A London dozen books: Rewind 104 years, to three men and a marathon for the ages

The book: “Showdown at Shepherd’s Bush: The 1908 Olympic Marathon and the Three Runners who Launched a Sporting Craze”

The author: David Davis

The publishing info: Thomas Dunne Books, 320 pages, $25.99

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Find it: At Barnes & Noble.

The background: Go back to the first London Games, awarded to the city everyone with Olympic fever is headed to this week. It happened only after Rome’s plans to host it fell through.

Italy’s Dorando Pietri, already a cultural icon not allowed to be a national hero on his own turf, staggered into the stadium for the final laps running the wrong way. Yet, he still finished first. Except that American Johnny Hayes was given the gold when Pietri was DQ’d for receiving help after collapsing right in front of the finish line.

Then there’s Canada’s Tom Longboat, a Native Indian and one of the sport’s first star minority athletes. They all came from miserable upbringings, and were involved in a sport where the roads were crude (hardly paved), the shoes were worse, and few even knew how to train for such an event– many were even prevented from drinking water.

“Some observers worried tha anyone follhardy enough to run such a distance would keel over and die, just like the mythic herald. But many viewed it as a test of character for a fledling nation grasping for identity,” Davis writes on page 40.

How has this story not been told before?

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A London dozen books: Rewind 116 years, to 14 Ivy Leaguers and a crazy trip to Athens

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The book: “Igniting the Flame: America’s First Olympic Team”

The author: Jim Reisler

The publishing info: Lyons Press, 285 pages, $24.95

Find it: At Powells or Barnes & Noble

The background: The U.S. team for the 1896 Games in Greece consisted of 14 men. Most of them Ivy Leaguers. All who paid their own way to compete.

James Connolly of the Suffolk Athletic Club and Harvard won the triple jump, the first U.S. gold ever and the first Olympic champion in 1,500 years, since it was the first event finished in these Modern Games.

Robert Garrett of Princeton won the discus. He had never done it before. He also won the shot put, was runner-up in the long jump and third in the high jump. They didn’t have the backing of the AAU or their own schools, but went to Athens anyway.

Thomas Burke won the 100 and 400 meters. Ellery Clark took the long jump and high jump. Sumner Paine won the Free Pistol, with John Paine taking the 25-Meter Military Revolver. Thomas Curtis won the 100m high hurdles. William Hoyt took the pole vault.

Albert Tyler (pole vault), Arthur Blake (1,500 meters and marathon), Herbert Jamison (400 meters), Francis Lane (100 meters), Charles Waldstein (shooting) and
Gardner Williams (swimming) were also there.

For the record.

From page 219: “So how best to measure the contributions of America’s first and most unlikely Olympic team? For starters, their success ensured that America would never again have trouble fielding a team. It would be years before U.S. sports authorities put together any kind of organized trials, meaning athletes or their schools had to continue to find their ways to get to the Games.

“But thanks to its first team, America would forever field a group of athletes with a thirst to get there, often at considerable sacrifice or expense. …

“The 1962 film, ‘It Happened in Athens,’ could have helped revive their accomplishments, but it didn’t. The 20th Century Fox production was essentially a vehicle for bombshell Jayne Mansfield, who became the love interest of Spridon Louis. Leonard Maltin (called it) a ‘silly, juvenile charade made somewhat watchable by Mansfield in a variety of revealing costumes,’ while the film did also star Bob Mathias as John Graham, of all people (Graham was a track coach).

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A London dozen: 12 new reads to put the 2012 Summer Olympics into context, starting with the 1,335 pager

It’s not as if you’d have the time to read all 12 cover to cover before the Opening Ceremonies start a week from tonight.
So browse through this selection and see what might intrigue you:

== The repeat gold medalist:

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The book: “The Complete Book of the Olympics: 2012 Edition”

The authors: David Wallechinsky and Jaime Loucky

The publishing info: Aurum books, $35, 1,335 pages, paperback

Find it: At Powells or Barnes & Noble.

The backgound: Listing the top eight finishers in every Summer Olympic since 1896 isn’t enough to get you a couple inches thick of glorious facts and information.

In praise of his last Summer Olympic book, we wrote “Wallechinsky has done a Herculean job of research on the Olympics and we are the richer,” which he included on the review page of this one. You’re welcome.

Of all the reviews done on the previous eight editions of the series, this one by the Gannett News Service may sum it up best: “It would not be blasphemous to call Wallechinsky’s book the Bible of the Olympics.”

The Santa Monica-based Wallechinsky, vice president of the International Society of Olympic Historians, told us that this version has 134 pages of new material, including adds to pre-2008 articles.

“And although 98 percent of readers might not notice, we have corrected the spellings of many early athletes and added missing accent marks,” he said.

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Weekly media column version 07.20.12

What’s included in this week’s media column (linked here):

Some thoughts on Tim McCarver receiving the Ford C. Frick Award by the National Baseball Hall of Fame for his career as a broadcaster, which includes working 22 World Series (including this clip below of the ’89 Series marred by the Bay Area Earthquake); Vin Scully’s thoughts on how analysts have taken on a bigger role on baseball broadcasts, and some other notes about local baseball ratings and how someone’s trying to make sports journalism better.

What isn’t included:

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ABC once tried to get Vin Scully as the first play-by-play man for ‘Monday Night Football?’

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The topic for Friday’s weekly media column is Tim McCarver’s Ford C. Frick Award recognition by the Baseball Hall of Fame on Saturday — just the second time in 36 years that an analyst has been recognized with the honor that is usually given to a local market play-by-play legend.

At a time when when viewer consumption of the game changes seemingly on a year-to-year basis, we talked to Vin Scully on Wednesday to get this thoughts about how TV baseball telecasts these days put far more focus on the analyst’s contributions. Viewers can supposedly keep up with what’s happening, along with the replays, by the constant on-screen graphics. The play-by-play man is reduced to putting captions on pictures instead of describing what he sees.

As more consumers follow games with even more prolific graphic presentations on the Internet, iPhones or iPads, will play-by-play be something of a lost art in future Frick Award ceremonies?

“I wouldn’t be selfish to say it, but I sure hope not,” said Scully, the 1982 Frick Award winner for his work with the Dodgers, both in L.A. and Brooklyn, as well as on NBC.

Scully stands by the Red Barber philosophy of having one voice in the booth narrate for radio or TV. He says he saw the trend of analysts taking over came back in the 1970s, when he was asked by ABC producer Chuck Howard if he’d be interested in becoming the first play-by-play man on “Monday Night Football.”

“He said it was going to be the hottest thing on TV — and he was right,” said Scully.

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If you’ve seen enough ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ then this Giancarlo Stanton knee surgery won’t be tough to watch

Otherwise, be warned: The next episode of “The Franchise: A Season With the Miami Marlins” (Showtime, Wednesday, 10 p.m.) allows the MLB Productions’ cameras to show the former Notre Dame High of Sherman Oaks star get some early scar tissue from having his knee cut open during the All-Star break:

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Kobe is fourth in line when it comes to U.S. athletic-driven non-poverty, but only edges out Becks in L.A. bragging rights

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Kobe Bryant’s $48.2 million income from the year — with $28 million of that coming from endorsements — puts the Lakers’ star at No. 4 among SI.com’s “Fortunate 50 list,” which identifies the 50 highest-earning American athletes.

Bryant, who moves up from No. 6 on last year’s list, isn’t really keeping it all, of course. As SI notes: “Bryant remains an earning juggernaut, but what he does with his money is undergoing a shift. Within days of his wife, Vanessa, filing for divorce in December 2011, three of Bryant’s homes in California were transferred to her name.”

Boxer Floyd Mayweather, whose $85 million is based only on earnings and no endorsements, jumped to the top of the list for the first time, passing up golfers Tiger Woods ($56.4 million, who is third after being No. 1 a year ago) and Phil Mickelson ($60.7 million, at No. 2, up from No. 3).

Mickelson and Woods get almost 95 percent of their yearly income from endorsements. Woods’ earnings is lowest it has been since the “Fortunate 50″ list began in 2004 and his endorsement dollars were down $5 million from 2011, according to the SI.com press release.

On the International top 20 list, tennis’ Roger Federer ($51.4 million) was the top earner, with David Beckham second ($46 mil).

Rounding out the U.S. top 10 list: LeBron James ($45.8 mil), Alex Rodriguez ($33.5 mil), Peyton Manning ($31 mil), Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($28.1 mil), Derek Jeter ($27.7 mil) and Larry Fitzgerald ($26.7 mil).

The average earnings for the top 50 American athletes is $25.85 million. No female athletes were in the top 50. Drew Brees, the New Orleans Saints quarterback who just signed a $100 million deal last week, is not on the list as figures are based on the most recently completed season (2011).

The list: SI.com/Fortunate50.

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He says ‘the bronze,’ they write ‘LeBron’ … common mistake … at least they got ‘Krzyzewski’ right

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The White House office of the press secretary sent out a corrected transcript this morning of an interview President Obama did, for some reason, with ESPN2′s Mark Jones while the U.S. Olympic basketball team was playing an exhibition game Monday at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C.:

From the original transcript:

Q: USA Basketball, Mr. President, has undergone a culture change. They bottomed out a little bit in 2004 with LeBron, and then Coach Krzyzewski came aboard and really turned it around. Your thoughts on that process.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, obviously Coach K is one of the greatest coaches of all time. He knows how to bring together folks to think like a team. And obviously the talent that we’ve got at this point is unbelievable. So there’s no reason we shouldn’t bring home the Gold. We just have to stay focused.

From the corrected transcript (translating Jones to English):

Q USA Basketball, Mr. President, has undergone a culture change. They bottomed out a little bit in 2004 with LeBron the bronze**, and then Coach Krzyzewski came aboard and really turned it around. Your thoughts on that process.

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Play It Forward: July 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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Getty Images
The first hole at The Royal Lytham & St. Annes in Lancashire, England.

Golf: The 152nd British Open, Thursday through Sunday, 4 a.m., ESPN:

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With Wimbledon finished, and the London Olympics coming up, a holiday at The Royal Lytham & St. Annes in Lancashire, England seems like as good a place as any to continue the tea party, as long as there’s a giant clock tower nearby to let us know when it’s time to wrap it up. It all starts here with a par 3 — the only one of this ilk in the British Open rotation (see the course layout at TheOpen.com). A tricky 205-yarder from the blue tees (169 from the orange, but that’s not really important here), with a tee box surrounded by trees, wind tough to gauge and a green surrounded by a horseshoe of seven bunkers. “I think any time a player doesn’t have to hit a driver at an Open Championship on his first swing makes it a little bit easier for him,” said ESPN’s Andy North. “But at the same time, you still have to hit a quality shot with an iron, and it’s a difficult opening shot because the tee is tucked back into some trees where you don’t feel the wind, and yet it can be blowing pretty hard up at the green.” Adds ESPN’s Curtis Strange, when he played this hole: “I was anxious because it was a good par 3. It plays downwind those first six or seven or eight holes, so my concern was picking the proper club, having to hit the ground and then having it run out properly. Just the anxiousness of having that as your first starting shot was enough for me.”

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When Ian Woosnam (right) came to this hole in the final round of the 2001 British Open, he was tied for the lead. He then teed off with 15 clubs in his bag. The max allowed is 14. Whooops. On the second tee, Woosnam’s caddie informed him that he had two drivers — but he didn’t catch it on the first hole, possibly because there was no need for a driver, and he had been experimenting with two drivers on the practice tee. “My caddie said, ‘I think you’re going to go ballistic,’” Woosnam recalls. “I think I did go ballistic.” Woosnam called a two-stroke penalty on himself, and it would have cost him two more shots had he teed off on No. 2. He finished third, four shots back of eventual winner David Duval. What else makes this course a little off kilter? Three par 3s on the front nine, a par 70 overall, and the only championship course surrounded by homes on three sides. Bobby Jones won the Open here, as did Gary Player, Seve Ballesteros (twice) and Tom Lehman, who figured out it’s all about accuracy and strategy. It all ends with a 413-yard par 4, where you’re into the wind and need to avoid a lot of sand. Do well, and the Claret Jug is yours. Darren Clarke is up for defending his title, won last year at Royal St. George’s, and Tiger Woods (6-1) goes in as the betting favorite while U.S. Open champ Webb Simpson was given 40-1 odds to go back-to-back in the majors, but it’ll be much higher — he’s not going to play, staying at home instead to await the birth of his child. Besides, he’s been replaced by Woods at the No. 1 at-the-moment golfer in the world according to the experts at SI.com (linked here). Sunday’s final round (5-to-10:30 a.m., ESPN) is replayed in a three-hour block (noon to 3 p.m., Channel 7).

MONDAY

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

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The Phillies’ miserable first half is magnified by the fact that 35-year-old former Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay (4-5, 3.98) was less than average before he went on the DL with a bad shoulder. He’s supposed to be coming out for the first time since May 27 to throw against the Dodgers on Tuesday (7:10 p.m., Channel 9). The Phillies have had Ryan Howard and Chase Utley return, but center fielder Shane Victorino, the subject of trade rumors, is hitting .152 in July. This series ends with a day under the sun on Wednesday (12:10 p.m., Prime) where Clayton Kershaw faces off against Cliff Lee (1-6, 3.92), as Cole Hamels misses facing the Dodgers this trip.

MLB: Angels at Detroit, 4:05 p.m., FSW:

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The odds of the Angels missing Tigers ace Justin Verlander in a four-game series: Even, at this point. Odds of the Tigers missing Angels ace Jered Weaver in the same series: Even as well. Both AL All Stars pitched Sunday, so the matchup to watch could be the heart of each team’s lineup: The Miguel Cabrera-Prince Fielder punch has created 35 homers and 137 RBI in 89 games. The Angels’ Albert Pujols-Mark Trumbo counter-punch has put up 38 homers and 114 RBIs in 88 games. The series continues Tuesday and Wednesday (4:05 p.m., FSW) before a Thursday early departure (10:05 a.m., FSW).

TUESDAY

MLB: San Francisco at Atlanta, 4:10 p.m., MLB Network:

A giant series for the Dodgers to pay attention to. A Giant concern for a San Francisco team making a trip away from home.

WEDNESDAY

Horse racing: Del Mar opener, first post: 2 p.m.:

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Photo by Angela Carone / KPBS

The annual trip down San Diego way, where the party meets the ponies, starts with the traditional “One and Only Truly Fabulous Hats Contest,” one that could stop male spectators in their tracks on the way to the wager window. It’s followed by a 75th anniversary celebration on Saturday. Before the meet ends on Sept. 5, there’s the Pacific Classic on Aug. 26.

MLB: N.Y. Mets at Washington, 4 p.m., ESPN:

Worth taking a look at the Mets before they start a three-game series at home against the Dodgers.

MLS: Galaxy at Vancouver, 7 p.m., KDOC-Channel 56:

The Whitecaps FC were reduced to ripples when the Galaxy took a 3-0 win against them last month in Carson. But in Vancouver, the ‘Caps are 5-1-3.

THURSDAY

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Boston, 4 p.m., MLB Network:

The end of a four-game series at Fenway Park where Kevin Youkilis tries to remember which sox to put on.

FRIDAY

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

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The one loss pinned on Jered Weaver’s 11-1 mark so far this season: He gave up eight earned runs and 10 hits in 3 1/3 innings at Texas in a 13-6 loss back on May 13. He’s on schedule to start this series for the Angels, with Yu Darvish rotating in for Texas on Saturday (1:05 p.m., Channel 11), before it ends Sunday (5 p.m,. ESPN). The Rangers and Angels have split six games so far, and these three funnel into a four-game set back in Arlington, Tex., at the end of this month and the start of August. The six meetings between Sept. 18-30 possibly make the difference in the AL West standings and wild-card implications.

MLB: Dodgers at N.Y. Mets, 4:10 p.m., Prime:

Johan Santana’s no-hitter for the Mets was about six weeks ago. Is he still living off that? He’s set to start this three-game set against the Dodgers that continues with 10:10 a.m. games on Saturday (Channel 9) and Sunday (Prime).

SATURDAY

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MLS: Chivas at Galaxy, Home Depot Center, 7 p.m., KDOC-Channel 56:

Ancient record books show the Galaxy has won 16 of the previous 26 Classico clashes. But of the four Chivas has pulled together, one was 1-0 back on May 19 — their first against the Galaxy since 2007. Nineteen-year-old striker Juan Agudelo and defender Danny Califf played in their first game, decided on Jose Correa’s penalty kick in the 71st minute after David Junior Lopes was called for a handball trying to block a shot on the line. The Galaxy started the match without David Beckham and Edson Buddle benched by coach Bruce Arena, and Robbie Keane down with a hamstring injury. Beckham and Chad Barrett were inserted into the game after the Chivas goal, but that’s when Califf made his mark, deflecting a pass Beckham intended for a quick Barrett strike in the 81st minute.

Golf: American Century Championship from South Lake Tahoe, Nev., second round, noon, Channel 4:

It starts Friday (1 p.m., NBC Sports Network) and ends Sunday (noon, Channel 4). But this is the day, if you’re so inclined, to see the celebs of this event try to show their golf skills at the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, but really know they have no chance to catch the likes of Jack Wagner, Tony Romo, Mark Rypien, Billy Joe Tolliver or Rick Rhoden. The field includes Charles Barkley (left, listed at 500-1 by Harrahs to win it), Michael Jordan, Aaron Rodgers, Ray Romano, John Elway, Urban Meyer, Denny Hamlin, Alex Smith, Jerry Rice, Oscar De La Hoya and Gary Sheffield. More info: TahoeCelebrityGolf.com.

SUNDAY

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Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony, 10:30 a.m., MLB Network:

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Nothing against former Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin, who will be there when he gets inducted into Cooperstown. But hold your applause and click your heels for Ron Santo, who won’t be around to hear it. Vicki Santo will accept the honor on behalf of her husband, the former Chicago Cubs third baseman who died after a long bout with diabetes in Dec., 2010 — a year before the Veterans’ Committee decided he deserved to be in. Cubs Hall of Famers Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and Ernie Banks will be there, along with former Santo teammates Randy Hundley, Glenn Beckert and Don Kessinger. “A lot of people say that they wish this had happened sooner when he was still living, but shucks, I am proud that he was able to get in even now,” Hundley told the Chicago Tribune. “I don’t know if he could have handled this (emotionally) if he had been living.” Larkin and Santo bring the count to 297 Hall of Fame members, 65 of whom are living.

Cycling: Tour de France, 20th and final stage, 5 a.m., NBC Sports Network (10 a.m., Channel 4, replay):

The 99th Tour comes to an end at the usual spot: Paris Champs-Elysees. Near the Lance Armstrong statue. With Britain’s Bradley Wiggins in position to win it. As long as some knucklehead doesn’t throw tacks across the street.

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Good vibrations will never die when it comes to Electric Football experience … and experiments

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New York Times, courtesy of Earl Shores and Roddy Garcia
Norman Sas, far right, receives the “Symbol of Excellence” from Sears for the second year in a row, in 1971, in a presentation that included NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, second from left.

Norman Sas, the inventor of the Tudor Electric Football table-top game, died the other day. He was 87.

His legacy will reverberate forever.

According to his obituary, Sas was a mechanical engineer out of MIT who, in the late ’40s, became president of Tudor Metal Products. His moment of BFO (blinding flash of the obvious): Put plastic football players on a green marked field, then hit the power switch and watch everyone do the jitterbug.

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The game box said that inside there were “teams of tru-action (registered trademark) moving players.” It was more like trying to bring Dr. Frankenstein’s monster to life four downs at a time, then accepting the fact you had to punt away.

A row of offensive linemen, once set up in a logical formation to arrange a path to the end zone for a running back (trying to complete a forward pass didn’t figure into the strategy), suddenly careened all over the place like army men knocked off a plywood battlefield by a loose Doberman in the backyard. If half of them went straight, instead of making a zombie-like U-turn and allowing a nervous-acting defensive player to break through and touch the ball carrier to end the play, it was a success.

But, oh, what a beautiful mess.

What kid wouldn’t be enthralled, allowed by his parents to have a piece of sheet metal buoyed by an electrical current. It sparked all kinds of sideways intuitive thinking.

Like, I’ll betcha this thing could cook bacon.

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