How the Zamperini story adapts to the ‘Seabiscuit’ treatment

I drove from the book store to the gym, up Pacific Coast Highway. I passed by Zamperini Way, a street that runs into PCH, and, with a quick left turn, goes straight into Zamperini Field, otherwise known as the Torrance Airport.

The new Laura Hillebrand book, “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilence and Redemption,” was riding in the passenger seat.


Hillebrand, whose only other book to date in 2001 was the one that eventually inspired the 2003 movie “Seabiscuit,” really isn’t covering much new ground here on the life and times of Louis Zamperini. After all, he wrote his own autiobiography in 2003. A column by the Daily Breeze’s Woody Woodburn on Zamperini was included in the 2001 Best American Sports Writing series.

Prior to that, a “60 Minutes” segment, which goes back to a “This Is Your Life” episode from the 1950s. Incredible stuff (above).

They’ve been trying to make a movie version of him, going back to when the star would have been Tony Curtis, up to Nicholas Cage.

What will make Hillenbrand’s version most likely be remembered over all them when all is said and done? The Random House publicity muscle behind it, for one. Oprah Winfrey has already recommended it on her website. Stories in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today have already been done on the book.

The texture of Hillenbrand’s prose, of course, are what could make any story special.

The first 47 pages of the 473-page book are what cover Zamperini’s athletic achievements — running the 1500 meters at the 1936 Berlin Olympics at age 19, earning a scholarship to USC, setting records in the mile that stood for years.

A few quick excerpts, after Hillenbrand writes about how Zamperini became a mile specialist at Torrance High, expanded that to distance running and qualified for the 5,000 meters on the U.S. Olympic team.

Zamperini finished eighth at the Games, but ran a final lap of 56 seconds and clocked a 14:46.8 mark, the fastest 5,000 by any American that year.

Page 35:

After cleaning himself up, Louie climbed into the stands. Nearby, Adolf Hitler sat in his box, among his entourage. Someone pointed out a cadaverous man near Hitler and told Louie that it was Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s prime minister of propaganda. Louie had never heard of him. Pulling out his camera, he carried it to Goebbels and asked him if he’d snap a picture of the fuhrer. Goebbles asked him his name and event, then took the camera, moved away, snapped a photo, spoke with Hitler, returned, and told Louie that the fuhrer wanted to see him.
Louie was led into the fuhrer’s section. Hitler bent from his box, smiled, and offered his hand. Louie, standing below, had to reach far up. Their fingers barely touched. Hitler said something in German. An interpreter translated.
“‘Ah, you’re the boy with the fast finish.'”

On page 40:


On USC’s track team, Louie was a juggernaut. Focused on winning in Tokyo in 1940 (where the next Summer Olympics would be staged),he smashed record after record at multiple distances and routinely burned his competition by giant margins, once winning a race by one hundred yards. By the spring of 1938, he’d whittled his time (in the mile) down to 4:13.7, some seven seconds off the world record, which now stood at 4:06.4. His coach predicted that Louie would take the record down. The only runner who could beat him, the coach said, was Seabiscuit.

Hillenbrand also documents how in 1938, Zamperini went to the NCAA championships in Minneapolis, trying to break a four-minute mile.

Page 41:

The night before the race, a coach from Notre Dame knocked on Louie’s hotel room door, a grave expression on his face. He told Louie that some of his rival coaches were ordering their runners to sharpen their spikes and slash him. Louie dismissed the warning, certain that no one would do such a thing delibertely. He was wrong. … With his shoe torn open, shins streaming blood and chest aching, (he) won easily. In 4:08.3, the fastest NCAA mile in history, missing the world record by 1.9 seconds. His time would stand as the NCAA record for 15 years.

Page 44:

On a dark day in April, 1940, Louie return to his bungalow to find the USC campus buzzing. Hitler had unleased his blitzkrieg across Europe … Finland, which was set to host the summer Games, was reeling. … The Olympics had been canceled.
Louie was unmoored. He became ill, first with food poisoning, then with pleurisy. His speed abandoned him, and he lost race after race. When USC’s spring semester ended, he collected his class ring and left campus. He was a few credits short of a degree, but he had all of 1941 to make them up. He took a job as a welder at the Lockheed Air Corporation and mourned his lost Olympics.


Since Hillenbrand needed to fill the other 400 pages of the book, she writes about how he was drafted, served in World War II, and had an horiffic experience shot down of the Pacific and taken, and tortured, as a Japanese prisioner.

Zamperini, who today at 93 is still around, should be on a book tour signing copies in the next few months. It’d be worth waiting in line to meet an authentic American hero. Perhaps USC may even have him come out at a football game — the only home game left is against Notre Dame a week from Saturday — and take another bow.

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tru to their word, Charles Barkley will be part of NCAA tournament (only in the studio)


CBS and Turner executives confirmed today that Charles Barkley will be part of their joint coverage of the NCAA tournament starting this March.

Marv Albert is also expected to call some early round games and Barkley and Kenny Smith to offer analysis from the studio under the 14-year, $10.8 billion deal the two companies signed in April.

Tournament games will air on CBS and three of Turner’s cable channels: TNT, TBS and truTV. Sports chiefs Sean McManus of CBS and David Levy of Turner said at the Sports Media & Technology conference in New York that the companies would combine their rosters of basketball commentators.

CBS will have the Final Four each year through 2015, so the network’s lead team of Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg in the national semifinal and championship games, although a third person could join the crew.

Nantz will be calling the March 15 opener on truTV.

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Play it forward: Nov. 15-21 on your sports calendar


AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
Kings right wing Dustin Brown celebrates his goal on a penalty shot with teammate center Anze Kopitar during the third period of their game against the New York Islanders on Saturday.

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


NHL: Kings at San Jose, 7:30 p.m., FSW:


The Sharks have been dogging the formerly toothless Kings for quite some time — a 5-1-1 mark against them in their last seven meetings in San Jose. But this time, the Kings come in as leaders of the Pacific Division, against the team that is the division’s three-time defending champs. The Kings, without a division title since Wayne Gretzky’s days in 1991, start Shark Week as the hunter, not the hunted.

NBA: Clippers vs. New Jersey, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime:

A rare win here only means the Clippers avoid their worst start in 12 seasons. The Nets have lost 23 in a row on the road against Western Conference teams.

College basketball: USC vs. Santa Clara, Galen Center, 7:30 p.m.,; UCLA vs. Pepperdine, Pauley Pavilion, 8 p.m., ESPN:

And these aren’t even the best teams that the West Coast Conference can throw at the Pac-10.

NFL: Philadelphia at Washington, 5:30 p.m., ESPN:


We’ll end Week 10 with a Stephen Wright quote: “Eagles may soar, but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines.” No matter how high these Andy Reid-Eagles appear to be clearing the clouds behind Michael Vick — coming off a win over Indianapolis and 3-1 on the road so far — they haven’t weaseled their way past a Donovan McNabb-led Redskins yet, having lost 17-12 to them in Week 4. Vick actually cracked some ribs in that loss to Washington. The Redskins will also have Billy Ray Cyrus (Hannah Montana’s dad) sing the National Anthem and do a halftime show. It’s the best of both worlds.


NBA: Lakers at Milwaukee, 5 p.m., Channel 9:

It may just be a coincidence that on a night when Staples Center is occupied by the “So You Think You Can Dance 2010 Tour!” the Lakers think can waltz away with three straight road wins, starting in Bucksville.


College basketball: UCLA vs. Nevada Pacific, Pauley Pavilion, 8:30 p.m., ESPNU:

This is the official closer to the ESPN gimmick of cramming 20 televised games in a 24-hour “marathon” time frame. Although it actually could have started with the Bruins’ game the night before against Pepperdine since that one ended past midnight on the East Coast. We’re too bleary eyed to figure out all the logistics that go into this, only to know some poor kids have to get up in the middle of the night on the East Coast for their 6 a.m. tipoff to keep the engine running.

NHL: Ducks at Dallas, 6 p.m., Prime:

Twice in five nights for these two teams. And three times in the last 11 games. Is there a method to this?


NBA: Lakers at Detroit, 4:30 p.m., Channel 9:

Even though pizza baron (and Detroit Tigers and Red Wings owner) Mike Ilitch said earlier this week that he was close to completing his purchase of the Pistons, it appears that current caretaker Karen Davidson has reopened talks with other interested parties, and a source tells the Detroit News that Ilitch has lowered his bid. Could this be the opening that Magic Johnson has been waiting for?


(AP Photo/Paul Vernon)
Columbus Blue Jackets’ R.J. Umberger, left, celebrates his goal against the St Louis Blues with teammates Jan Hejda, right, and Nikita Filatov in the second period on Wednesday, Nov. 10.

NHL: Kings vs. Columbus, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW:

A return trip to Staples Center means keeping alive a few streaks for the Kings: 8-0 at home, 31-for-31 in the power-play kill – and the youngest roster in the league. They face a Blue Jackets team that last week handed the previous one-loss and visiting St. Louis Blues an 8-1 whooping — the largest winning margin in franchise history. Before the game, some of the Blues and Blue Jackets players got into verbal exchange in the hallway. A few Blues were kicking a soccer ball around, and a Blue Jackets player, R.J. Umberger, while doing his warmups, apparently sprinted too close to their game. Umberger reportedly had grown tired of what he perceived as gamesmanship by the Blues, and the Blues have been pretty physical with the Jackets in recent seasons. Umberger ended up with a goal, an assist and 17 penalty minutes — a double-minor for high-sticking, 2 minutes for roughing a 10-minute misconduct.


NBA: Clippers at Minnesota, 5 p.m., Prime; NHL: Ducks at Minnesota, 5 p.m., FSW:

One of these games is at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center, the other is at Minneapolis’ Target Center. Put ’em on the same night, turn up the heat at the Hormel factory, and watch the Twin Cities go nuts.

College basketball: USC vs. Rider, Galen Center, 7:30 p.m.,

Your opener of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic tournament is a home game, then a trip back East for the rest of it.


College football: UCLA at Washington, 5 p.m., ESPN:


After their one-point win over USC at the Coliseum on Oct. 2, the Huskies have lost three of their last four, and that includes a double-OT win against Oregon State. This is the last home game for Jake Locker, but he missed a 53-15 loss to No. 1 Oregon two weeks ago, resting some broken ribs. “If we get Jake back, that’s great – we’d love to have him,” says coach Steve Sarkisian. “But if we don’t, that doesn’t mean we can’t win the game.” Sarkisian has obviously been watching UCLA game film.


NFL: Chicago at Miami, 5:20 p.m., NFL Network:

A shoutout to Joe Theismann, who once said you don’t have to be “Norman Einstein” to be a genius: Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder, right, was upset after his team’s loss to Baltimore recently — he thought fullback Le’Ron McClain spit on him, and his quarterback Chad Henne got hit twice after he slid, but the officials missed it. “Yeah, a little Stevie Wonder and Anne Frank … Is that the blind girl? Helen Keller . . . I don’t know who the f— Anne Frank is. I’m mad right now. I’m not as swift as I usually am.”

NBA: Clippers at Indiana, 4 p.m., Prime:

Sorry, can’t come back to Staples Center yet. Usher has it booked.



NBA: Lakers at Minnesota, 5 p.m., Channel 9:

Don’t make Derek Fisher mad again. Remember how he called the team “irresponsible” and “reckless” and “disrespectful” after the Lakers barely beat the struggling T’wolves last week? That was a night when Kevin Love had 23 points and 24 boards. Then he had a 31-31 night against the Knicks. He just may shoot for 40-40 here. Unless D-Fish takes the charge.

NHL: Kings at Buffalo, 4:30 p.m., FSW:

An OT win last weekend against the beast in the East, the Washington Caps, gave the swashbuckling Sabres their first home win of the season in seven tries. On guard.

NHL: Ducks vs. Columbus, Honda Center, 7 p.m., Prime:

Anaheim is actually breathing down the Kings’ necks in the Pacific Division, but we’re not impressed quite yet.



College football: USC at Oregon State, 5 p.m., ESPN:

Pop quizz time: Anyone need a reminder about the Trojans’ last trip to Corvallis, Ore., back in September of ’08? As the nation’s No. 1-ranked team with Mark Sanchez at quarterback, they trailed 21-0 at the half and went home with a 27-21 loss, thanks to 186 yards and two rushing TDs by Jacquizz Rodgers. It was the first time in 41 years that the Beavers had defeated a No. 1 team. “I’m beside myself,” USC coach Pete Carroll said afterward.

College football: Notre Dame vs. Army at Yankee Stadium, 4 p.m., Channel 4:


The 5-5 Irish, coming off a huge win over Utah, need one more victory to be bowl-eligible. So it could either come here against the 6-4 Cadets, or next week at USC.
“I think any football coach would want to sleep in his own bed and play in a stadium with 80,000 fans,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “But I also know the realities that there has to be when it comes to looking at your schedule and television, there has to be time and place where you move those games to give you the best leverage nationally. I’m a realist in that sense and I’m a football coach, and that is, you tell me where to play them and I’m going to play them.”

NHL: Kings at Boston, 4 p.m., FSW:

The Bruins, 2-4-1 at home so far, have just one goal in their last two games coming into this week. In their previous five games, they had 20.

NBA: Clippers vs. New York, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW:

We’re completely asbestos free.

College basketball: USC vs. Bradley at Springfield, Mass., 2 p.m.:

It’s part of the Hall of Fame Classic, giving the Trojans a weekend at the place where basketball was invented (and another game against New Mexico State on Sunday morning before the field trip ends).


Mixed martial arts: UFC 123: Rampage Jackson vs. Lyoto Machida, Detroit, Mich., 5 p.m., PPV:

Former UFC light heavyweight champ Rampage Jackson says his loss at UFC 114 last May in the main event to Rashad Evans has nothing to do with him being pulled away to play the role of B.A. Baracus in the movie version of “The A-Team.” Jackson, 5-2 in the UFC, said: “I knew I lost that fight before I even stepped in the cage. The day I lost that fight was a couple of weeks before the fight even started. It had nothing to do with the movie tour or anything. … Because the fight as so delayed and so well-promoted, I felt like I owed it to my fans to fight no matter what the outcome was, so I still fought.” And got pummeled. The reason that fight was delayed — it was supposed to be part of UFC 107 in Memphis, Tenn., Jackson’s hometown, but then he signed on to do the movie. And UFC president Dana White wasn’t happy. In the welterweight undercard, B.J. Penn goes against Matt Hughes.



AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
Galaxy forward Mike Magee attempts a bicycle kick as FC Dallas’ Atiba Harris, right, defends and goalkeeper Kevin Hartman looks on in Sunday’s Western Conference playoff match at the Home Depot Center.

Soccer: MLS Cup in Toronto: Colorado vs. Dallas, 5:30 p.m., ESPN:

Dallas’ football club seems a bit rejuvenated, eh? Sorry, Galaxy.

NBA: Lakers vs. Golden State, Staples Center, 6:30 p.m., FSW:

Their fourth game in six nights. What’s the rush to get the regular season finished?

NFL: N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia, 5:20 p.m., Channel 4:

We’re told at least the stadium lights are fairly reliable in Philly.

NFL: Indianapolis at New England, 1 p.m., Channel 2:

Colts QB Peyton Manning had a season-low 185 yards passing in their not-so-pretty win against Cincinnati last week — and 73 of them went to tight end Jacob Tamme.

NFL: Oakland at Pittsburgh, 10 a.m., Channel 2:


The new book, “Badasses: The Legend of Snake, Foo, Dr. Death and John Madden’s Oakland Raiders” author Peter Richmond points out how that “badass” era of the 1970s Raiders might have come to an end in Pittsburgh during the second game of the ’77 season, “when the gods of Three Rivers crippled Foo, the truest Badass, for the year, ending his season and delivering a blow to the gut of the team. ‘If there’s one day when our little world started crumbling,’ says Phil (‘Foo’) Villapiano now, ‘it was that day.'” It was a 16-7 Steelers’ win, played on their new fake grass, on a day Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier didn’t pile up 100 yards between them. The Raiders, coming off a bye week and 5-4 in the AFC West, might be great at controlling the clock, but can they control their destiny the rest of this season?

NHL: Ducks vs. Edmonton, Honda Center, 1 p.m., FSW:

How does Sunday afternoon hockey compete with the NFL in Orange County?

NASCAR: Ford 400, Homestead-Miami Speedway, 10 a.m., ESPN:

Denny Hamlin’s lead in the Sprint Cup’s Chase slipped to just to 15 points over Jimmie Johnson in the final event of the season. Will he have enough left in the tank?


(AP Photo/Jason Babyak)
James Hibbs of Richmond, Va., a fan of Denny Hamlin, stands in front of Hamlin’s car prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday.

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Scoreboard says: Gibby hauls in more than $1 mil for his stuff; father-son team from Santa Barbara buys the whole lot



The bat that Kirk Gibson used to hit his home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series sold for $575,912.40 in an auction that ended this morning.

SCP Auctions, based in Orange County, also reports that the white Dodgers home jersey that Gibson wore went for $303,277.20. Add in his batting helmet ($153,388.80) and a World Series road uniform ($9,664.80), and that’s $1,042,243.30 — all going to Gibson’s bank account.

The auction also listed Gibson’s 1988 NL MVP Award ($110,293.20) and his replica ’88 World Series trophy ($45,578.40). That $150,000-plus will go to the Kirk Gibson Foundation to fund high school scholarships at the two schools in Michigan where his parents were teachers.

All five items were purchased by Chad and Doug Dreier of Santa Barbara, a father-and-son sports collectors’ team from a company they call the Dreier Group.

“We are thrilled to keep this amazing collection of baseball history in Southern California,” said Chad Dreier in a statement through SCP Auctions, without giving any details about how the items may someday be displayed.

By comparison, the $575,000 raised for the Gibson bat far surpassed, in the same auction, the $137,000 paid for the bat that Babe Ruth used to hit his 702nd career homer. And that bat used on July 22, 1934 was also signed by 15 members of the ’34 Yankees, including Ruth.

Meanwhile, in another bidding at the Louisville Slugger Museum in Kentucky, Hunt Auctions reports that ball Ruth hit for his 702nd career homer sold for $264,500.

In the same auction, the group of 50-odd bats on sale by former Dodgers batboy Stephen Kolodny of Woodland Hills sold for just about what they projected out to be: $42,176.25. There are two days left on the Canadian-based Classic Auctions bidding that includes equipment owned by former Kings All-Star goalie Rogie Vachon.

== A preview of the auction from last week’s column (linked here).

== Columnist Dennis McCarthy’s story today on Kolodny (linked here).

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It’s Out of the Question: We’re all ears at the drag races


Listen up: Did you know that the NHRA has never conducted a formal study to measure the effects of the most ear-piercing by-product of drag racing?

From a story called “Say What? Underestimate Drag Racing’s Decibel Mightiness at Your Auditory Peril” in the recent issue of ESPN Magazine, it says the lack of documented numbers on ear numbness is “no accident” and that “requests have been politely turned down” because the lack of hard evidence “adds to the mystery that surrounds the sport’s biggest drawing card.”

Don’t ask, but do tell . . .

There’s a chart from the American Academy of Audiology that lists decibel numbers. If the rustling of leaves is a 20, a normal conversation is 60, and a rock concert is 110, a top fuel dragster is pegged at 150 – well above your pain threshold (120) and actually closer to the number of an ear drum rupture (165) and the limit of hearing (194).


Don “The Snake” Prudhomme adds a quote to the piece: “Loud isn’t a strong enough word. It’s so overwhelming your brain can hardly compute what it’s hearing and seeing. It’s damn near a religious experience.”

Hear the problem here?

Fear the serpent, praise the Lord and pass the industrial-sized ear plugs.

Anyone plodding out to Pomona this weekend for the first time to witness the season-ending Winternationals must be warned: Tympanic membranes are a terrible thing to waste.

Safety issues aside surrounding stuff like, oh, dragsters cartwheeling down the down the track, the real deal with around-sound doesn’t seem to be taken very seriously.

And why is that?

This “air of mystery” excuse can’t replace ignorance.

So maybe most of your teeth are gone, making it more difficult to finish off a McRib entre at the finish line. Your cholesterol levels are higher than the octane levels polluting the air you breathe out there. But the feeling in our gut (the one hanging over our oversized belt-buckle) is that you can’t be stupid here.

Beat the drum for ear-drum protection. You get that loud and clear?


== If Newton’s Law eventually comes into play, when does the gravity of what’s swirling around Auburn’s football program finally weigh the rest of the Tigers down?

== How much can scalpers be worrying about the prospects of Texas Christian or Boise State playing in the Rose Bowl?

== If them Cowboys never win another game this season, would the locals be just as satisfied if the other football club from Dallas knocked off the star-studded Galaxy this weekend to qualify for the MLS Super Bowl?

== If X Games expert Travis Pastrana makes the leap to NASCAR next season, does it mean the infield of the Coliseum could replace Fontana as a place to watch him do his power left turns in ’11?


== Clay Matthews Jr., your front-running NFL MVP?

== Where have you gone, Adam Morrison?

== The Lakers finally acquired their first loss. The Heat have racked up four of ’em. Uh, is it June yet?

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