30 baseball books in 30 days of ’11: Day 20 — It’s not even your dad’s Yankee Stadium

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The book: “The House That Ruth Built: A New Stadium, the First Yankees Championship, and the Redemption of 1923″

The author: Robert Weintraub

The vital stats: Little, Brown and Company, 432 pages, $26.99

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

The pitch: As we’re finding out with many of the books reviewed during this month, history has a way of coming alive again when given to the right writer.

Pinpointing the story of a giant like Babe Ruth, the opening of Yankee Stadium in 1923, and going head-to-head with the New York Giants’ John McGraw, who beat the Yankees n the ’21 and ’22 World Series, could just be history warmed over on a lesser man’s keyboard. Slate.com sports columnists Weintraub won’t have any of that.

This is a lesson in how to make baseball’s past become present — and not just with modern-day anologies (although that helps). There’s no daily summaries of games played or research wrought that bog down the flow of this storytelling. Instead, there’s more discussion on things like how Lou Gehrig, once belittled by New York Giants manager John McGraw during a tryout, ended up replacing Wally Pipp, how Yankees GM George Weiss survived a train wreck that ended the life of “Wild Bill” Donovan, and even more nicknames for Ruth that you thought couldn’t be thought up any more.

In also bringing alive the writing of baseball scribes like Ring Lardner, Grantland Rice, Damon Runyon, Westbrook Pegler and John Kieran, Weintraub lets it flow as it was back in the day. He’s caught the essence of the era.

Turns out, 1923 was a pretty special season, one definitely worth revisiting. But only, in this case, by Weintraub.

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30 baseball books in 30 days of ’11: Day 19 — WWBCD? We’re not all that interested

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The book: “In the Time of Bobby Cox
The Atlanta Braves, Their Manager, My Couch, Two Decades, and Me”

The author: Lang Whitaker

The vital stats: Schribner, 240 pages, $24.

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

The pitch: With the Dodgers emersed in a four-game series against the Atlanta Braves tonight, you’ve no doubt noticed the glaring omission from the visiting dugout: No more Bobby Cox.

Unless you’re completely enthralled with the recent history of the Atlanta Braves, you’ll likely omit this book from your shelf as well.

Whitaker, the executive editor of SLAM magazine and a former SI.com columnist, uses the former Braves skipper as an entry point on how his life has gone to date, and how he deals with things based on what Cox may have taught him.

What Would Bobby Cox Do? We somehow missed on getting that rubber band for our wrist.

Lang estimates he has seen Cox manage more than 1,000 games, even from a TV set in New York. So he knows his muse very well.

“We can’t rely on much in life,” he writes, “but I know Bobby will be there for me day after day, week after week, month after month. … Bobby Cox has to be the single most important person in my sporting life.”

We could think of a few better role models, but, OK, go on …

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How many innings can it eat up out of the Dodgers bullpen?

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(AP Photo/The Inquirer, Ron Tarver)
Jamie Gewirtz, left, research specialist at the University of Pennsylvania, waits for a robot to throw him a ball at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia The one-armed, three-wheeled robot will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Wednesday’s game between the Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers as part of Science Day festivities at the stadium.

The Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — PhillieBot for Cy Young? It’s unlikely.

But the one-armed, three-wheeled robot, designed by engineers at the University of Pennsylvania, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Wednesday’s game between the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers as part of Science Day festivities at Citizens Bank Park, said Evan Lerner, a spokesman for Penn’s engineering school.

The pitching robot has been in the makings for a month and a half as Penn engineers Jordan Brindza and Jamie Gewirtz assembled parts and wrote software in their spare time, Lerner said.

They started with a Segway, gave it a robotic arm and added a third wheel. They also gave it a pneumatic cylinder, which delivers a burst of compressed carbon dioxide to power the pitch. The robot’s computer brain can be tweaked to change pitch velocity and trajectory.

On Monday, Brindza and Gewirtz took PhillieBot out to the mound for its final test, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. After the press of a button, the robot’s mechanical arm reared back and then moved toward home plate; at the top of its delivery, it flicked its mechanical “wrist” and shot the ball forward.

The ball appeared to be traveling no more than 30 or 40 miles an hour, the Inquirer reported. But that was by design, since the Phillies didn’t want the pitch approaching Major League speeds.

The team’s head groundskeeper, Mike Boekholder, told the newspaper that he has been assured the machine won’t tear up the playing surface.

Nevertheless, he doesn’t see a future for PhillieBot in the team’s star-studded rotation, which features reigning Cy Young award-winner Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.

“I know some teams are a little pitching-challenged,” Boekholder said. “But we certainly don’t have that problem.”

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Paralympic cycing event goes to Home Depot Center Velodrome for 2012

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The 2012 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships will take place at Carson’s Home Depot Center on Feb. 10-12, the U.S. Olympic Committee anounced today at an LA Live ceremony.

Some 230 athletes from 30 countries will participate in what is the final qualifying even for U.S. athletes to be nominated to the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Cycling Team, which will participate in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.

The local organizing committee for the 2012 event is the Los Angeles Velodrome Racing Association (LAVRA). The 2012 championship marks the first time since 1998, and just the second time ever, that the UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships will be held in the United States.

The Home Depot Center Velodrome, a national training center for USA Cycling, is the first and only permanent indoor track of international standard in North America.

The track measures at 250 meters in circumference, 7 meters in width, and inclines at 45 degrees on both ends with 2,450 spectator seats.

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Norm Macdonald, on Kobe Bryant: ‘He was referring to Thai referee Pheoh-Kaeng Phe-Ghat’

It’ll be on tonight’s latest episode of “Sports Show With Norm Macdonald,” the Comedy Central’s new series that goes about as far as Jon Stewart does on “The Daily Show” or Daniel Tosh does with “Tosh.o” when it comes to pushing envelopes and bending language in the cause of laughing at things that actually happen.

In fact, when riffing about the Kobe Bryant homophobic slur caught by TV cameras last week, neither Macdonald nor Comedy Central does what many of the other sports and news show did — it shows an unpixilated Bryant mouthing the words so viewers are able to see his lips move.

In this case, the Macdonald show audience actually laughs, and then it gets far more loose with the language:

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30 baseball books in 30 days of ’11: Day 18 — 30 years later, the 33 inning affair to remember

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The book: “Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption, and Baseball’s Longest Game”

The author: Dan Barry

The vital stats: HarperCollins, 272 pages, $26.99

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: It started on this Holy Saturday 30 years ago — April 18, 1981, It continued until 3:30 a.m. on April 19, just hours before Easter sunrise. It didn’t finish until June 23, in the middle of major league baseball’s strike, when fans of the game wondered if anyone played this anymore just for the love of it.

It made history in many ways for the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings. And we’re more than pleased to go back there, reconstruct it, and relive it. We wish we could have done so sooner.

What New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Barry does here is create a book “of informed imagination,” as he calls it — try to figure out what those involved were thinking and feeling at the time, and establish the fact that, after a certain point, a whole baseball nation was dedicated to finishing it.

Barry’s writing, whether it’s from his imagination or not, holds it all together beautifully, doesn’t hold back at all on the language, and makes you feel as if you’re going through this mental roller coast just as everyone from the clubhouse boy to the official scorekeeper, the two newspaper guys covering it and the team’s GM-turned-broadcaster, to the two future Hall of Famers (Cal Ripken Jr. and Wade Boggs) would be part of it.

So was this a record, Barry asks, that is “less about achievement than it is about frustration?”

“Most of them are too tired, too cold and too hungry to contemplate the historic import of the night,” Barry writes. …

In many cases, it’s a game for non-major-league, Triple-A players who aren’t sure if they’re coming or going, getting another day to be paid or on their way to finding another career.

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Play it forward: April 18-24 on your sports calendar

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AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant reacts after falling and hitting his neck on a chair as Tim Leiweke, president of AEG, left, and will.i.am, second from left, look on during the first half of Sunday’s eventual loss to New Orleans in Game 1 of their NBA playoff series at Staples Center.

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

MONDAY

MLB: Dodgers vs. Atlanta, Dodger Stadium, 7:10 p.m., Prime:

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At the very least, the Dodgers won’t come into this four-game series with a six-game losing streak. But when attendance on back-to-back weekend games are around 30,000, the fans are speaking up. The pitching matchup that could bring the most intrigue in this four-game series is a Wednesday meeting of former Dodger Derek Lowe against John Garland, trying to rebound from a disappointing outing against St. Louis in his first start of the season. The series continues Tuesday (7 p.m., Prime), Wednesday (7 p.m., Channel 9) and finishes with a Thursday 12:10 p.m. start where the Dodgers unveil their new alternative Brooklyn light blue jerseys.

MLB: Angels at Texas, 5 p.m., FSW:

Josh Hamilton’s broken arm will keep him out of the lineup at least another six weeks, but the Rangers, last season’s AL reps in the World Series, are back on top in the AL West with a team slugging percentage second in the league. The series continues Tuesday (5 p.m., FSW) and Wednesday (5 p.m., Channel 13).

Running: The Boston Marathon, 7 a.m., Universal Sports:

Why is it you never see anyone from Kenya or Ethiopia develop a Boston accent?

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TUESDAY

NHL playoffs: Kings vs. San Jose, Game 3: Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime:

No doubt, without Drew Doughty’s Game 2 performance, this series is doubtful for the Kings moving forward into the playoffs. Instead, they’ve got a home-ice edge, and the next two on their familiar rink before bearded fans who’ll make sure they’re more than welcome to keep the Sharks tanked. The series continues with Game 4 (Thursday, 7:30 p.m., Prime) and Game 5 (Saturday at San Jose, 7:30 p.m., Prime).

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WEDNESDAY

NBA playoffs: Lakers vs. New Orleans, Game 2: Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW, TNT:

Lakers coach Phil Jackson showed up for Sunday’s Game 1 wearing his 1973 New York Knicks championship ring, saying he plans to break out a different title ring to every playoff game. That obviously didn’t do much to impress his team in what appears to be his last playoff dance. The nine-point listless loss isn’t lost on the Hornets’ Chris Paul, playing for a team without an owner, but not without a purpose. The series continues with Game 3 (Friday at New Orleans, 6:30 p.m., Channel 9 and ESPN) and Game 4 (Sunday at New Orleans, 6:30 p.m., Channel 9 and TNT).

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NHL playoffs: Ducks at Nashville, Game 4, KDOC, 5:30 p.m.:

How much longer can the Ducks waddle forward without a suspended Bobby Ryan? They’re down 2-1 in the series and have one more in Tennessee before even thinking about coming home in a deep hole. The series continues with Game 5 (Friday at Anaheim, 7 p.m., Prime) and Game 6 (Sunday at Nashville, 7:30 p.m., TBA).

THURSDAY

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

Boston’s other marathon of futility continues. The Red Sox haven’t managed to win anything on the road so far, losing all six to start their season in Texas and Cleveland. The series continues Friday (7 p.m., FSW), Saturday (6 p.m., FSW) and Sunday (12:35 p.m., FSW), where former Angel John Lackey is scheduled to start for the Red Sox.

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Golf: PGA’s The Heritage, first round, noon, Golf Channel:

Get your plaid on. Or don’t. The winner’s jacket that must be worn looks like something from Happy Gilmore’s wardrobe. Golf Channel has Friday’s third round; CBS has the Saturday and Sunday final two rounds.

FRIDAY

MLB: Dodgers at Chicago Cubs, 11:20 a.m., Prime:

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We’re not certain that even Ferris Bueller takes days off to come see the Cubs play anymore. It’s a three-day affair at Wrigley, with the Cubs’ only consistent pitcher, Carlos Zambrano, missing his turn in the rotation. The series continues Saturday (10 a.m., Channel 9) and Sunday (11:20 a.m., Prime).

SATURDAY

MLS: Galaxy vs. Portland, Home Depot Center, 8 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel:

Did David Beckham really bend three balls, barefooted, into three distant trash cans on the beach, with the help of a souped-up diet soft drink? Yeah, and Kobe Bryant jumped over a moving Astin Martin. Asked by the Toronto Star if it was real, Becks replied: “Of course. I spent five or six hours on the beach so I had a lot of time to practice.” That’ll really help in tonight’s game against the expansion team Timbers. That is if Beckham hasn’t picked up any more stray yellow cards that keep him benched.

SUNDAY

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NBA playoffs: Miami at Philadelphia Game 4, 10 a.m., Channel 7; Boston at New York Game 4, 12:30 p.m., Channel 7:
The network hors d’oeuvres are of the East Coast variety before the Lakers dive into come ragin’ Cajuns for the night cap.

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30 baseball books in 30 days of ’11: Day 17 — Daddy-o, the Summer of ’61, first hand

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The book: “1961*: The Inside Story of the Maris-Mantle Home Run Chase”

The author: Phil Pepe

The vital stats: Triumph Books, 288 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: Pepe, whose career would include writing 50 books, covering the Yankees for the New York Daily News for 13 years and become president of the Baseball Writers Association of America, found himself in a pretty cool situation in August, 1961.

Fate may have put Roger Maris into the position to hit 61 home runs and lay claim to a new single-season (162 games, that is) home run record, instead of heralded teammate Mickey Mantle (who 60 years ago made his major league debut at the age of 19, by the way).

But it also gave Pepe, who joined the New York World-Telegram and Sun staff in 1957, a chance to cover the Yankees full time at age 26 after “a series of unexpected and unfortunate circumstances that left my paper undermanned.”

He got to see history made.

So while the first 118 pages that chronicle the Yankees ’61 season kind of grind along here, the last 150-plus, starting with Chapter 11, really take things up a notch, where the reader is able to see Maris and Mantle through Pepe on a daily basis, gauging their emotions, acting as something of a confidant (especially to Maris) and witnessing the controversial pursuit of Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record first hand.
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More on Jamie Storr’s hockey funhouse

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Jamie Storr, right, works with two 7-year-olds on the “Endless Ice” conveyor belt training device at his El Segundo training facility.

Maybe all that’s missing for at Jamie Storr’s youth hockey training facility in El Segundo is a snow machine creating fake flakes falling outside the window that otherwise could have a view to the ocean if some commercial buildings weren’t in the way.

Following up today’s column on how the former Kings goalie has made training fun for kids (linked here), Storr explains more about his methods and goals:

“The biggest thing today – we’re seeing players who are 250 pounds. That wasn’t so much when I was playing. And they’re still developing at age 28, 30 years old. When I played, whatever you got up to age 18, that seemed to be it. You were in games.

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“When we were kids, there were no private lessons, just dads who coached. There weren’t even access to former NHL players. Sports-specific training has changed the game. And hockey is a year-around sport now. Spring and summer leagues. There’s no time off any more.

“The L.A. market may be much smaller for hockey than it is in Canada – that’s just the reality of it. But it can be more efficient and build a solid foundation in the game just as well as anywhere else. That’s half the battle. But as kids see their level of play improve, their potential goes up. Now a kid who’s a 6 or 7 on a scale of 1-to-10 can be an 8 or 9. A 4 or 5 kid can get up to 6 or 7. There will always be the 10s who do it well in spite of everything. But paying $400 an hour for ice time just to shoot the puck misses a lot.”

As for how the harness works to help kids gain confidence as they learn to skate better:

“No one likes to fall, and some see falling as failure. But failure is part of learning and it’s mental as much as it is physical. We’re trying to make it as comfortable as possible to learn. I’m a big believer in John Wooden’s philosophy – positive reinforcement, without just telling them how things work.”

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More:
== Storr’s goalie school website (linked here)
== Storr’s pro career statistics (linked here)

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30 baseball books in 30 days of ’11: Day 16 — Baseball’s most famous woman (named Manley)

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The book: “The Most Famous Woman in Baseball: Effa Manley and the Negro Leagues”

The author: Bob Luke

The vital stats: Potomac Books, 256 pages, $27.95

Find it: 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: Her headstone at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City reads “She Loved Baseball.” Effa Manley was 84 (or there abouts) when she died in L.A. exactly 30 years ago today, believed to be the last surviving owner of a franchise in the Negro Leagues.

You do have to wonder what Marge Schott, the late owner of the Cincinnati Reds who enjoyed her eclectic collection of Nazi propaganda, racial slurs and St. Bernard dogs, would have to say about this bulldog of a woman.

Granted, her name didn’t come on most baseball people’s radar until she was among the list of Negro League nominees for the Baseball Hall of Fame, and was then inducted as the first woman into the shrine in 2006.

In some ways, she and Schott shared one interesting personality trait — they never minced words.

As Luke shows with his research, Manley once wrote a letter to sportswriter Art Carter, saying she hoped they could meet soon because “I would like to tell you a lot of things you should know about baseball.”

Maybe that’s why Doc Young, a sportswriter for the Los Angeles Sentinal, referred to her once as “vitrolic.”

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What did she know? Basically, from 1936 to 1948, she ran the National Negro League’s Newark Eagles, which her husband, Abraham Lincoln Manley, bought when it was in Brooklyn (sharing Ebbets Field with the Dodgers) and moving it to New Jersey. She was responsible for recruiting players like Monte Irvin, Satchel Paige and Don Newcombe to play for her team.

Fancy that.

On top of it, she was way ahead of the curve in social justice marching, trying to eliminate Jim Crow standards and level the playing field for employees that included names such as Christopher “Crush” Holloway, Bill “Cannonball” Jackman, Clarence “Fats” Jenkins and Bob “Glasseye” Evans (we can’t get enough of those kinds of references).

An excerpt that shows what Effa Manley was all about comes during an owners meeting where a debate arose about who would be the league’s next commissioner.

From page 57: “(The other owners) heard Effa’s voice above the din yelling, ‘We are fighting for something bigger than a little money! We are fighting for a race issue. In other words, what we are doing here has become more important than we.’ At that, (owner Cum) Posey jumped up and left the meeting, vowing not to return until “Abe could keep his wife at home where she belonged.’ … The Afro-American (newspaper) ran a group photograph of the men in attendance with a separate photograph of a smiling Effa captioned ‘Stormy Petrel.’”

While Effa butted heads with such people at Branch Rickey and even Jackie Robinson, it’s her relationship with Newcombe, who simply drove up to the Manley’s apartment one day to introduce himself in 1943, that is of particular interest to Dodgers franchise followers.

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After Newcombe (pictured, right, with Manley while looking at her scrapbook in 1973) had a 0-4 record “in league games for which he got the decision and had to be relieved in many others,” Manley wrote a letter to his parents explaining that he had the makings to “become one of the outstanding pitchers’” but “he was showing a big head. This is bad.” She explained that she was paying a “big salary” to (another player) so he could help Newcombe, and she offered him a raise of $170 to $200 a month. “I wish Donald the best of luck, but I do hate to see him getting off so completely on the wrong foot.”

Luke adds: “Her letter had the intended effect.”

Rickey later signed Newcombe to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946 “without talking to Abe or Effa … (and) Rickey’s actions infuriated Effa. ‘Rickey took (Jackie) Robinson, Newcombe and (Roy) Campanella from our Negro baseball and didn’t even say thank you,’ she wrote. ‘He took Newcombe from me, so I know that I’m talking about.’”

Thankfully, Luke is able to draw upon many of Manley’s actual correspondences that she kept on file from 1938 to ’46, althought she did leave the files behind in New Jersey when she moved to L.A. later in her life, but they were discovered by a contractor and donated to the Newark Library. Her personal scrapbook found its way to the Baseball Hall of Fame — as did she.

How it goes down in the scorebook: Timothy Gay, author of last year’s book, “Satch, Dizzy & Rapid Robert: The Wild Saga of Interracial Baseball Before Jackie Robinson,” writes in a quick review: “Had Effa Manley’s real life ever been submitted as a Hollywood script, it would have been rejected as too far-fetched. Effa was part temptress, part civil rights crusader, and all shrewd and calculating businesswoman. In the capable hands of esteemed blackball historian Bob Luke, her life story becomes symbolic of the Negro leagues themselves: cool, defiant, and incandescent. What a great read!”

As compelling a story as Manley’s life may be, this version can be a slow read at times because of tedious notes included on almost every page. We appreciate trying to document everything, but the true Manley really has to fight through the paragraphs to get out to the reader. Still, the effort will be rewarded.

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Also: Last year, Audrey Vernick wrote the children’s book, “She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story.” Definitely, an easier read ….

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