Day 27: 30 days of baseball books in April 2014 — Expressing the Nolan Ryan story

Note: A Q-and-A with Rob Goldman appears in Sunday’s editions, linked here.

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  • The pitch: It’s all there in Chapter 8, respectfully entitled “Buzzie’s Folly: 1979.”
    Goldman notes: “Since arriving in California in 1972, Ryan had thrown more than 56,000 pitches and basically re-written the record book for power pitcher. But for all that, the Angels had played just one season of .500 ball.”
    Nolan-RyanAnd Angels GM Buzzie Bavasi helped make that change. The team added Rod Carew and won the AL West before they lost to Baltimore in the playoffs to miss out on their first World Series trip.
    Ryan, who started that summer’s All-Star Game in Seattle based on his 12-6 mark and 2.54 ERA, finished the year 16-14 with 223 strike outs and a 3.60 ERA that included a trip to the disabled list with a sore elbow.
    Ryan and agent Dick Moss had asked the team for a new contract calling for $550,000 a year or else he’d become a free agent.
    Bavasi’s famous quote: “All I need to replace Ryan is hire two 8-7 pitchers.”
    nolan-ryan-hof-1Bavasi said he believed in old-school, wins-and-losses statistics. Yet, he apparently didn’t realize that Ryan’s career win percentage as an Angel was .533, while the team was .481 over the same period. The Angels had averaged 1.95 runs in his 121 losses. He led the league in strike outs seven times, with four no-hitters, five one-hitters, 13 two-hitters and 19 three-hitters.
    Sorry to bring that all up again, but it’s Angels history that will never stop hurting.
    It caused long-time coach Jimmie Reese to break down and cry.
    It hurt Ryan, sure. He wanted to end his career in Anaheim, where it blossomed. But while he and owner Gene Autry let the businessmen work it out, the Houston Astros came up with a four-year, $4 million deal that blew everything away.
    “I don’t have any grudges or animosity toward anyone,” Goldman quotes Ryan about that time on page 168. “I’m a believer that everything will work out for the best and it did for me.”
    For Goldman’s purpose to write “Making of A Pitcher,” that may be a very telling example that he accomplished what he set out — to explain what made Ryan not just a Hall of Fame player, but a Hall of Fame person.
    Goldman, whose did a wonderful job in the 2006 book “Once They Were Angels” (with Ryan on the cover) and also helped Tim Salmon with his 2010 autobiography, set out to find out “what exactly are the attributes that Nolan possessed that made him rise above the competition and become a success on and off the field for so long?”
    Authenticity, for one. Empathy, for another.
    “He was happiest when he wasn’t the center of the universe,” Goldman also writes.
    For the Angels, and many of their young fans, he was front and center, and getting over that 1979 offseason still doesn’t seem doable, considering how Ryan went on to not only throw three more no-hitters and finish out his career in his native state of Texas, but also become a successful businessman and rancher.
    Goldman’s five-year process that involved talking to more than 80 people about Ryan doesn’t overlook his own personal story — that of an Angels batboy who witnessed some of Ryan’s greatest on-field moments.
    For example: During Ryan’s fourth no-hit game against Baltimore in 1975, Goldman was sent to fetch the smaller, tighter-seamed “X”-marked balls that Ryan had set aside because he liked them better from the batch of inconsistent balls that AL teams used that year from the Rawlings company in Haiti.
    ryanesAnd afterward, Goldman gathered four balls so that they could be marked with large “0” on them to signify Ryan’s career achievement for the photographers.
    Goldman’s relationship with Ryan over the years gives him access to much more than most authors could provide, yet it doesn’t seem to taint the pursuit of what Goldman is trying to achieve.
    To his credit, Goldman also circled back to see if Bavasi wanted to add some perspective of his comment about why letting Ryan go set fine with him.
    “I’m not going to comment on anything,” said Bavasi, who died in 2008. “Something this outrageous I wouldn’t dignify with a comment. I’d like to do it in (Ryan’s) face, though, not in the press, the way some people do things. He’s go this money. What does he want?”
    Ryan really doesn’t want anything, apparently. He did OK for himself. And, thanks to Goldman’s book, we understand why a whole lot better.
  • Signings:
    == Goodman has book signings coming up at Barnes & Noble in Costa Mesa (May 24) and Orange (June 7)
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Day 26: 30 days of baseball books in April 2014 — Seriously, the ‘best series ever’? Wendel makes a strong case for ’91

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  • The book: “Down to the Last Pitch: How the 1991 Minnesota Twins and the Atlanta Braves Gave Us the Best World Series of All Time”
  • The author: Tim Wendel
  • Vital stats: Da Capo Press, 271 pages, $25.99
  • Find it: At Powells.com, at Vromans.com, at Barnes & Nobel, at Amazon.com.

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  • The pitch: Take your pick from the World Series through history that came down to the last pitch and could be worthy of “best of all time.”
    Pittsburgh’s triumph over the New York Yankees in Game 7 of 1960, thanks to Bill Mazeroski in the bottom of the ninth.
    Arizona outlasting the New York Yankees in Game 7 of 2001, the “9/11 Season” that seemed to have a tribute to New York all over it, thanks to Luis Gonzalez in the bottom of the ninth.
    Miami’s improbable triumph over Cleveland in Game 7 of 1997, thanks to Edgar Renteria in the bottom of the 11th.
    “When you have a dog in the fight, things can become downright personal,” Wendel writes in the “Appendix II” section of this book.
    1991-Homer-HankyFor Wendel, the ’91 Series is his dog and he has decided to fight for it.
    Wendel,  the current writer in residence at Johns Hopkins University who had already captured our fancy with his 2013 book, “The Summer of ’68” and in 2011 with “High Heat,” was a founding editor at USA Today’s Baseball Weekly in 1991. When that seven-game set ended, the cover headline in his publication read: “BEST WORLD SERIES EVER?”
    Apparently, time to drop the question mark. Continue reading “Day 26: 30 days of baseball books in April 2014 — Seriously, the ‘best series ever’? Wendel makes a strong case for ’91” »
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Day 25: 30 days of baseball books in April 2014 — Say, hey: Where you in ’54?

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  • The book: “1954: The Year Willie Mays and the First Generation of Black Superstars Changed Major League Baseball Forever”
  • The author: Bill Madden
  • Vital stats: Da Capo Press, 320 pages, $25.99
  • Find it: At Powells.com, at Vromans.com, at Amazon.com
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Weekly media column version 04.25.14 — Settle down, mom, it isn’t settled

Our tweet about seeing this SportsNetLA ad featuring Vin Scully: It's

Our tweet about seeing this SportsNetLA ad featuring Vin Scully: It’s Vinsulting, Vinfuriating, Vinsensitive … no vindication.

What made it into this week’s media column (linked here):
Try explaining to mom why a) she just can’t go out and buy the new Dodgers channel as if it was offered as some deal on QVC, b) why Vin Scully isn’t picked to do Fox network games, but the other team’s broadcasters are, c) why the Dodgers and Lakers can’t just share a channel on TWC and d) maybe the radio is the way to go these days. More notes on Fox’s decision to use Greg Norman with Joe Buck on its upcoming golf coverage.

What didn’t quite make it but will rest easily in this area of the Internet machine:

== TWC “risks alienating fans” of the Dodgers? This analysis just keeps getting deeper and deeper. (Substitute “deeper” for “obvious.”)

== A guest columnist explains why she’s so bent on the Dodgers’ TV deal — then admits she has Time Warner Cable.

== Bidding continues for a Scully-signed Opening Day “mound” used during the pre-game ceremonies. Continue reading “Weekly media column version 04.25.14 — Settle down, mom, it isn’t settled” »

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Day 24: 30 days of baseball books in April 2014 — The red, white and (not really Dodger) blue summer of ’76, all about weed and greed

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  • The pitch: It was March 21, 1976 when The Who played a concert at the Big A before 55,000 fans, the largest show on the band’s North American tour. The Angels’ season wouldn’t start until 2 1/2 weeks later against Oakland. Good thing there was all that time in between for some house keeping.
    whosonfirst“A few days (after the concert), Angels groundskeepers discovered what turned out to be hundreds of marijuana plants growing robustly along the ballpark’s left-field line, and another lush patch in center field,” Epstein writes on page 86. “These herbal invaders were presumably the result of pot seeds discarded during the concert, which were then inadvertently watered and fertilized by the ballpark’s grounds crew.
    ” ‘At first we thought it was weeds,’ said stadium manager Tom Lieger. ‘Later, we found out we were right.'”
    A couple of weeks earlier, the Dodgers were wondering what got into Mike Marshall’s frosted flakes.
    ny_i_mike-marshall_mb_600The relief pitcher who won the Cy Young Award for them less than two years was arrested. Employed by Michigan State University as a graduate assistant in their phys ed department, Marshall was upset that the owners had locked the players out from spring training, and he was trying to throw off a mound in an indoor facility at the Intramural Building. The school, however, wanted no part of him being there. So when he tried to get in and found it locked, he returned with bolt cutters and a hacksaw and told his accomplice/catcher: “Before the police get here, let’s get some throwing done.” By the time June 15 trading deadline came around, Dodgers GM Al Campanis waived Marshall, and made Charlie Hough their closer.
    “It’s probably more the Dodgers being down on Mike than being wild about me,” said the knuckleballer. Continue reading “Day 24: 30 days of baseball books in April 2014 — The red, white and (not really Dodger) blue summer of ’76, all about weed and greed” »
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