Day 24: 30 baseball books in 30 days of April, ’09: It’s a somewhat daring title for Darling, but he delivers, right on Media Column Friday

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The book: “The Complete Game: Reflections on Baseball, Pitching and Life on the Mound”

The author: Ron Darling

How to find it: Knopf, 288 pages, $24.95

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

The scoop: I got my first hint of Darling’s ability to recall detail last October, when I talked to him about the 1988 Dodgers-Mets National League Championship Series — where, as the ace of the New York staff, he was pinch running in the 12th inning of Game 4, then getting knocked around by the Dodger lineup in the decisive Game 7, where Orel Hershiser again grabbed the headlines, and Darling was left taking the loss.

“It was my total and utter disaster,” Darling recalled. “You think that all athletes want to do is recount great moments in their careers, and the older we are the better we were.

“I’m haunted by that seventh game to this day. It’s like a golfer who just had to hit a three-foot putt to make it to the U.S Open. Every pitcher wants to pitch in the seventh game of a series. But since I’m a guy who has spent much more of my life thinking about my struggles and failures than any great moments, this one won’t go away.

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The Media Learning Curve: For all the clockwatchers …

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While mulling over the future of Mark Sanchez, as anyone with a TV talking opionion gave in today’s media column (linked here), consider these things to do in 10 minutes or less:

== Create a national internet sensation by almost exposing your breasts to anyone watching hockey on the Versus network (see below)

== Throw a Rubix cube off the Ventura County pier (note: must live within five minutes of the pier)

== Microwave a 25-pound turkey (as long as you don’t really want to eat it).

== Drive through the Shell gas station car wash (minus the five minute wait by the guy ahead of you who can’t figure out that the air blowers only work if they inch forward rather than stay in the wash bay).

== Destroy the future of an NFL franchise through the first-round draft pick.

Those employed by TV networks who seem to know everything about everything about this weekend’s NFL draft (our story in today’s paper linked here) can go on and on to fill the several hours of pre-draft shows leading up to Saturday’s 1 p.m. start. Luckily, ESPN diverts to its coverage of the Nuggets-Hornets NBA playoff game (from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.), forcing viewers of pre-draft jabbering to go over to ESPN2 for awhile. Maybe that will confuse them enough once the thing starts up, they’ll head over to the NFL Network — presuming they have it on their system.

Or they go over to Fox and catch the Yankees-Red Sox game.

More stuff to throw out there:

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A hairy proposition: Two NFL careers will be derailed now by the Madden video game cover curse

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Our regrets to Troy Polamalu and Larry Fitzgerald for having not only their fantasy football stock sinki faster than the Dow Jones but their medical staffs put on full 24-hour alert (as well as their lawyers) after it was announced this morning that the Pittsburgh Steelers safety and the Arizona Cardinals’ receiver will co-host the cover of the Madden NFL 10 game set for distribution on Aug. 14.

For the first time in the 21-year history of the Madden NFL franchise, two athletes will be on the cover.

In other words, two will be taken down at the same time by the … curse…

Plus, their wild hair makes them naturally photogentic. Right, Man-Ram?

“Larry Fitzgerald and Troy Polamalu are exemplary examples of the epic battle between offense and defense in the NFL,” said senior product manager Anthony Stevenson in a press release. “Madden NFL 10 showcases the Fight For Every Yard, and nobody fights harder than Troy and Larry, making them the perfect athletes to grace the cover.”

Plus, they faced each other in the last Super Bowl. It’s newsworthy.

Fitzgerald will be the second athlete to have been featured on both the Madden NFL cover (Madden NFL 10) and NCAA Football cover (NCAA Football 2005) — history buffs, do you know the first? It was Shaun Alexander.

About that Madden cover curse …. It’s on Wikipedia (linked here). It must be true. Others believe it, too (linked here).

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25 Years Of Mel Kiper Jr. … it only seemed longer

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By Howard Fendrich
The Associated Press

For a guy who makes a living critiquing others — created a cottage industry out of it, even — Mel Kiper Jr. sounds a little thin-skinned when it comes to how others perceived him way back when.

Back before he became a first-name-suffices celebrity. Before the NFL draft felt like a made-for-TV event.

“When I started,” Kiper recalled, words tumbling forth as he rocked in his chair during an interview with The Associated Press, “I had everybody telling me, ‘You’re crazy. You’re wasting your time. It will amount to nothing.’ I was, like, the point man for the draft to get ripped — and about seven, eight years ago, I noticed that all those massive critics shut up.”

This weekend marks the 25th anniversary of Kiper’s 1984 debut on ESPN’s NFL draft coverage, and while his no-time-to-breathe delivery, polarizing declarations, and puffy hair (his wife, Kim, cuts it) haven’t changed all that much through the years, his relevance and popularity sure have.

The relevance and popularity of the draft itself have increased, too. The 1984 telecast drew a 0.6 rating; ESPN has averaged better than a 4.0 rating for its past five Day 1 draft shows. In 1984, there were 10 hours of live coverage; this weekend, there will be more than 16.

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Again, at least someone’s reading a paper in Milwaukee

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By Colin Fly
The Associated Press

MILWAUKEE — University of Wisconsin-Whitewater head coach Lance Leipold apologized Thursday for his expletive-laced remarks and decision to bar student reporters after a scathing campus editorial.

“I’m passionate about our program and how it’s perceived. The bad thing about it is my poor reaction and language,” Leipold told The Associated Press by phone. “That’s a huge mistake on my part. I’ve embarrassed our program and our university.”

Leipold, who is preparing to coach his third year at one of the top Division III football programs in the nation that sits just south of the midpoint between Madison and Milwaukee (college site here), blistered a student editor with an expletive-laced rant after an editorial in the Royal Purple (linked here).

The article, titled “Spoiled athletes need reality check,” discussed a campus incident in which a police officer was called to the weight room after three football players refused to provide student IDs to work out.

Leipold used multiple expletives and told an editor: “It’s going to be (tough) to try to cover football next season.”

He also said anyone affiliated with the student-run newspaper would not be allowed to call anyone with the football team without approval and that student reporters questions would go unanswered in the 2009 season, according to the Royal Purple story.

“The door is shut,” Leipold said, according to the paper. “Go cover soccer … I’m sure that will be fun.”

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Now the Rose Bowl gets around to ratting out JoePa?

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Remember that strange report that Lisa Salters gave during the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl between USC and Penn State — when she was noticably miffed that Nittany Lions coach/invalid Joe Paterno stiffed her on a pre-game interview? Go back and read it (at this link)

Everyone involved said to wait it out and see if anything would happen. There are ABC contracts vilolated there. Penn State could be fined as much as $10,000 for acting the fool. People had to pay for their mistakes, right? You can’t let some cranky old coach skirt the rules when there’s tons of money at stake to be made by other people here.

The Associated Press reported today that Rose Bowl officials — at last — say Penn State violated two media access agreements at this year’s game.

Bowl officials, who met in Pasadena this week, said in a statement that the first violation occurred whenPaterno failed to give a pre-game interview to ABC broadcasters.

The second violation was for failing to open the locker room to media after the game. Penn State doesn’t open its locker room after games at Beaver Stadium. But that’s not how the Rose Bowl rolls.

Bowl officials said “appropriate responsive actions” were approved, but did not release details. Penn State officials deferred comment to bowl officials. A bowl spokeswoman said Thursday that all sides consider the issue closed.

As closed as the Nittany Lions’ locker room doors, apparently.

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Dykstra’s bed of ‘nails,’ from ESPN.com

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The Associated Press

ESPN.com’s Mike Fish posted the latest compelling extended story (linked here) about the life and times of Lenny Dykstra, living in Wayne Gretzky’s former Sherwood Country Club mansion (and unable to sell it), struggling to pay bills on his high-end magazine, but pushing ahead as only you’d expect from the take-no-crap approach by the former big-leaguer and car-wash owner trying to stay afloat in the West Valley.

As Dykstra talks about shuttling around out of the Camarillo Airport to his latest money-making adventure, there are some telling excerpts worth throwing out here:

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Day 23: 30 baseball books in 30 days of April, ’09: More on Yogi, no boo-boo

Speaking of Yogi Berra … we did in today’s “Daily Dread” about him helping advance a safer bat among major-league baseball players …

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The book: “Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee”

The author: Allen Barra

How to find it: W.W. Norton & Co., 480 pages, $27.95

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

The scoop: Not to be confused with:
= “Yogi: The Life and Times of An American Original” by Carlo DeVito (2008, linked here).
= Or “You Can Observe A Lot By Watching: From What I’ve Learned About Teamwork from the Yankees and Life,” by Berra, with Dave Kaplan (2008, linked here).
= Or “The Yogi Book : I Really Didn’t Say Everything I Said” by Berra in 1998.
= Or “What Time Is It? You Mean Now?: Advice for Life from the Zennest Master of Them All” by Berra and Kaplan, in 2003.
= Or “The Wit and Wisdom of Yogi Berra” by Phil Pepe in 2002.
= Or “When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It!: Inspiration and Wisdom From One of Baseball’s Greatest Heroes” by Berra, again with Kaplan, in 2002.
= Or “Ten Rings: My Championship Seasons” by Berra, yes, again with Kaplan, in 2005.
= Or “Yogi Berra: An American Original” by the New York Daily News in 2001.
= Or “Yogi: It Ain’t Over” by Berra and Tom Horton in 1990.
= Or even “Yogi Was Up with a Guy on Third … Hall of Famers Recall Their Favorite Baseball Games Ever” by Maureen Mullen and includes a chapter on Berra recalling a Don Larson’s 1956 World Series perfect game, and includes a photo of Berra on the cover.

No, what makes Barra-on-Berra work where the others took some detours — when there’s a fork in the road, they took it — is endorsements, first of all, from Bob Costas, Jim Bouton and “Clemente” author David Maraniss. With that, you know it’s got a stamp of approval.

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One more reminder to USC fans that Sanchez isn’t coming back — Video game cover perk

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Mark Sanchez has flushed himself out of the pocket and pocketed some nice spare chance by bagging a cover spot on the EA Sports NCAA Football ’10 video game, which comes out July 14.

Well, at least Sanchez is one of four winners in this beauty contest.

He made the PSP (PlayStationPortable) version of the game. Michael Crabtree, the former Texas Tech receiver, has the prime spot on the Xbox 360 cover. Somehow, former Utah QB Brian Johnson landed the Playstation3 cover. And then former Texas DE Brian Orakpo made it on PlayStation2.

You think they’d offer Sanchez the PlayStation1 cover? Atari?

From the EA press release:

“NCAA Football 10 also introduces TeamBuilder, an all-new, online create-a-school feature that will enhance the user’s ability to produce personalized content. With the capability to upload logos and numerous customization options for uniforms, fields, rosters, and much more, TeamBuilder gives users the opportunity to design completely original teams with infinite possibilities.”

Such as, putting Sanchez back in the USC offense a tight end to help Aaron Corp call plays in 2009.

A report on SportingNews.com and ProFootballTalk.com say that Percy Harvin was supposed to be on the Xbox 360 cover, but the Florida wide receiver was dropped when EA was skiddish over him allegedly testing positive for marijuana at the NFL scouting combine.

Meanwhile …

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Our Daily Dread: That dang broken bat problem rears its ugly barrel … and still, no one at MLB can get a handle on it? Scroll down and listen to Ward Dill

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Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press/AP Photo

If you saw the video of Tuesday night’s latest MLB maple bat victim — umpire Kerwin Danley, attended to on the field after a piece of the Rangers’ Hank Blalock broke and struck him in the sixth inning of Texas’ game in Toronto, it’s another near-miss-reminder of the ridiculous approach that the game has taken to this problem.

Sure, they collected a bunch of broken bats last season — more than 2,200 broken bats were collected during a 2 1/2-month span, and 750 of them were broken in multiple pieces. Then a special committe sat down with the USDA’s forest products laboratory to creat new guidelines for a safer grade of wood used in bats. (story linked here)

And here’s what we’ve got to show for it. Again.

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