University in the last 80s. My frat was 56 Cubs fans and two Cards fans. Stilled played day games at the time, and you are not alone. The Cubs were going to win the WS every year.

          "It is not enough to win, all others must lose," Sun Tzu.

          by webranding on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 01:22:06 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Cardinal Nation (0+ / 0-)

            I like the rivalry we have with the Cards.  I especially like when we beat you guys, of course. I find that much of central and downstate IL is Card territory.  

            As far as wishing bad things on other teams, I don't wish for injuries, but I do wish for the White Sox to lose.  I cannot stand them.  

  •  Pulaski Virginia: I saw Rick in the Appalachian (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    webranding, BachFan, theark, jnhobbs, tj iowa, TomP

    League still trying to pitch and leading the league in home runs and slugging %. That night his curve ball literally "fell off the table" and his control and speed were good. He hit a long homer to right. Hope he's back to stay with the cards.

  •  3 curtain calls this weekend? (5+ / 0-)

    Ri. dic. u. lous. (or Louis!)  Ankiel had an unbelievable couple of games to start off this chapter in his major league career.

    You fell victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is "Never get involved in a land war in Asia."

    by Cwhitesox1917 on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 12:57:32 PM PDT

  •  Great Baseball Story (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ticket punch, tj iowa, TomP, Greasy Grant

    Hit summer movie of '08: "Resurrection in the Outfield -- the Rick Ankiel Story."

    They burn our children in their wars and grow rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

    by Limelite on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 01:03:48 PM PDT

    •  There have been no great baseball stories (0+ / 0-)

      since the 1994 strike.

      I say it's spinach, and I say the hell with it.

      by ticket punch on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 01:15:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The Red Sox in '04 would be one, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ticket punch, Greasy Grant

        but they ruined it by turning into the Yankees in 05.  They ruined 86 years of underdog history by immediately transforming into obnxious free-spenders.

        Do not rec this comment.

        by I on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 01:20:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I spoke too hastily. That was a good story (0+ / 0-)

          and I'm tickled for Rick Ankiel, too. I was a big baseball fan--Cardinals to be specific--but there isn't enough warm beer in flimsy paper cups in the world to wash the bad taste of a missed World Series, the Big Mac Freak Show, the cream and the clear outta my mouth.

          I say it's spinach, and I say the hell with it.

          by ticket punch on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 01:25:20 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I Understand, I Can Only Speak (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ticket punch, tj iowa, TomP

            for myself and not Cardinal Nation of course. But Mark isn't really spoken of much here anymore. (1) I think we all know what he did and are so ashamed to admit, much less talk about it. (2) He is married to a women from St. Louis and I don't think he has attended one event (maybe one) in an "offical" capacity since he retired.

            "It is not enough to win, all others must lose," Sun Tzu.

            by webranding on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 01:27:34 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  I think you're right, though, in principle. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ticket punch

            The strike messed up MLB, possibly forever.  I think ruination was under way before then; I remember saying of my Pirates in 1992 that if they didn't win the series that year, they would never win it again.  (Shockingly, history has borne out my meat-headed bloviation.)  But the strike greatly accelerated the downward slide by making it abundabtly clear to the fans what the league thinks of us.

            The economics of the game are just fucked, and neither the owners (or their adjunct, "Commissioner" Selig) nor the union has the foresight to realize that they are turning MLB into a minor-league sport by creating a two-tier league.

            Do not rec this comment.

            by I on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 02:10:46 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I Couldn't Agree More About The Two Tier System (0+ / 0-)

              Now I shouldn't bitch cause the Cards have close to $100 million payroll. But we fill the stadium (and new one BTW) every game, not everybody else does. And we have a good radio deal (owners own half the station). But it is so depressing when a big name is on the market and the only teams in the game are NY-based, Chicago-based, LA, or Boston.

              I mean I'd like the Cards to win every year, but for baseball to be the sport it once was every market needs a chance. And IMHO right now that isn't the case.

              "It is not enough to win, all others must lose," Sun Tzu.

              by webranding on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 02:14:25 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Another development that still hurts baseball: (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              jhooversnyder

              the craven decision, made for all the wrong reasons, to lower the mound about 6 inches, from 16 to 10, in 1969. The people most afraid of Gibson and Drysdale weren't batters but owners whose names weren't Busch or O'Malley.

              With a higher mound you'd have more balance between offense and defense, and likely between large and small market as well.

              I say it's spinach, and I say the hell with it.

              by ticket punch on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 02:35:48 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  It was thought (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    N in Seattle, BachFan, TomP, Greasy Grant

    he would be the best left-hander the Cardinals ever had?

    Uh....that would be the man they called "Lefty."  Steve Carlton.  The man the Cards "unwisely" traded for Rick Wise back in the early 1970s.

    A foolish consistency (staying the course in Iraq) is the hobgoblin of George W. Bush.

    by wildcat6 on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 01:15:49 PM PDT

  •  I saw his name pop up (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP

    on the "Hot Free Agents" list in my fantasy league this morning, and was confused as hell, because I remembered him as a pitcher.  I had to read up on it before I remembered that I had heard he was trying a comeback as an outfielder.

    Good for him for doing this.  I usually have no pity for people who make millions of dollars a year to play a game, but I really was embarrassed for him during that performance.  I can't imagine what it's like to stand in front of 50,000 people (and another few 100 thousand on TV) and be utterly humiliated like that.

    Do not rec this comment.

    by I on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 01:16:50 PM PDT

  •  The HR's are nice (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP

    but did you see that over-the-shoulder-sliding-into-the-wall catch too!  

    Juan might want to get that shoulder looked at sooner than later....

  •  I'm a life long Cardinal's fan (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tj iowa, TomP

    and I'm so happy for this kid.  What a feel good story.

    Adequate resources are necessary for feasible tasks. -6.00, -6.21

    by funluvn1 on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 01:18:00 PM PDT

  •  One Hell of an accomplishment (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eddie Haskell, tj iowa, TomP, Greasy Grant

    I'm an Astro fan, so I wish it could have happened to any other team ;) but this is one of the most amazing things that I've ever seen in baseball.

    Someone honestly mistaken, when confronted with the truth, must cease to be one or the other

    by Inventor on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 01:22:27 PM PDT

    •  My Best Friend Is An Astro Fan (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eddie Haskell, tj iowa, TomP, Greasy Grant

      and the past several years has been a lot of fun. Same division of course and more then a few games in the playoffs to keep it really fun. Plus I think Bigio is one of the total class acts in the game. If he doesn't make the Hall of Fame I am going to scream foul.

      "It is not enough to win, all others must lose," Sun Tzu.

      by webranding on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 01:25:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Craig Biggio (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        webranding, tj iowa, Greasy Grant

        will go in the Hall on the first ballot.

        Every other member of the exclusive Club Of Nine has  before him.  

        Nine major league players have appeared in 2500 or more games and have played their entire careers with one and only one team.

        Biggio will be the tenth member of this club when retires as an Astro.  Which players make up the club of Nine (soon to be Ten)?  It's one of my favorite all time baseball trivia questions.  Hint every other member of this group is also in the Hall of Fame.  They were all, I believe, first ballot entrants, as well.

        I'll come back with the answer later.  No googling allowed!

        Biggio also has over 3,000 hits, over 1100 RBIs, a lifetime .282 batting average and over 400 stolen bases.  He's a lock for the Hall of Fame.  First ballot or I'll eat my hat.

        •  Just A Running Guess w/o Google (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Greasy Grant

          George Brett
          Stan Musial
          Carlton Fisk
          Joseph DiMaggio
          Henry Gehrig
          Cal Rikpen
          Ernest Banks
          Johnny Bench
          Ty Cobb

          that is about the best I can do ....

          "It is not enough to win, all others must lose," Sun Tzu.

          by webranding on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 02:06:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Oh And Of Course Tony Gwynn ....... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Greasy Grant

            "It is not enough to win, all others must lose," Sun Tzu.

            by webranding on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 02:09:49 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  I'd guess the following: (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Eddie Haskell

            George Brett
            Stan Musial
            Cal Ripken Jr.
            Ernie Banks
            Tony Gwynn
            Al Kaline
            Carl Yasztremski
            Roberto Clemente
            Mike Schmidt

            I swear I didn't look this up, although I didn't think of Ernie Banks until I saw it on Webranding's list (thanks).

            "Some men see things as they are and say 'Why?' I dream things that never were and say, 'I need to quit drinking!'" - Greasy Grant

            by Greasy Grant on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 02:14:28 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Outstanding choices.. very close (0+ / 0-)

              Full list answer above in other comment....

              Clemente probably would have made it, but his career was cut short by that awful airplane crash.

              Schmidt got close, but injuries kept him from averaging enough games.  Same for Gwynn.

              You had the right idea, though:  Think of a team, then think of the player who was the "embodiment" of that team during his career... as in "Mister Cub" = Ernie Banks.  Or "Stan the Man" was the very essence of the Cardinals then and, to a large extent, even now.  Yaz = Bosox, Kaline=Detroit, etc.

              Sorry for the delay in getting back with answers.  I was called away yesterday unexpectedly and couldn't log back in until this morning.

              Cheers,
              Eddie

          •  Members of the 2500+ games all one team (0+ / 0-)

            and one team only club are currently:

            Mel Ott, NY Giants
            Stan Musial, Cardinals
            Ernie Banks, Cubs
            Al Kaline, Tigers
            Brooks Robinson, Orioles
            Carl Yastrzmski, Red Sox
            George Brett, Royals
            Robin Yount, Brewers (AL)
            Cal Ripken, Orioles

            Your guesses were good.  Ty Cobb actually played well over 3,000 games!  But the last 219 of them were not with Detroit but with the Philadelphia Athletics.

            No catchers could ever make this list.  2500 games in a career requires a player to average over 140 games per year for at least 18 years.  Thus, Fisk, Berra, Bench, Freehan -- all great players who played forever with one team -- aren't all that close to 2500 games.  

            The list is interesting to me for other reasons.  Often when I mention it, people will almost automatically assume that most of the players will be old-timers, who played before the Curt Flood/free agent/TV era.  The opposite is true. Only Mel Ott played in the pre-television era.  Only Ott and Musial played their entire careers before free agency.  Most of the members are "modern day" players.

            Also, there are no Yankees on this list, although Jeter would change all that if he retires as a Yankee.  Gehrig did indeed play every one of his games as a Yankee and never missed one from the first game he entered back in 1923 until the last game he played, 8 games into the 1939 season: 2,164 games.   Amazing, but not 2500.  Which makes Cal Ripken's ironman feat seem all the more amazing.  btw, the Orioles is the only team with two players on the list.

            •  After making my wrong guesses, (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Eddie Haskell

              I looked this up on http://www.baseball-reference.com (2nd best website ever).

              Dave Concepcion of the Reds comes the closest to 2500 games played all with one team and not being a Hall-of-Famer; he's at 2488.

              Dwight Evans of the Red Sox played 2505 games as a Red Sock and could have become the exception to this rule...  but he went and played his final season with the Baltimore Orioles.  Leave it to a Red Sock to fail to not make the Hall of Fame correctly ;-)

              Yogi Berra and Carlton Fisk played with more than one team during their careers.

              Great trivia question; thanks!

              "Some men see things as they are and say 'Why?' I dream things that never were and say, 'I need to quit drinking!'" - Greasy Grant

              by Greasy Grant on Tue Aug 14, 2007 at 02:28:59 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Great Story (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Greasy Grant

    Statheads feel that Ankiel will probably not be able to hit for a high enough average (and will strike out far too much) to play full-time in the bigs, but should be a useful bench player, and fourth or fifth outfielder for a team.

    Considering where he's come from, I wouldn't be surprised if he surpassed those expectations at some point.

    "Strap him with an AK-47 - let him go - fight his own war - let him impress daddy that way" - Eminem

    by Otis29 on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 02:28:44 PM PDT

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