Play It Forward: April 16-22 on your sports calendar

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

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET

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(AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Andrew Bynum grabs a rebound despite the presence of San Antonio’s Boris Diaw, left, and Danny Green in last Wednesday’s game in San Antonio.

NBA: Lakers vs. San Antonio: Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., Staples Center, Prime, TNT; Friday at 6:30 p.m., in San Antonio, Channel 9:

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There was about a second left on the shot clock when Matt Barnes threw a desperate pass across the court. Metta World Peace caught it and, flat footed, launched a 3-pointed set shot. Somehow, it went in, boosting the Lakers’ lead at San Antonio to 21 points with about 10 1/2 minutes left in the game. Kobe Bryant, in street clothes, stood up and laughed. In a game where “World Medal Peace” (that’s the name James Worthy insists on calling him during the LTV shows) hit 26 points, Andrew Bynum collected 30 rebounds, and the Lakers collected a ridiculously easy 98-84 victory, what kind of statement was made? Don’t ask Bynum. Asked after the game on the Lakers’ telecast, he was asked his opinion about doing something for this team that only George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Elgin Baylor accomplished as a Laker. Bynum said: “Well, I shot the ball like (bleep) …” except that wasn’t bleeped out. By the time the regular season ends, the Lakers may not necessarily be the second-best team in the Western Conference — the Spurs should have that sewn up — but they’re not giving up so easily. Two more meetings between the two take place this week, with the prospects of Bryant actually participating this time, even though his tenosynovitis (fancy for a bad shin) kept him out of the last five games.

MONDAY

Running: Boston Marathon, 6:30 a.m., Universal Sports:

On Patriots’ Day, there’ll be 27,000 runners, plus Mitt Romney, on hand, while Thomas Gounley (above), a senior at the University of New Hampshire, has plans on running and juggling the entire way. Where does he think he is, L.A.?

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MLB: Angels vs. Oakland, Angel Stadium, 7:05 p.m., FSW:

Moneyball this: The A’s are barely ahead of San Diego as the franchise with the lowest team payroll in all of baseball at $55.3 million. Still wanna bring Hatteberg off the bench, Beane boy? The Angels had to hustle back from a late-night appearance off Broadway at Yankee Stadium, fly all night, and hopefully are awake enough to start this four-game series, highlighted by an Albert Pujols bobblehead giveaway on Tuesday — yes, the team bent over backwards to get these things ordered about fourth months after signing him as a free agent. Every game of the series is at 7:05 p.m. on FSW.

NBA: Clippers vs. Oklahoma City, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime:

Fasten your seat belts and flash back to last Wednesday: The Clippers scored a “stunning upset victory” over the Thunder (Ralph Lawler’s words) after Chris Paul made a daring layup with 8.8 seconds left, and then Kevin Durant missed on an off-balance, game-winning 3-point try in a 100-98 decision. “A game for the ages,” said Prime reporter Chris McGee. OK, boys, settle down. This is their last chance to measure themselves up against each other before a possible playoff encounter.

WNBA draft, 11 a.m., ESPN2:

Your Los Angeles Sparks have the top pick, but it won’t be Baylor 6-foot-8 all-everything
Brittney Griner. She announced before taking her team to a 40-0 mark and an NCAA title recently that he’s come back to school for her senior season and earn her degree in recreation. The WNBA requirement is already in place that a player must turn 22 during the year they are drafted, graduate from college or see their class finish its coursework during the three-month period following the draft. Or the player must be out of high school for four years. The top pick in the NBA may get $5 million dollars, the No. 1 pick in the WNBA makes about $48,000 — the real payoff is earning more than $1 million playing overseas.

TUESDAY

MLB: Dodgers at Milwaukee, 5:10 p.m., Channel 9:

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Enough beating up on the Padres and Pirates of the MLB world. The Dodgers take Matt Kemp’s six homers, 16 RBI and a .487 average in 10 games (all best in the NL so far) to see how they measure them up against the reigning MVP, Ryan Braun (.343. 1 HR, 4 RBI in nine games). The discussion about how Braun won the award, and Kemp didn’t, is bound to come up here at some point in the three-game series. Bob Costas said it the other day about whether the former Granada Hills High star can recover his reputation after having everything called into question with an oveturned postive drug test last off season: “Even if he is a model citizen and a model ballplayer for the next 10, 15 years, there’s always going to be somebody who’s going to recall this and make it a defining issue. But can he regain his standing nearly completely? Yeah, if everything goes well from this point on. He’s still a relatively young player, he’s a very likeable guy, and I think in his defense, he was fine in his defense until he threw the (drug) tester under the bus. That made no sense. … What Ryan could’ve said was, perhaps plausibly: ‘I have no idea how this test turned out the way it did. I tested negative many, many times before. As soon as I heard about it, I took another test. That came up negative. I never knowingly ingested anything. I have no idea how this happened, it’s an aberrant result.’ If he’d left it at that, given how articulate he is, how likeable he is, I think that would’ve been fine. When he went a step further with these kind of murky accusations — ‘We found out stuff about the tester’ and that sort of thing — I think that undermined his credibility. I don’t think many people believe just because Ryan Braun got off in this case on a technicality, that calls into question the validity of MLB’s program.”

WEDNESDAY

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NHL playoffs: Western Conference quarterfinals: Game 4: Kings vs. Vancouver, Staples Center, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Channel:

If you can’t find the game on your TV, try this: Come down to the arena, watch it across the street over at the ESPN Zone, and walk out as everyone else does when the game ends and pretend you were there. It works. Do we need a Game 5 back to Vancouver on Sunday (FSW)?

NBA: Lakers at Golden State, 7:30 p.m., Channel 9:

Kobe Bryant had his fifth 40-point game of the season in the Lakers’ 120-112 home win on April 1. He had 39 and 30 in their other two wins over the Warriors.

NBA: Clippers at Denver, 6 p.m., Channel 13:

Denver fans must still be thinking that getting rid of Nene was a no-no, especially when it was JaVale McGee in exchange for him. For the Clippers, four of their last five regular-season games are on the road, starting with this one, a place they lost by 21 in their last visit on Feb. 2.

THURSDAY

NBA: Clippers at Phoenix, 7:30 p.m., TNT:

The Suns have won nine straight at home against the Clippers, dating to April 17, 2007.

FRIDAY

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MLB: Dodgers at Houston, 5:05 p.m., Prime:

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New owner Jim Crane and new general manager Jeff Luhnow have a lot of work ahead for a team that’ll be in the NL just one more season before shooting over to balance out the AL. Who makes more cash on this Astros’ roster than first baseman Carlos Lee? No one. At $19 mil, he’s making himself almost one third of the $60.5 million opening day payroll. He eats the steaks, the rest of the team is on that Top Ramen diets. That’s how they roll in Houston. The one thing you do know about these Astros: Players who were at single-A Lancaster just a short time ago can step right in and contribute sooner rather than later. Except for Roger Clemens’ kid, Koby, trying to find his way back into the minors through the Blue Jays’ system. This series continues Saturday (4:05 p.m., Channel 9) and Sunday (11:05 a.m., Channel 9).

MLB: Angels vs. Baltimore, Angel Stadium, 7:05 p.m., FSW:

Whatever happened to Vlad Guerrero? He was accused of attacking a police officer after a fight broke out in a Dominican Republic disco last week, but no charges were filed. That’s how the former Angels star, nine-time All-Star and the 2004 AL MVP has been spending his time since he became a free agent after the Orioles let him go after last season (.290 in 145 games, 13 homers, 63 RBIs, 30 doubles). The series continues on FSW for Saturday (6:05 p.m.) and Sunday (12:35 p.m.)

SATURDAY

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MLS: Galaxy at Colorado, 6 p.m., KDOC-Channel 56:

The Galaxy’s defense has been a bit messy since losing Omar Gonzalez, last year’s MLS defender of the year, with a torn ACL. They ended up starting rookie Tommy Meyer and newly-acquired David Junior Lopes in last week’s game against Portland, and they were suddenly down 1-0 (it could have been 2-0) before the Galaxy rallied for a 3-1 victory. A win today evens the MLS champs’ record to 3-3.

SUNDAY

NBA: Lakers vs. Oklahoma City, Staples Center, 12:30 p.m., Channel 7; Clippers vs. New Orleans, Staples Center, 6:30 p.m., Prime:

It’s the last regular-season home game for each Staples Center tenant. Give Derek Fisher and Chris Kaman one more ovation, then send them on their way.

NASCAR: Sprint Cup STP 400 in Kansas City, Kan., 10 a.m., Channel 11:

Greg Biffle’s first win of the season in Texas last week puts him atop the Sprint Cup standings, with a two-time winner, Tony Stewart, sits in seventh. Brad Keselowski held off Dale Earnhardt Jr. for his second career win here in last year’s race when it was held in June. Keselowski, who won at Bristol, Tenn., in March, is 15th in the standings.

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30 baseball books in 30 days of April, ’12: Day 15 — Why the ’47 Dodgers remain relevant 65 years later

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The book: “The Team That Forever Changed Baseball and America: The 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers”

The author: The Society of American Baseball Research, edited by Lyle Spatz, Maurice Bouchard and Leonard Levin.

The vital stats: University of Nebraska Press, 400 pages, $26.95.

Find it: At Powell’s (linked here) or Barnes & Noble (linked here). And at the publisher’s website (linked here).

The pitch: An on-going goal of the SABR historian group is to preserve the biographies of as many players as possible, even forming a Bio-Project Committee. They’ve also moved to the perseveration of notable teams as well — and of the several thousand who’ve existed in major league history, this first racially integrated team of the 20th century is “foremost among those with such national appeal,” Spatz writes in the introduction.

Meaning, of course, that this was Jackie Robinson’s rookie season, which started on this day 65 years ago and will be celebrated, as usual, with as many teams as possible wearing his No. 42.

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Q and A: Eric Davis and Darryl Strawberry, on their Harvard Park education

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Harvard Park, at 62nd and Denker in South Central L.A., was nothing but a giant quagmire Friday afternoon after the recent rains.

The four all-dirt diamonds pointed at each other from each corner of the park were under water. Yet, there was a pick-up soccer game taking place on the common outfield grass area.

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That’s the kind of things that baffles Eric Davis .

“It’s a ghost town (for baseball), but not for soccer,” says Davis (right). “It’s depressing.”

Davis and his Little League friend, Darryl Strawberry, would come back to this place every January between 1982 and 1994, during the prime years of their careers with the Cincinnati Reds and New York Mets.

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Davis, from Fremont High, and Strawberry, the No. 1 overall pick out of Crenshaw, joined the late Chris Brown, then with the San Francisco Giants via Crenshaw, to start what they would call “The Program.”

It was more than just an off-season conditioning routine. They mentored up-and-coming local talent like Royce Clayton, Rodney McCray and DeJon Watson (now the Dodgers’ assistant GM). They bonded with teammates like Barry Larkin, David Justice and Frank Thomas. They gave back to the community that’s known more as the home turf of the Harvard Park Brims, a Bloods gang with the Crips on all four sides.

Davis and Strawberry needed these visits to stay connected to their roots — even during the time in the early ’90s when the found themselves in the same Dodgers outfield together for a couple of seasons.

The two serve as executive producers and the co-narrators of a new documentary, “Harvard Park,” which debuts Sunday on BET (11 a.m.) and the Centric channel (8 p.m.), and will be available Monday for download on iTunes and Netflix.

Davis, 49 and living in Calabasas, and the just-turned-50 Strawberry, from his home in St. Louis, talked about the story of their trip back to this innercity “Field of Dreams” came together on the day that Major League Baseball sets aside for its annual Jackie Robinson Day celebration:

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30 baseball books in 30 days of April, ’12: Day 14 — Give the people what they want? Maybe not

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The book: “A People’s History of Baseball”

The author: Mitchell Nathanson, a professor of legal writing at Villanova’s School of Law.

The vital stats: University of Illinois Press, 275 pages, $29.95

Find it: At Powell’s (linked here) or Barnes & Noble (linked here). And at the publisher’s website (linked here).

The pitch: From the introduction: “A People’s History of Baseball is baseball history from an alternative viewpoint. Herein are stories focusing on the concept of baseball but ones that challenge convention and play out differently than the oft-told tales because of the shift in perspective. Regardless, they have much in common with the more well-known stories in that beyond their differing perspective, they are just that – stories. Rarely however, is a story merely a story.”

Herein is the challenge, with more legalese sprinkled about liberally.

The story with this book: Heavy reading about how stories we’ve been told about baseball should be put into context with what Nathanson calls the “counter-stories.”

In other words: Don’t believe everything you’ve been told about team ownership, integration, the media, expansion and the players’ association. From the perspective of Nathanson, seeing baseball as “idyllic American” rose colored glasses misses the bigger picture, the corrupt power grabs, WASPy elitism and some of the less flattering human qualities we possess are all part of baseball’s DNA through the years, but most of us have chosen not to specifically deal with it.

Do you dare read it? It’s your history, apparently. Especially if you’re up questioning the validity of what’s been passed off as common knowledge.

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30 baseball books in 30 days of April, ’12: Day 13 — Damning the Yankees with more overblown praise

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The book: “Damn Yankees: Twenty-Four Major League Writers on the World’s Most Loved (and Hated) Team”

The author: Edited by Rob Fleder

The vital stats: Ecco (Harper Collins), 290 pages, $27.99

Find it: At Powell’s (linked here) or Barnes & Noble (linked here). And at the publisher’s website (linked here).

The pitch: Poor, poor Angels. They trudge into the Bronx to become the visiting opponent during the Yankees’ home opener today. They’ll have to sit through all the pompous pomp and circumstances beyond their control, with what’s mistaken as magical pageantry fully embraced by those who feel entitled to pay thousands of dollars for nose-bleed seats just to say they were in the ballpark.

Damn them all.

We’ll be damned if the word “damn” or “damned” isn’t just to easily associated with this franchise, be it from a Broadway play, a spun-off movie, or a retread books about the team (“Damned Yankees: Chaos, Confusion, and Craziness in the Steinbrenner Era,” by Bill Madden or “Those Damned Yankees: The Not-So-Great History of Baseball’s Evil Empire,” by Clarke Canfield … and we’ll even throw in “Wicked Good Barbecue: Fearless Recipes from Two Damn Yankees Who Have Won the Biggest, Baddest BBQ Competition in the World,” by Andy Husbands).

Even that dang book written by the former Yankees batboy, one what Leigh Montville called something that “should eventually find its way to that every short shelf of enduring sports nonfiction, perhaps somewhere between ‘Ball Four’ and ‘Friday Night Lights,’” should have had the word “damn” in it somehow. Especially after it went to a new printing in paperback.

Damn, if we’re not just tired of it all.

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Weekly media column version 04.13.12

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What’s in today’s weekly media column (linked here): Do the Dodgers have a plan on how (gulp) to replace Vin Scully someday? More on the NHL playoff navigation nightmares for L.A. hockey fans, Al Michaels’ latest honor and how HBO plans to highlight a story on the Lakers’ Pau Gasol.

What’s not in there:

== “Harvard Park,” a documentary celebrating the South Central L.A. baseball field that Darryl Strawberry and Eric Davis honed their Major League Baseball skills, debuts Sunday (on Jackie Robinson Day) on BET at 8 a.m., with a replay on the Centric channel at 8 p.m. Strawberry and Davis are the executive producers. The 88-minute film will also be available for download on iTunes on Monday, as well as accessible through Netflix.

We have a Q-and-A with Strawberry and Davis set to run Sunday.

== Joe Buck, Tim McCarver and Ken Rosenthal are on the Fox call for the Angels’ game in New York against the Yankees on Saturday (Channel 11, 10 a.m.). Then it’s Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser and Terry Francona with Buster Olney doing the Angels-Yankees for ESPN on Sunday at 5 p.m.

== The MLB Network has branched out with a new “MLB Network Strike Zone” channel that comes on tonight after its debut Tuesday. Think of the NFL’s “Red Zone” channel, except it’ll whip around to any Major League Baseball game of interest with commerical-free, live look-ins. Those with DirecTV can find it on Channel 719 (a part of the MLB Extra Innings package). L.A. Time Warner Cable subscribers have it as well (on Channel 391) as does Dish Network owners (Channel 153).

== NBC reporter/analyst Pierre McGuire said before the Kings-Vancouver series began this week that it could turn out to be “nasty” based on “a dirty little secret going into the playoffs (that Kings coach) Darryl Sutter, all the time he spent in Calgary, knows Alain Vigneault coaching methods really well. I don’t think he’s a fan of the Vancouver Canucks. You have a little bit of interplay between the coaching staffs between L.A. and Vancouver. Obviously, L.A., they’ve become a smash-mouth team. They don’t score very easily but they really punish you. Vancouver, that’s really their M.O., how they play.”

== The Sparks have the top pick in the WNBA draft that’ll be held Monday at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn., starting at 11 a.m. on ESPN2. The second- and third-rounds are on ESPNU and NBA TV (noon to 1:30 p.m.). Pam Ward anchors the coverage with Rebecca Lobo, Carolyn Peck and Holly Rowe, as well as Shelley Smith at the Sparks’ L.A. offices.

== Bob Jenkins, Jon Beekhuis and Wally Dallenbach Jr., call Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach for NBC Sports Network (12:30 p.m.), with reporters Marty Snider, Kevin Lee, Townsend Bell and Robin Miller. The network also has Saturday’s qualifying (3 p.m.) and a half-hour special featuring Graham Rahal on Sunday (noon) as part of its “IndyCar 36″ behind-the-scenes series. The race reairs on the NBC Sports Network on Monday at 4 a.m. and 1 p.m. “Long Beach is the longest running and most prestigious street race in the country,” said Jenkins. “Every driver wants to win on the oval at Indianapolis, and on the street course in Long Beach. Organizers and promoters of the event have made the city of Long Beach synonymous with exciting and highly entertaining racing.” ESPN2 has the American Le Mans Series event from Long Beach (Saturday, 4:30 p.m.). ESPN3 also has today’s qualifying at 5 p.m.

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‘Magic-Bird’: More ‘Spamalot’ than ‘Cat On A Hot Tin Roof’?

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(AP Photo/Charles Sykes)
Tug Coker, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Kevin Daniels appear at the curtain call for the opening night performance of the Broadway play “Magic/Bird” in New York on Wednesday night.

Taking the collection of reviews presented in today’s Sports Business Daily on the Broadway play “Magic/Bird” that opened last night in N.Y.:

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== It is an “efficiently informative but uninspired trek through the lives of two towering figures in sports history,” according to the N.Y. Times theater critic Charles Isherwood (linked here).
He wrote that the play represents “another workmanlike attempt to colonize a small patch of Broadway for the underserved straight male constituency” and that while “none who followed the concurrent NBA careers” of Basketball Hall of Famers Larry Bird and Magic Johnson are “likely to learn anything revelatory in ‘Magic/Bird,’ they may be content to relive the highlights reel presented here, which is amplified by scenes that attempt to portray the human side of the superhuman athletes.”
But the dual heroes “never emerge as nuanced or magnetic stage figures, and the celebrated rivalry between them … stirs little more excitement, since their relationship off the court was one of mutual respect but minimal interaction, and hardly intimate friendship.”
Isherwood writes HBO’s documentary “Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals” provided a “more in-depth and emotionally resonant take on their relationship.”

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30 baseball books in 30 days of April, ’12: Day 12 — Dickey’s white knuckler becomes his tome de force

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The book: “Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball”

The author: New York Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey, with New York Post writer Wayne Coffey

The vital stats: Blue Rider Press (Penguin Group), 352 pages, $26.95

Find it: At Powell’s (linked here) or Barnes & Noble (linked here). And at the publishers website (linked here).

The pitch: It’s an interesting process to see how some of the books in this series were released early by publishers for advanced reads, and how others were held close to the vest, without as much as a trickle of information getting out about it before it actually hit the book stores. It must depend on the marketing strategy and the content to be released. You have to know what to promote the heck out of, and what could sell itself.

This one was embargoed by the publisher for the better part of the last two months with few exceptions. One of them came about in April 2 issue of Sports Illustrated, where writer L. Jon Wertheim did a story about Dickey (linked here), and a larger excerpt was included. The book came out that week — it was released March 29.

Dickey has what sells — he plays in New York, he’s got something to say, the talent to say it, and there’s some scandal in his upbringing and his adult life in the minors.

Wertheim’s piece added plenty of context to Dickey’s story, in that the 37 year old was “literate and literary in the extreme,” his locker full of books “from C.S. Lewis to Tolkien … to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Beautiful and the Damned.’ … He is a rare baseball player whose interviews are parsed on the vocabulary.com blog.”

That speaks well of Dickey, but does it make for a book the common fan can read without running to a dictionary?

Short answer: Yes.

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Grab your sextant: There are four channels to navigate if you want to see the Kings’ opening playoff series

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While first reports of the Kings’ NHL playoff-opening series against the Vancouver Canucks that begins tonight is that all the games would be on NBC Sports Channel, the team has come forth with a patchwork remedy to fix that.

Games 1 and 2 from Vancouver are on KCOP-Channel 13 — not in high def, unfortunately.

Game 3 back in L.A. on Sunday goes to Fox Sports West.

April 18th’s Game 4, however, couldn’t find a local home — the Dodgers, Angels and Clippers occupy Prime, FSW and Channel 13 respectively — so it’s on NBC Sports Channel, which won’t black it out now in L.A. If the Flyers-Penguins game that begins at 4:30 p.m. runs long, NBC Sports Channel is obligated to leave it to join the start of the Kings-Canucks contest.

For those who can’t find NBC Sports Channel yet, try this link: http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/46907840/ns/sports-nhl/

Games 5 (April 22) and 7 (April 26) have been secured by Fox Sports West, while Game 6 (April 24) will go to Prime Ticket, if necessary.

Confusing enough?

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30 baseball books in 30 days of April, ’12: Day 11 — A fan’s ear view of Dodger history

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The book: “High Fives, Pennant Drives and Fermandomania: A Fan’s History of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Glory Years 1977-1981″

The author: Paul Haddad

The vital stats: Santa Monica Press, 336 pages, $16.95.

Find it: At Barnes & Noble (linked here). And at the author’s website (linked here) and publlisher’s website (linked here).

The pitch: Why does the author’s name sound familiar?

He’s the Dodger fan who recorded all kinds of Dodger games when he was a kid growing up in L.A. and some of them made it into an ESPN documentary last year called “Fernando Nation.” The L.A.-based TV writer and producer who has done work with Fox Sports has now put his fandome into print — and not a self-published effort, either.

Haddad says the seeds of his Dodger fandome started at age 11, during the 1977 World Series, when “there was a palpable buzz in Los Angeles surrounding the Dodgers getting into the postseason, and exitement that trickled down to the schoolyard and classrooms at West Hollywood Elementary.”

Thankfully, his dad got him “a big boxy cassete recorder with a built-in radio and microphone,” which was put to use recording Dodger games off KABC. And now the tapes provide a reference point how Haddad — a fan, and not a baseball writer — relives the moments in a way that really only a fan truely could.

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