30 baseball books in April ’13: Day 16 >>>>>>>> If you’re looking for an explanation in Boston today, this is the best we can do

“Pray for Martin” is written in chalk at a park near the home of Martin Richard in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston this morning. Eight-year-old Martin was killed in the bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

The book: “How The Red Sox Explain New England”

The author: Jon Chattman and Allie Tarantino

The vital stats: Triumph books, 215 pages, $16.95

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

The pitch: On ESPN’s outstanding coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing coverage this morning, former MLS New England Revolution soccer star and current ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman is explaining on “SportsCenter” how he couldn’t make it down to  Boylston Street on Monday afternoon because he was sick with the stomach flu on Sunday night.

But what he saw live on local Boston TV made him even more sick to his stomach — now that there are three confirmed dead, more than 170 injured and more than a dozen of those in critical condition because of two explosives near the finish line of the iconic race. Continue reading

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How SI turned the news in Boston into its cover story already

The remarkable speed by which today’s media operates reveals how Sports Illustrated reacted in deadline time to changing its cover story and print coverage in a matter of hours — the Boston Marathon bombings will be the focus of this week’s magazine, capped off by a photo stamped at 2:50 p.m. Monday on Boylston Street.

SI Managing Editor Chris Stone explains in a press release issued today how this came to happen:
Q: With Monday being the weekly deadline for the magazine, how did the process go yesterday?
A: 
With the deadline rapidly approaching soon after the tragedy occurred, our team of editors and writers quickly worked together to provide our readers with coverage that is highly personal and emotional. And we had to change this week’s SI cover at the last minute with a photo from the many that were coming in from the scene.
Q: Why did you go with this cover?
A:
After meeting with senior editors late Monday afternoon, we chose to run the cover photo because we felt it truly captured the horrific moment at the end of the race—there’s a fallen runner, police with their guns drawn and loose debris from the explosion. Inside SI, we wanted to help tell the story through photos and words (as written on the cover). We dedicated the entire “Leading Off” section to photos from Boston. They are extremely emotional and do a great job of chronicling the chaos that ensued.
Q: With little time to spare, how did you decide on what content to run?
A:
One of our best writers—S.L. Price—was in Boston on another assignment, staying in a hotel frequented my many runners just three miles from the finish line. After interviewing runners and witnesses, he wrote brilliantly in our Scorecard on the state of shock felt by those there in Boston and how the great city sadly joins a growing list of suffering cities that have been struck by tragedy. We felt strongly about putting this article up immediately on SI.com as well.
(A link to that story is here. SI’s “Point After” also includes an essay by Steve Rushin on his memories of the marathon with his 8 year old daughter last summer. The story is here.)
Q: How will SI continue to cover this story?
A:
I am extremely proud of the great work done by our team to close an issue focusing on such a horrific tragedy at the 11th hour of our weekly deadline. As details continue to emerge, SI.com and the SI iPad app will have on-the-scene coverage from Boston.

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30 baseball books in April ’13: Day 15 >>>>>>>> Maybe Jackie Robinson learned something from all those years hanging out with Wendell Smith

The famous Paul Schutzer photograph of Jackie Robinson shaking hands with Richard Nixon at a GOP rally. (art.com)

The book: “Beyond Home Plate: Jackie Robinson on Life After Baseball”

The author: Michael Long

The vital stats: Syracuse University Press, 248 pages, $29.95

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

The pitch: When you can  come up with a fresh take on Jackie Robinson’s life story, one that’s been told so many ways by so many people, you race toward it in kind of the same way Robinson once took off from third base in a steal of home.

The official release today of “Beyond Home Plate” is what Michael G. Long, an associate professor of religious studies and peace and conflict studies at Elizabethtown College,  pitches from a rather simple angle, but it’s astonishing this material hasn’t come out before.

Long’s previous edited book on this subject, “First Class Citizen: The Civil Rights Letters of Jackie Robinson” in 2007 — which coincided with the 60th anniversary of his breaking the color barrier — is the perfect primer for what “Beyond Home Plate” is trying to achieve. The more depth and breadth that can be presented about  Robinson’s post-playing career pursuits, starting in the late ’50s and through his passing in 1972, the better we have an understanding that he just wasn’t a baseball crusader, but more along the lines of another UCLA alum, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (who considered Robinson his hero).

Aside from the most compelling cover graphic on a book you’ll see on the shelves, what Long arranges here are columns that Robinson wrote for the New York Post and, after he left to work for Richard Nixon’s 1960 campaign, the New York Amsterdam News. Most are in the late ’50s after his playing career ended, but they eventually cover a 10-year-plus period, very poignant as they pertain to the volatile periods of the 1960s that saw civil rights in the forefront of the news, as well as the implications from the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. Continue reading

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Five Things We Learned from the Past Weekend: April 12-14 = Kobe is still alive, but someone with a gun at the NRA-sponsored NASCAR event isn’t

Just a little help staying ahead of the sports world learning curve heading back into the work week:

1. When they get around to writing Kobe Bryant’s obituary … wait, they didn’t do that already this weekend? He’s still alive? Never mind. That A1 story in the L.A. Times had the headline “Injury clouds the future for Bryant, Lakers.” At least they couched the truth well. It lead to @Kobebryant tweeting out: “This is what my friend/agent sends me this AM. Shesh! #Kobe #MotivationSunday I’m keeping track of all doubters and haters #Mambamentality.” Actually, if he read the story, it wasn’t doubting or hating on him. We’re keeping track of how many people who think Bryant will likely come back for the start of the next season. “It’s his left foot, and right-handed players jump off their left foot (to shoot), so whether he can get the explosiveness back that he had is going to be interesting,” said Kurt Rambis, on Sunday’s Lakers pregame show. “Dominique Wilkins once blew out his Achilles, came back and made two more All-Star teams. The hard thing for Kobe is, if he can’t play as hard as he wants to play, will it frustrate him too much. Kobe doesn’t want those last two free throws to be what people remember him for.” For now, it’ll have to be.

2. Sorry, but there’ll be no sitting behind the backstop screen wearing Dodgers gear at Phoenix’s Chase Field, or else you’ll be chased. No matter how much you paid (in excess of $3,000 ) for that privilege. A few L.A. fans on Saturday found that out  the hard way (thanks to Deadspin.com for the evidence). More background from the Arizona Republic.

3. If Tiger Woods hadn’t been smacked with that two-stroke penalty for a favorable drop just before going into the third round of the Masters, he would have … only lost by two, tied for third with Jason Day instead of tied for fourth. “Well, we could do a what-if on every tournament we lose,” Woods said. “We lose more tournaments than we win.” Even him?  The interesting thing is Woods still finished the thing better than Brandt Snedeker, who was tied for the lead going into the final round. Did Woods received favorable treatment by not getting DQ’d? Why didn’t Woods do the honorable thing and DQ himself?
That’s not his nature. It’s probably best he didn’t even come close to winning this on the last few holes, allowing the drama to play out where it belongs (with Tiger’s ex-caddy leading the cheers). Still, Tiger signed an incorrect scorecard. Guys (or, at least Roberto DeVicenzo) have lost the Masters for doing that.

4. It’s all downhill here for Mizdirection. Jim Rome’s favorite gal is 5-0 on Santa Anita’s downhill turf course after winning Saturday’s $100,000 Las Cienegas Stakes, raising her career winnings to $1.15 million. Still, the Breeders’ Cup champ isn’t going to make you rich. She paid just $2.80, $2.20 and $2.10 as the 2-5 favorite. What’s next? She’s going to the $500,000 Just a Game Stakes over a mile on turf at Belmont Park on June 8.

Kyle Busch celebrates by shooting revolvers in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series NRA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday in Fort Worth. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)

5. A 42-year-old man shot himself in the head and died in the infield of Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday during the NASCAR Sprint Cup NRA 500. That’s a real story, not from Onion Sports. At a race sponsored by the National Rifle Association, which wasn’t controversial enough going in, but now looks even more sad coming out. Fort Worth police have said a man camping in the infield died of a “self-inflicted injury” after getting into an argument with other campers. Alcohol may have been a factor, they say. We’re also pretty sure now a gun may have also been a factor.

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Play It Forward: April 15-21 on your sports calendar

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

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

NBA PLAYOFFS:
Begin Saturday and Sunday on ABC, ESPN and TNT:
The NBA’s post-season ad campaign is going with the tagline: “Now is BIG.” One of the 30-second commercials shows LeBron James stealing the ball and getting an alley-oop pass to score in last season’s Eastern Conference finals. Another is Russell Westbrook launching a shot during last year’s Western Conference semifinals. Then there’s Kobe Bryant  – suspended in the air and finishing off a dunk from the 2002 Finals. Hmmmmm. Might want to reconsider that last one
The Achilles’ heel of the NBA’s marketing machine might be in how it pours so much big-time money into promoting itself before it knows who’s actually in the postseason. Bryant’s ruptured Achilles tendon will heal in time, but not for the playoffs, and lying the balance is the Lakers’ shot of keeping the No. 8 seed in Western Conference. We won’t know anything until they play their final regular season vs. Houston (7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Staples Center, TWC SportsNet) — unless Utah loses either at Minnesota on Monday or at Memphis on Wednesday. The Clippers are in, of course, and preparing for a likely dance off against Memphis (whom they just knocked off Saturday). Now they need to finish the season with wins against Portland (7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Staples Center, TNT, Prime) and at Sacramento (7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Prime) to secure home-court, and maybe even pass up Denver in the conference standings before it’s over.

BEST OF THE REST: Continue reading

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30 baseball books in April ’13: Day 14 >>>>>>>>>> The good ol’ days of baseball writing, for those who still remember it

Peter Gammons, during his 2009 Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

The book: “Keepers Of The Game: When The Baseball Beat was the Best Job on the Paper”

The author: Dennis D’Agostino

The vital stats: Potomac Books, 259 pages, $29.95

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

The pitch: Once upon a time, we came across the 1992 book, “Baseball — The Writer’s Game,” by Mike Shannon, which allowed such baseball scribes as Creamer, Goldenbok, Honing, Kinsella, Okrant, Thorne and Ritter to explain the game as they saw it, from behind their typewriters.

We’ve also found “Ring Around the Bases: The Complete Baseball Stories of Ring Lardner,” and found some great context in his accounts of what it was like covering the game in his day.

When D’Agostino decided it was time to give baseball scribes in the last half century one last shot at telling their glory days, he picked the right group. Because after this cluster has typed the end code “=30=” on their last stories, there probably isn’t a much more compelling group who could tell about those good, not-so-old days. Continue reading

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Q and A: Hang Time with Reggie Theus, the new coach at Cal State Northridge Gulf Coast (OK, so maybe not the later part … yet)

GoMatadors.com

There’s a hot-shot, 6-foot-6 senior guard at Fairfax High named Reggie Theus Jr. about to make his college choice.

The new Cal State Northridge basketball coach had heard of the kid. But his hands are tied.

“He’s already made a commitment – and I’ve always taught him when you do that, you stick to it,” said his father, Reggie Theus, after attending a gathering on the Northridge campus Friday to officially announce his arrival as the Matadors’ new caretaker of the program. “There was never a guarantee I’d have this job when he made the decision. We had to do what was best for him. We can’t say what school it is yet, but it’ll be a great opportunity.”

Opportunity has presented Theus with another head coaching job, following an outstanding NBA career, a diversion into acting (see: coach Bill Fuller in “Hang Time”) and various broadcasting roles (an original TNT studio host, and on Fox’s “Best Damn Sports Show Period.”)

As a communicator, Theus can draw from the 16 different head coaches he played under in 13 NBA seasons. That’s not including listening to Jerry Tarkanian at UNLV in the late ‘70s, to working as assistant under Rick Pitino at Louisville nearly 10 years ago. Both of whom were named to the Basketball Hall of Fame last week.

The former Inglewood High legend, whose oldest daughter Raquel (“Roqui”) played basketball at UC Irvine and appears on the BET reality series “Baldwin Hills,” and whose youngest daughter Rhyan plays volleyball at Redondo High, gave us a better understanding of how his family (with wife Elaine) will benefit from digging deeper roots in L.A. as he starts on the recruiting trail for CSUN officially starting Monday: Continue reading

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30 baseball books in April ’13: Day 13 >>>>>>>>>>> When the smoke cleared, Smoky Joe Wood could really bring it … except a Hall pass

The book: “Smoky Joe Wood: The Biography of a Baseball Legend”

The author: Gerald C. Wood

The vital stats: University of Nebraska Press, 386 pages, $34.95

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

The pitch: One of the first warning signs of a book that may lot live up to its weight is when one of the back-cover reviewers calls something a product of “exhaustive research.” It often means that it will leave the reader exhausted.

Kinda like this one. Continue reading

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30 baseball books in April ’13: Day 12 >>>>>>>>>>>> Finding another winner in the magic of “Victory,” and even more on Robinson’s 1946 season in Montreal

The book: “The Victory Season: The End of World War II and the Birth of Baseball’s Golden Age”

The author: Robert Weintraub

The vital stats:
Little Brown and Co., 460 pages, $27.99

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

The pitch: From the talent who produced  “The House That Ruth Built” last year, Weintraub gets the karma flowing again in his fact-digging to explain why the game’s Golden Age had a definite starting point — right about the time when Jackie Robinson was being picked to become the first African-American player in the big leagues.
Last time around, the focus was on 1923. This time, it starts with 1946.
The lead almost sounds like the voiced introduction to the new movie “42,” where writer Wendell Smith sets the scene for the country coming out of the second World War and Major League Baseball, which continued on without its major stars, ready for a resurgence.
Little did it know how colorful that might be. Continue reading

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