30 baseball books in April ’13: Day 28 >>>>>>>>> To this day, they don’t have Ted Williams figured out … but they can keep trying

The book: “Facing Ted Williams: Players From The Golden Age of Baseball Recall The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived”

The author: Edited by Dave Heller

The vital stats: Sports Publishing, 306 pages, $24.95

Find it: At Barnes & Noble, Powells, or publisher’s website

The pitch:  Facing Ted Williams today might be so bad. Scary, for sure. But still …

Consider that you’d be pitching against a 94-year-old frozen in time.

Johnny James, a right-handed pitcher for the Yankees and Angels between 1958 and ’61, says that living these days in Scottsdale, Ariz., he often drives by the Alcor Life Extension cryonics facility where Williams’ detached head is still reported to be chilling out in the hopes of being brought back to life years from now.

“I go by it frequently,” James says on page 89. “I always say, ‘Hi, Ted’ when we do because he was my hero when I was a young boy wanting to be a ball player. My wife, of course, thinks I’m nuts and she’s probably right. She usually is.” Continue reading

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30 baseball books in April ’13: Day 27 >>>>>>>>>>> A giant, stirring heart-felt moment from Affeldt

Jeremy Affeldt, right, greets volunteers who helped with his “Something To Eat” project to feed those in need recently. (www.jeremyaffelt.wordpress.com)

The book: “To Stir A Moment: Life, Justice and Major League Baseball”

The author: Jeremy Affeldt

The vital stats: Beacon Hill Press, 191 pages, $21.99

Find it: At Barnes & Noble, Powells, author’s website or publisher’s website

The pitch: Jeremy Affeldt gets the save.

Maybe that’s tough for someone in Southern California who’s supposed to consider the Giants a hated rival. But in a short, sweet and succinct autobiography, the San Francisco 33-year-old lefty relief specialist who has landed with the World Champions after trips through Kansas City and Colorado opens up about a religious awakening that will define his legacy more than just trying to strike out Detroit Tigers in key Fall Classic appearances.

From page 133: “I never thought about justice, poverty or other social issues when I was growing up. I once saw a homeless person and told him, ‘Get a job. You’re lazy. take a shower and cut off your beard. Go to McDonald’s and be a janitor. Do something, man.’ I rolled my eyes and walked away. I didn’t have a compassionate bone in my body — not for the kid who was getting bullied, not for the orphan in Africa, not for anyone.” Continue reading

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30 baseball books in April ’13: Day 26 >>>>>>>>>>>>> Trust us, you can only figure this stuff out with a UCLA prof’s help, or you’re stuck in a pile of Messersmith

The book:  “The Baseball Trust: A History of Baseball’s Antitrust Exemption”

The author:  Stuart Banner

The vital stats: Oxford University Press, 290 pages, $29.95

Find it: At Barnes & Noble, or Powells

The pitch: Andy Messersmith didn’t want out of L.A. He just wanted a no-trade clause in his contract so he could pitch for the Dodgers until the end of his career. The Dodgers and owner Peter O’Malley didn’t seem all that sold on giving that up to the pitcher who in 1974 was an NL All-Star and led the league in wins, and then in ’75 had the most complete games and shutouts.

When the arbitration dust settled, Messersmith (along with semi-retired pitcher Dave McNally) was a free man in 1976 — just three years after the Supreme Court had ruled in favor of Curt Flood and his right to refuse a trade, a decision that both Messersmith and O’Malley watched with keen interest.

Messersmith eventually circled back to finish his career with the Dodgers in 1979. But neither he nor the Dodgers got what they really wanted out of the deal. Continue reading

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30 baseball books in April ’13: Day 25 >>>>>>> Comment all you want about the old, old Comiskey … we miss never having made it there

Where a kid on the South Side of Chicago could dream, in 1988. (Photo by Thomas. C. Harney)

The book: “Portraits From the Park: Comiskey Park Photographs, 1973-1990″
The author: Photos by Thomas W. Harney, text by Thomas Nawrocki, Harney and Ed Maldonado
The vital stats: Columbia College Chicago Press, 93 pages, $35

Find it: At Barnes & Noble, Powells or the publisher’s website

The pitch: Any place that would welcome Bill Veeck as a Hall of Fame owner has to be a destination spot on the baseball map.

And any spot famous for burning disco records between games of a double header has to be a historical monument.

What the 67-year-old street photographer Harney manages to capture, save and reprint in this bound album would probably have made Veeck smile all over again. Continue reading

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30 baseball books in April ’13: Day 24 >>>>>>>> Say all you want about Shea Stadium … we don’t really miss it

The book: “Summers at Shea: Tom Seaver Loses His Overcoat and Other Mets Stories”

The author: Ira Berkow

The vital stats: Triumph Books, 254 pages, $14.95

Find it: At Barnes & Noble, Powells, or the publisher’s website

The pitch: How, when and why did Seaver lose his overcoat?

We honestly have no compelling reason to find out more about the Dodger Stadium look-alike that was flushed away in Flushing, N.Y. (1964-2009).

Except when you have a Pulitzer Prize winner from the New York Times who has put 50 years of columns together that involved this stadium that somehow never got clipped by an airplane landing at LaGuardia, there’s some interest in spending some quality time with the product — again, as the Dodgers make their annual visit to New York to stir up memories again of the 1988 season and their time in Brooklyn.

The column that drew our attention most was on, of course, Jackie Robinson and his connection to Mets third baseman Ed Charles, who at 36 was the oldest member of the team’s 1969 championship roster.

Berkow admits his memory is still “haunted” of him days after Robinson’s death in 1972. Continue reading

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30 baseball books in April ’13: Day 23 >>>>>> It’s just 25 years later, and the fact is, we need updating on the Dodgers’ last improbable World Series run

Orel Hershiser reflects on finishing off a shutout against the New York Mets in Game 7 of the NL Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on Oct. 12, 1988. (Associated Press photo)

The book: “Miracle Men: Hershiser, Gibson and the Improbable 1988 Dodgers”

The author: Josh Suchon
The vital stats: Triumph, 330 pages, $24.95

Find it: At Barnes & Noble, Powells, or publisher’s website

The pitch: The impulse was to get this review out ASAP after we tracked the book down, thanks to a heads up from Suchon, the former KABC “DodgerTalk” co-host and current play-by-play man for the Dodgers’ Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes.

The best way to showcase it this month, however, was waiting for the Dodgers-Mets series to begin in New York — unfortunately, not the same site as some of the most memorable moments in the 1988 NLCS because they’ve torn down Shea Stadium for the slick new Citi Field.

But you get the big picture. Continue reading

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30 baseball books in April ’13: Day 22 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> In an instant, we get the picture … and you don’t have to shake it like a Polaroid?

The book: “Instant Baseball: The Baseball Instagrams of Brad Mangin”
The author: Brad Mangin, forward by Pedro Gomez
The vital stats: Cameron + Company, 162 pages, $18.95
Find it: At Barnes & Noble, Powells, author’s website or the publisher’s website
The pitch: I’m still trying to figure out how my Apple iPhone 5 works. If that’s even the proper name for it.
I’ve downloaded a few apps, including Instagram. One of these days, I’ll figure out how to make something happen there. Then I’ll Tout it. Then I’ll … wait until there’s another app to tell me what to do with every spare moment.
What may inspire me more is having experienced the end product of what Mangrin did with his iPhone 4S, using Instagram, to produce one of the more cutting edge books that seems to be out of place in many ways.

Instagram, if we’re not mistaken, is more of an online process of sharing photographs, making them squad, with an artistic ragged edge, tweaking the colors in some ways to make everything look brilliant and retro-dull and over-saturated at the same time.
Committing them to the pages of another medium like a print form seems almost backward.
But then, what do we know? Continue reading

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Play It Forward: April 22-28 — NFL draftables; Lakers, Clippers doables; Dodgers pitching durable?

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

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

NFL DRAFT, first round, 5-8 p.m. Thursday, ESPN, NFL Network:
Kevin Costner, Denis Leary Frank Langella and Jennifer Garner have been cast in an NFL comedy film produced by Ivan Reitman called “Draft Day.” Start the laugh track. Costner plays Sonny Weaver, Jr., the general manager of the Cleveland Browns, scrambling to trade up for the No. 1 pick while dealing with Leary (as the team’s head coach), Langella (the team owner) and Garner (a Browns’ front-office exec and love interest). Somehow, there’s got to be a role for Drew Carey.
Why it matters here — the thing probably won’t come out until late next year — is that filming will actually begin in New York this weekend during the “real” NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. They’ll try not to disrupt the proceedings, but part of it includes giving ESPN and NFL Network people  roles “as themselves” in the flick. So if during the live draft, you see Costner run to the podium, interrupt NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and claim the team had changed its mind – now it wants USC quarterback Matt Barkley – there’ll be some context.

According to those who are in the know, Barkley and teammate Robert Woods aren’t supposed to go in this real draft until somewhere in the second round. After the Manti Te’o drama ends. UCLA tailback Jonathan Franklin? Probably around Round 4. As for Khaled Holmes, Nickell Robey, T.J. McDonald and Joseph Fauria? They’ll take the fifth.

Otherwise, the Kansas City Chiefs are on the clock at No. 1 in the now annual three-day ordeal and strongly hint they’ll be scooping up some Texas A&M offensive tackle (yawn) named Luke Joeckel – no joke. At the very least, we know he can lift Johnny Football to the heavens.
That’s supposed to start a run on that position. And keep viewers glued to the screen? Someone who hopes to eventually run past all of them (and perhaps tackle Barkley again) is UCLA defensive end Datone Jones.

The ESPN draftniks are using all the right jargon to call him the real sleeper – but does that me he should be all dressed up on Thursday or Friday. “I love his versatility,” gushes Todd McShay of Jones. “He can play left defensive end in a 4-3. He can play a five technique in a 3-4. He shows up at the Senior Bowl kinda unheralded, but he was the most dominant player every single day in practice going up against Eric Fisher, Lane Johnson, the best of the best, getting it done. Highly productive. His football character is exceptional. (He) belongs in the first round but I’m hearing it won’t be until the middle of the second.” Adds Mel Kiper Jr.: “I agree, wholeheartedly. This is a kid with power and quickness. And they already have a nickname for Jones – Da-Tone Setter. Jon Gruden loves this kid. I think late first, early second round is where he comes off the board.”
The tone set in this thing usually emotes from the gut of Chris Berman, unless you’re smart enough to watch on the league-owned channel. That’s there you’ll find plenty of upside. Especially if Garner is taking up the draft cards.
Rounds 2-3 goes Friday (3:30-to-5 p.m.) with rounds 4-7 on Saturday (9 a.m.-to-5 p.m.)

BEST OF THE REST: Continue reading

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30 baseball books in April ’13: Day 21 >>>>>> Flippin’ the ‘Bird,’ and remembering the rich mark left by Mark Fidrych

Alan R. Kamuda/Detroit Free Press

The book: “The Bird: The Life and Legacy of Mark Fidrych”

The author: Doug Wilson

The vital stats: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, 306 pages, $26.99

Find it: At Barnes & Noble, Powells, or publisher’s website

The pitch: This is such an easy sell. Go to a publishing house, pitching them a story on how you’ll reconstruct the life of one of the most beloved big-leaguers in the last half century — a guy who always had a grin on his face and a mop of curly blond hair, talked to baseballs on the mound, shook hands with teammates after they made great plays, got on his knees to smooth over the dirt to his liking, and was linked to a beloved Sesame Street character.

How do you not buy into that?

The toughest job then is to pull it off. The cover created to spark interest with what’s inside is already a winner. What’s next? Execute. Continue reading

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