RIP Sparky Anderson

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My first time in a major league clubhouse involved an interview with legendary baseball manager Sparky Anderson, who died today at the age of 76.

 He was generous, funny and really helpful. Big league baseball is fraught with prima donnas. Sparky wasn’t one of them. 
I remember him eating some pre-game fried chicken during our interview and even offering me a drumstick. Because of Sparky I was able to put together a pretty decent feature on Cecil Fielder, leading the AL in RBIs and homers in 1991. I’ve never forgotten what a decent man Sparky was — when he could have been a jerk like most people in baseball.
Besides being a nice guy, Sparky was a great field general. He led the Big Red Machine to glory in the 1970s and the Detroit Tigers to a title in 1984.
When he did color for Angels games in the 1990s his knowledge and colorful descriptions really enhanced the tedious experience of watching baseball on television.
RIP Sparky
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Reporter Robert Hong blogs from Michael Jackson tribute at Staples Center

NOTE: I’ll Update this as Robert sends posts from the scene. He’ll be writing a first person story for tomorrow’s newspaper: (I’ve haven’t edited these, so the dispatches are as I get them)


4:30 a.m. Legions of police are waiting patiently outside the Staples
center right now basking in the calm before the deafening storm that
is sure to come. Not much for them to do yet, save checking in the
hoards of media that had the gall to get up this early in the
morning.

A few brave souls sit draped in blankets along Olympic, hiding in the
shadows from the glaring streetlights. Those who chose to camp
outside the Staples center say they have had a noisy night.
A taxi just passed by blaring “Beat it”.

5:27 a.m. There seems to be a deep excitement building up here as
more people arrive. Many have joined me in the “Pantry” 24-hour diner
just a block away from the stadium, hoping to catch the only meal
they will likely eat until evening. Newscasters from Texas are
chattering feverishly at a table across from me. They are upset at
having not slept on the drive over here. I know the feeling. But we
cant hide in this diner much longer, have to go outside and face the
music.

 7 a.m. T-minus 3 hours.
The sleepy streets have turned to crowds, and a mass of humanity is
posted at the corner of Figueroa and Olympic, waiting patiently for
their chance to slip into the folds of history. Some are waving
banners and signs saluting the King of Pop.

A t-shirt salesman who tells me his name is “Tito” said he expects a
fast turnover of profit today. He has been walking the streets since
3 a.m., but the early crowd were not feeling too generous. Things
have just begun to pick up, he said.

Cars are still cruising up and down Figueroa, blaring every
masterpiece that the King had a chance to touch. The last one I heard
was Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me,” featuring background vocals
by Jackson.

What a strange, cryptic message to play in the shadow of all these
media outlets.

So far, everyone seems happy, but it’s still early. Maybe the
constant glare of these titan-sized screens showing concert footage
of Michael Jackson is keeping them sane, for the time being…..

8:50 a.m. Less than two hours to go 
Michael Jackson Fever has swept over the Staples Center, as word is spreading that they are bringing The King’s casket to the ceremony. That may mean absolute pandemonium considering the onslaught of die-hard fans.
Nearly everyone is wearing some sort of Jackson paraphernalia, be it a t-shirt, glitter glove or full white suit.
Some fans have gathered around the entrance to  the center to watch the celebrity guests roll in. So far I have not been able to see who has walked in, but according to the screams I would guess the Jackson Family has arrived.
The plaza is now piping with humanity, and dozens are taking photos in front of a giant movie screen.
There seems to be no age limit to the fans. With children under 5 and adults over 65 mixed about the crowd. 
It’s amazing to think that this small hub is now the focal point of the worlds attention. I wonder if these ticket holders have any idea how lucky they really are.
9:06 a.m.
The fever is rising. Just 30 minutes to go and the authorities are out in full force. Everyone from security  guards to the bomb squad have encircled that crowds here at the Staples Center, and for some reason that brings me more unease.
So far I have just seen the rapper/ actor Ice Cube and caught a glimpse of what looked like Jesse Jackson.
The fury and power of The King has swept over Los Angeles like a 24-hour virus that nothing can cure, and the cool weather may be the only thing keeping this event from exploding into one gigantic moonwalk.
Moments now until the countdown. People have rushed to get to their seats, and it’s time I found mine as well.
World history is about to be made.


9:55 a.m.
Five minutes left to showtime and reports have come in that the hearse with The King’s body has arrived at the scene. No one knows for sure, but celebrities are arriving in droves. Police presence has gotten even tighter, and a row of firefighters are waiting at bay just steps from the entrance to the Nokia Theatre.
The show is apparently running a few minutes late but is slated to start close to its scheduled time of 10 a.m.


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RIP Farrah Fawcett

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Actress Farrah Fawcett has died, according to several news reports. The actress had battled with cancer for several years and was reportedly in grave condition Wednesday afternoon.

For men my age Fawcett was an icon. She starred in Charlie’s Angels and posed for a famous cheesecake shot that we oogled at Tower Records and hung on our bedroom walls.
Fawcett was 62.
Here’s Google’s news updates.
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Danny Gans, former Mt. SAC baseball player, 52

From TMZ

Danny Gans died early this morning, after a family member called 911 to say Danny was having trouble breathing. By the time paramedics arrived, he was dead.

A ticket rep at Steve Wynn’s Encore hotel tells us they just got the call and the entire staff is “shocked and upset.”

Gans is a legend in Las Vegas — the self described “musical impressionist” signed a $150 million contract in 2000.

We’re told Gans died at 3:00 AM at his home in Vegas. There are reports his wife discovered his body and called for help.

Gans was named “Las Vegas Entertainer of the Year” a record 11-times in a row. He did not perform last night.

Besides being a gifted entertainer, Gans was a pretty good athlete — in fact, he was drafted by the KC Royals out of high school and played minor league ball.

UPDATE: TMZ has learned a 911 call was made by a family member at 3:44 AM for a 52-year-old man who was “having trouble breathing.” By the time medics arrived, Gans had already passed away.

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Joe Sanders buried in Elk Grove

From the Sacramento Bee:

California Highway Patrolman Joseph Sanders was laid to rest today, one day after the 29-year-old officer would have successfully completed his probation period.

Sanders, a Galt High School graduate, had served just 359 days as a CHP officer – his longtime goal – before he was struck and killed one week ago today while conducting traffic in heavy rain on a Los Angeles County highway.

Hundreds of family, friends and uniformed officers gathered in Elk Grove this morning to remember Sanders, who had been assigned to the CHP’s Santa Fe Springs area office in Southern California. Law enforcement officers from all across the state — including a large contingent from Southern California — and as far away as Texas filled the First Baptist Church to memorialize Sanders.

Sanders’ death marks the CHP’s first line-of-duty death of 2008 and the 214th in the CHP’s 79-year history.

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“Our Gang’s” Buddy was quite a character

Reporter Amanda Baumfeld turned in a great obituary about Buddy McDonald, one fo the original Little Rascals. He died this week in a Seal Beach retirement home. Here’s a snippet of Baumfeld’s piece:

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What he might not be known for is his endless dedication and work in substance abuse counseling, those who know him said.

In the 1950 s, McDonald developed a drinking problem and ended up in Alcoholics Anonymous. It was a move that ended up being a “significant turning point of his life,” according to his son, Scott.

Soon after, McDonald became a popular speaker at AA meetings throughout Southern California and strived to help people regain control of their lives.

In 1965, he met Leon Emerson, a Downey Municipal Court judge. The two of them thought people convicted of alcohol-related offenses should be sent to AA meetings instead of jail.

I also found an interview with Buddy that ran on a Web site devoted to Laurel and Hardy comedies. The interview is fascinating and describes a robbery conviction from the 1950s:

Question: What did they send you to prison for?

Bud McDonald: Robbery. I was with some other guys, and we robbed a market. I had just come out of the marine corps, served in Guadalcanal. I didn’t know any better, I didn’t have any money to get an attorney, so I took a public defender. He got me to cop a plea. I plead guilty. Later on, when I was sober about a dozen years after Alcoholics Anonymous, a probation officer named Brown in Walnut Park gave me some advice. He was going to law school and we found a law I didn’t know about and together with my sponsor, a man named Carson, they got all my felonies taken back to court and the guilty pleas removed and the not guilty pleas entered. All my citizenship rights and everything else were restored to me.
 

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Mysterious death may be suicide*

EL MONTE – The mysterious death of a man whose body was found outside an office building in the 9600 block of Flair Drive is looking more like a suicide.

The death was listed with the coroner’s office as a “possible suicide.”

Coroner’s officials said the death was due to blunt force truama.

The afternoon of the discovery, detectives took measurements of a large mechanical lift being used for construction at the site, and spent a good deal of time with their eyes trained upwards toward the lift and the nearby multi-story building.

The dead man is being described only as an Asian man in his 30s pending notification of family members.

*Lt. Gil Carrillo of the Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau said Monday that until an autopsy has been performed that determines the incident was a suicide, detectives will continue investigating.

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