The Sign? Swing away . . . far far away

The Sign? Swing away . . . far far away

The following post is guest blogger Brad Maule, who is the editor of PhillySkyline.com and holds Plan C tickets in the front row of the Pat Burrell section of the Arcade Level.

Citizens Bank Park is a nice ballpark, there's no doubt about it. The playing field's dimensions are an asset (although Pat Burrell probably isn't a fan of the reconfigured leftfield wall after he missed a game-tying homerun by less than a foot last night), the field's upkeep is excellent (more so if you were raised on The Vet), the causeways are roomy, the sightlines are unobstructed, the beer and food selections are great and even somewhat local, and the Schmitter will take ten years off of my life because I can never say no.

CBP could have been better, though; there's no doubt about that either. Having come on the late side of the Camden Yards Ballpark Revival, it could have provided a bold architectural statement but instead went with conservative (boring) brick paneling. It could have been located perfectly at 30th and Walnut, an easy walk for residents of Center City, West Philly and two major universities, directly above the Schuylkill Expressway, and two blocks from 30th Street Station, which serves every Septa regional rail line, the El, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak, but instead it was built as a 'neighborhood ballpark' in a massive parking lot.

And then there is that goddamn Phillies sign.

The Phillies sign in the centerfield parking lot . . . now that is an obstruction. Google "Phillies sign skyline" and try to find a single favorable opinion. They don't exist; everyone hates that sign. It would seem that even the Phillies organization doesn't think too highly of it. The architectural renderings of CBP -- you remember them, "Homerun Pat Burrell, Phils Win!!!" -- showed no sign of The Sign, but instead a clear and straight view to the skyline. (It also has 10th Street dead ending into trees, and 76 is absent.)

The Phillies recognize the view as part of the experience; the city skyline was on all the marketing literature leading up to the opening of the ballpark. The Sign? Not so much. The 2005 Opening Day ticket painted -- or should I say photoshopped -- the Phillies' embarrassment of The Sign. The ticket design featured a photo of the skyline, for which some poor intern was probably assigned to remove The Sign from the view. Except, well, they didn't finish the job. As you can see below, the photoshop job was left only half done, and 45,000 tickets were printed with half of The Sign.

We've all heard the rumors: "oh yeah, the Phillies are eventually going to tear that thing down." Reality check: CBP is now in its fourth year of use, and well, this is Philadelphia. Penn's Landing was supposed to be a historic waterfront attraction, but we built an interstate highway between it and Independence Park. Love Park was a destination to skateboarders across the world, but after we landed ESPN's X-Games two years in a row, our mayor spent taxpayer money to make it skater unfriendly. It's only appropriate that we have a ballpark with a fantastic view that is blocked by an unnecessary sign.

The Sign is a relic of The Vet Era. Believe it or not, it was built by the City, but it was taken over by the Phillies in the 80s and retrofitted with a more Vet-like appearance.

Well, The Vet is gone, so are they going to finally tear it down? On the contrary. The Phillies are in the process of putting their Theme Tower (that's right -- it's called Theme Tower) up for bids for renovation. It is going to be modernized, it will feature more info ("Suzie will you marry me . . . Dave Matthews tickets on sale Saturday"), and it will be neither moved nor shortened.

So, Phils fans and skyline aficionados, get used to The Sign -- err, the Theme Tower -- cos it ain't goin' anywhere.

Best of NHL: Patrick Kane hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Coyotes

Best of NHL: Patrick Kane hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Coyotes

CHICAGO -- Patrick Kane scored three goals for his third career hat trick to lead the surging Chicago Blackhawks past the Arizona Coyotes 6-3 on Thursday night for their third straight win and eighth in nine games.

Kane has 23 goals to lead Chicago, which closed within three points behind first-place Minnesota in the Central Division and Western Conference.

Rookies Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman each had a goal and assist. Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival scored his first goal of the season in his first game since Jan. 15.

Chicago captain Jonathan Toews added two assists to extend his points scoring streak to five games and increase his output to 22 points in his past 13.

Jakob Chychrun, Ryan White and Radim Vrbata scored for the Coyotes. Chychrun and Vrbata each scored for the second straight game (see full recap).

Rangers outlast Maple Leafs in shootout
TORONTO -- Mika Zibanejad scored the shootout winner and the New York Rangers continued a strong February with a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Henrik Lundqvist made 32 saves and J.T. Miller scored the game-tying goal in the third period for the Rangers, who improved to 8-1-1 this month.

New York moved into third place in the Metropolitan Division with 80 points.

Connor Brown scored for Toronto, which fell to 1-7 in shootouts this season. Frederik Andersen had a stellar performance in defeat with 37 saves.

The Leafs hold the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division (68 points), two points back of Ottawa (70) and four back of Montreal (see full recap).

Islanders shut out Canadiens
MONTREAL -- Rookie Anthony Beauvillier scored in the first period, Thomas Greiss made 24 saves, and the New York Islanders beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 Thursday night.

Anders Lee scored in the second period and John Tavares added an empty-netter in the final minute to seal the Islanders' third straight win. New York has won the first two games on a crucial nine-game road swing and improved to 12-4-2 since interim coach Doug Weight replaced the fired Jack Capuano.

Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson each had two assists, and Greiss got his third shutout of the season.

Carey Price finished with 21 saves as the Canadiens lost coach Claude Julien's 1,000th NHL game. Montreal is 1-2-0 since Julien replaced Michel Therrien last week and has totaled just 14 goals while going 2-7-1 in the last 10 games, including four shutouts (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Rockets crush Pelicans to spoil Cousins' debut

Best of NBA: Rockets crush Pelicans to spoil Cousins' debut

NEW ORLEANS -- The Boogie-and-Brow era in New Orleans is off to a highly inauspicious start.

The Pelicans' tandem of newly acquired All-Star DeMarcus Cousins and All-Star Game MVP Anthony Davis was no match for the surging Houston Rockets on Thursday night.

Reserve Lou Williams hit seven 3-pointers and scored 27 points in his Rockets debut, and Houston crushed New Orleans, 129-99.

Davis had 29 points, and Cousins finished with 27 points and 14 rebounds. But New Orleans turned the ball over 20 times couldn't keep pace with the firepower of the Rockets, who hit 20 3-pointers.

Eric Gordon scored 19 points and Ryan Anderson added 17 in both players' first game in New Orleans since leaving the Pelicans. James Harden had 13 points and 14 assists (see full recap).

LeBron triple-double powers Cavs past Knicks
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James recorded his 48th career triple-double and Kyrie Irving scored 23 points, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 119-104 victory over the New York Knicks, who hung on to superstar Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose at Thursday's trade deadline.

James scored 18 points and had 13 rebounds with 15 assists for his sixth triple-double of the season.

Anthony, the subject of trade rumors because of a strained relationship with Knicks President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson, scored 20 points, going 9 of 25 from the field.

Kyle Korver scored 20 points for Cleveland, which is 8-1 in February and has beaten New York 10 straight times.

Courtney Lee had 25 points for New York, which has lost six of seven and is 12th in the Eastern Conference playoff race (see full recap).

Pistons rally from 18 down to beat Hornets in OT
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 33 points, including three 3-pointers late in the fourth quarter during a pulsating Detroit rally, and the Pistons outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 114-108 in overtime Thursday night.

Caldwell-Pope scored Detroit's last 11 points of regulation, and his 3-pointer with 18.2 seconds to play tied the game at 100. Kemba Walker scored Charlotte's final nine points of the fourth, but the Pistons forced him to give up the ball on the last possession, and Marco Belinelli missed a 3-pointer that could have won it.

Detroit, which was behind by 18 in the third quarter, never trailed in the overtime. Caldwell-Pope's 3-pointer with 55 seconds remaining put the Pistons up 110-102.

Charlotte led 85-70 at the start of the fourth but missed 14 of its first 15 shots in the period, enabling Detroit to cut into the lead.

Walker scored 34 points. Tobias Harris had 25 for the Pistons (see full recap).