Day 9: 30 baseball books in April, 2014 — The Bilko Fence Busters of ’56 get their due

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  • The book: “The Bilko Athletic Club”
  • The author: Gaylon White
  • Vital stats: Rowman & Littlefield, 326 pages, $38
  • Find it: At Rowman.com, at Powells, at Vromans, at Amazon.com.
  • The pitch: San Diego baseball historian Bill Swank has referred to this as the “West Coast version of ‘The Boys of Summer’,” and we’ll happily endorse that endorsement.
    White, a Society for American Baseball Research member and one-time sportswriter at the Denver Post, gathers all he can about the ’56 Angels, a lot of it inspired by research done in the past by author John Schulian and former PCL Historical Society president Dick Beverage.
    White writes from personal knowledge of having grown up in Ontario and El Monte in the 1950s, with Bilko’s Angels as the only real big-league club in L.A. until the Dodgers arrived a couple of years later. First-baseman Bilko hit 148 homers in three seasons with the Angels, inspiring the nickname for the team (as per the book title). He hit 313 homers in 1,553 games in the minor leagues from 1949-62. And he hit just 76 in 600 major-league games, seven with the with the Dodgers in 1958 and 28 with the Angels in 1961-62 before he was done at age 33. Continue reading
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Day 8: 30 baseball books in April, 2014 — The Hayhurst haymaker, and how he gets the final say

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Day 7: 30 baseball books in April, 2014 — It’s fringe for a reason

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  • The pitch: Official MLB historian John Thorne may sell you on this by this one with his back-cover jacket blurb: “This is the best baseball book you will read this year.”
    There is a lot to learn from these pages upon pages of statistics and yarns compiled by Simkus, a Chicago-area Society for American Baseball Research member who did a whole lot of research on the Negro Leagues.
    We now have the Toledo Swamp Angels on our radar. And the Treat ‘em Roughs of New York City. The Page Fences Giants. The New York Bloomer Girls. The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (an actual baseball team). The Zulu Cannibal Giants (complete with grass skirts), the Brooklyn Bushwickes, Great Lake Bluejackets and, of course, the House of David teams that may have been fun to look at, but as Simkus documents, weren’t all that successful on the field. Continue reading
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Play It Forward: April 7-13 on your calendar — A grand prix at The Beach, a couple of basketball championships, and Augusta — without Tiger

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET
augusta-national-masters_t640GOLF: THE 78th MASTERS

At Augusta, Ga.
Thursday-Sunday, ESPN and Channel 2:
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Before we get into who’s going to pay the $50,000 to replace that broken Eisenhower Tree, it’s back to Tiger Woods – he’s still not playing. The 1997, 2001, 2002 and 2005 winner is recouping from surgery to fix up a nagging back that has plagued him the last few weeks. So Phil Mickelson isn’t playing 100 percent healthy, either. Doesn’t that open the green door for someone to go out there and attack Augusta National, knowing this is about as great a chance as you’ll have to win this thing? Can you get too pumped up? “If you’re out there on the golf course thinking about, gee, I’ve got to do this or that because Tiger, Phil or whoever is not playing well, you’ve got no chance,” says ESPN golf analyst Andy North. “That course will eat you up.  So you’d better be worrying about what you’re doing.”  We’ll remember that advice next time we’re genuflecting around Amen Corner.
SNS1150MC1_-_10_04_1289711a Odds makers like Rory McIlroy’s chances now either way, as Bovada.lv has made him the 7-to-1 favorite, with defending champion Adam Scott a close second (9-1). Mickelson still is in the ballpark at 12-1 with Jason Day at 14-1. Day hasn’t played since a win in February’s WGC Accenture Match, healing up from a left thumb injury. Day was third behind Scott and Angel Cabrera last year at seven-under. Scott could be the first since Woods to win back-to-back jackets. The world No. 2 player has three top 10 finishes this year. Then there’s Steve Stricker, the man who has never won a major, with a sixth place finish at Augusta in 2009 his best performance there. The No. 15 ranked player in the world is the one to keep an eye on this time.
ESPN has the Par 3 contest on Wednesday (noon), the first two rounds on Thursday and Friday (noon), CBS has the third round Saturday (noon) and final round Sunday (11 a.m.).

BEST OF THE REST: Continue reading

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Day 6: 30 baseball books in April, 2014 — Dodgers, Giants and a rivalry story that just needs to be revisited again … but why?

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  • The book:The Fight of Their Lives: How Juan Marichal and John Roseboro Turned Baseball’s Ugliest Brawl into a Story of Forgiveness and Redemption”
  • The author: John Rosengren
  • Vital stats: Lyons Press, 288 pages, $25.95
  • Find it: At Lyons Press, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com, at Amazon.com, and at the author’s site for the book, fightoftheirlives.net
  • The pitch: We are going here again … because?
    Honestly, it’s road we’ve sprinted across every which way many times in the past, this Marichal-Roseboro thing. We saw the one-man play “Juan & John” by Roger Guenveur Smith in 2011, months before Marichal came out with his own  autiobiography. We’ve also read Roseboro’s account in his own 1978 book.
    But Rosengren, who did his own version of the Hank Greenberg story a year ago at a time when a recent documentary and bio about the Tigers Hall of Famer had also been well circulated, had his reasons for wanting to revisit Marichal-Roseboro nearly 50 years later. Continue reading
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Q and A: How Ivan Reitman rightly captured the realism of the NFL in ‘Draft Day’ … which may be the league’s own version of ‘Animal House’

trailer-for-ivan-reitmans-sports-film-draft-dayIvan Reitman is on the clock.
He’s got a brief window of time to get into how pulled off producing and directing the upcoming film “Draft Day.”
Fifteen minutes, to be exact — the same amount of time that the Cleveland Brown’s general manager Sonny Weaver Jr., played by Kevin Costner, has as official wiggle room in Radio City Music Hall to make the overall No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, with his coach (Denis Leary), capologist/love interest (Jennifer Garner) and owner (Frank Langella) yelling in his ear.
At least, according to this Hollywood version. You know how long 15 minutes can go.
Reitman isn’t about to waste any precious moments here as the buzz starts to pick up for this movie that opens Friday nationwide:

Ivan Reitman, on the set of the 2013 NFL Draft, tying to make it look like 2014 (Credit: Summit Entertainment)

Ivan Reitman, on the set of the 2013 NFL Draft, tying to make it look like 2014 (Credit: Summit Entertainment)

Q: Based on your background with some of the classic comedies of all time – “Animal House,” “Ghostbusters,” “Stripes,” and the success you had with “Up In The Air” – some were surprised you decided to take on this NFL-related film. Why was it appealing to make that leap?
A:
It’s a wonderful script. Great characters. An explosive story that surprises you and keeps surprising you. It almost feels like you’re watching a great football game without ever actually having to be on the field. It was definitely different from anything I had done and that made it fascinating. There’s lots of funny in it, but it’s much more dramatic. But the key thing is I thought it was a really good challenge for me.

Continue reading

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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. Continue reading
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Day 4: 30 baseball books in April, 2014 — George Will, hunting for the essence of Wrigley Field

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  • The book: “A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred”
  • The author: George F. Will
  • Vital stats: Crown Publishing, 225 pages, $25
  • Find it: At crownpublishing.com, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com, at Amazon.com
  • The pitch: Why not?
    As the Cubs celebrate their Wrigley Field opener today on WGN and the MLB Network — even if it was called Weeghman Park and the year was 1916 when they first moved into the place — why not have the syndicated columnist and Sunday morning pundit who once wrote “Men At Work” and “Bunts” spit out another personalized baseball-related tale in the World According to Will style that we’ve become accustomed?
    All tied up in a bow tie. Continue reading
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Weekly media column version 04.04.14: It’s Time (again) For Dodgers Dodgeball

“It is an incredible honor to have the remarkable opportunity to call the very first game on the Dodger network,” said Vin Scully, addressing the Dodgers Fan Fest throng last February.  “The Dodgers’ new ownership group has done a wonderful job assembling a team to make SportsNet LA what every Dodger fan deserves, a television network just for them. I’m humbled to be a part of it.” (Photo by (Photo  Juan Ocampo/Dodgers)

“It is an incredible honor to have the remarkable opportunity to call the very first game on the Dodger network,” said Vin Scully, addressing the Dodgers Fan Fest throng last February. “The Dodgers’ new ownership group has done a wonderful job assembling a team to make SportsNet LA what every Dodger fan deserves, a television network just for them. I’m humbled to be a part of it.” (Photo by (Photo Juan Ocampo/Dodgers)

What made it into the sports media column this week:

Sandy_Alderson_and_Tom_VerducciFox and ESPN come into town to circle the wagons on the Dodgers. But that’s just a lost weekend adventure. SportsNet L.A. has Friday’s home opener as an exclusive. We’ll talk to Tom Verducci (left) and Buster Olney about how that storyline fits into their broadcasts, and how they’ve been fitting into their own broadcasts as reporter/insider/analysts.
We also have notes on Ross Porter’s return to Dodger Stadium, the passing of legendary director Sandy Grossman, and what’s on the schedule for NBC’s newest find, Josh Elliott.

What is relegated to the blog notes:

== Verducci joins Harold Reynolds with Joe Buck as they debut as the Fox lead team on MLB coverage with the Dodgers-Giants game from Dodger Stadium on Saturday at 1 p.m. on FS1. Thom Brennaman and Eric Karros have the Minnesota-Cleveland game on FS1 at 10 a.m. leading into it. The FS1 pregame show has Kevin Burkhardt as the host with Gabe Kapler and Frank Thomas.
== ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” also sends out its crew — Karl Ravech, Barry Larkin and John Kruk — in Lot P of Dodger Stadium for the pregame show from 4-to-5 p.m. leading up to the game coverage on ESPN2 between the Dodgers and Giants.
== Another thing to note as the Dodgers appear on ESPN “Sunday Night Baseball” for the first two weeks:  The only other times that a team has led off an ESPN schedule like that in their 25 years of covering the game was  the 2003 Angels (coming off their 2002 World Series win) and the 1995 Mariners.

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For the Dodgers to claim ownership of L.A. ….

Dodger Stadium grounds crew assistant Jordan Lorenz prepares the field for the Opening Weekend series with the Giants Thursday April 3, 2014.(Andy Holzman/Los Angeles Daily News)

Dodger Stadium grounds crew assistant Jordan Lorenz prepares the field for the Opening Weekend series with the Giants Thursday April 3, 2014.(Andy Holzman/Los Angeles Daily News)

It’s a moment in L.A. sports that can morph into something supposedly magnificent again.

But the nagging question seems to be: Do the Dodgers have it in them to claim ownership of L.A without having actually gone out and done it yet on the field?

So far, they’ve paid plenty for the bragging rights.

Flash back to five years ago, there were all kinds of Dodger-branded billboards no one was dodging.

“This Is My Town,” they boldly stated. And everyone who thought they were someone wanted to be part of it.

Remember these?

Remember these?

Up on Sunset and Vine, with the giant white letters on the blue background, it was rapper Snoop Dogg or rocker Nikki Sixx. Poison frontman Bret Michaels or hip hop group the Black Eyed Peas. Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. A cavalcade of Kardashians.

No horsing around with this thing — even Zenyatta got one.

The Dodgers players who were eventually featured on them may not have carried the same star quality. James Loney, Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake and Hiroki Kuroda?

Right, there was Joe Torre and Manny Ramirez, too. But looking back on it, that campaign didn’t provide a lot of champagne.

Read more online …

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