Day 5: 30 baseball books in April, 2014 — Reuss has us rolling again

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  • The pitch: Pranks for the memories.
    tumblr_lkyntciFwP1qbcyhro1_500It was only a matter of time before General Custer mustered the energy to document all the stuff he did (or was accused of doing) during his somewhat underrated major-league career that touched four decades between 1969 and 1990, eight of them with the Dodgers (’79 to ’87). Winning 220 games, pitching in two All-Star Games and throwing a no-hitter in San Francisco was only the half of it.
    There’s the story of him forging Tommy Lasorda’s signature on a ball and having it put into the game ballbag to be used by umpire Frank Pulli — “Frank, May God Bless You! Tom Lasorda” — only to have it not only get into the game (Pulli didn’t see it), have it fouled back into the players’ family section and see it caught by a guy named Frank, who showed it to Lasorda’s wife, Jo.
    There was singing on the “Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” as a member of the “Big Blue Wrecking Crew” group after the 1981 World Series.

    And conspiring with reussdexKen Brett to drag the Dodger Stadium infield during a game.
    Killing time with Phil Garner on the mound during the 1981 All Star Game so he could get more TV exposure (he was the winning pitcher, striking out all three he faced).  Sending the clubhouse attendant to get a spicy dog from the Dodger Stadium concession stands.
    Sticking Tommy Lasorda with a tab for a dozen pizzas delivered to the team plane on the tarmac at O’Hare Airport in Chicago just so he could win a $50 bet. Getting a round of applause from the team beat writers for buying them a round of drinks on a flight from New York to Montreal (“to my knowledge, it was the only time in baseball history that a player received a standing ovation from sportswriters.)
    Reuss scullysReuss was not only chief instigator in a lot of this — even having had Muhammad Ali tell him that in an elevator — but he could also shed some light on some important moments. He goes step by step through his May 1980 no-hitter against the Giants, including the surprise he got when the crowd in San Francisco applauded for him the next day. He also sheds some light on that 1985 NLCS playoff loss to St. Louis — where Tom Niedenfuer gave up the home run to Jack Clark. Reuss recalls warming up in the bullpen as Niedenfuer stayed in the game — not to walk Clark but eventually give up the three-run homer that cost them a trip to the World Series.
    “Did Lasorda forget he had me warming up when Clark came to the plate?” Reuss asks in the book, also noting that before the series started, Lasorda’s meeting with all the pitchers included the warning: “Don’t pitch to Clark with the game on the line.”
    “I didn’t agree with Tom in choosing to pitch to Clark,” Reuss writes, “(but) I repected and supported his right as a manager to make that decision.”
    The right decision here, too, would be to grab a copy and have Reuss sign it for you. No telling what else he’ll add to the value of it with his penmanship if given the chance.

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