A quick reference to all 30 books covered in this year’s month-long book review, with how we’d rank them:
TOUCH ‘EM ALL:
== Day 26: “Out Of My League: A Rookie’s Survival in the Bigs” by Dirk Hayhurst (linked here)
== Day 25: “Willie Mays Aikens: Safe at Home” by Gregory Jordan (linked here)
== Day 22: “The Ultimate Baseball Road Trip: A Fan’s Guide to Major League Stadiums, 2nd Edition” by Josh Pahigian and Kevin O’Connell (linked here)
== Day 10: “Dodgers from Coast to Coast: The Official Visual History of the Dodgers,” Introduction by Vin Scully; forward by Tommy Lasorda (linked here)
== Day 9: “Bill Veeck: Baseball’s Greatest Maverick” by Paul Dickson (linked here)
== Day 8: “Imperfect: An Improbable Life” by former Angels pitcher Jim Abbott, with Yahoo!Sports’ Tim Brown (linked here)
== Day 6: “Baseball Fantography: A Celebration in Snapshots and Stories from the Fans” by Andy Strasberg (linked here)
The pitch: From the lawyer-turned-prolific fiction writer who has already sold hundreds of millions of books worldwide comes his first baseball-based novel that, for some strange reason, involves no lawsuits being filed, steroid litigation or bankruptcy court action.
Although, if what happens in this book really did happen, there’d be some kind of civil, or even criminal, suit considered.
Grisham has already taken a commercial leap into the fake-sports genre with the football-related “Bleachers” (2002) and “Playing for Pizza” (2007), which must have turned enough of a profit to get him the green light from his publishers to try a baseball tale that involves a damaged relationship between a son and his cancer-riddled father intersecting with the storyline of a “coulda been” superstar whose career is cut short by a pitch to the noggin.
Joe Castle, from Calico Rock, Ark. — Grisham, incidentally, was born in Jonesboro, Ark. — is the title character, one with an uncharasticially ridiculous start of a career that lasts just 38 games as a July callup for the 1973 Chicago Cubs.
A near-fatal at-bat against aging, bitter pitcher Warren Tracey of the New York Mets isn’t where the story hits a climax, but it only the start of a so-called redemptive attempt by Tracey’s estranged son, Paul, who provides the catalyst for trying to set up a meeting between the Castle and his pops some 30 years after the beaning. Paul thinks it was deliverate. Warren sticks to his “it was an accident” excuse. We don’t know what to make of Castle, who, after suffering a subsequent stroke, is content on saddling up to a power mower and taking care of a high school field named after him in his hometown, as he’s taken care of by his two brothers.
Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:
(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) Kings rookie Dwight King is checked into the boards by St. Louis Blues’ Kevin Shattenkirk during the third period of Game 1 in St. Louis. The Blues players were checking King more than usual after his check of Alex Pietrangelo in the second period.
THIS WEEK’S BEST BET
NHL playoffs, Western Conference semifinals, Kings vs. St. Louis: Game 2 tonight at St. Louis, 6 p.m., CNBC; Game 3 Thursday at Staples Center, 7 p.m., MSNBC; Game 4 Sunday at Staples Center, noon, Channel 4:
The Lakers and Clippers may generate more eyes to TV screens for their first-round Staples Center playoff games, but a Kings’ sighting this far into the post-season is a far more eye-opening occurrence. And after their 3-1 Game 1 win in St. Louis, there may be an eye-for-an-eye mentality coming out of the Blues’ locker room for the rest of the series after top defenseman Alex Pietrangelo was face-first checked into the boards by Kings rookie Dwight King and drew blood. Pietrangelo is day to day with one of those “upper body” injuries, and King could be suspended if the NHL punishment team decides its worthy. The Kings know all about having some of their top players checked out — Kyle Clifford hasn’t played since Game 1 of the first round after taking an elbow to the head from Vancouver’s Byron Bitz, who was suspended for two games. In the first round, St. Louis won four in a row over San Jose after losing the opener. The Blues set a franchise record with 30 wins at home; the Kings have won four playoff games in a row on the road but suddenly find themselves in the same position as they were in the first round — coming home for Games 3 and 4 with an improbable 2-0 series lead.
MLB: Angels vs. Minnesota, 7:05 p.m., FSW:
Bottoms up: Maybe Albert Pujols, homerless in 22 games with the Angels and in 117 at bats going back to last season, just needs a new flavor of Budweiser. It’s on him. According to the website saveonbrew.com, Angels owner Arte Moreno continues to be the AL king of cheap beer as he leads the league in selling the least-expensive concession suds. At 32 cents an ounce (or $4.50 for a 14 ounce cup), Angels Stadium is almost half the price of what the Red Sox charge at Fenway ($7.25 for a 12 ouncer, or 60 cents per). The way the Angels have been playing, beer shots should be a requirement for the fans. Pujols went 2 for 13 with 1 RBI during the three-game series earlier this month in Minnesota, when the Twins took two of three. Put it this way: Twins shorstop Jamey Carroll (.225, 0 HRs, 6 RBIs) has better stats heading into May than Pujols (.216, 0 HRs, 4 RBIs). The teams meet again on FSW for Tuesday (with a Rally Monkey Beanie giveaway) and Wednesday (both at 7:05 p.m.)
MLB: Dodgers at Colorado, 5:40 p.m., Channel 9:
Matt Kemp has better careers stats (.324, 10 HRs, 39 RBI in 45 games) at Coors Field than at any other place outside Dodger Stadium, so the fact that he’s three short of the big-league record for most homers in the month of April may come to happen somehow. The Dodgers, who lost six of nine in Denver last year, have meetings arranged Tuesday (5:40 p.m., Channel 9) and Wednesday (12:10 p.m., Prime) with Clayton Kershaw set to rock ‘n’ roll in the finale. He was 0-1 with a 6.25 ERA in two starts at Colorado last year, giving up nine earned runs and 13 hits in 12 innings.
(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Denver Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson, right, puts up a shot as the Lakers’ Andrew Bynum, upper left, and Pau Gasol take a swipe at it in Sunday’s Game 1.
NBA playoffs: Western Conference quarterfinals Game 2: Lakers vs. Denver, Staples Center, 6:30 p.m., FSW, TNT:
During a third-quarter timeout in Game 1 of the series Sunday, ABC’s cameras and mikes caught Denver coach George Karl addressing his team as they trailed by 15 points: “Gentlemen, you’re in a series, you’re not in a game. What you’re going to do in the next two quarters is learn to do what we’re trying to do a little bit better because I don’t we’ve done it well enough for me to even say if it works or not.” Maybe he could have assessed things better if his view wasn’t blocked out most of the game by Andrew Bynum. The series goes to Denver for Game 3 on Friday (7:30 p.m., Channel 9, ESPN) and could be over by Game 4 on Sunday (6:30 p.m., Channel 9, TNT).
NBA playoffs: Western Conference quarterfinals Game 2: Clippers at Memphis, 6:30 p.m., Prime, TNT:
Maybe all that playoff beard growing means something to the Clippers, who avoided an embarrasing loss by coming back from 27 down to win Game 1. “When you lose a first game in the playoffs, it does shake the team’s will a little bit,” TNT analyst Chris Webber said during the third quarter of the opening game telecast, when all looked lost for the Clippers. “They have guys over there who know what they’re doing, and each game is its own series.” Guess that all goes out the window,right? Even with Caron Butler apparently done for the rest of the series, the Clips’ momentum could stunningly make them take a 2-0 lead by the time the series comes to Staples Center for Game 3 on Saturday (1:30 p.m., Prime, ESPN).
MLB: Angels vs. Toronto, 7:05 p.m., FSW:
Nothing says more than an Angels promotion gone ape-crazy than a Cinco de Mayo stuffed Rally Monkey with a red sombrero giveaway during Saturday’s game (6:10 p.m.) of the four-game series. Pre-event sales are already on eBay asking for north of $20 per for one of these things, which, if we aren’t mistaken, were advertised during the Angels’ broadcasts as “Cinco de Munko” novelties. The series continues Friday (7:05 p.m.) and Sunday (12:35 p.m.) on FSW.
Tiger Woods, coming off finishing 40th at the Masters and then taking some time off, will avoid media pre-event contact as much as possible this week, choosing only to answer questions by video posted by fans via Facebook and Twitter, said his agent, Mark Steinberg. “We wanted to have a little bit more direct interaction with fans, and they’ve been very good to him over the years,” Steinberg said. “We’re probably a little bit behind with social media and this is a way to do that.” That’s OK. We’re a little behind, and bored, with what kind of hard-hitting questions we’d like to ask him anyway. “If he thinks this is a way to connect with the fans, he’s badly mistaken,” wrote SI senior editor Mark Godrich at Golf.com. “Take those questions in a live setting. That would show me something.” CBS has the last two rounds Saturday and Sunday, and may send David Feherty to find him if necessary.
MLB: Dodgers at Chicago Cubs, 11:20 a.m., Prime:
Of course it’s a shame Vin Scully doesn’t accompany the team to Chitown for its only ivy-league appearance of the season, a three game, all-day light set that continues Saturday (10 a.m., Prime) and Sunday (11:20 a.m., Prime). The Cubs, last in the NL Central, are also 25th out of 30 big-league teams in runs scored so far and hitting just .237 as a team.
Horse racing: The 138th Kentucky Derby, from Churchill Downs, Louisville, Ky., 1 p.m., Channel 4:
We’ve come to learn by now that no matter how many horses Bob Baffert or D. Wayne Lucas or Todd Pletcher are squeezing into the field, no matter what celebrity has a 1-100th piece of a 3-year-old phenom, and no matter which one has the best name for a headline, the secret to Derby picking is to answer this question: Which pony is Calvin Borrel riding today? That would be Take Charge Indy, the Florida Derby winner. “Bo-Rail,” who rode three Derby winners in the last five races — Street Sense in the ’07 Derby, Mine That Bird in ’09 and Super Saver in ’10 — also has himself a horse that was sired by A.P. Indy (himself, a son of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew). The actual race takes place at about 3:24 p.m. — closer to prime time for the East Coast.
Volleyball: NCAA men’s championship, at USC’s Galen Center, 7 p.m., ESPNU:
Top-ranked USC wormed its way into the Final Four, despite losing in the semifinals of its conference tournament to eventual top seeded UC Irvine. The Trojans have to get past second-seeded Lewis (26-6), the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association winner, for either a rematch against the Anteaters or Penn State. The semifinals are Thursday at USC.
Boxing: Floyd Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto: 6 p.m., PPV:
Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer told one of the boxing websites appropriately called FightHype.com that this card, which includes Sugar Shane Mosley against Saul Alvarez, will be the most-watched pay-per-view event since Mayweather’s May 2007 win over Oscar De La Hoya, which attracted 2.4 million purchases. All it would have to do is pass the 1.45 million buys for Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez III last November. They’re asking $69.96 for HD, or $10 less for regular. What’s the incentive to see Mayweather, who knocked out Victor Ortiz in the fourth round last November then got into a cursing match with HBO’s Larry Merchant? Or to see Cotto, who hasn’t fought since he was knocked around by Pacquiao three years ago?
MLS: Galaxy vs. New York Red Bull, Home Depot Center, 5 p.m., ESPN:
The Wall Street Journal reported the other day that Red Bull star Thierry Henry’s image is on 300,000 cans of Red Bull in stores across the New York area, and they’re going to start circulating another 1.3 million cans of Red Bull with midfielder Rafael Marquez in “markets in Western states.” When does David Beckham start appearing on cans of Becks beer? All this may be a bit ill timed. Henry was lost to a strained hamstring early in the Red Bulls’ 1-0 win last week over New England and might miss his star-studded meeting with Beckham. The Galaxy, meanwhile, take a trip before this one to Seattle on Wednesday (7 p.m., KDOC-Channel 56).
Soccer: FA Cup final: Liverpool vs. Chelsea in Wembley, England, 9:15 a.m., Fox Soccer Channel:
Liverpool is the slight favorite to win the world’s oldest football tournament .
An excerpt: Page 281: The long, intense rivalry between Los Angeles and Hollywood was about to come to an end (in 1957). All that remained was to stage one last brawl for old time’s sake. The teams met at Gilmore Field on August 24 with Tommy Lasorda on the mound for the Angels. After surrendering a home run to Hollywood relief pitcher Fred Waters, an incensed Lasorda threw high and tight to the next batter, Spook Jacobs, who bunted the next pitch down the first-base line. An angry Lasorda ran toward the first-base line. Making no effort to field the ball, he threw a block at Jacobs that would have made an offensive tackle proud, sending the Stars baseball runner sprawling in the dirt. Jacobs, never one to back down from anybody, charged at Lasorda and the benches emptied. Jacobs then began swinging wildly at anything that moved, spending most of his time battling Los Angeles second baseman Sparky Anderson. Anderson’s teammate, shortstop Bobby Dolan, swung at Jacobs and the two of them started another fight. … During the mele, fans were treated to the unusual sight of Gale Wade and Carlos Bernier acting as peacemakers. Steve Bilko was left alone.
The book II: “The Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League: A History, 1903-1957″
An excerpt: Page 31: As the Angels drifted through the (1925) season, everyone eagerly awaited the completion of Wrigley Field, which was originally expected to take place in August but was delayed until the last week in September. The park was finally finished at a cost estimated at $1,300,000, and was ready for business on September 29. Before a crowd of 18,000, the Angels defeated the first-place Seals, 10-8, behind Doc Crandall on the mound. Jigger Statz was the star of the game, hitting the first Angels home run at the new park and adding a single, double and triple to complete the cycle. Paul Waner hit the very first home run in the first inning, a drive over the right-field screen. “Absolutely the very last word in baseball architecture,” said PCL president Harry Williams at the opening, and it certainly was – at least, in 1925. … The power alleys were only 345 feet away, a result of a design that turned the outfield walls slightly inward. Since left field followed the (East 41st Place) street plan and backed up on it, there was nothing that could be done to correct this problem, short of condemning the street itself.
The book III: “Mexican American Baseball in the Inland Empire”
The author: Richard A. Santillan, Mark A. Ocegueda and Terry A. Cannon
The vital stats: Arcadia Publishing, 128 pages, $21.95
An excerpt: Page 9: Mexican American baseball in California dates back to at least the 1890s and was well established in every Mexican American community by the early 1920s. .. Most of the players and fans attended church in the morning before heading out the baseball diamond. The players, who practiced hard during the week after working at their jobs 10 to 12 hours a day, had to get the fields into shape before each game. Mexican food and beer were sold, and Mexican music, and the Spanish language were heard …Unfortunately, these same communities shared other similarities. Mexican Americans confronted racial prejudice and discrimination in housing, health care, education, employment and recreation. … Yet, despite these hardships and social forms of segregation, the greater Mexican American community in California endured and eventually overcame many of these institutional obstacles by organizing political and social organizations, labor movements and religious groups, by filing lawsuits and establishing recreational clubs and facilities … sports were not just games, they were important elements of community identity, cultural affirmation, civil rights and political empowerment.
The author: From the editors at Sports Illustrated, featured writing by Steve Rushin, Tom Verducci, Robert W. Creamer, Austin Murphy, Roy Blount Jr., Peter Gammons, Mark Mulvoy, Leigh Montville and Gerry Callahan.
The vital stats: Time Home Entertainment, 192 pages, $32.95
The pitch: A story last week by Henry D. Fetter for the Atlantic (linked here) points out that the unlikely event of Fenway Park celebrating its 100th birthday has occurred, as it turns out, in spite of Sports Illustrated.