The books we had hoped to get to but for one reason or another – a late review copy, delayed release, etc. – we regret not being able to include:
== “Stealing Games: How John McGraw Transformed Baseball with the 1911 New York Giants,” by Maury Klein
Ron Kaplan has a review for Bookreporter.com that includes: ” ‘Stealing Games’ is a marvel of research, almost to a fault. Practically every paragraph is cited, mercifully in endnotes rather than footnotes, which, given the sheer number, would have rendered this fine work difficult to navigate. This is a minor point, as Klein’s contribution will doubtlessly earn him the highest accolades from those in the baseball literary world.
From the phenomenal artwork of Lucy Eldrige, available at etsy.com.
Arranged by the quality of the work that we tried to pass along in each review
Top shelf: == Day 30: “Dodgerland: Decadent Los Angeles and the 1977-78 Dodgers,” by Michael Fallon == Day 29: “The Last Innocents: The Collision of the Turbulent Sixties and the Los Angeles Dodgers,” by Michael Leahy == Day 27: The Grand Old Man of Baseball: Connie Mack in His Final Years, 1932-1956,” by Norman L. Macht == Day 26: “Cuba’s Baseball Defectors: The Inside Story,” by Peter C. Bjarkman == Day 22: “The Only Rule Is It Has to Work: Our Wild Experiment Building a New Kind of Baseball Team” by Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller
== Day 11: “Baseball and the Law: Cases and Materials” by Louis H. Schiff and Robert M. Jarvis
== Day 6: “God Almighty Hisself: The Life and Legacy of Dick Allen,” by Mitchell Nathanson
== Day 5: “The Selling of the Babe: The Deal that Changed Baseball and Created a Legend,” by Glenn Stout”
== Day 4: “The 50 Greatest Dodgers Games of All Time,” by J.P. Hoornstra
== Day 2: “Baseball Field Guide: An In-Depth Illustrated Guide to the Complete Rules of Baseball,” by Dan Formosa and Paul Hamburger
== Day 1: “The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports,” by Jeff Passan
The pitch: It’s a fitting quote Fallon uses to start the last chapter – actually, the afterward – in this book about the Dodgers, taken from an August, 1979 edition of Time magazine: “Nobody is apt to look back on the 1970s as the good old days.”
The Dodgers transitioned from the tumultuous ‘60s (as we just finished reading in “The Last Innocents”) into a spiral at the start of the ‘70s.
We were there. We went through it.
The franchise found some stability with a home-grown infield, a Don Sutton-led pitching staff, and a revived fan base, but all they had to show for it were three trips to the World Series during that decade – all of them losses.
The last two of them — back-to-back painful thwarting by the New York Yankees – are what Fallon holds up for an intricate inspection, clearing away the palm trees to intentionally craft a “Bronx Is Burning”-type narrative that seems to demonstrate that the Dodgers epitomized the concept of “promise unrealized” during a time when strange vibes were channeling their way through Southern California. Continue reading →
Chris Mortensen may not be in Chicago reporting on the NFL Draft for ESPN this year.
But he’s definitely paying attention.
The 64-year-old South Bay native continues receiving treatment in Houston for Stage IV throat cancer. You may have spotted (in the video above) his emotional appearance in a Gatorade commercial that just launched, talking about Peyton Manning, who broke the news to Mortensen about his NFL retirement.
Colleagues and media journalists have been tweeting out messages about him over the last 48 hours:
As Mortensen watches more of the NFL draft this weekend, he took a few moments to email responses to questions we asked him about — checking on his progress, what is getting him through it all.
Here’s how it goes:
Q: You’ve had several colleagues at ESPN go through various forms of cancer and recovery. Can you take anything from what they went through as inspiration to how you’re moving forward? A:Well, “moving forward” is the catch-phrase there. Unfortunately, so many colleagues have had to endure this awful disease and I think that’s a snapshot of the country and world. Stuart Scott … gosh I don’t know if anybody was grittier in their fight. Stu’s death made me very sad. All of us. He was such a pioneering talent, global in a sense. He was a friend to many. His drive through that ordeal was unmatched. Stu was so kind to my wife Micki and our son Alex, especially through Alex’s football playing days (as a quarterback at the University of Arkansas). Stu was always disappointed Alex didn’t pick North Carolina, his alma mater. Disappointed in a friendly, even humorous, way. Shelley Smith … Robin Roberts … When this happens, it taps very much into one’s soul. I have found myself praying everyday for someone who has been stricken or be taken. And, of course, Jimmy Valvano. The V Foundation is one of the great promises kept. I know. The V Foundation was very supportive in my seeking treatment at MD Anderson in Houston. I’m leaving a lot of colleagues unnamed. So many have shared their stories and it is very humbling and inspirational. But, I’ll also say this: Each case of cancer is very personal and unique. Very personal.
Chris Mortensen during Day 1 of the 2014 NFL Draft from Radio City Music Hall in New York. (Photo by Rich Arden / ESPN Images)
Q: Your involvement in the NFL draft coverage for the last 25 years on ESPN has been magnified over the years as interest has ramped up and people seem to demand more and more information. You seem to be still engaged in social media outlets even if your voice isn’t there. Is there any way you can still impart information to your colleagues as you watch and network with your sources? A: I have been able to interact with many in the NFL and with my colleagues. I have become a serial texter, which isn’t a good thing. A conversation still beats a text for a lot of reasons. I really haven’t been that engaged on social media. I may get on Twitter two or three times a week by someone’s request to re-tweet something or just to check NFL-related content.
Q: You had more than 7 million retweets of your announcement on Twitter that you filed a story to ESPN breaking the news of Peyton Manning’s retirement decision in early March. Many thought the fact you reported it was as big a news item as Manning’s decision. How did that play out and what was your reaction to it? A: It’s actually awkward. The news was Peyton Manning’s retirement, especially when there was speculation that he could seek extending it with another team. That’s just not something that ever really appealed to Manning. Even though he may have been an admirer of Brett Favre, I don’t think he wanted to emulate Favre’s last dance with three teams. It was painful enough for him to leave Indianapolis. So, back to your question … it’s very heartwarming and thoughtful for people to be so generous with their response. You do get to experience great depths of humility in these circumstances.
Q: You’ve got a choice now of taking in the NFL draft on ESPN or the NFL Network. Where and how do you plan to watch it play out this year? A: I watch the NFL draft on ESPN. That’s a tradition. I really did wake up at 4:45 am on the Pacific Coast in our Hermosa Beach house to watch the NFL Draft on ESPN with Chris Berman and Mel Kiper Jr., et al, even when I covered the Dodgers for The Daily Breeze and the draft began at 8 a.m. ET.
I grew up a huge Los Angeles Rams fan – my Uncle Jimmy took me frequently to games at the Coliseum, even walking there a relatively short distance from my Grandmother’s house. It did strike me that the Rams had the first pick. When Suzy Kolber and Jared Goff – whom I got a little uainted with at the Manning Passing Academy last July – gave me a shoutout, it was cool because it was the Rams. The L.A. Rams.
As far as the NFL Network goes, I pay attention and have good friends there. I always want to hear what Daniel Jeremiah has to say. He’s one guy who was highly regarded as a scout with the Ravens, Browns and Eagles; gosh, he had an opportunities to become the player personnel director with two teams this year but chose to stay put. We’re also close friends, extended through our families.
Q: What else is on your mind that you’d like people to know about anything right now? A: Cancer is personal. It not only affects the patient, it extends very personally to the family and loved ones. That’s very true in my situation, too. They become caregivers and that’s a very draining responsibility. They need support and prayers as much as me.
When I’m locked down onto a table with a mask for daily radiation, I have the techs at MD Anderson pipe in Christian music. It brings me a sense of peace.
On that note, there is something special about experiencing the humility that comes with being a cancer patient. You realize pretty quickly that it’s non-discriminatory. Doesn’t seem matter if you’re middle-aged, old, young, poor, rich, black, white, Hispanic, Islamic, Asian…it is indiscriminate. There’s a way-too-large community of cancer patients, inspired by survivors but equally inspired by those who fought the good fight but eventually succumbed.
There is one myth, in my opinion, I would share. The mantra of “kick cancer’s ass” may be well-intended but it’s misplaced. Based on what I have experienced and having seen and heard others, you don’t kick cancer’s butt. It kicks your rear end. You just take the punches, get back up and let it hit you again and again.
I have watched Ed Werder endure agonizing cancer and other serious diseases that have afflicted with his daughter Christie and ultimately with his son-in-law Trey, who passed away a couple months ago. Nobody fought harder or wanted to live more than Trey. He was 31 years old. Trey’s experience was torturous and I found myself waking almost every night in the middle of my sleep and praying for him, Christie and Ed and Jill Werder. I believe their fight and love and sacrifice embodies the cancer experience.
You pray you’re standing in the end. But it’s day-to-day. One day at a time.
= An update on Mortensen we posted on Wednesday is in the weekly media notes linked here.
The pitch: Maury Wills, Wes Parker, Tommy Davis, Sandy Koufax, Jeff Torborg, Dick Tracewski, Lou Johnson, Al Ferrara, Joe Moeller, Ron Fairly, Claude Osteen …
They really weren’t innocent bystanders.
They happened to be mature enough in age to be playing baseball in Los Angeles, for the star-studded and workman-like Dodgers, in the 1960s, when the land around the Ravine was still shifting.
They reflected the cross pollination of race, religion, class – while winning and losing in a sport that many still considered the national past time — pre-Super Bowl, remember.
The beauty of this 50-year retrospective is that as a group most are still around to talk about it, honestly, putting their trust in a Washington Post writer who started this innocently enough in 2009 when he was tracking down former DC native Wills to catch up with him about his exclusion from the Hall of Fame which was, and continues to be, a gross oversight.
One interview led to a story in the Post Magazine, and a book was organically created when Michael Leahy talked to more and more of Wills’ teammates from that era, particular the introspective Parker, then Tracewski, then Davis … We are fortunate Leahy has a personal connection to this subject.
Growing up in Northridge, he admits in the acknowledgements that his passion was “ignited long before I had a driver’s license,” and his dad and neighborhood friends would take him to Dodger Stadium – including the night to witness Koufax’s perfect game in 1966 from Aisle 27, Row S of the fourth deck, with enough of an imprint that he can reflect on some of the key plays of that game from his own perspective, things seared into his memory that may make no sense to others, but it’s the power of that memory that comes alive again.
He also knew first-hand the impact of Vin Scully’s voice, who, “at thirty-four in 1962, Scully possessed the command of someone twenty years his senior. .. (he) had the wit and a keen eye to complement a melodious voice devoid of any trace of an eastern accent, his speech and style an amalgam of laidback folksy and eloquently descriptive.” He was perfect man for the job when the O’Malley family moved the team from Brooklyn and needed to attract new fans, because “the sound of Vin Scully on their radios was ubiquitous. To make that first trip to Dodger Stadium for the new Californians was akin to embarking on an obligatory family pilgrimage to Disneyland.” Continue reading →