30 baseball books for April ’15, Day 20: Warning — Objects may appear to be a bigger deal than they should be

Dodgers' lefthander Tommy John was pitching against the  Atlanta Braves on Opening Day 1978 after his landmark elbow surgery.

Picture this: Dodgers’ left-hander Tommy John was pitching against the Atlanta Braves on Opening Day 1978 after his landmark elbow surgery. He didn’t have to elbow hard for space in the new Josh Leventhal book.

The book: “A History of Baseball in 100 Objects: A Tour through the Bats, Balls, Uniforms, Awards, Documents and Other Artifacts that Tell the Story of the National Pastime.”
The author: Josh Leventhal
The vital statistics: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 496 pages, $29.95
Find it: At Amazon.com, at BarnesandNoble.com, at Powells.com

The pitch: The objective of this book of objects is based on history.
Baseball final coverThat is, the history of books like this that have done well for the readers.
The 736-page “History of the World in 100 Objects” back in 2011 by British Museum director Neal MacGregor was stunning in its dual simplicity, presenting the importance of the Rosetta Stone to David Hockney paintings in both visuals and the written word.
The Smithsonian’s” History of America in 101 Objects” in 2013 went 784 pages – apparently there’s more to what’s in the U.S. than in the world to cover.
A “History of New York in 101 Objects” that arrived in 2014 was much more readable and eclectic in 336 pages — starting with the introduction to the Fordham Gneiss, the oldest rock known in the area which the island of Manhattan has as a foundation.
The sports world, especially baseball, has plenty to choose from in a visceral display of its life story, and those selected by Leventhal, who has previously produced high-quality books such as “Take Me Out to the Ballpark, “The World Series: An Illustrated History of the Fall Classic” and “Baseball Yesterday & Today,” go a wide range for obvious reasons.
As he writes in the intro, this isn’t just sifting through the basement of Cooperstown and finding stuff that interests us – although that could be a whole other reality TV show for the MLB Network.
“This book is not the history … of objects. Rather it is an exploration of the game of baseball as told through the equipment, documents and other artifacts that illustrate its key eras and events.”
Take Item No. 72 in your program, under the “Expansion” collection: There’s Tommy John’s elbow, “circa 1974.”
No, not something on Dr. Frank Jobe’s cutting room floor, or even a photograph that explains why the surgery that the Dodgers’ lefthander endured has changed the game as far as medical breakthroughs. It’s just a photo of John throwing. Which is comfortably fine.
But when you pinpoint that as a seminal moment in the sport, then it somehow becomes an “object” up for closer examination, which is the purpose of this exercise. In the four-page explanation, there is much more detail, including a look at the modern-day thinking that this surgery has become an “epidemic.”
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Play It Forward April 20-26: A Kershaw-Bumgarner matchup as good as it can get

iTHIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

MLB: DODGERS at SAN FRANCISCO:
Details/TV: Tuesday-Thursday, SportsNet L.A.:
bum-kershawAs fate and rotations seem to have it, defending NY Cy Young and MVP Clayton Kershaw is scheduled to match up against World Series MVP and ’14 NL Cy Young runner-up Madison Bumgarner as the star attractions for the middle day of this three game series. As numbers align, the 27-year-old Kershaw is also seeking his 100th career win in his 213th career start – compared to just 50 losses. Of all the teams he has beaten over the years, the Giants have been victims 14 times (one back of Colorado, whom he used to grind his first win of the 2015 season in his last start) and he was 3-0 against the NL wildcard-turned-World Series-champs during the regular season with a 1.69 ERA. Bumgarner, who doesn’t turn 26 until August, has a modest 1-1 record so far – matching Kershaw – with an ugly 5.29 ERA. The Padres tore him up for five runs and 10 hits in three innings on April 11 in a 10-2 loss. They have matched up before — the Baseball Prospectus broke down that first meeting in 2012. Bumgarner also beat Kershaw in a 2013 matchup. There are plenty of debates about which left-hander is more valuable. During the 2014 spring training, the thought of how a long-term Kershaw-Bumgarner rivalry could perhaps match the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird career arch as they continue to battle each other year after year. “It could happen,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy told MLB.com reporter Lyle Spencer. “They could be facing each other quite a bit down the road. You look at Clayton Kershaw, everything he’s accomplished, and Madison … one of the elite left-handers in the game. Hopefully, that is the case. You have one guy who sets a bar that high, you want to say you’re in that class.” Replied Bumgarner when asked about comparing himself to the Dodgers’ ace: “I don’t need Kershaw to want to be a better pitcher.” Fastballs often speak louder than words.
Six of the Dodgers’ next nine games are Giants, some of whom you may not recognize any longer from a year ago. The Giants have stumbled miserably out of the gate for the 2015 season, already five back of the first-place Dodgers to start last weekend, and finally ending an eight-game losing streak.
Games Tuesday and Wednesday are at 7:15 p.m., Thursday is at 12:45 p.m.

ALSO THIS WEEK:

The Clippers stay at Staples Center for Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinals against San Antonio (Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket, TNT) before going to Texas for Game 3 (Friday, 6:30 p.m., Prime Ticket, ESPN) and Game 4 (Sunday, 12:30 p.m., Channel 7) … Meb Keflezighi defends his Boston Marathon victory at the 119th edition of the race on Monday (5:30 a.m., Universal Sports) … UCLA has its spring football game at the Rose Bowl (Saturday, 10 a.m., Pac-12 Network) … The Galaxy heads to the New York Red Bulls (Sunday, 2 p.m., ESPN2) … The Ducks take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference quarterfinals to Winnipeg for Game 3 (Monday, 6 p.m., Prime Ticket) and Game 4 (Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. FSW), with Game 5 back in Anaheim if needed (Friday, Channel 13) … The Angels play four against Oakland (Monday-Thursday) and three against Texas (Friday-Sunday) at Angel Stadium …. More info at this link.

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30 baseball books for April ’15, Day 19: It’s a far cry from a Gwynn-win situation for a No. 19 tribute

This is what the poster looks like that is converted from the book jacket.

This is what the poster looks like that is converted from the book jacket. It is meant as a tribute.

The book: “Tony Gwynn: He Left His Heart in San Diego”
The author: Rich Wolfe
The vital statistics: Lone Wolfe Press, 255 pages, $24.95
Find it: At Amazon.com, at BarnesandNoble.com, at Powells.com

BBBB9780984627899_p0_v1_s600The pitch: We completely understand how much you’d like a book that celebrates the life and times of the Padres’ Hall of Fame human being and Long Beach native, who died last June of cancer.
If you happen to come across this somewhere, take an intentional walk.
Here are 19 reasons why:
1. It’s not up to Gwynn’s standards.
2. The author doesn’t seem to know, or care, that it’s not up to Gwynn’s standards. He writes in the preface: “I don’t even pretend to be an author. This book with its unusual format is designed solely for fans. I really don’t care what the publishers, editors or critics think.”
Or Gwynn’s family, apparently.
3. The author really is the publisher. He could use an editor. And what this critic thinks here should matter just a little bit in the bigger picture.
4. You’re encouraged to take off the book jacket, unfold it, turn it inside out, and look at the glossy 28-by-22 inch poster (see above). That isn’t so corny, but we can’t find a credit for the illustrator.
5. The author does credit San Diego Union-Tribune CEO John Lynch (former owner of XTRA 690-AM and the Mighty 1090) and his “wonderful staff” for assisting on the project. Most of the current staff would just as well wish they didn’t get any mention for it at all.
6. The author notes the book is “not affiliated with or endorsed by the San Diego Padres or MLB.” If it was, perhaps it would have been much better.
7. The author gives out his phone number – (602) 738-5889 – in case you have a story you might want to give him about Gwynn that could get into the next edition of “For San Diego Sports Fans Only.” He says if you call, “he’ll probably answer .. .he’s a lonely old man with no friends and a lotta time on his hands.” We assume this is a joke.
8. The author also contends: “No actual Los Angeles Dodgers fans were harmed in the making of this book.” Not unless any Dodgers fans bought this attempting to find a tribute to Gwynn’s legacy. Continue reading

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30 baseball books for April ’15, Day 18: History shows franchises built with brick cornerstones still outlast those from straw, sticks and stats

Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Buzzie Bavasi, left, is with Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella after signing them to contracts before the 1953 season.  Photo by Patrick Burns/The New York Times

Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Buzzie Bavasi, left, is with Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella after signing them to contracts before the 1953 season. Perhaps Bavasi is telling them they’re going to have to split $10,000 three ways. Photo by Patrick Burns/The New York Times

The book: “In Pursuit of Pennants: Baseball Operations from Deadball to Moneyball”
The authors: Mark Armour and Daniel Levitt
The vital statistics: University of Nebraska Press, 458 pages, $34.95
Find it: At Amazon.com, at BarnesandNoble.com, at Powells.com

51llcZG0tYLThe pitch: “Everybody thinks they can be a GM or president of baseball operations,” Theo Epstein, currently doing so as the supposed savior of the Chicago Cubs after leaving as the savior of the Boston Red Sox, is quoted as saying to start Chapter 12. “It comes with the territory.”
It’s easy to see how someone in his position could get territorial.
Historically, he’s correct. Just as history tells us there are all kinds of ways to successfully build a big-league baseball franchise.
Some, like the Cubs, haven’t really had to do much in that regard. They sell “hope” and “despair” as some kind toxin that’s good for the baseball soul. As long as Wrigley Field is in good shape — and right now, it isn’t — then they don’t really have to worry much, right?
So here’s your textbook example of what it takes to build a winner.
But then again, how pleasurable can it be to plow through a textbook while you’re standing in line to use a porta-potty on the Wrigley concourse while you’re concerned a piece of concrete is going to come down and hit you on the head?
Maybe we got off on the wrong foot here.
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Weekly sports media column 04.17.15 — It’s win, place and ‘Showtime’ for Jim Rome’s premium cable TV venture

Jim Rome talks to Masters champion Jordan Speith on a satellite feed from the Westlake Villages Studios on Monday during a taping of "Jim Rome on Showtime." (Photo by Patrick Wymore/Showtime)

Jim Rome talks to Masters champion Jordan Spieth on a satellite feed from the Westlake Villages Studios on Monday during a taping of “Jim Rome on Showtime.” (Photo by Patrick Wymore/Showtime)

What’s has been posted for Sunday’s column:

Does Jim Rome own the best racehorse in the world right now?

Photo by Patrick Wymore/Showtime

Photo by Patrick Wymore/Showtime

That’s a question someone at Forbes felt was necessary to pose as the syndicated sports radio talk show host allows Shared Belief, winner in 10 of 11 races including the recent Santa Anita Handicap, goes off Saturday night as the 2-5 favorite on the strangely con-
figured nine-
furlong track in West Virginia for the Charles Town Classic.

Where Rome has also cashed in at the betting window is with his “Jim Rome on Showtime” series, into its fourth season with a six-week run through May 6 — or just after the Kentucky Derby.

We sat in on last Monday’s taping at the Westlake Village Studios and then talked to Rome in Orange County after the finished product aired on Wednesday night about how this studio-audience driven media platform may be the most ambitious yet rewarding job of his career.

Aside from hoisting trophies in the winners’ circle.

FYI: If you’re looking for tickets to future tapings, check this link.

What’s worth dropping in on you at this point:

== Our Time Warner Cable install takes place later this afternoon (as we mentioned last week), all for the Dodgers’ SportsNet L.A. addition. Colleague Dennis McCarthy is doing the same and explains why — it’s Vin Scully.

== And if you’re finding more frustration over all this, maybe take a chill pill with Ice Cube, although he has some plans to get his Dodger channel as he told Conan O’Brien this week. You want to mess with an NWA, Magic Johnson?

== A take by the Sports Fans Coalition chairman David Goodfriend on HuffingtonPost.com on why the TWC-Comcast merger would hurt sports fans. Continue reading

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