Just a Little Oscars Vent for the Road

If Bud Selig secretly ran the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, I would not be surprised. For like every grand spectacle dropped in MLB’s lap, both institutions have a knack for taking the choicest prime rib and turning it into Hamburger Helper.

Last night’s Oscars telecast was just the latest in their series of bloated, unwatchable travesties, this one coming in a year that featured at least four timeless films (Social Network, King’s Speech, True Grit and Toy Story 3) and a couple of madly inventive ones (Inception and Black Swan). Having darling young’uns James Franco and Anne Hathaway host the show was a nice idea that went mysteriously flat and was ultimately bulldozed by the typical octogenarian pacing. As I tweeted during the broadcast (Twitter being the only activity that saved me from disappearing to the kitchen by the second hour and overdosing on Chinese takeout), whoever made the decision to haul Kirk Douglas out to present a major acting award “should have been fired, then re-hired and fired a second time.” Capped by Melissa Leo’s sickening acceptance speech, it had to be the worst Oscars sequence of all time.

Then there was the time-honored disgrace of swelling up the orchestra to boot “lesser” award winners off the stage early in their speeches. Even Aaron Sorkin, who can write screenplay circles around 97% of the scribes in Hollywood, and had memorized a gracious, concise speech ahead of time that wasn’t a second too long, was given the cane-around-the-neck treatment, while a rabid blowhard actor like Leo was left out in the yard unleashed.

What a time-sucking farce. And naturally, I’ll be watching again next year.

* * *

On to more important matters. The Bragging Rights League now has an official launch date of March 14, and I’ll be back here with the official link that morning. My funkyball77 Twitter account will morph into something else at that time, and followers will be automatically taken along for the ride.  Subscribers to the blog here will need to re-up their accounts.

Happy Spring Training, folks!

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Winter Solace

It’s been kind of weird lately, not having to roll four games a night. And being able to read more books.  I can get used to this less-frequent blogging thing.

But I won’t. You know me. Still on schedule for a mid-March launch of The Bragging Rights League, right after returning from Florida for family visiting and my first actual live ball game of the year (Twins vs. Orioles, woo-hoo!)

Had an awesome time in the Big Frozen Apple last weekend, joining the scene at Strat’s 50th Anniversary bash (see Hal Richman disciples below). If you haven’t read it yet, here’s my account of the event for The Huffington Post.

Talk to you soon. —J.P.

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Addendum

Well, I guess this is as good a spot as any for updates, so here’s a few:

1. My next replay blog project will begin in mid-March and run for about five months with one post a week. I have a Strat Anniversary party to attend in New York on February 12, a draft day in my ECBA league to prepare for after that, followed by a visit to the parental units after that, so yeah, mid-March is about right.  Check back here now and then or on my Twitter page for further details.

2. Not sure what happened, but my Funk Zone archive page on Strat’s Web site has become an incomplete mess, so I’ve included a link here to all nine of my columns in one handy-dandy PDF file.  Enjoy!

P.S. And good luck to my 1931 Athletics, as they go up against Jim Callis’ 1994 Expos in the Seamheads/Strat Anniversary League World Series starting tonight. Lefty Grove?  Meet Pedro Martinez.

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Season Finale

LOCAL LADY LEAVES LIT LEGACY
By Maggie Finch
Squallpocket Honker Lifestyles Editor

Sheila S. Grossinger was never one to go quietly. The 86-year-old former psychologist and Maine native, bedridden with acute dementia for nearly twenty years at the Squallpocket Acres Nursing Home, passed away Wednesday but left behind a most rare gift for her family.

“It’s a literary find, is what it is,” says Carlton “Buzz” Grossinger, one of her two surviving sons.

While cleaning Ms. Grossinger’s Squallpocket room after she departed, a young orderly named Fred Washington found an ornate, leather-bound book wedged under the mattress and fished it out. Inside were over 300 handwritten pages, documenting a fictitious cross-country “time travel journey” in which Ms. Grossinger and a host of others followed the 1977 baseball season. Needless to say, Washington quickly drove it over to a grateful Carlton at the local trailer park where the local stereo salesman lives with his wife and son.

“Sheila was a model resident,” says Seamus M. Headley, Director of Operations for the nursing home, “Chirpy, polite, participated in the group activities the best she could. Who would have thought she had so much imagination inside her?”

Ms. Grossinger, who spent most of her teenage years in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, was not only a noted “dream psychologist” in her time, but a diehard Pittsburgh Pirates fan. According to Headley, her dementia was diagnosed in 1992, following an especially traumatic Pirate playoff loss to Atlanta, and from then on required special care.

Ms. Grossinger’s love of baseball apparently ran in the family. Her natural father, Vincenzo Spanelli, was an avid Phillies fan, and even served as the club’s batboy for part of 1924. When Spanelli lost his life at Salerno during World War II’s Italian campaign, his daughter took up the sport in a big way.

“You could tell she was into it,” says Amy Gulliver, Squallpocket’s chief nurse, “She wouldn’t say much when games were on in the common room, but she would just stare at that screen like it was the King James Bible.”

“I bet with her on games all the time,” says Sherman Wayman, another elderly resident, “and I always lost. Hope to hell she didn’t put that in her journal thing.”

Carlton Grossinger says he has no immediate plans to try and have the journal published, but wouldn’t rule it out. Ms. Grossinger’s other surviving son, Lester Grossinger of Davenport, IA, was in Las Vegas attending the John Lennon and the Fab Experience concert, and could not be reached for comment.

“We’ll certainly miss her around here,” Headley continues, “but more than anything, we’re glad she was able to finish out her ‘season’ before she left us, and has left her two boys something to cherish.” Carlton, who admits to having only a passing interest in the sport, says he might even take up a dice simulation game to replay 1977 for himself sometime soon.

“It’s hard to explain why,” he tells me, “but I feel like I need to keep this going.”

* * *

AFTERWORDS

I truly hope you’ve enjoyed my 11-month journey through the kooky, never-dull baseball year of 1977. It’s never easy making up a story as you go along, but the daily game-playing kept my mind anchored, and the team’s rising and sinking fortunes helped propel the various plot turns.

Next? Hmm…I did have a new season lined up to document, but that one has been shelved for a year for reasons beyond my control. I have an idea for a shorter, more historical blog that might happen over the summer, but I’m going to be using a lot of my recovered free time to work on a new book project, so we shall see.

I plan to attend a couple of fun events this year: Strat-O-Matic’s 50th Anniversary party in New York in February, and the SABR convention this July in Long Beach, just a sweet half hour drive from my house.

I’ll continue to quip and link on Twitter with my Funkyball77 handle, though that will morph into something else when I start a new site.  Anyway, that’s the place you can regularly find me.

Once again, I’d like to thank all 16 of my wordwise absentee managers for their contributions, pennant concerns and occasional shout-outs. It’s been a blast having you all aboard the Funky Zipline.

And per usual, a hearty thanks and love to my wife Carmen for enduring my mania. Though I’m afraid to tell her there’s only a few more months to go of “Winter Jeff.”
—J.P., Culver City, CA

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All Good Things Must…

PITTSBURGH—Seamus reporting, because Lester is off drinking pints of Dunkelweizen at Max’s Allegheny Tavern with both of the other Royals fans who showed up at Three Rivers, while I’m here by Doc Sheila’s bed watching the poor girl vanish into the sheets.

It was a pretty anti-climactic seventh game, as far as seventh games go, but because it WAS a seventh game in the first place, I think I’ll just shut up and let Red Barber call every inch of the action. Got this right off his broadcast on the Twitter Radio Network today and wrote it down as fast as I could. If there’s one thing I learned in my years with the CIA it’s shorthand…

KC LINEUP: Otis CF, Cowens RF, Brett 3B, McRae LF, Porter C, Wathan 1B, Patek SS, White 2B, Leonard P

PIT LINEUP: Stennett 2B, Oliver CF, Parker RF, STargell 1B, Robinson LF, Ott C, Garner 3B, Taveras SS, Candelaria P

Howdy folks, this is Red Barber, speaking to you from a packed-as-punch Three Rivers Stadium, for Game 7 of the Funkyball World Series…One more time it’ll be Leonard for the Kansas Citians, and Candelaria for the Pittsburghers. Will the third time be the charm for Candy Man?

A big change in the Royals lineup finds John Wathan for some extra batting average against the lefty Candelaria…John Mayberry’s a paltry 4-for-23 so far, and can always go in for defense later on…Every reliever is available to go…

Pretty amazing that after 157 games for each team, it can all come down to this one big simmering pot roast…

Anyway, we’ll be back with the opening pitch after this word from Prell!

Back in Pittsburgh, and Amos Otis stepping into the box…Candelaria winds and gets him on strikes! That was sure quick…Cowens now,…flies out to Parker in right, two gone…George Brett up there, only at .259 but with some big hits…And he SINGLES! And here’s Hal McRae, 7-for-21 with all kinds of production…Candy Man had no answer for him in Game 1…and there’s a HIGH FLY BALL—deep to left…Robinson back and it is GONE for a HOME RUN! Hoo-boy, right out of the starting gate and it’s 2-0 Royals! Porter flies out to right to end the top of the 1st but this black and yellow nest is a-buzzing…

Leonard against Stennett to lead off the Pirate half of the 1st and there’s strike three!…Oliver sails one out to McRae, looking a bit wobbly again…but this time he makes the catch for the second out. Herzog knows he’s taking a risk with McRae out there, but oh that offense of his…Parker now, a ferocious 12-for-25 in the Series…grounds to Patek and that’s the first inning, with the score KC 2-2-0, PIT 0-0-0

Here’s John Wathan, the second game he’s started…the other at catcher…and he grounds to short, one away…Patek fouls to Mr. Ott…White is gone on strikes and we go to the bottom of the 2nd.

Willie Stargell…had a fine Game 6 with a sac fly and double, but he is out on swinging strike three!…Roninson with a hard liner—but right to Brett at third…Ott SINGLES sharply up the middle for the first Pirate hit…Here’s Garner, also with a fine Game 6…triple and homer…hits one out to Otis here, who puts it away. After two innings, folks, it’s KC 2-2-0, PIT 0-1-0

Leonard starts the 3rd…with an easy little pop to Taveras…Otis grounds it back to Candy, out number two…Cowens grounds to short for a 1-2-3.

Taveras rips a SINGLE to right to open the last of the 2nd…Pirate fans try to get it going…clapping in rhythm to some soul music number…Candelaria bats, a very decent hitter and a lefty to boot…But he grounds one to Patek, who flips to White and on to first for a double play…That sure hurt…And Stennett flies out to end the inning. After three now, it’s KC 2-2-0, PIT 0-2-0

Brett leads off the 4th, singled his first time…Grounds one to Taveras for out number one…And here’s that little big man McRae! Starting to boo him more now…sign of respect…but McRae answers back with a LINE SHOT to deep right-center, bounding around out there—and McRae into third with a sizzle of a TRIPLE! I’ll tell ya, he is putting on a Clemente-esque performance in this Series. 9-for-23 now…And Porter strokes a SINGLE into right, 3-0 Kansas City as McRae SCORES!…Bullpen’s up for the Pirates early…Wathan grounds one through into left for another SINGLE, Porter hustling and gets to third…Pitching coach Larry Sherry is out…Patek due at the plate…Candy throws to Freddie and Patek BOMBS it deep to left, off the wall for a double as Porter SCORES! 4-0 Royals!

Four straight hits and that is going to be it for Candelaria. Tanner not messing around and is bringing in Goose Gossage…Big man hasn’t pitched since Game 3 and with Leonard out there, the Bucs certainly can’t afford to slide down the laundry chute any further…Infield comes up for White, who grounds to short and the runners hold at second and third…Leonard at the plate…but there’s a WILD PITCH—right past Ott and here comes Wathan with run number five! Leonard bounces to third but this was one upside down disaster cake! 5-0 Kansas City as we go to the last of the 4th…

Oliver to lead off for Pittsburgh here, after getting hit with a pretty large mallet…Al’s at .440 for the series but I’m sure he doesn’t care a crumb….Grounds out to first and there’s one gone…Parker lines a SINGLE into center…Stargell again, whiffed against Leonard his last five times…And he does it again, strike three! Boy o boychick…Robinson SINGLES, though, Parker over to third base…Here’s Ed Ott…grounds one to Patek, who KICKS IT AWAY! Parker SCORES and the Buccos are on the board the cheap way! Error number 5 on Patek for the Series…Garner stands in…Crowd’s getting all hot and loud again…but Phil grounds to Patek who steps on the bag to end the inning…After four innings now, it’s KC 5-6-1, PIT 1-4-0

Gossage blows away Otis on strikes to begin the 5th…Cowens is gone in the same fashion…Brett SINGLES though with two away, and guess who’s up…Harold Abraham McRae of Avon, Florida…32 years young…personally owned Candelaria in this Series but now he faces the Goose…and it doesn’t matter as he WHACKS one down the left field line, pulls into second with a DOUBLE, as Brett SCORES all the way from first…and McRae is one measly single away from the cycle, folks! More important, it’s 6-1 Royals now…Porter pops to Stennett, for the inning.

Taveras grounds to White…Pinch-hitter for Gossage here, gotta get something going…and it’s Ken Macha, utility fella…and he lines to third…Stennett bounces to first, Leonard covers, and after five innings, it’s now KC 6-8-1, PIT 1-4-0

Tekulve the new hurler for Pittsburgh…Which means Mayberry will bat for Wathan, and will surely go afield…flies to Parker for the first out of the 6th…Patek nearly homered last time…grounds to short this time…White with a broken bat SINGLE into left…Leonard fans and that’s that.

Oliver takes a leadoff WALK in the last of the 6th…Pirates down by a big five…Parker at the plate, and there’s a WILD PITCH by Leonard…Oliver up to second…and here’s ANOTHER WILD PITCH, Oliver to third! Dennis just shaking his curly top out there…Parker LINES A SHOT—deep in the right field gap for a clean DOUBLE and it’s 6-2! Boy that Cobra can sting. 14-for-28 now, an even .500…Look out, here’s Stargell…and would you believe he’s out on strikes again?? Seven straight times to Mr. Leonard! Robinson grounds to short…Ott flies to right. After six it’s KC 6-9-1, PIT 2-5-0, but it probably should be closer.

Seventh inning now, and they’re getting as nervous as squirrels in autumn around here. Four runs off Leonard in three innings won’t be the easiest thing to pull off, y’know…Amos Otis with a LINE SHOT into left center, skipping it’s merry way to the wall! He’s around second, into third with another Royal TRIPLE! Infield’s all the way up for Cowens, who’s been quiet lately…Tekulve delivers, and it’s strike three called!…One away to George Brett, 2-for-3…and Brett BLASTS ONE, last seen heading for the upper deck in three seconds for a long HOME RUN and 8-2 Kansas City lead! Good gracious golly…won’t see Brett hit a ball that hard until he faces Goose Gossage three years from now…McRae up there, needing just a single for a cycle…he grounds to second and the crowd boos him. Well, that figures…Porter with a fly to center to end the top of the 7th.

Tell ya what, that moon-skipper by Brett just about took the starch out of this crowd…Garner with an easy grounder to third, one away…Taveras gets HIT BY A PITCH…Wouldn’t be surprised if he just stuck his rib cage out there…Fregosi now to hit for Tekulve…But Jim grounds to second, Taveras advancing…Stennett lines to third and that’s the 7th, folks. KC 8-11-1, PIT 2-5-0

Mayberry starts the 8th, and fouls out to third…Patek with a SINGLE, hit no. 12 for the Royals…and Freddie ROBS second base without a throw! Oooh boy, stealing a base up by six? Not advised…White pops to short…and here’s Leonard, getting a big hand by the enemy fans…Ain’t that nice? He grounds out to short, and gets an even bigger hand. 8-2 Royals to the last of the 8th.

Six outs left for the Pirates to come alive. Mark Littell waiting in the wings if needed…Oliver’s first, 0-for-2 officially…and he dribbles one out in front of Porter, who fires to first…Dave Parker now, 2-for-3, and he looks at called strike three! And here’s Willie! Leonard has punched his clock seven times in a row between this contest and the fourth one…AND DOES IT AGAIN on a windmill swing! Two yellow and black sombreros for Mr. Stargell in this Series…After eight innings, folks, it’s looking grim in Steeltown, KC 8-12-1, PIT 2-5-0

Top of nine…the witching hour around here…and Otis with a line SINGLE off new pitcher Grant Jackson…Cowens whiffs again, his third…And here’s Brett with another SMASH down the right field line! Cowens around third, Brett into second with a DOUBLE and it’s 9-2!

Brett 4-for-5 in his climactic game…Jackson won’t mess with McRae at all, as he throws four wide ones to put him on…He’ll face Porter instead…But Porter SINGLES up the middle! Brett scores and they’re in double digits, folks!…Mayberry with a little foul pop for the second out…Patek WALKS, taking all four pitches under his little chin, and they’re loaded up…Bruce Kison will come on to face Frank White…Kison got bumped from yesterday’s start for Reuss, and I guess that was a good thing…and he gets White on a pop to center. Here we go to the last of the 9th!

Dennis Leonard going for a complete game here, and why the heck not? Got himself an 8-run lead…He’ll face Robinson, Ott, and Garner….Here’s Robinson…the crowd standing, for the lack of anything better to do at this point…and Robinson SINGLES, a bullet into left!…Well, that gets the home folks jumping a bit…These Pirates came from behind to win 36 times, second in the league to Philly’s 44…Got a long hike up a rocky ravine here, though…Ed Ott, 1-for-3 on the day…and Leonard strikes him out! That’s no. 7 for Dennis, 4 of them Pops…Garner to the plate now…zero-for-3 after that big Game 6…and he skies one out to left, where Hal McRae, left out there for his heroics, no doubt…makes the catch for out number two. And the Funky baseball season is one out away from crowning a champ…Batter will be Frank Taveras…

Leonard shakes off sign or two…glances over at Robinson on first…Third base coach Alex Monchak claps his hands at Taveras…hoping to get some more business down there..and here’s Leonard’s pitch…

Hit on a line out to left…McRae races back five yards, snags the ball and the KANSAS CITY ROYALS ARE YOUR ’77 FUNKY WORLD CHAMPIONS!!

They’re all out on the field now, mobbing Leonard…Couple of young Royal fans are out of the stands, pounding Brett on the back, shaking Porter’s hand…As Walt Whitman may have said, they came to play this sunny day and made some hay! And Leonard beats the Candy Man all three times they meet…Not only that, but cleanup Pirate Wilver Stargell goes a combined 1-12 against Leonard with nine big whiffs…

But how about that Hal McRae? 10-for-25, with 1 double, 3 triples, 4 homers, 10 RBIs, and a 1.679 OPS, whatever in tarnation that thing is…Looks like he and Leonard will be the co-MVPs….

Final totals…For the Champion Royals, 10 runs, 15 hits, 1 error…for the Pirates, 2 runs, 6 hits, 0 errors. Quite the decisive tilt…

Thanks for following the World Series, folks. This is Red Barber, saying goodnight, and have a nice, short rest of your winter!

Game 7
ROYALS 200 310 202 – 10 15 1
PIRATES 000 101 000 – 2  6  0

W-Leonard L-Candelaria HRS: McRae, Brett GWRBI-McRae (third of the series)

Want a little Series stat action?  Here’s some hitters and all the pitchers. As a team, KC hit .248 while Pittsburgh batted .246, but the Royals outhomered the Bucs 9-4.

Serious congratulations go out to Kansas City “absentee manager” Rany Jazayerli. His beyond-thorough analysis and passion for his Royals certainly paid off, and his team showed incredible balance in very department. And kudos as well to Pat Lackey and his Pirates. May the ’77 Bucs’ gallant efforts inspire him to carry on through the entire 2011 season.

TOMORROW: The Epilogue, in which I attempt to tie a bow around this wacked-out narration.

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Reuss-o-Rooter!

DR. GROSSINGER’S PRE-GAME

They had the sixth game on in the hotel today, and I sat in the William Penn lobby with the other guests to watch. Needless to say, I was transported. Mr. Headley wants me back at Three Rivers with him tomorrow, and says there will be no discussing the matter. I’m weakening slowly, but suppose I can handle another few hours of fresh air. Mr. Headley really has turned out to be a gentleman of his word…

KANSAS CITY–Jerry Reuss? Are you kidding me? I guess any mediocre pitcher’s capable of a great game; even Ray Burris won three times this year. It was a shrewd move by Chuck Tanner to dump Bruce Kison for him, but a smart one. Three Rivers helps the lefty power and Kison gives up practically nothing to lefties but power. Still, though…

Patek boots the first ball the Pirates hit in the bottom of the 1st for another error, his fourth of the Series, it turns into a Stargell sac fly and it’s all downhill from there.

Even though the Royals had runners falling out of the trees. A leadoff triple by McRae in the 2nd and they don’t score. Singles by Cowens and Brett to open the 4th and they don’t score. Two Taveras errors in the 8th and they do nothing with them, before a hit batter and walk in the 9th are left out to dry.

Meanwhile, Colborn gets raked in the 3rd for two singles, a double and Garner triple when McRae mistakes the rising liner for a badminton birdie and it shoots over his head in left to score two runs. Garner, who by the way is a crappy 2-for-22 when the game begins, crushes an Andy Hassler pitch for a solo jack in the 6th to pretty much entomb all Kansas City hope.

Reuss goes the distance until he hits Mayberry to start the 9th, gets a monstrous ovation from the over 50,000 here, but Tekulve gives the  Gossage his third straight day off after the Goose’s five-inning stint in Game 3. Kent whiffs Patek, gets Poquette on a foul out, and after walking Joe Lahoud, retires Otis on a lazy fly to tie this sucker up at three games apiece.

Game 6
ROYALS 000 000 000 – 0 5 1
PIRATES 103 001 00x – 5 10 3

W-Reuss L-Colborn HR: Garner GWRBI-Stargell

So what can I say? Except this:

GAME SEVEN DEATHMATCH TONIGHT

—10: 30 p.m. eastern, 7:30 pacific—

LEONARD VS. CANDELARIA.

NO PRISONERS TAKEN.

http://twitter.com/funkyball77

Game 7 Recap will be tomorrow on the blog, with my narrative conclusion and hearty farewells on Thursday.

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A Dreamy Fall

DR. GROSSINGER’S PRE-GAME

After yesterday’s devastating loss, I have taken to my hotel bed again. Mr. Headley has no choice but to wait on me, for all I can do is lie here and dream of past Pirate heroics. My long departed mother has filled my head with all of the ones I was too young to remember. See, when my father died in World War II, and she re-married and changed her name from Spanelli to Grossinger, that was when she started putting those scrapbooks together…

KANSAS CITY–Lester here, and this is it, friends. Can’t expect to win every game we play back at Three Rivers right? Splittorff was just fine in his first start, but today he’s in trouble right away, thanks to a Patek error in the 1st, a Parker single and sac fly by Robinson. Followed by an Oliver single, Taveras double and Duffy Dyer single in the 2nd to put us down 2-0.

Little Freddie makes quick and serious amends, though, lining one into the left field bleachers with two aboard in the last of the 2nd and hey! We’re on top 3-2!

Little did I think that’s the last we’d be heard from, while the Pirates just tear Splittorff, Gura, and Pattin apart for a total of 16 hits. Rooker’s the one with all the stuff, scattering just three hits through seven and a third after Patek’s blast. The true low comes in the 4th, when Mayberry leads with a single and takes second on a Garner boot. With one gone, White hits one out to center but John forgets there’s only one out, strays off second base and gets himself tagged out.

I know Dr. Sheila’s almost comatose again, but after this depressing, no-drama fifth game I could slip into that bed right beside her. Well, you know what I mean.

So it’s back to Pittsburgh on the Funky Zipline, to put an end to this season once and for all. Can’t say I’m all that worried, but the Pirates are no strangers to coming back from 3-1 deficits. Try 1971. Or two years from now.

Game 5
PIRATES 112 001 101 – 7 16 1
ROYALS 030 000 000 – 3 9 2

W-Rooker L-Splittorff SV-Tekulve HR: Patek GWRBI-Dyer

Tonight’s live Tweetcast of Game 6, and a possible Game 7 tomorrow, will be at 10:30 p.m. eastern, 7:30 pacific, with game reports appearing here on the blog the next morning.

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