Day 12: 30 baseball books in April, 2014 — Sometimes, it’s like talking to a wall with Puig

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  • The book: “If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Los Angeles Dodgers Dugout, Locker Room and Press Box”
  • The author: Houston Mitchell, forward by Ross Porter
  • Vital stats: Triumph Books (paperback), 192 pages, $14.95
  • Find it: From the publisher’s website, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com, at Amazon.com.
  • The pitch: Don’t be dazzled or confused by the cover shot of Yasiel Puig, who really hasn’t made much history with the 50-year-plus existence of the franchise in L.A. but has become its most sell-able commodity — in this case, hoping to catch the eye of a potential book buyer. For the record, the only thing about Puig inside here is the last item of the second-to-last chapter, and there really isn’t all that much talked about.
    The publisher has used this “If These Walls Could Talk” marketing technique to put out a series of quick-read history books covering other MLB, NFL and college football programs. You might think that since this Dodgers version comes so close to the same publisher’s release of “100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die” by Jon Weisman, there might be a bit of re-purposing the same material. After all, you really can’t do an L.A. Dodger history/fact book without a lot of cross referencing, and Mitchell, an assistant sports editor at the Los Angeles Times, makes note of Weisman’s book as one of his sources.
    But we’ve found enough fresh material to allow them to co-exist. Continue reading
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Day 11: 30 baseball books in April, 2014 — Exposing the Expos for what they were and could be again

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  • The book: “Up, Up & Away: The Kid, The Hawk, Rock, Vladi, Pedro, Le Grand Orange, Youppi! The Crazy Business of Baseball, & the Ill-Fated but Unforgettable Montreal Expos”
  • The author: Jonah Keri
  • Vital stats: Random House Canada, 408 pages, $32
  • Find it: At RandomHouse.ca, at the author’s website, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com, at Amazon.com
About 95,000 tickets were been sold for two exhibition games between the Blue Jays and the Mets at Olympic Stadium in Montreal. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press)

About 95,000 tickets were been sold for two exhibition games between the Blue Jays and the Mets at Olympic Stadium in Montreal. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press)

  • The pitch: More than 90,000 congregated at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium recently to see a two-game exhibition series between the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Mets. Thousands more apparently didn’t get in because the line outside the stadium to pick up tickets they ordered online took too long and they gave up.
    d7d38e83-9f92-4275-a6d9-f16be4128a29-460x276Asked about the chances of a Major League Baseball team ever returning to Montreal, former Expos manager Felipe Alou said at a press conference: “It’s 50/50, that’s what I hear. But after these two games it will probably go over 50/50.”
    How’s that math work in the conversion rate?
    Continue reading
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Day 10: 30 baseball books in April, 2014 — OMG: Doug Harvey’s tribute to himself

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  • The book: “They Call Me God: The Best Umpire Who Ever Lived”
  • The author: Doug Harvey, with Peter Golenbock
  • Vital stats: Gallery Books, 288 pages, $28
  • Find it: At Gallery Books, at Powells, at Vromans, at Amazon.com.
  • The pitch: This story starts on page 170:
    Doug_Harvey_6“The umpire is there for one reason and one reason only: To make sure one team doesn’t gain an unfair advantage. It’s that simple …
    “I used to get a kick out of Tommy Lasorda. He’d come waddling out. He could be nasty but I always kind of liked him. In this game, Don Sutton, who was a hell of a pitcher when he wasn’t cheating, was pitching for the Dodgers and he was pitching a brand new ball. He rubbed it up, and there was a fly out and (umpire) Jerry Crawford got the ball and looked at it and he called me over.
    “‘ Chief, look at this,’ Jerry said. And he showed the ball to me and it had a scab right on the league president’s signature. I didn’t think it was an accident that the mark had been put on that spot.
    “Sutton pitched another brand new ball and on his first pitch Ken Reitz hit a fly out to Rick Monday in center field. Monday flipped the ball to Jerry coming in, and Jerry called me over again. That ball had been scuffed in the same spot at the other one.
    “‘Lasorda, come out here,’ I said.
    “Tommy came out.
    “‘Look at this ball.’
    “‘Yeah? So?’
    “‘Do you see this scuff right here?’ I asked.
    “‘Yeah.’
    “‘Well someone on your ball club is marring the ball’ — I didn’t even say that Sutton was the one marring it — ‘and I have to think Sutton is pitching the marred ball knowing it’s marred, and I’m telling you, if he does it again, I’m going to toss him.’
    “‘Jesus Christ, Harvey,’ Lasorda said. ‘What are you trying be, God?’” Continue reading
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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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