Extra innings: The books that didn’t make the list, and those just out of our reach

Those who tried but didn’t quite squeeze themselves into the 30 baseball books in 30 days of April ’11 list, some for reasons beyond our control:

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== “Before the Machine: The Story of the 1961 Pennant-Winning Reds” by Mark J. Schmetzer (Clerisy Press Publisher, 256 pages, $15.95, available at the publisher’s site (linked here): “The Cincinnati team is one of the freaks of nature,” says Dodgers vice president Fresco Thompson late in the 1961 season. “They are leading the league with a club consisting mostly of castoffs and nondescripts. This whole Cincy team defies form, but you have to give the guys credit. They have banded together, many in a last-ditch stand, and they are trying to show their former employers that unloading them was a mistake.” Schmetzer, a Cincinnati native who wrote for a team fan newspaper starting in the 1980s, goes back to the 50th anniversary of the team (pre-Pete Rose) and tries to make it come alive again. Whether he succeeds much or not depends on if you’re a die-hard Reds fan. Dodgers fans will only want to look back on this to try to figure out what went wrong. On Aug. 13, the Dodgers, two years removed from a World Series title, led the Reds by 2 1/2 games. On Aug. 15, during the Reds’ 5-2 win over the Dodgers at the Coliseum, Frank Robinson snared an apparent single to right field by Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax and proceeded to throw him out at first base instead. “If someone did that to me, I would want to sit down and cry,” said Cincinnati shortstop Eddie Kasko. The next day, the Reds swept a Wednesday doubleheader against the Dodgers, 6-0 and 8-0, before some 72,140 fans, leaping past the Dodgers and into first. For good. It is also revealed that Dodgers coach Leo Durocher had been jeering at Robinson during the series, trying to get under his skin. It only got Robinson mad, and he retaliated with his bat and arm. The Reds would sweep a Sunday doubleheader against the Dodgers a couple weeks later in Cincinnati, beating Don Drysdale in the second game. Reds third baseman George Freese would end up hitting nine homers against the Dodgers in ’61.

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== “21: The Story of Roberto Clemente” by Wilfred Santiago (Fantagraphics Books, 200 pages, $22.99, available on Amazon.com), a graphic novel by an illustrator and writer from Puerto Rico, received a nice write up in a recent issue of Sports Illustrated (linked here), which included: “Santiago’s book owes a strong narrative debt to David Maraniss’s 2006 biography of Clemente, but it is driven by Santiago’s skill as a visual storyteller. His figures are drawn in a cartoon style, but mixed with clippings from newspapers and magazines they convey a hyperrealism that highlights the relationship between Clemente and the world around him. “You don’t have to make something realistic to make it feel real,” says Santiago. … Clemente proves to be an ideal subject for a graphic novel — a famously stylish player who attacked the game with controlled violence; a great fielder, famous for his laser throws; and a bad-ball hitter who stroked wicked line drives. … Santiago captures Clemente’s relentless vitality as a player, frames the story around the historical and religious traditions of Puerto Rico, and handles Clemente’s tragic death with restraint, all with a gimlet eye and the sensitivity of a true artist. It is a classic story given new life in this fresh, innovative telling.” If we could only have found it at the book store. Sports shelves? Graphic novels? You give it a shot.

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Upon further reviews: Ranking the 30 books in 30 days, 2011

A quick reference to all 30(-plus) books covered in this year’s month-long book review, with how we’d rank them:

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TOP SHELF:

== Day 18: “Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption, and Baseball’s Longest Game” (linked here)

== Day 15: “Branch Rickey: Penguin Lives Biographies” by Jimmy Breslin (linked here)

== Day 14: “56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports” (linked here)

== Day 28: “Hank Greenberg: The Hero Who Didn’t Want to Be One (Jewish Lives)” (linked here)

== Day 13: “Pitching in the Promised Land: A Story of the First and Only Season in the Israel Baseball League” (linked here)

== Day 20: “The House That Ruth Built: A New Stadium, the First Yankees Championship, and the Redemption of 1923″ (linked here)

== Day 29: “The Baseball: Stunts, Scandals and Secrets Beneath the Stitches” (linked here)

== Day 5: “The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First” (linked here)

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GREAT EFFORT:

== Day 12: “Mexican American Baseball in Los Angeles (Images of Baseball)” (linked here)

== Day 7: “The Baseball Hall of Fame Collection: Celebrating the Greatest Players of All Time Through Rare Objects, Documents and Photos” (linked here)

== Day 22: “Remembering Fenway Park: An Oral and Narrative History of the Home of the Boston Red Sox” (linked here)

== Day 10: “Baseball and the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game” (linked here)

== Day 23: “New York Mets: 50 Amazin’ Seasons — The Complete Illustrated History” (linked here)

== Day 8: “Baseball: How To Play The Game: The Official Playing and Coaching Manual of Major League Baseball” (linked here)

== Day 17: “1961*: The Inside Story of the Maris-Mantle Home Run Chase” (linked here)

== Day 6: “Uppity: My Untold Story About the Games People Play” by Bill White (linked here)

== Day 26: “Pitchers of Beer: The Story of the Seattle Rainiers” (linked here)

== Day 21: “Knuckler: My Life with Baseball’s Most Confounding Pitch” by Tim Wakefield (linked here)

== Day 25: “Wizardry: Baseball’s All-Time Greatest Fielders Revealed” (linked here)

== Day 9: “The Bill James Handbook: 2011″ (linked here)

== Day 24: “The Runmakers: A New Way to Rate Baseball Players” (linked here)

THANKS FOR SHOWING UP:

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== Day 30: “Campy: The Two Lives of Roy Campanella” (linked here)

== Day 11: “The Greatest Game Ever Pitched: Juan Marichal, Warren Spahn, and the Pitching Duel of the Century” (linked here)

== Day 16: “The Most Famous Woman in Baseball: Effa Manley and the Negro Leagues” (linked here)

== Day 2: “A Band of Misfits: Tales of the 2010 San Francisco Giants” (linked here)

== Day 3: “Baseball America Prospect Handbook 2011″ (linked here)

== Day 4: “Baseball Prospectus 2011″ (linked here)

BELOW THE MENDOZA LINE …

== Day 19: “In the Time of Bobby Cox: The Atlanta Braves, Their Manager, My Couch, Two Decades, and Me” (linked here)

== Day 27: “Bullpen Diaries: Mariano Rivera, Bronx Dreams, Pinstripe Legends, and the Future of the New York Yankees” (linked here)

== Day 1: “Donnie Baseball: The Definitive Biography of Don Mattingly” (linked here)

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30 baseball books in 30 days of ’11: Day 30 — Campy … a far cry from a campy tale

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The book: “Campy: The Two Lives of Roy Campanella”

The author: Neil Lanctot

The vital stats: Simon & Schuster, 528 pages, $20

Find it: At the publisher’s site (linked here) as well as at Powell’s (linked here), Amazon.com (linked here) and Barnes & Noble (linked here)

The pitch: On page 91 of his 450-page epic on the life and times of Roy Campanella, author Neil Lanctot makes reference to Campy’s well-known 1959 book “It’s Good To Be Alive” as a “generally Pollyannaish autobiography,” which may be a nice way of saying that facts never got in the way of a story.

Long out of print, it was re-released in 1995 by University of Nebraska Press (linked here), so that anyone who ever knew about it, or only saw the movie version (1974, with Paul Winfield as Campanella), could have a reference point.

The point in pointing this out first is that there’s nothing sugar-coated about Lanctot’s effort. To the contrary. Whether the Campanella family approves of it nor not.

The fact is that they don’t, and Roy Campanella Jr., finally passed word onto Lanctot up front that none of his surviving children or step-children wouldn’t participate in being interviewed or suggesting people to be interviewed. That’s kind of too bad. Their version of how things happened might have been a softening blow to the somewhat harsh way it is all portrayed between these pages.

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The cover portrait is the first indication that this isn’t going to be pretty — a somewhat pained, grim expression that Campanella, giving the appearance of a tortured soul, far from the happy-go-lucky, always-have-a-little-boy-in-you demeanor that we’ve been told was far more common. It’s not revealed in the book, but the shot is actually Campanella’s 1954 Bowman baseball card, one that kids of that time probably put in the spokes of their bike wheels and didn’t think twice about.

This often dark tale really is two stories — starting with how the man of an Italian father and black mother started at the age of 15 playing his summers in the Negro Leagues and many reporters still couldn’t get his name right (“Campinelli,” “Confenello” … one even referred to him as “Leroy Campanello”).

Despite having aborted tryout attempts with different big-league teams — including his home-town Philadelphia — he finally worked his way into Branch Rickey’s “Great Experiment” and realized that he could have been the first to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Rickey choose the UCLA-educated Jackie Robinson over Campanella, whose education didn’t even get him a high school diploma despite him insisting he had one. One key thing not in Campanella’s favor: Rickey feared that Dodgers pitchers could be in conflict with how Campanella called a game behind the plate.

Campy made it in 1948 — a year after Robinson, but became just as popular. The decision didn’t really seem to bother Campanella, who went on to win more MVP awards than Robinson (three total) and become a Hall of Famer on his own right. Or was asked to appear on “What’s My Line?”

Then there’s the other half of his life, and here’s a fresh look at Campanella’s complicated personal existence after his car accident– he skidded into a light pole in the early hours of January 28, 1958, which prevented him from playing for the Dodgers once they moved to Los Angeles. None of that really is covered in Campanella’s autobiography, written so close to the time of the accident, and never really divulged before until Lanctot, who has written several Negro League history books, decided to have at it, with the encouragement, he says, of Robinson scholar Jules Tygiel.

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While Lanctot does include recent interviews with those such as Rachel Robinson and former contemporaries like Carl Erskine, Monte Irvin, Andy Pafko and Don Zimmer, it is noticably absent of anything new from Don Newcombe.

Lanctot notes that “unfortunately, some of Campy’s surviving teammates proved difficult to talk to … there was a former Dodger whose son informed me that his father now charges $5,000 for an hour-long interview. Another well-known Dodger declined to participate, explaining that he had been ‘misquoted too many times’ in the past. And Clem Labine, Preacher Roe and Johnny Podres died before I was able to arrange interviews.”

Also, alas, no Vin Scully. He’s quoted, as are many through previous comments made in the media that Lanctot uncovered in his very complete research project.

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Through all the light and darkness, a strange, eventual contentious relationship with Robinson is also probed, with Lanctot eventually figuring that out the two couldn’t have been much different, bonded only really by their skin color. It apparently wasn’t that much of a hidden subject — it made the cover of Jet magazine in 1952. That they later in life reconciled is at least somewhat comforting.

There are also the three marriages that dotted Campanella’s life, all at important stages, the first of which is hardly mentioned in his autobiography, the second that ended tragically. But what he accomplished in advancing therapy techniques has really not been revealed before.

How it goes down in the scorebook: Very bittersweet. There are 12 customer rankings about the book on the Barnes & Noble site, garnishing a combined one out of five stars possible. We’re not sure what it says, but maybe it’s not up to the books written lately on Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle or upcoming on Stan Musial in the apparent need to revisit the careers of former stars in light of current steroid tarnishing.

It can be very depressing, painful and stressful. Not just Campanella’s post-playing days, but the writing as well.

Maybe some of us still just want to believe “It’s Good To Be Alive” closed the book on everything we wanted to know.

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30 baseball books in the 30 days of ’11: Day 29 — How to have a ball, with a ball, for less than the (auction house) price of a game-used ball

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The book: “The Baseball: Stunts, Scandals and Secrets Beneath the Stiches”

The author: Zach Hample

The vital stats: Anchor Books/Random House, 356 pages, $14.95.

Find it: At the publisher’s site (linked here), at Powell’s (linked here), at Amazon.com (linked here) and at Barnes & Noble (linked here).

The pitch: There is something intrinsically magical about simply holding a baseball in your hand. Whether it’s the rows of stitches, the stretched pieces of leather or the company name stamped on it. Or, of course, that new-ball smell.

Hample, who hooked us a couple years back with his “Watching Baseball Smarter: A Professional Fan’s Guide for Beginners, Semi-experts, and Deeply Serious Geeks ” book, has taken that assault on the senses to new heights.

His claim to fame is having hauled in more than 4,600 balls in his “career,” from nearly 50 ballparks. He’s got them all logged on his website (linked here), up to the day. Fact is, he has a business called “Watch With Zack,” where he’ll personally take you to a game and guarantee them at least one ball to take home. (Kinda like paying to going to a private pond overstocked with trout, but kids still get a kick out of it by landing one).

So when he decides to dedicate his next took to all there is to know about a simple baseball — why not?

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His research is pretty impressive, for starters. Go back to 1905, when a Cubs fan named Samuel Scott was arrested after catching a foul ball but refusing to hand it to an usher. The team president signed a larceny complaint against him. The charges were dropped with Scott threatened to sue for assault and false arrest. Eventually, Cubs owner Charles Weeghman allowed foul balls to be kept. In 1916. It was lauded in Baseball magazine as a “common-sense policy,” even if other owners refused to go along with it.

Flash ahead to today, when fans in Wrigley Field’s bleachers started the tradition of throwing back a visiting team’s home-run ball. Or, at least throwing “a” ball back, whether it’s the original homer or not.

Hample is able to chronicle this baseball thing from every angle imaginable, starting with how it became a souvenir craze, a pop-culture hook, a vechile for stunts — even how it has led to some unusual deaths (incuding 14-year-old Dodgers fan Alan Fish at Dodger Stadium in 1970, who remains the only MLB spectator fatality). But even Hample even manages to put a light spin on that chapter, with a notation at one point saying: “No, this is not a story about Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch, who hit Keith Olbermann’s mother in the face with a bad throw in 2006. She survived.”

The last third of his book is a how-to guide on getting your own baseball. From how to position yourself near an aisle to getting early to the park for batting practice and finding the “Easter eggs” that were deposited before the entrance gates were opened, to watching tendencies of batters … stuff you knew you didn’t even know, but should have picked up by now just from paying attention. He even gets into a bit how Dodgers fan Mike Mahan once bought up the right field pavillion at Dodger Stadium during Barry Bonds’ pursuit of No. 700 for his career in 2004 (a story that we actually wrote first).

Admittedly, our favorite section is about how baseballs — especially foul balls — have made themselves storylines in movies and sit-coms over the years. Hample takes the time to critique the authenticity, which we can appreciate.

Such as in the 1986 movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” on page 68:

“Although Bueller’s dorky fist pumps (and attire) belie the athleticism required to make a bare-handed catch in a crowded section of presumably rowdy Cubs fans, the scene is very realistic. It begins as the dozens of extras react to the ball entering the stands — an obvious detail that often gets overlooked — and continues with Bueller’s snag. First he experiences the rush of obtaining the souvenir. Then, after a few seconds, the pain sets in as he shakes his left hand. Upon closer inspection, his friend Sloane can be seen ducking with her right hand over her head, while his best friend Cameron quickly looks to the side as if he’s trying to see who ended up with the ball. The only flaw is that when the TV camera follows the initial flight of the ball, two relief pitchers can be seen warming up along the left-field foul line, but when the field is then shown from Bueller’s prespective, the bullpen mound is mysteriously empty. That said, writer-director John Hughes expertly blended actual game footage with his own attention to detail in the stands.”

Hample’s attention to detail is even better. Although Baseball Prospectus does some real research into the scene and pinpoints it from a Cubs-Braves game in 1985 (linked here).

One more example: Hample cites a day in 2009 at Dodger Stadium when Vin Scully remarked: “Nice catch by a fan directly behind the dugout.” Turns out, it was Jermaine Jackson, of the Jackson 5, as Rafael Furcal “lunged for a 1-2 changeup from Braves starter Jair Jurrjens and blooped it toward the outfield end of the third-base dugout. Jackson, wearing a glove on his lef thand, stood up, leaned back, reached deep into the crowd and made a backhanded stab high over his head, which he then celebrated with a series of fist pumps.”

How it goes down in the scorebook: If you’ve never been able to snag a ball — either in batting practice, one that goes foul, or by begging a ballboy — this is the next best thing.

If more fans had this kind of passion and aptitude for pulling a book together on a subject as simple as a piece of round cowhide — as well as giving away trade secrets on how to snag one — we’d all be better off.

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Also: Hample has also co-authored a new book/journal/diary about baseball scorekeeping (linked here) that looks pretty sharp.

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A maverick prediction: Barkley spouts that Lakers are done with a six-shooter

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Only because he opened his mouth on last night’s TNT NBA post-game show — long after most Lakers fans tuned out — Charles Barkley had this exchange with Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson:

Inside the NBA crew debates their pick for the Dallas Mavericks vs. Los Angeles Lakers series in Round 2:

Barkley: “I’m going to stick with what I’ve been saying all year.”

Smith: “Which is?”

Barkley: “The Dallas Mavericks are the best team in Texas and they’re going to upset the Los Angeles Lakers. I think they have more mismatches than the Lakers.”

Smith: “OK, OK, you don’t have to convince yourself.”

Barkley: “I’m not trying to convince myself.”

Smith: “I’m just listening. You believe it, I’m glad you do.”

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Johnson: “Are you going to weigh in?”

Smith: “I think the Los Angeles Lakers are going to win just because of rebounding. I would have said Dallas until I saw Game 6 tonight.”

Barkley: “But they played against a bunch of munchkins tonight. Those munchkins are going home. The Mavericks aren’t munchkins.”

Smith: “They couldn’t rebound. If they do that against the Lakers, they’re gonna lose. If you let the Lakers back in the games, you’re going to lose.”

Barkley: “The Lakers are going down.”

Smith: “OK.”

Barkley: “In six.”

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Seton Hall has spoken: Fans don’t want Dodgers to be taken over by the MLB

A press release by Marty Appel Public Relations in New York:

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By a margin of 45 percent to 34 percent, sports fans oppose Major League Baseball’s involvement in the day-to-day operations of the Dodgers, according to a poll conducted this week by the Seton Hall Sports Poll.

The poll was conducted by random dial across the country of 726 people, of whom 495 said they followed sports. The results have a +/- margin of error of 4.5 percent.

Remarkably, among sports fans, it was women who provided the difference, opposing the move by MLB by 49 percent to 24 percent. Men were almost equally divided, 44 percent in favor, 42 percent opposed, and 20 percent said they didn’t know.

“This action still has a number of acts to play out,” noted Rick Gentile, director of the poll, which is conducted by The Sharkey Institute. “But for now, in the court of public opinion, the team’s ownership seems to be winning versus MLB’s decision.”

The Seton Hall Sports Poll, the nation’s only academically-based sports polling service, has been conducting polls since 2006 with Gentile, the former vice president of sports for CBS, as the poll’s director.

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30 baseball books in 30 days of ’11: Day 28 — How a mensch like Hank Greenberg finally meshed his baseball life with his Jewish roots

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The book: “Hank Greenberg: The Hero Who Didn’t Want to Be One (Jewish Lives)”

The author: Mark Kurlansky

The vital stats: Yale University Press, 192 pages, $25

Find it: At the publisher’s site (linked here) as well as at Powell’s (linked here), Amazon.com (linked here) and Barnes & Noble (linked here)

The pitch: The intent of the publisher’s series on “Jewish Lives” is to create what they call “interpretive biographies” on “eminent Jewish figures” in literature, religion, philosophy, politics, cultural and economic life, and arts and sciences. Authors are then matched up who can “elicit lively, deeply informed books that explore the breadth and complexity of Jewish experience from antiquity through the present.”

As we found earlier with Jimmy Breslin’s Penguin series biography on Branch Rickey, this objective can really bring out some talented insights on subjects that often get buried in the weighted words of historians who don’t know what to include or delete from their tireless research.

So, before Bob Dylan is deconstructed by Ron Rosenbaum, or Leonard Bernstein by Allen Shawn, we have this Greenberg-Kurlansky matchup.

Sports, apparently, fits into one of those categories spelled out above, and Kurlansky, who last year put out a fascinating book on Dominican baseball players called “The Eastern Stars,” drew this assignment, culling through more than 30 books done either on or including Greenberg. A large part of that was Greenberg’s autobiography with Ira Berkow in the late 1980s as well as an extended interview he did the American Jewish Committee Oral History project.

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What Kurlansky (right) seems to have rediscovered, and makes sure to repeat as much as possible in this otherwise modest book of less than 150 pages, is Greenberg didn’t want the weight of the Jewish culture to affect his baseball playing days. But it did. And mostly, he accepted that, based on trying to honor his parents.

Otherwise, his much debated decision in 1934 to not play on Yom Kippur, even thought he did play nine days earlier on Rosh Hashanah, goes far deeper than just his personal relationship with his cultural ties. Kurlansky examines more of the realities of the decision — the Detroit Tigers’ place in the American League standings in relationship to the New York Yankees, for one. Even so, when the 23-year-old in his second full major-league season decided it would be OK to sit out the game on Sept. 19, 1934, it defined his career “for the rest of his days” because he became “a national Jew, a symbol.” But, he was really “caught between the Jewish world and the baseball world, and there was no way to please everyone, not even to please all Jews.”

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Bob Miller moderates panel on careers in sports broadcasting at UCLA

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The Southern California Sports Broadcasters’ second “Careers in Sports Broadcasting” panel discussion is set for Sunday, May 15 at UCLA’s Ackermann Hall, starting at noon.

Hockey Hall of Fame and Kings broadcaster Bob Miller, the SCSB president, will moderate the pannel that includes UCLA football and basketball radio voice Chris Roberts, Kings’ FSN reporter Heidi Androl, KSPN-AM (710) sports talk host Steve Mason and Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket executive producer Tom Feuer.

“The SCSB’s first panel, in January of 2010, was so well received our goal now is to make it an annual event for students majoring in broadcasting,” Miller said. “The panel can provide wide-ranging insight into the employment requirements and opportunities in sports broadcasting. Although the primary goal for many students may be on-air sportscasting, the panel can advise the attendees of the variety of very rewarding and challenging careers behind microphones and cameras.”

For more information contact SCSB’s event coordinator Jeff Rose (323 650-1151) or UCLA director of student media Arvli Ward (310-206-4043, award@media.ucla.edu)

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30 baseball books in 30 days of ’11: Day 27 — Who’ll save Charley Rosen from himself?

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The book: “Bullpen Diaries: Mariano Rivera, Bronx Dreams, Pinstripe Legends, and the Future of the New York Yankees”

The author: Charley Rosen

The vital stats: Harper Collins, 384 pages, $25.99

Find it: At the publisher’s site (linked here) as well as at Powell’s (linked here), Amazon.com (linked here) and Barnes & Noble (linked here)

The pitch: By chance, we happened to look at the blurb on the inside bookflap:

“Baseball is the only game where the defense has the ball.

“So begins an inside look at baseball’s most scrutinized group of players — relief pitchers — and life in the most intriguing bullpen of all, that of the New York Yankees.”

Really? You’re going to take us from that obvious Point A, to somewhere on Point X that says you’ve got it figured out how relief pitching in the big leagues works?

Read on, and amazingly, that pretty much sums up all the worthy insight as you’ll get from Phil Jackson’s former CBA sidekick/pal who insists that, even though his whole life has been spent in and chronicling basketball, baseball was his first love. Enough so that he says he had a pitching tryout with these Yankees when he got out of college. And that apparently qualifies to kill a few trees and get this book out there.

The execution of this effort is as scattered as the subtitle implies. There’s some history of relief pitching that Rosen digs up and throws out there. Then there’s tedious documentation of the Yankees’ 2010 season, only from the bullpen’s peformance, where Rosen is in charge of doling out letter grades for each performance. At last, in the third section, Rosen rambles on about his memories, his hopes, his dreams. Because, it matters to him.

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The Dodgers-Fox courtship, in the face of TWC

Norm Macdonald on tonight’s episode of “Sports Show” for Comedy Central: “First McCourt loses his wife, then he loses his baseball team. From the thrill of victory to the agony of defeat.”

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How much blame should Fox Sports be saddled with in the recent downfall of Dodgers co-owner Frank McCourt?

Did it send up the ultimate warning flare to Bud Selig and expose the McCourt house of cards by agreeing to take on $30 million personal loan just so he could make payroll?

It depends on how much fault you put on a business that is by all measures trying to retain a client in the face of competition.

Long before Fox drew up the papers with McCourt, Major League Baseball had picked up troublesome scent of the ownership team it once approved of, and had been tracking him step by step for the last couple of years.

Commissioner Bud Selig’s ability to invoke the “best interest of baseball” decision-making clause could have put the breaks on the McCourt roller coaster ownership ride months ago. The fact is, even before the McCourt’s messy, public divorce proceedings started unraveling last year, Selig could have appointed an outside caretaker to oversee the team’s business matters last off season, preventing all the latest day-to-day drama from overshadowing the team’s performance on the field under first-year manager Don Mattingly.

The fact that Selig let this all go on so long really is really his issue.

The way it looks now, Fox granting McCourt a personal loan to help him through a payroll might have been the proverbial last straw, but the team with a springtime home at Camelback Ranch in Arizona had camel back-breaking straws to deal with long before that act of desperation.

The reports now are that Fox has a 13-year, $1.8 billion TV deal on the table with McCourt – not a 20-year, $3 billion agreement that’s been widely reported, and even quoted as fact last week by new vice chairman Steve Soboroff.

All of McCourt’s business dealings to this point have been working toward this kind of payoff.

And then, Time Warner sticks its head into the fray.

If McCourt had run the Dodgers franchise down, why would this cable giant be so anxious to want to give him more money for broadcasting rights?

Just months after it laid the groundwork on an unsettling 20-year agreement with the Lakers to create two new channels for the franchise, Time Warner was throwing its weight around again.

Fox had to answer.

It could have done it without the McCourt loan, but . . . If you’re focused too much on that aspect, you’re missing the point. This is what businesses do. If Fox saw someone trying to pry “American Idol” to another channel, it would put up as much a fight as it could to keep its business relationships stronger.

All things equal, Fox provides what Time Warner hasn’t shown that it can – history and stability. Fox has been a partner with Major League Baseball for more than a decade, and pays out millions for cable and national rights to regular season, post season and All-Star games. Fox Sports’ cable arm has the rights to 16 teams – including the Dodgers and Angels.

What has Time Warner done except erect websites telling customers to boycott certain channels all in the name of consumer advocacy?

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