Your L.A. Lightning need fans … and players … you got any game left?

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Photo by James Quick

Los Angeles Lightning players Fred Vinson, Lamond Murray and Toby Bailey enjoy themselves on the bench during a game last season in Thousand Oaks.

Last year, the Los Angeles Lightning (team official link here) of the International Basketball League (league official site here) made its debut at the Cal Lutheran facility in Thousand Oaks.

Former UCLA standout Toby Bailey may have been the most recognizable name out there for the team that also included former Clippers Lamond Murray and Keith Closs, and 3-point specialist Fred Vinson. Then there was point guard Kamran Sufi who led the league in assists (11.6) and guard Phil Givens , who scored a franchise-record 57 points in a 140-124 win over Arizonza in the season finale.

Get a chance to make it out to any games?

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Wanna join the team?

Open tryouts are scheduled for this Saturday and Sunday, as well as April 4-5, at Gilbert Sports Arena on the CLU campus. Saturday tryouts run 6-to-9 p.m.; Sundays are 6-to-8 p.m. with coach Ron Quaterman watching over them.

“We’re expecting everyone back and It’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Lightning owner Mark Harwell. “We got our feet wet last year and now, we want to get more involved with the community in a grass-roots way. We want to give back.”

The 18-game season is scheduled to start Saturday, May 2 at home against the Edmonton Energy.

Fourteen of the Lightning’s games are at home, for that matter.

Kinda makes you wonder why the Lakers don’t try to negotiate their schedule with the NBA pencil pushers that way.

Here’s the 2009 Lightning schedule (all games at Cal Lutheran unless othewise noted):

Saturday, May 2: Edmonton Energy, 7 p.m.
Sunday, May 3: Edmonton Energy, 5:30 p.m.
Thursday, May 7: at Nevada Pride in Las Vegas, 7 p.m.
Friday, May 8: at Nevada Pride in Las Vegas, 7 p.m.
Saturday, May 9: at Nevada Pride in Las Vegas, 7 p.m.
Saturday, May 16: Kankakee (Ill.) Soldiers, 7 p.m.
Sunday, May 17: Kankakee (Ill.) Soldiers , 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 23: Seattle Mountaineers, 7 p.m.
Sunday, May 24: Seattle Mountaineers, 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 30: Phoenix Red Rock Raptors, 7 p.m.
Sunday,May 31: Phoenix Red Rock Raptors, 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 13: Grand Rapids (Mich.) Flight, 7 p.m.
Saturday, June 14: Grand Rapids (Mich.) Flight, 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 20: Phoenix Red Rock Raptors, 7 p.m.
Sunday, June 21: Phoenix Red Rock Raptors, 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 27: Nevada Pride, 7 p.m.
Sunday, June 28: Nevada Pride, 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday, June 30: Tacoma Tide at Tacoma, Wash., 7 p.m.

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More Wrigley memories; more Wrigley Little League help

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Herald-Examiner archives/Los Angeles Public Library
Exterior shot of Wrigley Field on Dec., 1960, after it is suggested the new Los Angeles Angels of the American League use it as their home for their first season in 1961. It had a capacity of 22,500. “It’s in good condition,” said officials.

A longer version of the column about what’s happened to the property in South L.A. that once housed Wrigley Field in today’s newspaper (linked here) appeared earlier this week (linked here). Somewhat unexpected, but then, considering the big hearts from many readers it should not be, many have asked about where to send donations to help the Wrigley Little League make it through this season in tough economic times.

Wrigley Little League president Mike Garcia will accept donations to the league that are sent to his State Farm insurance office in care of him: 4421 Riverside Drive, Suite 100, Burbank CA 91505.

Meanwhile, a search of the Internet and other resources have turned up some more memories of the old Wrigley Field, which 40 years ago was finally demolished to make way for Gilbert Lindsay Park and, what now sits in the former left field of the L.A. ballpark, the Wrigley Little League:

== Starting with a collection of photos from the former Herald-Examiner that are part of the Los Angeles Public Library collection:

- An aerial view of the neighborhood near 42nd Street and Avalon Boulevard as it appeared before Wrigley Field was constructed in 1925. Photograph dated October 1924:

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– And, from Opening Day, 1925 (a photo later handcolored for post cards, as displayed in a previous blog posting linked here calling it the “newest and finest in the United States”:

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Dodgers decide on Eric Collins as its new play-by-play fill-in

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A local voice? Naw.

Someone from Chicago.

Eric Collins, who called baseball during NBC’s Olympics and has worked at ESPN doing college football and basketball, was picked by the Dodgers to do play-by-play on the 40-some TV games this season in place of Vin Scully when the team is playing East of the Rockies.

The 39-year-old Collins has also called College World Series telecasts and USA women’s softball games. Last season, he filled in on Chicago White Sox games.

Collins came to ESPN from ABC where he also worked as a college football play-by-play commentator (2002-03). Prior to ABC, Collins worked for Fox Sports, calling NFL Europe games (2002) and DePaul and Horizon League basketball games (2000-04), while also serving as an anchor and reporter (1996-02). Collins was also the radio voice of the Schaumburg Flyers (Ill.) of the Northern League Baseball (1999-2001).

Collins will work with Steve Lyons and replaces Charley Steiner, who’ll work exclusively on the KABC-AM (790) broadcasts with Rick Monday.

Candidates for the job who were invited to spring training to team up with Lyons on games to see how they fared included both Josh Suchon and Ken Levine, who do the DodgerTalk show for KABC, as well as Ben Wagner, Tom Hart and Joe Block.

Collins’ resume is enough to make him a fine candidate for the position. But, if you’re the Dodgers, would you not have tried to make it someone more familiar to the L.A. audience? Suchon or Levine would have made perfect sense, aside from what we already campaigned for — trying Jeanne Zelasko out for the spot. It’s only 40 games. There are plenty of talented people working in L.A. who know the team, its nuances, don’t have to flip through a media guide to cram for the games, and could add some context to situations that will come up that, frankly, someone consumed in another city with other teams just won’t have.

It’ll come up during the season again. We’re sure Collins again is a fine hire. If you’re ESPN looking for a West Coast guy to call some MLB games. Not so much if you’re the Dodgers trying to connect with a fan base.

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It’s Out of the Question: Barry’s special pick wasn’t just a backhanded slap at UCLA

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So what if Barry Obama — or any Special Olympian, for that mater — had picked UCLA to win its first-round tournament game … would that have changed the Bruins’ grid and determination against Virginia Commonwealth, thinking they had some kind of presidental pardon all lined up in case they couldn’t stop Eric Maynor on that final prayerful drive to the hoop?

== As long as we’re talking about warped strategy, may we ask why Maynor didn’t take it all the way to the basket to try to draw a foul, put himself at the free throw line and at least get an overtime out of it instead of trying to take the “hero” shot at the end?

== Did you notice the University of Oregon logo on the floor at the Rose Garden in Portland during the NCAA Tournament games played there? And the irony in that the Ducks are the only Pac-10 team that isn’t in any of the four post season tournaments — the NCAA (6 of ‘em qualified), the NIT (1), the College Basketball Invitational (2) and the CollegeInsider.com Invitational (0)?

== Does the fact the Pac-10 has a 5-1 record, instead of the 1-5 that Obama predicted, mean anything in the grand scheme? Or is just another bullet for Rush Limbaugh to fire from his popgun o’ fun?

== If we get any more of these lopsided No. 1 vs. No. 16 matchups — like what UConn and North Carolina registered over shouldn’t-be-invited Chattanooga and Radford — would you support a new tournament field that expands the field to 72, forces all those smaller conferences to compete in a play-in game on Tuesday and still give the four No. 1 seeds a bye in the first round?

== Does Jim Calhoun still draw a hefty paycheck even if he’s not coaching UConn during the tournament?

== Is there any way to get the score graphics a little bigger on the screen? Or does CBS assume everyone at home has a 54-inch wide screen?

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== You’ve by now seen Manny Ramirez dressed up in cricket gear, helping to promote a pay-per-view channel dedicated to the sport while attempting to show how he can bat against a wicked googly? Could you not tell that he was dogging it?

== Is it OK for Trevor Ariza to foul now?

== Cleveland Freakin’ State? Again?

== Norm Nixon, you taking this call from Charles Barkley?

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The next best thing for a pub crawl

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SportsFanLive, a sports social networking company based in L.A., has launched a new iPhone “Fan Finder — Sports Bar Locator” to help fans of certain teams find a sports bar where games of their interest are being shown on TV.

A story in the SportsBusiness Journal explains that the free application as a GPS-type function that has a database of sports bars and teams they’ve affiliated with. It’s similar to the Fan Finder on the SportsFanLive website (linked here).

SportsFanLive received approval from Apple for the application this week and it was listed among the “new and noteworthy” apps in the iTunes App Store by Thursday.

“This really adds a new dimension to what we’re doing,” said SportsFanLive Founder David Katz told the SBJ. “In a lot of ways, it’s cooler and more useful than what’s online. This is something that leverages the power of the iPhone, and we think is unique in terms of a having a significant sponsorship tied to it. And to be featured on the App Store like we have, that’s literally real estate you cannot buy.”

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The Media Learning Curve: March 13-20

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Why all the fuss about how President Obama’s NCAA Tournament chart rises and falls this first week (linked here)?

Does his guessing who’ll win the whole deal reflect his ability to run the country? Or does the teams he have going to the Final Four really reveal how much he knows — and should be spending less time messing with since there are bigger AIG fish to fry these days?

On Day 1, Obama had 11 of the 16 games right, but his Sweet 16 was still in tact. Barely. Cal State Northridge almost messed that one up. Then he really would have known where the San Fernando Valley was on the map.

Is he really snubbing all the California teams because he knows he’ll win the state in the next election anyway, and no one will remember?

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While we’re still laughing at the fact that Jay Bilas screamed “HEY NOW!” after VCU’s Larry Sanders had a key block down the stretch in Thursday’s game against UCLA, we’re also interested to see what we failed to absorb at the Media Learning Center (not sponsored by the male enlargement drink that the Poorman peddles on his LuvCh@t webcast that Pete Arbogast couldn’t resist guesting on this week):

== What will Arbo’s career tombstone read? The Poorman has handed him a shovel, and USC’s play-by-play guy on radio for football games began to bury himself again (linked here). And that’s not even taking into consideration the fact he rushed the Staples Center floor after USC defeated Arizona State on Sunday and tried to cut down the nets.

== When Andy Katz isn’t wasting Obama’s time, the ESPN lawn ornament is still trying to chase down Bobby Braswell, who’s in the wrong court (linked here).

== We’re sad to see ESPN’s ombudswoman end her run — she made far too much sense (linked here).

== What if Fox sold off the rights to the 2009 Bowl Championship Series to ESPN a year earlier, since the Rose Bowl is hosting the next championship game — which is already in Disney territory? Check out Mr. College Football’s self-created rumor take on it (linked here).

== More on FSN’s “Sports Science,” which has a bunch more cool things to blow out starting Sunday (linked here).

== C’mon, Plaschke (linked here)

== More info on Spike Lee’s documentary about Kobe Bryant, and when you can not only see it, but buy it (linked here)

== AND NOT LAST OR NOT LEAST:

== From the Onion, about the best way to make money these days (linked here)

Getting Randomly Picked To Make Half-Court Shots Now Best Way To Earn Living

WASHINGTON–A new study released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Tuesday confirmed that the most dependable source of income for American workers in the current economic climate is to win a novelty contest in which one must successfully shoot a basketball from half-court.
“After factoring in the odds of your ticket number being called while attending a game, the median dollar value awarded, and the athletic ability of the average American citizen, and cross-referencing these data with employment forecasts and current job-security indices, we have determined that half-court shooting contests are currently the most effective way to support a family of four,” the report read in part.
“While this may seem like dire news, keep in mind that the consolation prize for missing the shot usually includes a food item from the concession stand.”
The report cited several other possible methods of securing a livelihood, including 50-50 raffles, lotto scratch-offs, and inventing YouTube.

== AND FINALLY:

== From The Onion, about an idiot dog from the Iditarod (linked here):

Stumbling, Bumbling Sled Dog: ‘Sorry, This Is My First Iditarod’

PUNTILLA LAKE, AK–After running directly into the grandstands during the Iditarod’s ceremonial start and veering 55 miles off course late Tuesday to chase a marmot, Siberian husky and rookie sled dog Melvin apologized to his musher and fellow canines Wednesday for making a complete fool of himself in the early stages of the annual 1,150-mile race.
“First Iditarod jitters, I guess,” the visibly contrite Melvin told reporters Wednesday at the Rainy Pass checkpoint. “I feel like such a moron. Here I am in the last great race on earth and I’m blowing it. I mean, 100 times out of 100, when my musher yells, ‘Gee,’ I turn right. But yesterday I go left down an icy slope into a bunch of evergreens and nearly break everyone’s neck.”
“I have to pull it together,” added the dog, making a point of directly addressing his musher, two-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey. “I’m sorry, Lance. I’m acting like an idiot out there.”

Although …

We may be more partial to this story from The Onion Sports: (linked here)

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Another TV reminder: “Eastbound & Down” final episode Sunday at 10:30 p.m.

We mentioned it already in today’s media column, but it’s worth repeating: “Eastbound & Down” reaches the end of its six-episode run on HBO (Sunday, 10:30 p.m.), and hopefully they’ll replay all six episodes at some point and not just let it die a “John From Cincinnati” early death.

The episode guide (linked here) can catch you up.

On the show’s official website (linked here), a set of Kenny Powers baseball cards may best explain his short and sweet MLB career, which seems to have finished by giving up a grand slam against the Dodgers while trying to make a comeback with the Seattle Mariners:

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More cards:

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Our Daily Dread: Maybe you don’t remember L.A.’s Wrigley Field, but 40 years later, you ought to check it out

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There’s a square block of South Central L.A., across the Harbor Freeway and about a mile southeast of the Coliseum, that you’ve got to drive over and see sometime.

Really. Don’t be scared.

Bordered by San Pedro and Avalon streets, and running along the stretch of homes on 41st Place and 42nd Place, the activity is an interesting microcosm of the urban renewal that often takes shape in sprawling major cities that try to keep up with the times.

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You’d need to be slightly beyond the age of 50 to see those street names and immediately equate them with where Wrigley Field used to be. The same one you can see in its full glory on old photographs or on postcards, like the one above after it opened in 1925 and was called the “newest and finest in the United States,” with the California-style adobe roof, the tall clock tower (once dedicated to World War I veterans), and the spacious reach that seemed to hug the neighborhood.

Upscale, historic, it was the baseball palace of yesterday’s Los Angeles, for the minor leagues and, one special season, the big leagues. The Los Angeles Angels, in their first year of existence, played there in 1961 and, with the help of a couple of Roger Maris visits, set the major league record for most home runs allowed in a season. Until Coors Field came around in the lighter altitudes of Denver.

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Named Wrigley Field a year before the more famous one was in Chicago, constructed by the same chewing gum giant, Phillip Wrigley, who owned the Cubs and would bring them to Catalina Island for spring training.

Home to hundreds of Los Angeles’ most famous sporting events. Prize fighting, with Sugar Ray Robinson and Joe Louis. Football games, where Red Grange and the Green Bay Packers came barnstroming to play a game there in 1933. It was the home of a start-up West Coast Negro League team in the mid ’40s that only lasted a season. Babe Ruth came through with a barnstorming team in October, 1931, and wowed the crowd with a home-run exhbition of his own.

Walter O’Malley owned it in a swap of possessions before he moved the Dodgers west from Brooklyn in 1957, and thought about it as a place to play. Some artists renditions were made of the place to become the new Dodger Stadium. That never happened. The nearby Coliseum somehow was a better fit.

In 1963, a crowd of more than 35,000 jammed Wrigley Field for a freedom rally on May 26, at which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. told the audience, “We want to be free whether we’re in Birmingham or in Los Angeles.” This was about 25 years before Santa Barbara Avenue, just two blocks north, was changed to Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Hollywood made its mark. Aside from the Hollywood Stars using it as a home (before moving to Gilmore Field near Fairfax and 3rd), movies, such as “Damn Yankees,” were filmed there. The TV show, “Home Run Derby,” brought the place to the small screen for its one and only season of existence, and made us wonder how the people who lived on the other side of that left-field wall must have enjoyed having baseballs rain down on their lawn, from the bat of Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, who were flown to Los Angeles during the winter months for this competition.

After the Angels came and went, and the Dodgers never invested more into it, a few City baseball titles were played there in the mid ’60s.

Then it came finally down, in gray, decayed ruins, in 1969.

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In fact, it happened 40 years ago this week. The final wrecking ball demolished the whole lot. That’s a photo from the old Herald Examiner, now available in the archives of the Los Angeles Public Library, taken by Michael Haering, showing the final days of the stadium that had, for all intents and purposes, been just an abandoned facility, left to vandals of the changing neighborhood. More photos of the glory days of the place are on the library website (linked here).

And what’s become of it?

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It’s easy to get in the car and cruise through the neighborhood again and find the negatives.

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On the very corner where home plate used to be, there’s a fellow with an old baseball cap, trying to find some shade of a tree, crushing aluminum cans with his boot and stuffing them into a garbage bag.

Behind him is a soccer field — made of fake grass — part of the renovation of Gilbert Lindsay Park. That’s what the sign says, at least.

Today, someone decided to paste over it a notice about a yard sale nearby.

Down along 42nd Place, construction continues on a nice looking rec center. It’s not far from a decent looking skateboard park, which on this day sits empty.

Beyond that, going farther east where there used to be the place they parked cars for 15 cents, there a towering psychiatric hospital, right next to a senior center.

And, there, where left field used to be, across the street from the white steeple of the Harmony Mission Baptist Church, there’s the Wrigley Field.

Wrigley Little League field, more specificially.

Wrigley Field hasn’t been forgotten. It’s just reblossomed.

It’s easy, too, to spot some signs of trouble on this block. The people hanging out in the nearby park, sitting on the picnic tables, don’t look like the types who’d be very cordial if you approached them looking for a bottle opener or spare change. The person pushing the shopping cart full of trash is mumbling to himself.

It’s South Central. A few miles away from the Watts Towers. Where you can see the outline of downtown L.A. if you squint through the smog.

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Katy Aquino has lived in this neighborhood all her 31 years. She grew up on Central Blvd., near Adams. She lives a block away from the Wrigley Little League diamond, on 40th place and Avalon.

“I never knew the story behind Wrigley Field until last year when I got more involved,” said the Wrigley Little League’s secretary. “After that, I even looked it up on-line and saw how great it looked.”

Online, the old Wrigley Field may look to so as if it’s still in existence. There are enough websites dedicated to old ballparks that have come and gone (linked here and another look back here at the L.A. Times’ Daily Mirror blog).

“I wonder why this isn’t an historcial site,” who works as the Synergy Charter Academy (linked here) on 34th Street and Central Ave. “As you probably notice, this place is lacking things like beauty, safety and land.”

Sure, but you need to look past that.

“As a parent I can definitely tell you that the park has done great things for my family,” said Aquino. “The first time we were involved with Wrigley was in 2004, when my daughter Heaven was 7 and my son Joshua was 5. They both played T-ball and my husband (Ricardo Olmos) and cousin (Relles Aquino) coached it.

“Now, Heaven is 11 years old and she signed up for baseball last spring season. We started a girls’ softball league then, and at first she didn’t want to do that, but after the first season she really enjoyed herself.

“This has given us more family time. She has made new friends. We have been able to travel to different places.

“The park at this time is going through some transformation and I believe it’s for the best. I still wonder though, if our community would be so deteriorated if the original Wrigley Field would still be there.”

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The Wrigley Little League website (linked here) could use some updating as well. The photograph at the top of the page makes it look as if its linked to the ballpark in Chicago instead of the one that used to be right on the same property. It’s also advertising registration for the 2008 season.

Among the sponsors of the league is a bail bondsman.

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Wrigley Little League president Mike Garcia has that on his growing list of things to do.

Right now, he says he has a $4,000 credit-card bill that he used to buy the uniforms for the 75 kids who’ve signed up this season. He only has about $1,000 from registration fees. He’s about 100 players short from a season ago.

Most of it, he admits, is due to the economy, where many single-home parents are working several jobs and don’t have the spare time or energy — or finances — for the $65 registration fee that barely covers expenses such as equipment and insurance.

Garcia, who with his wife and three kids (aged 14, 10 and 9) live in the nearby Slauson/Crenshaw area, realize that his committment to keeping the league alive has long-term affects to keep the community alive.

“Volunteering at my church as I grew up here, I believe the more you give the more blessings you’ll receive later,” said Garcia, who works as a State Farm Insurance agent in Burbank and has been the Wrigley Little League president the last two years.

He know the neighborhood well, having grown up in the Vermont Square Park area of 48th and Budlong, going to Manual Arts High, “ending up on the wrong side of the street, and now trying to make sure other kids aren’t doing the same thing,” he said.

“In this community we live in, we can be behind closed doors,” he said. “We have to see the positive side and see there are alternatives.”

The more culture awareness probably comes from the opposite end. As a member of the Little League District 25 — which includes leagues from Beverly Hills, Malibu, West L.A. Santa Monica and North Venice — the Wrigley league accepts plenty of donations of equipment and shoes from their All-Star division rivals.

Interestingly enough, a large fast-food sandwhich chain is sponsoring a kickoff event of Little League’s 70th season with a game in Beverly Hills on Tuesday, featuring the District 25 champions from Culver City against Beverly Hills. Dave Winfield and Fred Lynn will be there to throw out the ceremonial first pitch and coach the game.

A couple miles away, Garcia will be trying to figure out if he’s got enough players to field a team against another local league with some borrowed equipment.

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“We’re the welfare kids of Little League, but that’s OK,” said Garcia, who two years ago was able to coax the Dodgers into paying for a trip to the White House for a group from the Little League during the T-ball game that President Bush liked to hold each year.

“I often feel myself pushing and pushing and not getting much in return. It takes a lot of hard work to keep this moving. I can’t even find enough volunteer umpires any more. I have to go out and pay them or else we can’t have games. But where do I have the money to pay them?”

Without enough kids to fill their own division teams — there is only one T-ball team, two in the minors, one in the majors, two softball and one junior team, from the kids 5 through 14 who were able to pay and signup — Wrigley Little League has to link with nearby leagues, such as Ladera or MLK, and share fields to get games to play.

A 1 p.m. game scheduled for Saturday at the Wrigley diamon has their major-league team facing the Red Sox from Toberman Park (in the Union/Washington area). But since Garcia doesn’t have his unforms yet — the season started late last month — his Dodgers are wearing Cubs hand-me-down jerseys that Garcia scrambled to find.

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“Maybe it’s not my nature to be such an aggressive person,” said Garcia, in his mid-30s. “I’m quiet, happy, do this stuff for the kids.

“I admit, I didn’t know alot about the history of this neighborhood. When I have free time, I Google it and it surprises me everytime I read something new about the old Wrigley Field. The more I read the more amazed I am that there’s no landmark in place.

“I feel like I’m still helping to build history here. There are so many good people helping me do that, too. That’s what keeps me going.”

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Along the stretch of 42nd Place, the old Wrigley Field looked like this, on the left, versus how it stands today, on the right:

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Right about where home plate used to sit, there’s this soccer field corner-kick spot, above.

If you hang around the neighborhood long enough, look for signs and listen to the construction that still goes on, the history won’t necessarily come out and reveal itself. It tries. You have to coax it a bit.

There are signs posted in and around the park, from politicians who want the people of the neighborhood to know they’re not forgotten, that public funds have been used here to improve the quality of life.The Dodgers, knowing the site well, made the field one of its Dream Foundation revitalization charity projects, and planted a sign above the backstop screen to mark the occasion in 2005, with the help of the city’s parks and recreation department. The field is also marked by a sign from the Amateur Athletic Foundation, helping to keep it living and breathing.

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But it’s those who really live in the somewhat harsh environment, a little rough around the edges maybe, who make it happen.

For a place you’d not normally venture unless you were at a USC football game and maybe made a wrong turn heading toward the Harbor Freeway, make it a point next time to visit an historical spot in Los Angeles sports history.

Considering its proximity to Exhibition Park, Wrigley Field was just as much a gem of the city as all the other sporting facilities in the nearby area. And, like many stadiums, even the best of them in New York, they suddenly disappear.

But history isn’t finished here.

Boys and girls playing Little League on the old site of Wrigley Field have enough dreams of their own to make sure of that.

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Cal Montney / Los Angeles Times
Stanley Evans, left, and Kenneth Thompson visit Wrigley Field as it is being demolished, in a photo published March 21, 1969

Dreams it seems these kids were just 40 years too early to enjoy. On the same spot they sit amidst the Wrigley Field rebar and cement rubble back then, they’d be just about in a third-base dugout at the Wrigley Little League field today.

Comment here or email to thomas.hoffarth@dailynews.com.

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The Media Learning Curve: NCAA phone coverage has the right ring tone for us


Put down the iPhone long enough to read today’s media column (linked here) — as long as you’re not involved with tweeting and/or facebooking, and expand your mind with more stuff that you won’t find at 411:

== ESPN says more than 5 million entries were submitted to its online NCAA bracket-picking contest when it closed Thursday, up 37 percent from the 3.65 million last year. Louisville, Memphis, Pittsburgh and North Carolina are the most popular Final Four picks.

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== The MLB Network’s “30 Teams in 30 Days” look at the Dodgers airs for the first time today at 9 p.m. with Hazel Mae (pictured here, the reporter, not the blend of special tea at Starbucks) at the team’s Glendale, Ariz., site and Greg Amsinger, Mitch Williams and John Hart in the studio.

== Paul Sunderland calls both the boys and girls state basketball championship games from Sacramento for Prime Ticket tonight and Saturday. Sunderland works with Sean Farnham on the Eisenhower vs. Rocklin CIF State Div. II boys championship at 8 p.m., after Sunderland and Caren Horstmeyer do the CIF State Div. II girls title game between Brea Olinda and Carondelet at 6 p.m. On Saturday, the girls Div. I championship between Long Beach Poly and Monte Vista (6 p.m.) is followed by the boys Div. I championship between Westchester and McClymonds. John Jackson does sideline reporting.

== Fox Sports West’s Galaxy coverage begins Sunday at 11:30 a.m. with a pregame leading into the team’s opener against D.C. United from Home Depot Center. Jim Watson and Mark Rogondino call it again with Jackie Pickering on the sidelines for home games. FSWest and Prime Ticket will do 18 Galaxy games this MLS season.

== ESPN moved its Saturday live broadcast of the WBC heavyweight title fight between Vitali Klitschko and Juan Carlos Gomez to ESPN Classic to air from 3 to 4 p.m. A tape-delayed version will air on ESPN2 from 4 to 5 p.m.

== AND FINALLY:

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== XX Sports Radio (1090-AM) afternoon host Jordan Smith was fired this week after a rant that was more than critical about San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson last week. The San Diego Union Tribune reported that Smith was canned for making “some very unfortunate and hurtful comments utilizing unacceptable language,” said Hal Brown, vice president of programming at BCA Radio, which operates the all-sports station.
In his media column last week for the newspaper, Jay Posner reported that Smith and equally brutal partner Irwin Earl Milan were critical of the Chargers’ decision to pay Tomlinson nearly $7 million for the 2009 season, but took it further in a five-minute rant that included a reference to the Thanksgiving turkey giveaway Tomlinson hosts every year for needy families in San Diego County:
“I’m listening to Mama LT this morning with Scott (Kaplan) and BR (Billy Ray Smith), and God bless them, too, bringing up the turkeys again – do me a favor, stick the turkeys up your (bleep). I don’t care about the turkeys. I don’t care about your charity.”
Smith also said he wished Chargers bosses Dean Spanos and A.J. Smith “had the testicles like” Padres bosses John Moores and Sandy Alderson “to get rid of the aging superstar,” a reference to the baseball club’s decision not to bring back relief pitcher Trevor Hoffman this season.
As a result, some other putz named Ted Mendenhall is working with Milan for the time being.

Wrote Posner:

Look, it’s one thing if you want to go on the radio and completely dismiss the career of one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. If you want to sound like an uninformed blockhead, that’s your prerogative. But when you start criticizing people for doing community service, spending their time and money to help others, that’s crossing the line. (Which, really, shouldn’t surprise anyone who remembers Jordan and Earl laughing about Chargers owner Alex Spanos’dementia.)
And what about the profane nature of the rant? It was just after 3 p.m., prime time for a kid to be in the car with a parent. Did they need to hear about turkeys being shoved where they don’t belong or Jordan saying he wished Chargers bosses A.J. Smith and Dean Spanos “had the testicles” like Padres execs did to “get rid of the aging superstar?”
“The most popular question, however, has been a version of this: What can we do to get these guys off the air? They’ve done it themselves.”

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Sorry, Russell … your stuff isn’t worth buying right now

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The Associated Press

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — It’s wall-to-wall “Veritas” at the Coop, the Harvard Square landmark with an entire floor devoted to T-shirts and sweatshirts, hats and scarves, jackets and boxer shorts with the school’s name and insignia.

They sell clothes for the law school, the business school, even down-river rival MIT. Most of Harvard’s athletic teams are represented — in crimson, of course, but also gray and white and blue.

Yet nothing there is made by Russell Athletic.

Joining a growing number of U.S. schools, Harvard severed ties with Russell after two watchdog groups said the Atlanta-based clothing-maker harassed pro-union Honduran employees. According to the Workers Rights Consortium, a group that monitors labor conditions abroad for colleges, Russell spent two years trying to intimidate workers who attempted to unionize before closing the factory when they did.

“They’re well on their way to being the first company in history to be kicked out of collegiate sports because of their labor practices,” said Scott Nova, the executive director of the WRC. “I can’t imagine their affiliates will be too happy about that, which includes the NBA and the NFL and others.”

Russell says it announced the closure of the factory last October due to falling demand for the fleece sewn there. The company said it picked the union plant in Choloma because it had a month-to-month lease and cost $2 million less to close than the non-union alternative.

The company said that earlier anti-union actions, including the firing of 145 workers detailed in reports by the WRC and the industry-sponsored Fair Labor Association, were taken by local management. Russell is taking steps to fix such problems, company officials said.

“We acknowledge that management mistakes were made,” said Matt Murphy, a senior vice president in charge of licensing. “We will ultimately prove that Russell Athletic is sincere in its approach … and that these schools will see that and want to become partners with us again. We will need to give them a reason to do that.”

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