Cutter on Lenny: I still love him

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In light of all that happened to his dad over the last few months, Cutter Dykstra would have every reason not to want to associate himself with Lenny Dykstra. But that’s not the case.

Lenny Dykstra, the former MLB All-Star and Sherwood Country Club resident jailed last week on federal embezzlement charges, was released on $150,000 bond and ordered to outpatient substance abuse treatment and surrender his passport. He could face up to five years in prison if convicted.

Cutter Dykstra, the former Westlake High standout now playing for single-A Potomac in the Carolina League, told Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer (linked here) that he doesn’t read any of the negative stories that have come out about his father’s collapsed business dealings.

“That’s stupid,” he said. “I don’t even waste my time reading that stuff. It doesn’t really matter to me. I know who he is and I know what he’s about. He’s my dad and I love him.”

Cutter, drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers with the 54th pick in 2008 and traded to the Washington Nationals for outfielder Nyjer Morgan and $50,000 cash before this season, concedes his dad does do things out of the ordinary.

“He is (crazy),” the 21-year-old Cutter said. “He’s wild. That’s the kind of dude he is. He’s a different guy, but you know I love him, and if he wasn’t like that he wouldn’t be as successful as he was. He gave everything to baseball and gave everything he had. Everyone knew he was a little bit crazy.”

Cutter Dykstra has bounced from center field to third base and second since being drafted. This season, he has been a DH hitter with Potomac. Heading into last weekend’s games, he was batting .273 with no extra-base hits, four RBIs, and two stolen bases.

A year ago with Milwaukee’s Midwest League Wisconsin affiliate, Dykstra hit .312 with a 416 on-base percentage and 27 stolen bases.

“I love having Dykstra on the back of my jersey. People say, ‘That’s Lenny Dykstra’s son,’ and when I’m out there on the field I want people saying, ‘Wow, he plays the game just like his dad does.’ That’s the right way.

“From the early stages my dad said, ‘Put on a show. This is the entertainment business.’ That’s what I try to do. I try to entertain the fans.”

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30 baseball books in 30 days of ’11: Day 26 — Let it rain beer in the greater Seattle area

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The book: “Pitchers of Beer: The Story of the Seattle Rainiers”

The author: Dan Raley

The vital stats: University of Nebraska Press, 352 pages, $26.95

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: Admittedly, we’ve got no ties to Seattle-based baseball, only a heart-felt appreciation for how the ’69 one-and-done Pilots managed to survive a season at Sicks Stadium with a bunch of castoffs (leading to Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four”), only to see them cascade off to Milwaukee.

You didn’t see them crying in their beers.

Now, with this history book by Raley, a former sportswriter from the recently distant memory Seattle Post-Intelligencer, in collaboration with local Seattle baseball historian and aficionado Dave Eskenazi (see his bio link here), the circle of baseball life in the Emerald City seems appropriate to revisit.

“Telling the story of the Rainers is our way of preserving an athletic civic treasure,” Raley writes in the preface, “something that meant as much to thousands of people in Seattle as it did to us. The words are mine. The photos are Eskenazi’s. The team is your to adopt or reclaim.”

The beer angle comes from Emil Sick, a hops-and-barley baron talked into buying the Pacific Coast League’s Seattle Indians in 1937 as it was about to fold up. The one who nudged him in: New York Yankees owner Col. Jacob Ruppert, who saw the value of having a group of customers regularily buying his product, with baseball as the catalyst.

Starting from page 13: “Sick would set out to do what the Seattle Mariners pulled off nearly six decades later when the modern-day team took up residence in $550 million Safeco Field near the waterfront and trotted out such unforgettable players as Ken Griffey Jr. and Ichiro Suzuki: change ownership, build a new-age ballpark with all the amenities available and put talented, fan-pleasing characters in uniform. Sick had resisted when approached in previous years to bail out the Indians, but now the situation had turned so dire the brewer felt compelled to get involved. …

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30 baseball books in 30 days of ’11: Day 25 — More math involved … it’s counting on your mitts

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The book: “Wizardry: Baseball’s All-Time Greatest Fielders Revealed”

The author: Michael Humphreys

The vital stats: Oxford University Press, 432 pages, $19.95

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: Quick, how do you calculate someone’s fielding percentage? Putouts plus assists, divided by total chances (putouts, assists and errors added together).

Very lame, apparently.

Humphreys, who by day “advises on tax aspects of international capital markets transactions at Ernst & Young LLP,” calculates in a way that he can “quantify the fielding value of every player in major league baseball history.”

You’re familiar with DRA, right? Defensive Regression Analysis, which Humphreys figured out in 2003 after seeing what else was out there and then crunched some other numbers himself. His empirical approach is deciding who, in the course of the last 130-odd years, handled the glove better than anyone else at their position.

Go ahead. Knock yourself out.

Or, on page 32, throw out a formula discussion that made us think we were back in our high school Honors Math calculus class. Can you say: XY.abc=XY-lgXY*(ABC/lgABC).

That means something to someone. Just not much to us on our sequestered world.

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Play It Forward: April 25-May 1 on your sports calendar

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AP Photo/Paul Sakuma
Kings center Michal Handzus is tangled up with San Jose’s Dany Heatley during a third-period scuffle in Saturday’s Game 5 of their Stanley Cup playoff series. The Kings won to stave off elimination.

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

MONDAY

NHL playoffs: Kings vs. San Jose, Game 6: Staples Center, 7 p.m., Prime:

Rocco’s Old School Tattoo Balm may not be able to cover up the way the Sharks have tattooed the Kings for much of this Stanley Cup opening-round series. But the fact there’s at least one more game squeezed out, in front of the Kings’ loyal towel wavers, says something about the character of this young squad. The Kings, who killed all four of San Jose’s power plays in Saturday’s brink-of-elimination contest, have knocked out 18 of 20 in the series. Anyone up for a seventh game? That would be Wednesday at San Jose.

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MLB: Dodgers at Florida, 4:10 p.m., Channel 9:

Since early Cy Young candidate Josh Johnson pitched Sunday against Colorado, Florida won’t have its ace for this series. It might not matter. Andre Ethier’s 21-game hitting streak will go up against a team with, for starters, has one of the best bullpens in the league with a combined ERA in the 1.60 range, and opposing hitter are struggling just to post a batting average of about .180 against them. Ricky Nolasco (2-0, 3.00), coming off seven shutout innings with eight Ks against Pittsburgh last time out, pitches Tuesday against Clayton Kershaw (4 p.m., Channel 9). Then Anabel Sanchez, who nearly threw a no-hitter at Colorado in his last start, comes back in the final game of this series on Wednesday against Chad Billingsley (9 a.m., Prime).

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

How is Jered Weaver (5-0, 1.23 ERA) doing it? Scouts say the Angels’ 6-foot-7 right hander out of Northridge is using his slider more often than usual. In a win at Texas last week, he threw 32 sliders among his 119 pitches, with 16 of them down and away. Yes, they measure things that closely. Even more: The last time he threw the slider 25 percent or more of the time was a 15-strikeout effort against Toronto on April 10. He’s throwing the pitch 30.2 percent of the time this season against righties, as opposed to just 23.0 percent of the time the previous two seasons. We can’t make that stuff up. Weaver goes tonight against the A’s Gio Gonzalez (2-1, 1.80) and the series continues Tuesday (7 p.m., FSW, Tyler Chatwood vs. Brandon McCarthy) and Wednesday (4 p.m., FSW, Dan Haren vs. Tyson Ross) with the top two pitching staffs in the American League going head to head.

NBA playoffs: Portland at Dallas, Game 5: 5:30 p.m., NBA TV:

Each team has won the two games on their home court, but the Blazers’ comeback last Saturday night could be a huge psychological blow to the Mavs. Now they’re going neck and neck to see which series finishes first — this one, or the Lakers-Hornets. With Game 6 set on Thursday, both series could go the distance until a Saturday Game 7 — and if both the Lakers and Mavs prevail, they’d certainly not be as well rested as they’d have liked.

TUESDAY

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NBA playoffs: Lakers vs. New Orleans, Game 5: 7:30 p.m., Channel 9, TNT:

Kobe Bryant, zero for the first half. Yup, that’s a strategy that seems to work well if the Lakers want to avoid a seventh game of this thing (which would be Saturday night back at Staples Center). They already knew what Chris Paul could do. Now they know Jarrett Jack. And whether its Jack Nicholson, Jack Black or Jack in the Box sitting courtside for this one, there’s a crazy chance that they haven’t seen the last of the pesky Hornets. A sixth game is now locked in for Thursday in New Orleans.

WEDNESDAY

NBA playoffs: Memphis vs. San Antonio, Game 5: 5:30 p.m., NBA TV:

The eight-seeded Grizzles are actually in position to close this series out against the Western Conference champs. Miami (4 p.m., TNT) and Oklahoma City (7:30 p.m., TNT) are also about to finish off their series against Philadelphia and Denver.

THURSDAY

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NFL Draft: First round, 5 p.m., ESPN, NFL Network:

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USC tackle Tyron Smith, left, has plenty of upside — some mock pickers have him going in the Top 10, perhaps as the Dallas Cowboys’ next insurance policy for Tony Romo. Auburn quarterback Cam Newton has some nagging downside — does his inexperience make him a one-hit college wonder, or will the Carolina Panthers go ahead and make him the No. 1 overall pick because they have no faith in Jimmy Clausen? And then there’s Marcell Dareus, above, the 6-foot-3, 319-pound defensive tackle out of Alabama who can knock just anyone sideways. Will he be available for the Denver Broncos at No. 2? The NFL might be buried in labor talks, but there are plenty of ESPN and NFL Network analysts laboring over their big boards, minute by minute, changing things around as they try to second- and third-guess the real GMs who will make the official selections in prime time. Again, the proceedings are spread over three days, with 3 1/2 hours allotted for the first round. The second and third rounds are Friday (ESPN2, NFL Network at 5 p.m.) with rounds 4-7 on Saturday (ESPN and NFL Network, 9 a.m.)

FRIDAY

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MLB: Dodgers vs. San Diego, Dodger Stadium, 7 p.m., Prime:

In their first 20 games, the Padres were held scoreless six times – worst in baseball. One of them was a 4-0 loss at San Diego to the Dodgers during the last time these two met three weekends ago. This series goes through Saturday (7 p.m., Prime) and Sunday (1 p.m., Prime), where they’re giving out retro 1981 World Series T-shirts. Remember that one 30 years ago? This three-game series against the Padres are the only meetings the Dodgers have with an NL West rival between April 14 and May 16.

MLB: Angels at Tampa Bay, 4 p.m., FSW:

Yes, these two just played a two-game series in the great indoors of St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field, and the Angels won both — 5-3 and 5-1, on April 5-6. That first one turned out to be Manny Ramirez’s last game. The series includes games Saturday (10 a.m., Channel 11) and Sunday (10:40 a.m., FSW).

SATURDAY

NHL playoffs: Teams to be determined, noon, Channel 4:

Who’s looking for a little national exposure. NBC has set aside this window, as well as one more on Sunday.

SUNDAY

MLS: Galaxy at Dallas, 4 p.m., FSW:

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Something borrowed, something Becks: David Beckham has told the team he plans to be in England on Friday to attend Prince Williams’ wedding ceremony to Kate Middleton, then fly from Westminster Abbey to Pizza Hut Park in Dallas in time for the opening kickoff. In fact, by his calculations, he’ll even be there on Saturday before the team arrives.

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30 baseball books in 30 days of ’11: Day 24 — PRG is progress, or potential runs per game …

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The book: “The Runmakers: A New Way to Rate Baseball Players”

The author: Frederick E. Taylor

The vital stats: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 272 pages, $24.95

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: It looks so simple. It factors out in some degree looking very accurate with the eye-ball test. But then you have some strange abberations.

It’s what happens when you make numbers pole dance.

Knowing how stats fuel baseball, and should always have a seat in the discussion when we start to accumulate baseball books that have meaning and could hold long-term prominence. Which is why we accept this one by Taylor, a retired professor of American government who also worked for the U.S. Department of Commerce and Department of Defense.

He proposes “potential runs per game” (PRG) as a new measure — the ninth, by his count, after all the OPS, OBP and other abbreviations available. This one takes into account batters not just reaching base or driving in runs, but also advancing runners. It’s advertised as much better than a simple batting average, easier to calculate than any Bill James formula, and getting to the essential part of the game — who produces runs.

So Taylor takes his slide rule and breaks down the history of baseball into eight different eras, then creating a new Top 10 lists of players based on positions, time played, and where they were in the batting lineup.

By his calculations, for example, he concurs that Babe Ruth was the top player (in PRG) during the 1921-41 era, and Ted Williams the same from ’42-’62.

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More yardage to go on ‘Going Yard’

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In 2005, Stan Fridstein and his son Eric, with Kelvin Yamashita and his son, Ryan, enjoy a moment in the Cleveland Indians’ dugout at Jacobs Field.

Following up on today’s Sunday Q-and-A with Stan Fridstein as we discuss his new book, “Going Yard: The Ultimate Guide for Major League Baseball Stadium Road Trips” (linked here), available both on Amazon.com and on Fridstein’s website www.goingyardjourney.com — and not part of our “30 Baseball Books in the 30 Days of April,” but a bonus selection as we move toward the end of this month:

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Q: Was the book a result of the fact as you said you were kind of blazing your own trail and had no real reference guides to go by, so people could learn from your trial and error?

A: I couldn’t find anything out there that was in a single, comprehensive place. I did a lot research, and there’s so much information out there. For example, you go to the TripAdvisor.com website, and you can find 800 things to do in New York City. You’ve got an extra day, so what are you going to do with a 10-year-old kid? What’s relevant to a sports-minded person? It was about ferreting though and all that and calling people and making connections. A lot of the information existed online and if you checked all the blogs and websites, so you could probably find all this somewhere. It just wasn’t in one place.
I was concerned that my son have a great time, and the goal during the first year was to have so much fun that he wanted to do it again next year. So I went overboard in researching to make sure the two boys’ every minute was so full of fun, they’d want more.

Q: Is there also the chance a kid will get exhausted from trying to do too many parks in a row?

A: For me, the baseball park visits were a foil for what the real opportunity was that I was trying to accomplished. For seven to 10 days every summer for seven years, I got to own my son. That’s an amazing thing, to do it a way where there’s so much joy and in a completely unthreatening mode, without his sister and mother and not a lot of static going on. If I had said to him upfront – let’s go on a tour of some interesting cities and see some museums and, you know, maybe take in a baseball game, my son wouldn’t have been interested. But when you position it as taking a baseball trip – that’s only three hours a day. You’ve got another 21 hours to fill. But if you do things right, and pass the time doing the right things, it’s an amazing experience for both of you. You visit cities that you’d otherwise never have a reason to be in discovering really neat things, learning new things.

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Q: In your book, you estimate that it’ll cost about $3,900 per family per trip to do these annual excursions. Is that a number that’s somewhat inflationary proof?

A: That’s a real ballpark figure – no pun intended. But I think the key is you have to be careful who you travel with. The Yamashitas have been great to travel with because we share a lot of the same values. We didn’t need to stay a Four Seasons hotel, or buy great tickets to every game, take guided tours, have unlimited budgets. You have to go with people who you aren’t in a position to start making compromises. These trips can be expensive, or inexpensive. I just sort of came up with $4,000 because I think that’s pretty close for most people who would try this.

Q: You explain in the book about the art of writing a letter in advance and ask each team if they can help you with private tours, tickets . . . Do you think most people are brave enough to ask for those things?

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A: I don’t think most even think about it. People don’t realize that each team has employees full time in the community relations and they want people to feel good about their team. The bottom line is even if they give you a free ticket, you’re still going to spend $100 in drinks and the gift shops or somewhere there. Unless it’s a team like the Yankees or Red Sox or Cubs, maybe the Giants, where they sell out 100 percent of their seats, there will always be empty seats. But when you can contact a team ahead of time and arrange for things like access to a locker room, get on the field, meet players and get a sense of standing on the field, realize what it must feel like with 40,000 people screaming in the stands. It’s pretty awe-inspiring than being at a Little League field with just 20 parents there.
I found teams to be very receptive of my letters because I was genuine about it. Some people are less likely and more fearful to use the social network to secure tickets or get special access. But that was hugely successful for us. This was long before Facebook, maybe 10 years ago, and I had no problem with sending out emails to everyone I knew to tell them about what we’re trying to do – go to a city, visit the parks and look for a great experience. I was shocked not so much that I did get help, but from some of the people who helped me. For example, one friend of mine who was so much not a baseball fan, couldn’t name five teams if he had to, was a contact, and it turned out one of his father’s best friends were part of the Katz family, one of the owners of the New York Mets. And through that connection we were able to get on the field and hang out at one point with Tom Glavine. But my friend was the last person I figured could get me on the field at Shea Stadium, but it was really cool he was willing to make that call on my behalf. You might have friends in other cities who have a sister working for the radio station that carries the team’s games and has access to tickets. My experience: Don’t be shy. Today, with a more effective way to ask for things with Facebook, I think other people are excited to see what we were doing and wanted to help.

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Q: What’s your key advice about landing tickets? Do you find some people skimp on buying good seats as a way to save money?

A: As it turned out, in many cases, I got free tickets. We maybe only bought tickets to five or 10 games tops. You can always find tickets. Sometimes we were promised tickets and it didn’t happen. But when you buy a ticket, that’s another personal decision. There’s one who need to be between first and third five rows up, or others are fine anywhere except what they’d consider to be the worst seats. We wanted decent seats, nothing great. Sometimes you’d get the best seats imaginable. If the difference between a good and a poor seat was $10 or $15, we could do that, but we weren’t paying $200 when you could get a perfectly good seat for $40. For me, sometimes I’d rather spend $40 than $25 for another section, too.
The ‘bleacher bum’ seats at Wrigley Field may be the cheapest, but I know some people who wouldn’t sit anywhere else in the park because of the spirit out there. And then there’s seats now atop the Green Monster at Fenway that are ridiculously expensive, and they may be the worst seats in the house.
I don’t think where you sit makes or break the experience. First off, you’ll probably end up walking around, tasting beer, eating hot dogs. It goes back to the same choice if you want to stay at a Ritz Carlton versus a Marriott Courtyard.

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Q: There’s an updated version coming out someday?

A: They’ll be building a new field for the Marlins, and you’ve got to think they’ll be new stadiums someday in Tampa Bay, so there’ll always be more trips to make. The thing I found out – there were some parks where there were places to visit I wasn’t even aware of. I didn’t know the Negro League Hall of Fame was in Kansas City, or the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum was within a 9 iron of Camden Yards in Baltimore. So now I want to go back and update all that information. While this isn’t a travelogue, some of the things we did do were kind of yawns, and my son helped me with saying, ‘We’re bored and we hated doing that.’ That’s good to know.

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30 baseball books in 30 days of ’11: Day 23 — Have you met Mr. Met? At least he’s not Mr. Meadowlark

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The book: “New York Mets: 50 Amazin’ Seasons — The Complete Illustrated History”

The author: Matthew Silverman

The vital stats: MVP Books, 208 pages, $30

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: While not fielding a team until 1962, this would be the New York Mets’ 50th season. Do the math. It’s as good a time as any to break out this amazing-size scrapbook of memories that even a non-Mets fan can appreciate. To an extent.

Silverman, who runs his own Mets fan website (www.metsilverman.com) culls the files of the New York Times, famed baseball writer Jack Lang and other team fansites such as Centerfield Maz, Faith and Fear in Flushing and Mets Police to flush out the team’s history in a real neat kind of way, one that kids and adults can appreciate.

The cover alone is unique — a pull tab at the top allows you to change the four photos on the front, from Seaver, Kranepool, Stengel and Kingman to Gooden, Hernandez, Piazza and Wright.

Since it’s Mets’ history we really after here (but we do enjoy the eye candy), consider these gems you have have forgotten:

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30 baseball books in 30 days of ’11: Day 22 — A 100 seasons in Fenway, and beyond

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The book: “Remembering Fenway Park: An Oral and Narrative History of the Home of the Boston Red Sox”

The author: Harvey Frommer

The vital stats: Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 238 pages, $45.

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

The pitch: The Red Sox’s four-game series against the Angels in Anaheim — they don’t play each other in Boston until early next month (May 2-5) — gives us a hook to look back at Fenway from its birth in 1912 and as it readies for its 100th anniversary season in 2012.

And, again, we’re hooked.

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The Media Learning Curve: April 15-22

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You may have seen how a robot — basically, a souped-up Segway — designed to throw a baseball did in its debut, asked to toss the ceremonial first pitch before a Philadelphia Phillies game the other day.

It was so lame, the Phillie Fanatic motioned to the bullpen for another reliever.

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There’s also this story that came across our radar this week: Did a robot outwrite a sportswriter? Well ….

National Public Radio (linked here) investigated, based on a tip from Deadspin.com.

There’s a sentence we never thought we’d write.

Basically, a software program created by Narrative Science to write a basic sports story based on information put into a computer could have done a better job reporting a perfect game that was pitched by the University of Virginia’s Will Roberts against George Washington University. Especially after a Deadspin follower found the report of the game on the GW sports information website that basically buried the lead.

After today’s media column (linked here), read on for more notes as we plow through more media notes from the last few weeks that are worth making a fuss about:

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== DVR alert for all those who remember ABC’s “Wide World of Sports”:

ESPN begins a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the anthology series starting with marathon programming on, what else, ESPN Classic. It begins Monday at 4 a.m. and runs through Thursday, April 28, finishing up with the show’s 30th and 35th anniversary specials.

Originally envisioned as a fill-in show for one summer, Wide World of Sports debuted April 29, 1961, with Jim McKay hosting a show that action the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, and the Penn Relays from Franklin Field in Philadelphia.

The rest is historic, bolding going where no sports shows had gone before. Sunday’s ESPN: “Outside the Lines” with Bob Ley (6 a.m.) talks to the show’s producers and on-air personalities to discuss its legacy.

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Then ESPN Classic starts with these episodes worth saving:
==Mon., April 25:
=4 a.m.: Arnold Schwarzenegger wins Mr. Olympia, mountain climbing with Bobby Kennedy; 7 p.m.: A review of daredevil Evel Knievel’s famous motorcycle jumps; 8 pm.: Howard Cosell and Muhammad Ali discuss the boxer’s career.
==Tue., April 26:
=6 p.m.: Track & field from Russia, U.S. volleyball in Cuba, gymnastics in China, soap box derby in Akron, Ohio, rattlesnake roundup and cutterhorse racing; 8 p.m.: More with Ali, his 1975 fights against Chuck Wepner, Ron Lyle and Joe Frazier in the last of their trilogy.
== Wed., April 27:
=5 p.m.: Hydroplane racing, skateboarding championships and ice boat racing.
==Thurs., April 28:
=6 p.m.: The 1968 Dune Buggy Championships, the 1965, ’66 and ’68 Reno Air Races, with a crash by the “Red Baron,” Steve Hinton; 8 p.m.: A series of interviews with Howard Cosell talking to Ali, Wilt Chamberlain, Pete Rozelle, Joe Namath, Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs; 9 p.m.: The first Wide World of Sports – Drake Relays and Penn Relays.
==Friday, April 29:
=6 p.m.: The 30th anniversary special, hosted by Jim McKay; 7:30 p.m.: The 35th anniversary special, hosted by Robin Roberts.

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== We don’t know who’ll be on the cover of “Madden NFL ’12″ — you apparently have that decision (linked here) — but the New York Times (linked here) reports that the new EA Sports video game will be more concussion conscious, forcing any virtual player who sustains a major head injury to the sidelines for the rest of the game. The broadcasters on the video game will also explain why the injury is serious enough to result in this action. “Madden NFL 12″ executive producer Phil Frazier says “I wouldn’t say this is a full public-service announcement, but it’s a means to educate.” Adds Madden: “Concussions are such a big thing, it has to be a big thing in the video game. … Concussions are really serious: if we show players playing through them, then kids won’t understand.”

== AND FINALLY:

== There’s more of a chance to read between the lines from a Wall Street Journal analysis (linked here) about how Fox Sports is trying to keep in the good graces of Dodgers owner Frank McCourt by supplying loans than what the L.A. Times supplied (linked here) in Friday’s coverage.

Why? The WSJ is owned by Ruppert Murdock, who runs News Corp., which runs Fox Sports. That connection is made in the WSJ story, as ethically responsible as it can be.

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30 baseball books in 30 days of ’11: Day 21 — Wake up, Wakefield: A knuckleballer’s dream career is about to end

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The book: “Knuckler: My Life with Baseball’s Most Confounding Pitch”

The author: Tim Wakefield and Tony Massarotti

The vital stats: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 288 pages, $26

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: Chances are that Wakefield will make an apparence against the Angels sometime in their current four-game series — either as an emergency starter, closer, short reliever, middle reliever, set-up man … late-inning defensive replacement?

Wakefield, who hits 45 later this season (in August), is this ultimate survivor. A team player. A utility pitcher with a pitch that is a recipe for disaster. But one that deserves his story told on more than 250 pages?

It’s a stretch, but, as it turns out, one that the reader will, page by page, realize he’s part of Wakefield’s dream ride, which even in baseball lore is pretty far fetched. He is the every-man player, doing whatever it takes to stay in a uniform.

For those who don’t remember: This was a utility infielder and bullpen catcher who was about to get released by the Pittsburgh Pirates before a minor-league coach noticed him messing around with a knuckleball. That became his ticket to the big-leagues, being promoted to the Pirates in time for a run into the playoffs in 1992. Manager Jim Leyland called him “the (explective) Elvis Presley of the National League.”

But as is the pitch’s fate, it left the building the next year. Three seasons later, the Pirates released him.

The Red Sox’s foresight was to have Phil Niekro tutor him not just on the pitch, but how to mentally master it. Niekro was the Wakefield Whisperer. “Use the uncertainty (of the knuckleball) to your advantage.” Mix up speed and elevation within a mechanically sound delivery.

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