Your All Star review: Fox keeps it in the park

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Associated Press photo
Amber Riley from the Fox TV show “Glee” performs before the All-Star game Tuesday.

To strike a balance somewhere between remembering “The Boss” and marveling at the strikeouts racked up by baseball’s radar-busting throwers — all while popping the cast of “Glee” and cramming in another “Dinner For Schmucks” commercial — Fox’s production team had a wisk of past, present and promotion during Tuesday’s MLB All Star game telecast from Angels Stadium.

Thankfully, things didn’t get too schmucked up.

The overlaying news about the passing of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner did not weight down the game’s enjoyment, but it was hardly ignored in classy ways.

In the pregame ceremony, Fox play-by-play man Joe Buck read from a script that asked the crowd to “pause to remember the life and legacy of one of baseball’s most iconic figures,” as a photo montage of Steinbrenner was shown.

During a moment of silence, the Fox cameras captured the quiet reactions of Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and manager Joe Girardi.

Buck and McCarver brought it up again during a live interview with Girardi from the dugout in the top of the fourth inning, and reporter Chris Rose had more in a live chat with Jeter during the top of the seventh.

That was the inning when the NL started chipping away at the AL’s 1-0 lead, putting the focus back onto the contest. All for the better of the telecast.

Buck waited until Fox signed off in the postgame before saying that the network dedicated the telecast to Steinbrenner, with touching video clips of him.

What else smoked, choked or otherwise spoke to our need for documentation:

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For Pete’s sake, more on his side of the USC-NCAA sanctions with HBO

“We made mistakes along the way. But we didn’t make mistakes that would take a program down with the facts that they hold — I would be ashamed for the NCAA.”

== Pete Carroll, to HBO’s Andrea Kremer

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The Associated Press
Pete Carroll, as he appeared Monday night in an interview with The Associated Press during a book signing.

Because of the ongoing appeal process with the NCAA, USC officials — particularly athletic director Mike Garrett – have not talked much at all about the sanctions levied on the football program last month. Garrett’s only comments recorded in the media seem to be at the booster club meeting in San Francisco that night, when he claimed that the NCAA had “nothing but a lot of envy” about the program.

Pete Carroll, the former head coach heading into his first season with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, seems to be one of the few who can talk about it — even if he doesn’t necessarly want to. His legacy is most at stake here, aside from Garrett’s, so this interview he has done with HBO for Wednesday’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” is another opportunity for him to shed some light on what happened, what he did or didn’t know, and how this will all wash out.

It also allows him to promote his new book.

From a released rough-cut preview of the interview that reporter Andrea Kremer did, Carroll shows a range of emotions — apologetic, remorseful, but also aggitated, exasperated with raised eye brows. His body language seems to say he knows something wrong happened, but he didn’t know about it — especially as much as the NCAA says the school is at fault, Carroll is hardly marked.

Leading into this interview Kremer did with Carroll is a revisit to a piece Bernard Goldberg did with Lloyd Lake, the San Diego-based aspiring agent who worked with Bush’s step-dad, Lamar Griffin, to essentially give Bush money for his new car (which he posed with on a magazine cover), his parent’s home, trips — everything that the NCAA says you can’t do. The piece originally aired in 2008, and Goldberg says “if Lake had stayed silent, USC wouldn’t be in the mess it is in today.” Lake was only coming public, he said, because Bush owed him thousands of dollars, which could have been paid back with Bush’s new New Orleans Saints contract.

With that context for the viewer all laid out, Kremer has two sit-down interviews with Carroll, both in Seattle. One focuses more on his USC past, the other on his Seattle future.

She asks:

== What did Carroll think the first time he saw Reggie Bush driving a new car on campus:

Kremer: “Reggie drives a pickup truck. Now, all of a sudden, in his sophomore year, he’s driving this supped-up, bigger time …”
Carroll: “Have you ever seen the car?”
Kremer: “Yeah. So, you saw … him in the car…”
Carroll: “It was a Chevy (he says defiantly).”
Kremer: “Did you ever ask him about it, though? Did you ever ask him where he got the money for it?”
Carroll: “I think I could recall kidding him about the kind of car he … he chose to buy, at the time. ‘Cause it was kind of an old-fashioned nice looking car.”
Kremer: “But the bottom line is still, how did he get it?”
Carroll: “That was all worked out. They took care of that. There’s a process that the school has to go through to meet compliance standards. And they did that. They did it.”

“They” meaning the USC internal investigators. Kremer reports that according to the NCAA, “they” did nothing. No investigation. No paperwork filed for months. Bush left blank the key question — where the car was purchased — and no one followed up.

Carroll: “At that time, there might have been one person running the compliance office. I think there’s seven now.”

== Carroll gets aggitated again when asked if he knew of Bush’s family’s new, improved living conditions:

“Of course not. When you are growing up, Andrea, did you have any idea of your parents’ mortgage situation? Think about it. None of us knew. We don’t know. I couldn’t tell you now how my mom and dad paid for their house.”
Kremer: “But this is your best player with the most to lose.”
Carroll: “It’s easy for you to ask these questions in this manner right now. Matt Leinart was our best player. He was the Heisman Trophy winner. This was Reggie just emerging. He started for the first time regularly his junior year. He was sharing time. He was another one of the guys.”

Kremer points out that even as a sophomore, when the NCAA says he started receiving gifts from sports agents, USC’s own media guide called him “college football’s most exciting player.”

Kremer also says in the voiceover: “Bush’s success should’ve led USC to heighten its compliance efforts, and as far as the NCAA was concerned, that never happened.”

Kremer: “Did you wanna know? Did you think you turned a blind eye to anything?”
Carroll: “No, you have to want to know because that’s what the world is all about. Compliance runs your life in college sports. you screw it up, you lose it. ”

== The reaction to Carroll during recent visits to L.A. since the sanctiohs have been mostly cordial — but he has two book signings coming up Friday in Orange County and Monday in the South Bay:

“People are pretty kind in general. There’s guys … yahoos … who get out there and yell. I wish I would’ve been able to prevent all of the ill feelings that came out of this thing. I apologize for not knowing that it was going to be this bad, ’cause I was hoping it was going to be much different. So, it’s just too bad.”

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The Pete Carroll book promo tour begins, with the N.Y. stop, and a chat with HBO

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Pete Carroll says he does “feel responsible being connected” with USC’s latest NCAA problems, but he is “very proud of those years,” telling an Associated Press reporter in New York at the start of his two-week promotional tour for his new book that his conscious is clean.

“It’s been most difficult to watch everybody have to deal with it, whether it’s the players or the coaches or the fans who support the university,” USC’s former head football coach said tonight as he began promoting his book, “Win Forever,” which comes out Tuesday.

Carroll, who left USC three months ago to take the job with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, will be at Barnes & Noble in Huntington Beach at 7 p.m. on Friday, and at Borders in Torrance on Monday, July 19, at 7 p.m. to sign copies.

The recent NCAA sanctions, punishment directly related to former tailback Reggie Bush’s connection to a fledgling sports agent, could lead to USC’s 2004 BCS title being vacated along with Bush’s 2005 Heisman Trophy.

“There’s nothing I can do about that now,” Carroll said. “The games were won. The challenges and accomplishments are all in the books. We stand behind all those efforts.”

Carroll has found a way to channel defending himself and his program into getting the word out about his book.

“We spent so much time working to do things better than it’s ever been done before in all of our ways,” Carroll told the AP reporter. “Not just in coaching and in the Xs and Os part of it, but in recruiting and evaluating and dealing with the image we projected.

“I’m really happy to be out talking about the issues and the book gives me a great opportunity to bring back the principles so people can understand better what we’re all about.

“The message is giving the reader a chance to connect with their potential and then also trying to take them where they can learn how to perform. That is part of everything we do in football. We have to figure out how good we can be and then we have to try to get there.

“Hopefully, people from all different walks will be able to take something from that.”

Wednesday, HBO airs an episode of “Real Sports” where reporter Andrea Kremer sits down with Carroll in Seattle to discuss the USC situation.

Kremer told us about the interview: “The audience can draw their own conclusions. From my perspective, the majority of the interview was spent talking about USC, and even what you’ll see in the finished story will be the most robust discussion he or anyone else has had on the topic. We didn’t speak in generalities.

“I read the entire report and did a lot of background. What I try to do really is, ‘What do people really want to know?’ He’s got the book, the new job, and then this USC news came out, so you want to ask everything and find the best material — and (USC) dominated it and quite a bit.

“There’s no question he cares about everythign that happened; questioning his legacy is important to him. I asked if he was mad at Reggie Bush, and he said that he felt bad for him and still loved him. He equated it to a kid screwing up.

“You want to believe him, and when you talk to him, he’s so charismatic and energetic and lights up and is passonate.”

Kremer said she also interviewed former USC (and current Cincinnati Bengals) quarterback Carson Palmer and former New England quarterback Drew Bledsoe, both of whom played for Carroll.

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The price Jim Gray has to pay defending his dignity (or lack thereof)

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Jim Gray has now been put into a position to explain who actually paid him for working on the ESPN hour-long “The Decision” telecast last Thursday where LeBron James announced his intention to sign with the Miami Heat.

The Washington Post (linked here) quoted Gray in a story Saturday, allowing him to deny a Darren Rovell CNBC story that claimed James’ camp essentially paid him to toss the softball questions at their star client.

“I didn’t take a penny from LeBron or any entity connected to him,” Gray said, calling the CNBC story last week that has since been updated today (linked here) “100 percent inaccurate, wrong, totally false” and “irresponsible. . . . I would never take a nickel from somebody I’m interviewing.”

No one said anything about nickles. It was all about dollars.

As we heard in interviews prior to the Thursday show, Gray admits to coming up with the idea for the one-hour special. He admitted the same to the Post, but added that “the subject of money never once was even mentioned to me” in discussions with Team LeBron.

That’s not being a very good business man, is it?

Gray contends ESPN paid his airfare from L.A. to Connecticut and he plans to submit a bill of several hundred dollars for incidental expenses, though he said he is unsure whether the network or some others connected with the telecast will cover those costs.

Nice story. We’re not buying it.

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Que is muy macho: ESPN Deportes, or Fox Deportes … y, donde esta la biblotechia?

The L.A.-based Fox Sports en Espanol, aka FSE, is soon to be no mas.

Pero, don’t fret.

This fall, the channel launched in 1996 that hits 18 million homes is being rebranded as Fox Deportes.

Why? Just listen.

“As the No. 1 Hispanic sports brand, we are 100 percent fan focused and therefore always seek to listen and serve our audience,” said Vincent Cordero, the network’s exec VP and GM in a press release. “We recently conducted extensive audience research in which the majority of the respondents referred to the network simply as ‘Fox Deportes.’ Changing the name recognizes that fact, and established greater consistency with the better-known Fox Sports brand and allows for easier cross network promotion and marketing.”

Maybe they considered it Fox Deportes because a) the previous name seemed too long and b) it’s Fox’s version of 2004-launched ESPN Deportes (linked here), aka. El Lider Mundial en Deportes.

So el fuego, right DP?

Fox says that “other viewer research” reveals that Fox Sports and the Fox Deportes brands “embrace each other in key areas: viewers expect both to carry the best events; both networks provide excitement that everyone can experience; and both offer a fun and professional atmosphere to enjoy the best in sports. Clearly, these strong connections demonstrate how the two brands reflect and reinforce each other, and it would be a service for the Hispanic sports fans to rename the channel Fox Deportes to complete the link.”

Bueno. We’re sold. Now where’s our soccer?

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Apparently, word that Joe Torre now manages the Dodgers doesn’t always get to the East Coast

A story on ESPN.com (linked here) notes in a graphic up now (but may be to be updated to fix the name of the AL manager):

All-Star lineups:
The Rays’ David Price and Rockies’ Ubaldo Jimenez were named the starting pitchers for Tuesday’s All-Star Game. A look at starting lineups for Joe Torre (AL) and Charlie Manuel (NL):

NL
Ramirez, SS
Prado, 2B
Pujols, 1B
Howard, DH
Wright, 3B
Braun, LF
Ethier, CF
Hart, RF
Molina, C
Jimenez, SP

AL
Ichiro, RF
Jeter, SS
Cabrera, 1B
Hamilton, CF
Guerrero, DH
Longoria, 3B
Mauer, C
Cano, 2B
Crawford, LF
Price, SP

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There’s more of Erin Andrews to eat up: She’s sadly expanding, and they’ve buried the lead

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In announcing that their popular “College GameDay” will expand to three hours this fall (the first hour starting on ESPNU), the World Wide Leaders in Press Releases also note that Erin Andrews’ new contract calls for her to increase in stature as well.

We skip to paragraph three, sentence two:

“Also, Erin Andrews will join the College GameDay lineup, anchoring several segments during the first hour on ESPNU, and contributing reports, interviews and features during the ESPN portion of the show.

“As part of her role, Andrews will also work as the sideline reporter on the game from which College GameDay originates from, if the game is on an ESPN network (ESPN, ABC, ESPN2, ESPNU, etc.). In addition to her responsibilities across ESPN platforms, Andrews will provide select reports on ABC’s Good Morning America throughout the year.

“Millions of fans can start their college football Saturdays an hour earlier and the ever-expanding ESPNU offers the perfect home for more award-winning College GameDay,” said Norby Williamson, ESPN executive vice president, production. “As part of the new lineup, we’re thrilled to announce an enhanced role for Erin Andrews that includes GameDay, while some of our most prominent college football personalities will have new and expanded responsibilities.”

USA Today had the big scoop on all this in today’s issue (linked here). Dang it.

It included this:

“The biggest reason I wanted to stay was because they’d expand my role,” Andrews said Sunday in her first interview about her new contract. “It’s time for me to try new things. … The hosting stuff is what I’m really looking forward to.”

First interview? Who was the sideline reporter interviewing her?

On her “Good Morning America” gig pieces: “Some will be fun and light-hearted,” she says. “I don’t take myself too seriously and like to have a good time.” But having been a victim of stalking, which resulted in a videotape surfacing online a year ago, she also wants to report on crimes against women: “With what I’ve been through, I want to talk to women who are victims. … And people haven’t seen I can have a serious tone. We feel it’s important to start off with serious issues so people take me seriously.”

Andrews, who says she got “lots of offers to work in entertainment” before re-signing, might be best known to many GMA viewers for her recent run on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. “I got on (Dancing) thanks to ESPN. And then I got exposed to a completely different demographic.”

EA will be at the ESPN “Home Run Derby” coverage tonight. Because it’s very important.

That’s it?

In more pressing matters:

Yes, GameDay will start at 6 a.m. PDT now (maybe they don’t expect any trips to USC this fall), and end at 9 a.m. starting Sept. 4. The first site hasn’t been figured out. Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard will be asked to do extra work as well.

More changes that make a bigger impact:

== Rece Davis, still anchoring ESPN’s daylong Saturday studio coverage with Lou Holtz and Mark May, will do play-by-play on Thursday night games (instead of Fowler) with Craig James and Jesse Palmer. Jenn Brown will be that sideline reporter (instead of Andrews).

== Fowler will host ESPN’s midday “College Football Live” on Mondays and Tuesdays during the season, because days off are optional now. John Saunders, who does the Saturday pregame, halftime and postgame stuff on ABC with Palmer, will do “College Football Live” on Thursday.

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Play it forward: July 12-18 on your sports calendar

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

MONDAY

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MLB: Home Run Derby, 5 p.m., ESPN:

Chris “Carnival Barker” Berman, who continues to refer to Angel Stadium as “The Ed” (it was once called Edison Field), will most likely call this “Muscle Beach” or go off on a “back, back, back, back to the beach” reference before we’re settled into our seats. So why do we watch this instead of, say, “Celebrity Rehab?” Baseball doesn’t need to dress up steroid-riddled sluggers on a parade of longballs. The days of the Sosa-McGwire-Bonds muscle flexing are over. It’s all about pitching now. Unless … you bring in aluminum bats and BP guys throwing golf balls to David Ortiz, Robinson Cano, Matt Holliday, Albert Puljos , Miguel Cabrera, Torii Hunter, Chris Young, Ryan Braun, Nick Swisher, Josh Hamilton, Veron Wells, Andre Ethier, Vlad Guerrero, Corey Hart, David Wright, and Hanley Ramirez. Jeez, is Von Joshua available? Why not just show some of the old “Home Run Derby” black-and-white shows from the early ’60s. This one is followed by something even more lazy: A celebrity softball game. Where they’ll be rehabbing their injuries Monday night.

TUESDAY

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MLB: 81st All-Star Game, Angels Stadium, 5:40 p.m. first pitch, Channel 11:

Where Joakim Soria, Matt Thornton, John Buck, Ty Wiggington, Evan Meek, Arthur Rhodes, Martin Prado, Michael Bourne, Omar Infante, Marlon Byrd and Matt Capps — but no Stephen Strasburg — come to celebrate the greatness of themselves. With the help of a Rally Monkey. And Cliff Lee in a Texas Rangers uniform. We predict a scoreless game heading into the 12th inning when Bud Selig realizes he again has to change the rules to accommodate the fact that there are no fans left in the stands. That’s why this one counts. Again. The pregame starts at 4:30 p.m. (right after “Judge Alex”), and the post-game is supposed to end about the time the delayed version of “The Kilborn File” airs after 9 p.m.

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WNBA: Sparks at Tulsa, 4 p.m., ESPN2:

In her WNBA comeback attempt, former world-class sprinter and Thousand Oaks High star Marion Jones is hardly the greatest female athlete on Earth. She’s only been averaging about seven minutes a game off the bench, with a scoring average of 2.0 to go with 0.5 assists and 0.7 rebounds a contest for the Tulsa Shock, which is the only team keeping the Sparks from being last in the Western Conference. Shocking. “Just the opportunity, the fact that I’m busy, the fact that I’m doing something just really positive I think is worth all of the sacrifices and everything,” Jones, the oldest WNBA rookie at 34, told USA Today. “There could be a lot of other places that I could be. I’m not complaining at all.” The Sparks’ road trip continues Friday in Chicago and Sunday in San Antonio, before Tulsa comes to L.A. to play them at Staples Center in a rare noon midweek game.

WEDNESDAY

The ESPY Awards, 6 p.m., ESPN:

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Wikipedia (linked here) deftly defines this as “an annual awards event created and broadcasted by American cable television network ESPN to celebrate their legacy as a sport channel. Athletic awards are given as well. … Given the fact that the ESPYs are promotions of the sports network ESPN, and were named such that the acronyms are so similar, the awards are generally regarded as a celebration of the power of ESPN.” Brilliant. And it’s referenced. Seth Meyers, the “Saturday Night Live” Weekend Update anchor and the show’s head writer, says he’s very comfortable that this year’s 18th edition — but who’s counting — is back on live at the Nokia Theatre in L.A. Live and not tape-delayed to air on Sunday night. “Sports are live, so not doing a sports award show live seems wrong,” Meyers said. There’s a lot wrong with this, but at least there is money raised for the Jimmy V Foundation. And don’t forget the two-hour red carpet show leading in, where celebs entering have the sun in their eyes. Presenters include Kenny Chesney, Brooklyn Decker, Zac Efron, Will Ferrell, Danica Patrick, Samuel L. Jackson, Tracy Morgan and Shaun White; attendees are supposed to include Reggie Bush, Landon Donovan, Evan Lysacek, Dara Torres and Jorge Posada. Kobe Bryant? Probably still vacationing in South Africa.

Series: “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel,” HBO, 10 p.m.:

A sit-down interview that Andrea Kremer conducted recently with Pete Carroll will be of greater interest to this TV audience. The former USC coach now running the show for the NFL’s Seahawks doesn’t shy away from the tough questions about his knowledge of recent problems that got the Trojans’ football team put on NCAA’s watch list.

THURSDAY

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Golf: The British Open, first round, 2 a.m., ESPN:

Tom Watson gave the 2009 Open Championship a hole-by-hole thrill when he nearly pulled off a victory before coming up short against Stewart Cink in a four-hole playoff. This one back at St. Andrews could be the last Open for Watson, we presume. Tiger Woods is also somehow a story, and on the Open official website (linked here), it notes that Woods is “looking forward to playing Champions’ Challenge on (his) ‘favourite course.’” Learn to spell, eh. This can’t be Tiger’s favorite place to be with London tabloids following him around, either. ESPN has the event all four days, going on a 2 a.m., 4 a.m. and 3 a.m. for the final three rounds. Bring a stiff cup o’ tea.

MLB: Dodgers at St. Louis, 5:15 p.m., Channel 9:

Manny Ramirez should be back in the lineup for the Dodgers unless he’s really enjoying those trips to Lancaster. And if the Dodgers learned anything recently, it’s to allow the Cardinals to take a comfortable lead into the ninth, then jump all over Ryan Franklin. See: Rockies, July 6, nine-run 9th.

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

Come early and buy up all the left-over All Star Game memorabilia at discounted prices. Including the Player of the Game trophy left in the NL trainer’s room. Really, fans who buy a ticket get a free All-Star banner (shown here).

FRIDAY

MLB: Dodgers at St. Louis, 5:15 p.m., Prime Ticket:

These four in St. Louis are the only road games for the Dodgers during an 18-game stretch.

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

Instead of Cliff Lee, the Angels have to worry about how to pitch to Justin Smoak this series.

SATURDAY

MLB: Dodgers at St. Louis, 1 p.m., Channel 11:

Maybe this is where Jeff Suppan drops in for another visit against the Dodgers. He’s 0-3 with a decent ERA since joining the Cardinals in early June. He just isn’t getting much run support.

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MLB: Angels vs. Seattle, Angel Stadium, 6 p.m., FSW:

Kids aged 2-to-18 get a free mesh Angels jersey. Just like what these two female models are wearing. They’re 18?

SUNDAY

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MLB: Dodgers at St. Louis, 11:15 a.m., Channel 9:

It’s Joe Torre’s 70th birthday. To put that into perspective, Ringo Starr turned 70 on July 7. And the Dali Lama turned 75 on July 6. All marching to the beat of their own drum.

MLB: Angels vs. Seattle, Angel Stadium, 12:35 p.m., Channel 13:

Wouldn’t it be interesting if the Mariners asked Ken Griffey Jr. to wake up from his nap and try a few more swings for them again?

MLS: Galaxy at D.C. United, 4:30 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel:

Almost as spine-tingling as a Holland-Spain World Cup final. Without the world-wide attention.

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Ceremony: Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals inductions, 2 p.m., Pasadena City Library:

Pete Rose and Casey Stengel are two of the inductees into what’s called “The People’s Hall of Fame” for baseball stardom. Rose, however, won’t make it. He’s got a baseball card show to attend and make a little scratch instead. Seriously. At least we know Pete won’t be at closing day at Hollywood Park. Probably.

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And you thought we gave Jim “Hollywood Walk of Fame” Gray a hard time

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The excerpt from our column today (linked here) on the LeBron James announcement on ESPN included this about one of our favorite interviewers:

“Jim Gray … somehow continues to believe he’s a conduit to important news, having been shoved into this situation before as a sideline (Pete Rose) and ringside (Mike Tyson) microphone holder in previous situations. This time, however, Gray has admitted he brought the spotlight to himself. By begging.

In an interview with KSPN-AM on Wednesday, Gray said he approached James and handler Maverick Carter a month ago during Game 2 of the NBA Finals at Staples Center and asked them if he could be part of James’ announcement “and they agreed.”

Gray embellished on Dan Patrick’s radio show Thursday morning by saying he suggested to Carter: “I got a better idea … why don’t we buy an hour of television time and do the announcement and interview on television,” and they all agreed it was “brilliant” because he could raise a lot of money for charity.

The joke continues to be on the wimpish Gray, a tool of choice by athletes who want their message delivered filter-free. Somehow, he’s still nave enough to think his fraudulent career is one crafted by trustworthiness.”

Maybe I was too easy on him.

The Sports Business Daily today had this roundup of criticism about Gray’s involvement in the show:

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== “(The questions) defied logic, reason, drama and journalism … (the) inane and extended foreplay was excruciating and tortured, and the veteran journalist was destroyed on social media,” wrote Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch.

== “(Gray’s) deliberate, four-corner teasing cynically dragged out a now-annoying drama … Was this in the script? If so, shame on ESPN. If Gray winged it, shame on him,” wrote the New York Times’ Richard Sandomir.

== “(He) shamed himself and every professional interviewer on the planet,” wrote the Los Angeles Times’ Mary McNamara, “(by asking) five solid minutes worth of such blatantly time-killing” questions such as “How’s your summer?” “When did you decide?” and “Are you still a nail biter?”

== “Shame on Jim Gray and ESPN for asking 16 questions — 16! — before asking James the only one on anybody’s mind,” wrote Barry Jackson of the Miam Herald. “(The answers) would have been more substantive, more meaningful, if he had revealed the winning team first.”

== “(ESPN) gave up whatever shred of credibility it had with Jim Gray milking this moment with question after question before asking the only one that mattered,” wrote the Newark Star-Ledger’s Steve Politi.

== “Shame on Jim Gray. He lobbed two dozen softball questions LeBron James’ way Thursday night without bothering to ask a single follow-up … (ESPN delivered) kid-gloved questions and a giant plug for one of James’ sponsors,” wrote the Dallas Morning News’ Barry Horn.

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== “(Gray) proceeded to the aural equivalent of a full inning of slow pitch softball, lobbing verbal floaters at James for five minutes before getting to the point,” wrote the Houston Chronicle’s David Barron.

==”How any ‘journalist’ sits there and goes along with a script without asking the only question anyone cares about for what seemed like hours was shameful. The bottom line: Gray was not a journalist but a pawn for ratings, stretching out the made-for-TV event as long as he could,” wrote Ben Grossman of Broadcasting & Cable.

== “(Gray) either had no sense of the moment whatsoever, or had complete understanding that this could be his next great moment in journalism and was milking every last second out of his own relevance,” wrote TheSportingNews.com’s Dan Levy.

== “ESPN probably glad they are not paying for Jim Gray,” wrote the L.A. Times’ Joe Flint.

== “Jim Gray, my pal, I am about to retroactively take Pete Rose’s side,” wrote MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann.

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== (Sources say James’ handlers selected Gray) “because of his ‘special sales relationship’ with” (the University of Phoenix, one of the telecast’s presenting sponsors),” wrote the New York Post’s Phil Mushnick.

Surprisingly, ESPN, and James, didn’t use Gray’s forehead for more advertising space.

Again, some yahoo at Yahoo! once listed Gray in the Top 50 of the greatest sportscasters of all time (linked here).

Gray appeared on “CBS This Morning” and defended the way James presented his one-hour “The Decision” as a new show:

“I’m not offended by it at all, so you’re probably asking the wrong person. I thought it was terrific.

“(James) commanded it and he was able to do it and tens of thousands of kids are gonna benefit from it. It was a huge financial success for the Boys & Girls Club (n Greenwich, Conn., where the show was held). They’re gonna do very well.

“So, yeah, what’s wrong with it? I mean, would you rather the guy do it by fax, by Twitter, on the Internet? I mean, really, I find nothing wrong with it.

“He’s a once-in-a-lifetime player. Yes, the process did go over-the-top, but it’s a players’ league. And when you have somebody the caliber of LeBron James, you saw what was going on.

“For crying out loud, President Obama commented on this seven times. We’ve got oil spills, we’ve got wars, we’ve got a lot going on, but he certainly was very interested. I don’t mean to be frivolous or flip. He was having a good time. But he wanted to see LeBron James play in his hometown of Chicago, so everybody was interested, from the fans all the way up to the top of our country.”

Keep defending, Jim-Bob, and it only keeps getting you deeper into non-usable territory.

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