‘And your voice of the Lancaster JetHawks …’ Not me … but pull up a chair anyway

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A couple of months ago, we did a feature story on Jeff Lasky, the 28-year-old play-by-play voice of the Single-A Lancaster JetHawks (linked here).

Wednesday afternoon, Lasky returns the favor. Sorta.

He’s offered me the opportunity to do an inning of play-by-play during the team’s game against the San Jose Giants. I’ve ridiculously taken him up on it, and the result will be the media column for Friday’s newspaper and perhaps an audio clip that could be used against me by any broadcaster who I’ve wronged in the last 20-plus years of writing the media column.

(When I told Dodgers broadcaster Charley Steiner about this endeavor, his immediate response: “Can I critique you?” Sure, if you can hear the game from San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon …)

Oh, you can?

Barring any unforseen technical difficulties — I plan to stay in Lancaster tonight so I don’t get a late wake-up call and get stuck in traffic driving out to the desert on Wednesday morning — you can hear the call of the game live on the JetHawks’ flagship station, Magic 1340-AM (linked here). Or, even easier, listen on the audio stream from the team website (linked here). Go to the “Listen Live” link.

It’s an 11 a.m. first-pitch, the end of a seven-game homestand.

There will also be a MP3 version of the call on Friday’s blog to go with the media column.

Listen, and learn, friends. Listen, to find out what’s happening in the game. And learn from my mistakes.

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Day 28: 30 baseball books in 30 days of April, ’09: The last Straw, perhaps, for ‘Daaaaaaarrr-uuuuuullll’

Another Dodgers-Giants angle: A player of high stature who played for each team, at one point and another in his fractured career:

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The book: “Straw: Finding My Way”

The author: Darryl Strawberry (with John Strausbaugh)

How to find it: Ecco Books, 256 pages, $26.99

Where we’d go looking for it: Amazon has it (linked here) and here it is on the book publisher’s site (linked here).

The scoop: The book, scheduled for release today, is pretty straight forward: Darryl Strawberry was a very, very good baseball player who, according to the HarperCollins press notes, led the 1986 Mets to “108 victories with Strawberry scoring 27 home runs.”

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Er, OK…. At least mention his appearance on “The Simpsons” in 1992 … which made him cry. Maybe it’s best to leave that one alone.

We interrupt this review with a quote: “Now this is decadent. And I’ve been to Miami with Darryl Strawberry.” – Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), on the April 23, ’09 episode of the NBC show “30 Rock,” in a nightclub with Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) with lots of women and drinking.

Review continued: The revelation as to why Strawberry ended up with a fractured finish go back to his upbringing — and abusive, alcoholic father; an immaturity in dealing with fame, especially in New York with a team that liked to party … and then a couple of bouts with cancer that kind of made him see the light, especially after some prison time, rehab and finding God.

The early part of the book circles to his father’s treatment of him and the family early on.

“I’m not blaming him for the all the mistakes and stupid decisions I made, or for the pain and sorrow I caused myself and others,” Strawberry writes in the introduction. “I take full responsibility for everything I have ever done. I know ‘My father beat me’ is a cliched excuse for bad behavior. I’m not using it as an excuse. There are no excuses. There are only explanations.”

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This (not) just in: ESPN duped

From today’s USA Today (linked here), with the moral of the story: Don’t trust anyone on the phone who sounds like Hal Holbrook:

Somebody posing as a Washington Post reporter convinced ESPN on Monday that one of the Washington Capitals’ star players had been suspended for Tuesday’s decisive Eastern Conference playoff Game 7 against the New York Rangers.

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“I was on my way to the rink this morning and my buddy called me and was a little upset I was missing Game 7,” said Capitals defenseman Mike Green, a finalist for the Norris Trophy given to the NHL’s top defenseman.

“I had no idea what for. It kind of caught me off guard.”

ESPN SportsCenter hosts Josh Elliot and Hannah Storm relayed that Green and teammate Donald Brashear were suspended under a “Breaking News” banner Monday at 9:52 a.m.

Within a half hour, ESPN retracted the story.

“Our news desk received the call from someone representing themselves as a Washington Post reporter,” ESPN spokesman Dan Quinn said.

“We didn’t follow our own fact-checking procedures and mistakenly reported the story.

“We apologize for the error.”

Part of the fib wound up being true.

Brashear was suspended later Monday for six games for two on-ice incidents during the Caps’ 5-3 victory in Game 6.

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Our Daily Dread: Sports’ magic pitchmen, or get there now before Gary Coleman beats you to it

Your pick: The most ridiculous commercial you’ve seen pop up lately during a sports program has been:

A) Frank Thomas, for ZizZazz Explosive Energy Mix:

What we know: Thomas has a lot of muscles. Still. But no big-league team wants him. Maybe he’s just too hyped up. The Website also shows Manny Pacquio, Aaron Rowand and Archie Griffin involved in the marketing of this. Plus Paris Hilton. And singer Nelly and actor Jesse McCartney are listed as co-owners of the company. But Big Hurt? This hurts to watch.

B) Larry Zbyszko, aka “The Living Legend,”for Morphoplex Massive:

What we know: It’s $89.95 a 120-capsule bottle that’ll only last you a month. We can’t be sure why Zbyszko is a legend, other than having two “z”s and a “y” in his name. The fact he’s screaming about athletes who’ve died and ended up in a grave yard is a classy way to open a sales pitch. It’s as if he’s got the secret to getting bigger and stronger and quicker and more legal. Be careful what you promise.

C) Magic Johnson for either San Manuel Casino, Rent-A-Center, Jackson Hewitt Tax Prep or T-Mobile (with Julius Erving and Charles Barkley):

What we know: Magic’s people can’t be far from talking to Cash4Gold, willing to have someone yank teeth out of his head so he can put it in an envelope and mail it off to some prospectors somewhere up near San Francisco.

He could align himself with the Dakota Magic Casino in Hankintown, North Dakota, with plenty of RV parking (linked here), handing out ShamWows, Snuggie blankets and Amish rolling electric fireplaces to all customers who hit $20 on the big wheel.

Does any of that creep you out as much as last year’s NBA playoff promo that he did with Larry Bird?

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So the results are larger fields, bigger cards and better races? They why didn’t Del Mar do this years ago?

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The Associated Press

Del Mar will reduce its schedule to five days a week, dropping most Monday programs because of the economy when the seaside track opens its 70th season in July.

Track officials said Monday that racing will be staged Wednesdays through Sundays from July 22-Sept. 9. The only Monday races will be on Labor Day.

It’s the first time since 1945 the track won’t race six days a week. The move reduces the meeting from its usual 43 days to 37.

“There’s a pinch on everyone due to the economy; there’s a pinch on the number of racehorses available in the state,” Del Mar president Joe Harper said. “Racing folks have been talking about racing less and presenting a better product because of it for some time now.”

The track plans to add one additional race to its cards on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Under consideration are Wednesday promotions that would offer free admission and reduced food and drink prices.

Del Mar racing secretary Tom Robbins said it had become harder to fill racing cards.

“As a result of this change, I think our fans will see larger fields and better cards across the board,” he said.

California’s horse population has declined recently, while the number of mares bred in the state and the live-foal crop are both down over the last 10 years, Robbins said. The economic downturn has reduced discretionary spending for claiming and buying thoroughbreds.

Del Mar began its Wednesday through Monday schedule in 1973, when California approved Sunday racing. The track located north of San Diego was founded by Bing Crosby in 1937.

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Day 27: 30 baseball books in 30 days of April, ’09: Another take on the Dodgers (and Giants) leaving New York

As the Dodgers and Giants fight it out again, this time in San Francisco, we revisit the team’s move West from New York more than 50 years ago with …

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The book: “After Many a Summer: The Passing of the Giants and Dodgers and a Golden Age in New York Baseball”

The author: Robert E. Murphy

How to find it: Union Square Press, 432 pages, $24.95

Where we’d go looking for it: Amazon has it (linked here)

The scoop: Remember that book by Michael D’Antonio called “Forever Blue” that we reviewed earlier this month (linked here and linked here and even more linked here)?

Here’s the consenting opinion. Or, the prevailing opinion that still lingers in New York from those with abandonment issues.

Murphy’s bio: He lives in Brooklyn. He’s a senior writer for “The New York Times Guide to Essential Knowledge.” Essentially, he knows his Dodgers and New York Giants background.

From just the bookjacket blurb, Murphy says he’ll reveal: “How legendary power-broker Robert Moses, who has received much of the blame for the team’s departure, actually did more to keep them in New York than is commonly believed.” And: “How the two owners (Walter O’Malley and Horace Stoneham) carried out secret talks with California officials even while insisting that they had not decided to leave New York.”

In the introduction, Murphy admits he lived within walking distance of Ebbets Field, how his brother John and sister Mary took him to games. “It was wonderful to sit among all those other people who loved the Dodgers,” he wrote. “… Baseball in New York City, where the modern game had developed, gripped a six-and-a-half-year-old boy’s life in the spring of 1956.” He was that kid.

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Day 26: 30 baseball books in 30 days of April, ’09: Love and mercy that’s what you need tonight

The book: “Heart of the Game: Life, Death and Mercy in Minor League America”

The author: S.L. Price

How to find it: Ecco, 320 pages, $24.99

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Where we’d go looking for it: Amazon has it (linked here).

The scoop: The excerpted part in the April 20 issue of Sports Illustrated — because Price is an esteemed SI senior writer since 1994 — doesn’t do this book justice, and may confuse the reader as to what the intent of the project really is.

We aren’t out looking for more reminders about what kind of damage a pitched ball can do to a batter. But this is what we get iin SI — Ray Chapman, Tony Conigliaro, Dickie Thon. … Serious injuries. Death, in the first case. Add to that the story that came out over the weekend about the high school player who died from being hit by a pitch (linked here).

Surprisingly, no pro player on any level has been killed by a batted ball. Of the 76 deaths caused in the manner — five of which were a batter killed by his own foul tip — all were in amateur games, with kids as young as 6.

But there’s the story of Mike Coolbaugh, the minor league first-base coach killed by a batted ball in 2007, which led to all base coaches wearing protective helmets (whether Larry Bowa likes it or not). Price’s book is really connecting the Coolbaugh story to the one of Tino Sanchez, the journeyman infielder who hit the foul ball on July 22, 2007 in Arkansas, resulting in his coach’s death.

Price weaves the two families together, in how they shared in the minor triumphs but most-times struggle in a career through baseball. Then this dark day brought them to together — luckily, as Price points out, “the moment itself has slipped past the clutch of modern experience. No television camera captured the ball hitting the coach; no team cameras focused on Coolbaugh as he was struck or falling. Despite the prevalence of cell phone photography and portable recorders and the Internet’s appetite for every recorded event, no Zapruder will surface with footage of the blow. It’s as if, in that sudden erasure of noise just after, a kind hand consipred to wipe away any cheapening visuals, any reductive evidence of so public an accident.” That extends to the official scorebook, by the way. Sanchez fouled the pitch off on a 3-2 count. The game was stopped. The at-bat was never recorded. So Sanchez’s 2,267 career trips to the plate is one short of the one that ended his desire to play baseball.

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Day 25: 30 baseball books in 30 days of April, ’09: Not by George, because, well, he probably isn’t in any shape to write his own story, and he’d just change the ending anyway

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The book: “George: The Poor Little Rich Boy Who Built the Yankee Empire”

The author: Peter Golenbock

How to find it: Wiley, John and Sons, 384 pages, $26.95

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Where we’d go looking for it: Amazon has it (linked here). Barnes & Noble has it (linked here)

The scoop: If only to read up on what kind of stuff Joe Torre had to put up with during his days as the Yankees manager — including the insertion of Derek Jeter as the opening day shortstop in 1996 over the Boss’ objections — then here’s the latest, and probably last, book written on King George.

Granted, it’s a lot of things that are rehashed a bit from previous books on Steinbrenner, including one last year we reviewed, “The Ballad of Billy and George: The Tempestuous Baseball Marriage of Billy Martin and George Steinbrenner” by Phil Pepe. Although that book isn’t one of the 21 books that are in the bibliography of material on page 353.

Goldenbock’s approach is almost with a language that tries to match Steinbrenner’s rough and ready personna. Yet he also tries to put a more human side on the egomanical owner, something maybe other books or ESPN docudramas weren’t so generous in trying to spin.

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Coming Sunday: Wax on, wax off, wax Kareem

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Michael Owen Baker/Daily News Staff Photographer

You try dragging a tape recorder and notepad into a locker room every night trying to interview Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Or, in this case, to a warehouse in Newbury Park, with Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan all within earshot.

(And, yes, that is Rodney Dangerfield trying to look disinterested in the background as well).

We tried, but Kareem, as expected, wouldn’t cooperate. Which is understandable. This version of a Kareem action figure, which once appeared in the Hollywood Wax Museum, is about to be sold to the highest bidder in an auction on May 1. His days are numbered.

So, with that glazed-over look in his eyes, and painted-on smile, we tried to find out how he felt about the fact he could just be a conversation piece in someone’s rumpus room in the very near future.

This Kareem didn’t seem to have an opinion about it either way.

Meanwhile, you can check out the auction on www.profilesinhistory.com. Here’s the lowdown on the Kareem figure:

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The Media Learning Curve: April 17-24

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There is an inherent danger in having ESPN do its 10 p.m. (OK, 1 a.m. if you have no clue where the West Coast lies) “SportsCenter” from across the street from Staples Center — the ripe-for-riff-raff factor.

Like, a badass like Justin Timberlake , aka Jacques Grande from Mike Myers’ nuclear, “The Love Guru,” blowing in to promote … himself, with the cool/dork look.

There’s this YouTube clip (please, don’t watch it, you’ll only encourage him to check how many hits it has had … this is just for-the-record purposes):

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