Play it forward: June 21-27 on your sports calendar

Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:



Tennis: Wimbledon, first round, 3:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., ESPN:

Starts today, ends July 4. Great, if you’re an American thinking of making a splash on the Fourth of July (i.e., Andy Roddick). Or if you’re a streaker. Best news about the event so far: Vuvuzelas have been banned. Ian Ritchie, the tennis club’s top exec, issued a statement Thursday saying spectators would not be allowed to bring in any noise-making devices that have annoyed so many watching the World Cup. “Out of courtesy to the players and their fellow spectators, we make a point of asking spectators not to bring items which could either cause a distraction or interfere with the enjoyment of the occastion,” the statement said. “Rattles, klaxons and vuvuzelas all fall into that category … Our messsage is do not bring them in the first place.” The official website (linked here) can tell you much more. And it’s all in English.



MLB: Dodgers at Angels, Angel Stadium, 7 p.m., Channel 9, FSW:

The Angels’ new homestand actually runs parallel to Wimbledon — it’s 12 games in a row at Anaheim ending on the Fourth of July. In the first phase of Freeway Series last weekend, the Angels took all three at Dodger Stadium. Don’t expect the table to turn here. The Angels haven’t been swept in a series at home since June 2007.



FIFA World Cup: U.S. vs. Algeria, 7 a.m., ESPN:

Algerian culture is rich in proverbs. Such as: “If you want the object to be solid, mold it out of your own clay.” And: “None but a mule denies his origin.” And: “The iron is struck while it is hot.” That last one may pertain to having a hot striker ironing out any problem a team could have.

MLB: Dodgers at Angels, Angel Stadium, 7 p.m., Prime, FSW:

John Ely, bounced around in his last outing against the Angels, and at Cincinnati, has his spot in the rotation come up again for the Dodgers.



NBA draft, 4 p.m., ESPN:

At a site called (linked here), not to be confused with any official league internet desination, the Clippers’ No. 8 overall pick will be wasted on someone named Luke Babbitt, a 6-foot-9 foward from Nevada, the Lakers will take two non-descript players with their two second-round choices (or trade them away, as they’ve done in the past), and outside of Washington’s Quincy Pondexter, who could go to the Washington Wizards in the second round, there won’t be a Pac-10 player picked. So there you go.

WNBA: Sparks at Washington, 4 p.m.:

The Sparks could have as many picks in the NBA draft as the Lakers. Their road trip continues in Atlanta on Sunday.

MLB: Dodgers at Angels, Angel Stadium, 7 p.m., Prime, FSW:

It’s the last meeting between the I-5 rivals, but what if this L.A. vs. that L.A. played 18 times a year, in the same division, nastiness building on a monthly basis instead of just six interleague tiffs crammed into the schedule so early as to not make much of a difference by the end of September. “It’s been floated around,” Dodgers manager Joe Torre admitted recently. Torre and Angels manager Mike Scioscia are both involved in commissioner Bud Selig’s Special Committee of On-Field Matters. “The passion is here,” Torre agreed. “(The rivalries) are different, but not one better than the other. Even if it’s more laid back here, (the matchup) is still No. 1 on their lists.” It could be part of an All-California Division, right? “It sure would be much easier for travel and seem to make a lot more sense,” Torre agreed. “The only way you can make sure it’s gonna fly is if the fans accept it. This isn’t really a game that’s changed its rules a lot. That would be a huge step.” Just putting it out there.



MLB: Dodgers vs. New York Yankees, Dodger Stadium, 7 p.m., Prime:

If Manny Ramirez was the focus of attention last weekend in Fenway, Joe Torre will be in the spotlight for this one, managing against the team he took to four world championships and six AL pennants from 1996 to 2007. In those 12 years, he won 1,173 games, more than half of the 2,280-plus career wins he’s had in 29 total years as a manager. We could keep throwing more stats up there, but what would it matter? There are supposedly no tickets left for this series because the Dodgers tied them into season-ticket packages and have been marketing this for months. Someday, the Dodgers could play a three-game series at the new Yankee Stadium. That would be much more noteworthy.

MLB: Angels vs. Colorado, Angel Stadium, 7 p.m., FSW:

The Angels, by luck and not by choice, should miss hot Rockies pitcher Ubaldo Jiminez, scheduled to pitch at home against Boston on Wednesday. He could have been the first player named Ubaldo to ever perform in Anaheim. The teams also face off Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 12:35 p.m.

NHL Draft, Staples Center, first round, 4 p.m., Versus:


The Kings host the annual draft for the first time in franchise history, and why not? Many of the big picks in the last few years have become Kings’ property. They have nine picks in this one, including 19th overall. If you want to attend, check out the info at Again, going off the board, at (linked here), which has nothing to do with anything, they say the Kings will take Quinton Howden, a 6-foot-2 left winger from Moose Jaw of the WHL. The NHL Network has rounds 2-7 on Saturday starting at 10 a.m. Or you can go see the movie “Grown Ups” that is released today: Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, Kevin James, David Spade and Chris Rock play five grown-ups who won a youth basketball title and now come together for their coach’s funeral. Then they play together again.


MLB: Dodgers vs. New York Yankees, Dodger Stadium, 4 p.m., Channel 11:

Don’t let the shadows at Dodger Stadium confuse you. It’s not a playoff game. Just a late start to it’s in prime time for the East Coast.

MLS: Galaxy at Toronto FC, 4:30 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel; Chivas USA vs. FC Dallas, Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime:

Not to be confused with any games going on in South Africa at this time.



MLB: Dodgers vs. New York Yankees, Dodger Stadium, 5 p.m., ESPN:

You already know the storyline here. What a shock it would be to see Adrian Grenier in the stands tonight for the nationally televised game. That’s because the HBO show “Entourage” starts its seventh season tonight. To catch you up: After an accident during the filming of his latest action flick, Vince (Grenier) has developed a new lease on life that makes him even more difficult to manage. The rest of the guys — Drama, Turtle, Eric — try to map out their futures, while Ari (Jeremy Piven) looks to add to his resume as “the biggest agent in the world” by forging an alliance with the NFL. Mike Tyson is supposed to make a guest appearance this season, to punch up the plot. Derek Jeter would seem ripe for an appearance.

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The Cooperstown caravan begins


No media column today. Nothing over the weekend.
Instead, posting right now from JFK in NY, watching Serbia upset Germany, having just survived a redeye, waiting for a JetBlue connector to Syracuse, and from there, a rental car to …
For Father’s Day weekend.
Will take a behind-the-scenes tour on Saturday, after participating in the Father-Son catch at Doubleday Field.
Also have tickets to the Classic (Old-Timers Game) on Sunday, which will include Jay Johnstone (got a call into him to see if we can hook up somewhere).
All’s very good — watched Game 7 of the NBA Finals from a sports bar at LAX on Thursday night. Just about every TSA person had left their post to watch the big screen for the final few minutes. Which explains how we got through security so quickly upon arrival.
There was an Obama-esque feeling to the celebration in the airport — so much unity in the community, as Vic the Brick would say. Or it was like when Tiger Woods won his first Masters in 1997, and all the workers from the area came out to see him make history on the 18th green. We were surrounded by all the LAX workers it seemed, from all the restaurants, bars, security, concessions, custodians — all in one loud voice.
Pretty neat, actually. And no planes were tipped over and lit on fire.
Will report back periodically this weekend and do more indepth with photos, etc.

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Father’s Day hammock ideas, for better or worse


Aside from what you’ve seen reviewed during the month of April from our baseball book review list (linked here), consider these for potential Father’s Day gifts:


== “Are We Winning? Fathers and Sons in the New Golden Age of Baseball,” by Will Leitch ($24.99, Hyperion, 293 pages, linked here):

It’s got Dad’s Day written all over it.
Yet I see I’ve bookmarked this at page 149 but haven’t continued it over the last couple of weeks.
I admire what Leitch has done with this — put into context his baseball experience, with a game between his (and his dad’s) Cardinals and his friend’s Cubs at Wrigley Field as the conveyor belt. I’m identifying more to his friend Mark in this case, so maybe that’s the unexpected U-turn I ended up taking by accident in the process and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing in Leitch’s approach to all this.
He’s selling today’s game as something that’s worth buying, despite all its faults, especially when it continues that father-son connection. I’m buying it.
But I’ve also skipped ahead, to a chapter that covers the top of the fifth, and Leitch’s examination of today’s media, where the Internet has changed the rules, and he’s really embraced it.
“Some reporters have bristled at the industry’s change, making themselves into martyrs of a new age, blasting sports reporting’s transformation as the death knell to all that they hold dear. I understand. I worked at an old small town movie theatre in high school … now there are multiplexes, with digital prints downloaded and programmed. The job I loved no longer exists. That mades me sad. But it does not make me blame the digital prints. Movies look better now, too.”
But Journalism (with a capital J, or even lower case) is hardly better for the technological advancement. Maybe it will be. But I’m having a tough time with that as I see the product in one way spread to the masses and open new windows of thought, but also deteriorate into a product that like giving a set of car keys to everyone who can type. Eventually, there’s more accidents, traffic problems, Sig Alerts, cleanups, repair bills … for society, is it better to let everyone on the Information Super Highway (are the kids still calling it that?) while the Amber Alerts are telling us that another story has been hijacked and we all have to suffer for it.
I like hearing more voices, but I’ve got enough voices in my head creating traffic-tower reverberration. I think I’ve adapted as well as I’d like so far (thanks for reading this blog this deep into the converation).
I’m trying to be onboad with Leitch as he escorts me into this new age of reporting. He’s going to have to pull the rope harder. Maybe we need to sit down at a game together and talk this out.
I’ll give this one another try sooner rather than later. I’m still sad.
When I get over it, I’ll resume.


== “Sports From Hell: My Search for the World’s Dumbest Competition,” by Rick Reilly ($26, Doubleday, 204 pages, linked here).

This did not pique our interest when we first heard about it (from him, actually, while he was between jobs), or a month ago (linked here) when we kept stumbling onto to his pimping his ride. In fact, we’ve kind of repelled from this, despite the great concept (which we also think has been done before, and possibly better, linked here).
What kind of irks us again, with another read, is Reilly picking Homeless Soccer as one of his “dumbest.” It’s the last chapter in this book, after World Sauna Championships, Ferrett Legging, Bull Poker, The Three-Mile Golf Hole, Rock Paper Scissors, Women’s Pro Football, Chess Boxing, Drinking Games, Zorbing, Baseball (yes, baseball, because it provides some funny lines for him to use), Nude Bicycling and Jarts.
Homeless Soccer was too good to make fun of.
“You combine a very dumb sport by itself — soccer — with an even dumber premise, and you’re there! … If a homeless team did happen to win the Homeless World Cup, where would they put it? In their grocery cart?”
Stop, my heart is splitting.
Even after he figures out the benefits of this event — helping people who happen to be without a home bring some hope in their lives — Reilly continues to make fun of it.
Until the very end, when in his concluding chapter he admits: “You couldn’t see the face of one of those homeless soccer players as he soaked in a standing ovation … Really, considering my preconceived notions of what these sports would be like vs. what most of them actually were like, maybe I was the dumbest of all.”
Again, it’s Reilly making it about Reilly, making the journey into Reilly and coming out even more Reilly than before.
How dumb.
I’m surprised he hasn’t launched a seperate book on this sport now, praising it. Put in the files. Right after you’re done explaining how you’ve been transformed by Special Olyjmpics — which you originally thought was really dumb.


== Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride through Baseball and America in the Swinging ’70s,” by Dan Epstein ($25.99, St. Martin’s Press, 340 pages, linked here):

Great concept. Bland execution. With all that great material?
The cover, featuring Oscar Gamble’s Afro, Bill Buckner’s mustache and Mark Fidrych standing there, is a great sell job. But year by year, Epstein writes about what happened as if it was a Wikipedia entry. In between, he manages to get into what’s the juice of the decade — ashtray stadiums, Astroturf, polyester uniforms, hair, and promotions. But again, it feels like we’re watching from afar. Maybe we experienced it, but it’s hardly jogging our memory. This seems only to want to document it rather than revel in it. Where’s the quotes from those who lived it, and now may regret it? I lost interest in the middle of the chapter telling us about ’74, which is strange, since it was leading to the Dodgers finally getting to the World Series. Someone can try this again, with a little more “Starsky and Hutch” flair it deserves.


== “Traded: Inside the Most Lopsided Trades in Baseball History,” by Doug Decatur ($19.95, Acta Sports, 187 pages, linked here):

Go first to the appendix and see the “notice to player of release or transfer” document that Decatur managed to save that involved his great uncle, Art Decatur, when he was traded from the Dodgers to the Phillies in 1925. To see the words “you are unconditionally released” crossed out, and the trade explained to him on a card signed by Dodgers manager Wilbert Robinson, is too good for words.
Was that the worst trade in Dodgers’ history?
Of course not. It was when Fred Claire gave the Montreal Expos the rights to future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez in exchange for second baseman Delino Deshields in 1994.
Not so fast, says Decatur.
By a system he’s developed that considers the future value of players acquired in a given trade, weighted value of players at the time of the deal, etc., etc., he first manages to explain why the Cincinnati Reds dealing Frank Robinson to the Baltimore Orioles for Milt Papas and two others in 1966 was only the 17th worst trade in Reds’ history (with apologizies to a line from “Bull Durham”).
Then he breaks down why Martinez-for-DeShields isn’t even in the top 10 worst in Dodgers’ history.
And in the grand list of the top 306 lopsided trades in baseball history, Martinez-DeShields is at No. 255.
We can’t explain it. We can only report it.
According to Decatur’s data, the Dodgers’ best trade in franchise history was in 1939, obtaining eventual Hall of Fame shortstop Pee Wee Reese from the Boston Red Sox for Red Evans, Art Parks and cash. It’s No. 24 on the all-time list.
The most lopsided trade ever, ever? Not the Boston Red Sox selling Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for $125,000 in 1920.
Try — seriously — the Houston Astros obtaining Curt Schilling, Pete Harnisch and Steve Finley from the Baltimore Orioles in 1991 for Glenn Davis? By the formula, this deal is 609 on New Future Wins Shares; Ruth-to-N.Y. was 576.
We could read this for hours. And we have. Befuddled. But enlightened. And amused. And that’s half the battle with engaging a reader. This book has done it.

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