30 baseball books for April ’16, Day 29: The Dodgers and the ‘60s, innocently enough

1963-dodgers-champions-pennantThe book: “The Last Innocents: The Collision of the Turbulent Sixties and the Los Angeles Dodgers”
The author: Michael Leahy
The vital statistics: HarperCollins Publishers, 496 pages, $26.99. To be released May 10
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com, at the publishers’ website

51FLABT1EJLThe 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 Dodgers, in the 1960s, when 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 by tracking down former DC native Wills to catch up with him about his exclusion from the Hall of Fame 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 Leahy talked to more and more of Wills’ teammates from that era, particular the introspective Parker, Tracewski, Davis …
182061We are fortunate Leahy has a personal connection to this subject.
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 witnessing Koufax’s perfect game in 1966 from Aisle 27, Row S of the fourth deck, so he can reflect on some of the key plays of that game from his own perspective.
He also knew first-hand the power and reach 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.”
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30 baseball books for April ’16, Day 28: Is that a bat in his hand or a battering ram?

A photo from the back cover of the book, which implies this has to do with how baseball help distract locals during The Parsley Massacre of Rafael Trujillo.

A photo from the back cover of the book, which implies this has to do with how baseball help distract locals during Dominican Republic’s Parsley Massacre led by dictator Rafael Trujillo against the neighboring Hatians.

The book: “Weaponized Baseball: Declassified, Withheld Stories Reveal Baseball’s Hidden Role in Geopolitics, International Military Action, Mental Manipulation & Mass Distraction”
The author: Scott A. Rowan
The vital statistics: Sherpa Multimedia, 256 pages, $24.95. Released in March.
Find it: At Amazon.com, the publishers website

WEAPONSThe pitch: Scott Rowan connects dots, deciphers codes, and advances theories.
Maybe as bizarre as ones as he can find.
Like Art Bell and UFOs.
If a baseball-related book can be both enjoyable and disturbing, invigorating and brow-raising, Rowan, who previously wrote  “The Cubs Quotient: How the Chicago Cubs Changed The World” in 2014, can probably make you believe that the ivy covered walls of Wrigley Field were done that way so that camouflaged spies could send signals easier to those at the Chicago Navy base.
Taking the research approach that you can’t know everything you think you already know, Rowan goes through world history and pinpoints how baseball had an “often-hidden role” in government policy, military planning, religion, commerce, innovation, entertainment, social control, crime, gangs, law and order.
Yes, it’s mind-blowing.
XAYAjONT_400x400Rowan, a journalist from a military intelligence family background, just can’t help himself.
Rowan admits in the end that perhaps ignorance is bliss, but “it can be dangerous. My goal is to help sports fans and the general public get a peek behind the curtain of many aspects of life that they take for granted, never knew about or felt was imagined or unreal.”
Start with perhaps how the Yankees got their name. It’s beginnings go to the famous song “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” which British troops used to sing in mock of U.S. military during the Revolutionary War. What’s the song really about? Rowan explains. We’ll leave it that.
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Weekly media notes version 04.27.16: Really, we’re waiting for a big NFL/Rams reveal?

kiperFor those on the spectrum of conspiracy theoreticians, there’s one going around this week that the NFL has squeezed the Rams to wait until Thursday evening — when they’re officially on the clock at the 2016 Draft in Chicago — to reveal who they’ve decided to pick with the No. 1 overall choice.
Don’t spoil the suspense for ESPN and the NFL Network, both of whom air the draft that officially starts at 5 p.m., or prime-time in the East. When it’s up against “The Big Bang Theory.”
0ap3000000577742_thumbnail_200_150It became a topic, interestingly enough, on ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption” on Monday. Co-host Michael Wilbon got a little squirmy about it — as he should. He’s now asked to comment about whether the company he works for about whether it should comply to this request.
“Are we sure the NFL asked this, or did the TV networks ask it?” he responded.
Co-host Tony Kornheiser seemed a lot more subdued about it. It’s a TV show, he rationalized. He was fine with it.
“You want to get higher ratings,” he said, “You get higher ratings if there is a certain amount of suspense … If there is going to be a team that would help to create drama to make ratings, it would be a team in Los Angeles. I am OK with it, I don’t think it is bad.”
We’re bothered by the assumption that the league can so easily manipulate a network, even its own. Yet anyone with a true journalistic sense of duty would take this as a challenge to dig deeper through all the obfuscation. Produce a nugget of information prior to when it’s officially announced — a no-doubt true find. Perhaps it would then be just a matter of whether his editors would allow it to get on the air before the pick.
You could go with the Stephen A. Smith method and just guess loudly, with your chances here appearing to be 50/50, and wait for the outcome.
With that, ESPN’s 37th year of coverage begins officially with a “draft countdown” from 4-5 p.m. Thursday and the first round scheduled from 5-8:30 p.m. It’s a production that includes 27 cameras to capture Chris Berman, Mel Kiper Jr., Jon Gruden, new “NFL Front Office Insider” Louis Riddick, reporter Adam Scherfter, Suzy Kolber and a host of others.
Trey Wingo and Todd McShay join Kiper, Riddick and Schefter for coverage of rounds two and three (Friday at 4 p.m.) and rounds four to seven (Saturday, 9 a.m.)
The Culver City-based NFL Network boasts of more than 70 hours of live coverage during the week that started last Sunday. Rich Eisen and Mike Mayock are the point men, with Charles Davis, Daniel Jeremiah, Michael Irvin, Deion Sanders, Kurt Warner, Michael Robinson, Steve Mariucci, Brian Billick, Ian Rapoport, Melissa Stark and Rhett Lewis. Their “red carpet” special starts Thursday at 3 p.m.
At NFL.com, Matt “Money” Smith anchors the coverage starting at 5 p.m. Steve Wyche is the NFL Network reporter covering the Rams’ draft party at LA Live.

Chris Mortensen during Day 1 of the 2014 NFL Draft. (Photo by Rich Arden / ESPN Images)

Chris Mortensen during Day 1 of the 2014 NFL Draft. (Photo by Rich Arden / ESPN Images)

== As for Chris Mortensen, continuing a second round of intense treatment in Houston for Stage IV throat cancer since January, and about to miss ESPN’s coverage of the NFL Draft this weekend for the first time in 25 years.
The 64-year-old told us in a recent email that speaking right now “is somewhat painful, although I have numbing med for it. Radiation.”
He said he has at least another month of treatment to go.
“The draft was always my top calendar date,” he wrote. “It’s the first time I appeared (thank you, Fred Gaudelli) on ESPN in 1991. Can’t believe I’m going to miss it, though I am pretty wired through the magic of text messaging.”
Mortensen, a North Torrance High grad and El Camino College alum, covered high school sports and the Dodgers for the Daily Breeze before leaving to the Atlanta Journal and Constitution in 1983. We tried several times this week to tackle a Q-and-A about the draft and how he might be participating, but additional treatments precluded him from being up for it.
Prayers continued as we keep him, as well as TNT side reporter and SI cover story subject Craig Sager, in our thoughts. Continue reading

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30 baseball books for April ’16, Day 27: Holy Mack-erel

June 12, 1939, Hall of Fame, opening, Eddie Collins, Babe Ruth, Connie Mack, Cy Young, Honus Wagner, Grover Alexander, Tris Speaker, Napoleon Lajoie, George Sisler, Walter Johnson.

The Baseball Hall of Fame opens on June 12, 1939, with Connie Mack (first row, second from right) sharing the billing with (front row) Eddie Collins, Babe Ruth, Cy Young, (back row) Honus Wagner, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Tris Speaker, Napoleon Lajoie, George Sisler and Walter Johnson.

The book: “The Grand Old Man of Baseball: Connie Mack in His Final Years, 1932-1956”
The author: Norman L. Macht
The vital statistics: University of Nebraska Press, 672 pages, $39.95. Released October, 2015
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com. And the publisher’s website

412pzQxZs9LThe pitch: Combining the 742 pages already documented for “Connie Mack and the Early Years of Baseball” in 2007, and 720 more for “Connie Mack: The Turbulent and Triumphant Years, 1915-1931” in 2012, Macht has managed to convince the publisher to allow 2,134 pages and hundreds of thousands of words to go beyond the summation of the life and baseball times of Cornelius McGillicuddy, a man who was managing his 50th and final year with the Philadelphia Athletics when Vin Scully began his broadcasting career in Brooklyn in 1950.
Mack died six years later, at age 93.
From exhaustion, perhaps.
The exhaustion that one would even have after reading the 5,700-word piece that Wikipedia fashioned for him.
51t3UNty6SLWe won’t pretend to say we made it through the first two editions of the “Tall Tactician” that chronicle in every-so-detailed detail his five World Series titles, his ridiculous amount of 3,731 wins — almost 1,000 more than anyone else, despite a sub-.500 record — and a 10-year-playing career before all that from 1886-96 (the last three as player-manager for the Pittsburgh Pirates).
This third deposit gets through the weight of a far less joyous time in his life than the first two – here, his sons fight over control of the Philadelphia Athletics, watch it go bankrupt at Connie Mack Stadium, then sell it off and can’t stop it from moving to Kansas City.
51g7ymMHoAL (1)We’re just pleased that having had nearly six months to get through this final volume,  we’re still not sure if the effort this time was inspiring enough to go back and dig through the first two tomes we’d previously set aside, mostly because of intimidation.
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30 baseball books for April ’16, Day 26: Holy Yasiel, and in Bjarkman we trust with Cuba’s baseball lore

Yasiel Puig, left, talks with Arizona Diamondbacks left fielder Yasmany Tomas, right, in center field before the start of the Dodgers home opener on April 12. Both are Cuban defectors. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Yasiel Puig, left, talks with Arizona Diamondbacks left fielder Yasmany Tomas, right, in center field before the start of the Dodgers home opener on April 12. Both are Cuban defectors. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

The book: “Cuba’s Baseball Defectors: The Inside Story”
The author: Peter C. Bjarkman
The vital statistics: Rowman & Littlefield, 386 pages, $36. To be released May 5
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com, and at the publisher’s website

51xVnQJaNbLThe pitch: Yasiel Puig and Aroldis Chapman made us read this.
So did President Obama, who paraded in with the Tampa Bay Rays onto Cuban soil this past spring for an exhibition game/demonstration of what ports of business American baseball can open.
Our curiosity about how this all plays into human trafficking also drew us in.
And, because it’s Bjarkman, a writer for BaseballdeCuba.com and frequent SABR award winner in this field, we felt we were getting it straight.
For example, he’s already won an award from the baseball super-research group for this particular effort.
Aside from his resume of biographical histories and encyclopedias, kids series books and baseball “scrapbook” series, he did, In 2014, did a history of Cuban baseball from 1864-2006.
718eo7LpNlL In 2005, he did “Diamonds Around the Globe: The Encyclopedia of International Baseball” which also won a SABR award. In 1999, it was “Smoke: The Romance and Lore of Cuban Baseball.”
Bjarkman writes in his intro that his attempt to “explore the daring and often tortuous migrations of some of the better-known Cuban stars who have abandoned low-wage celebrity status in their homeland to endure life-altering (and occasionally life threatening) pilgrimages in search of multimillion-dollar celebrity status on center stage in Norther American major leagues” is as complex a thing to watch as well as write about.
There are “proud successes” and “soft underbelly failures,” not just of the Cuban socialist baseball structure but how the MLB operates and benefits itself.
Bjarkman most notably argues “our mainstream media – especially in the wake of Barack Obama’s bold December 2014 efforts at placing a belated wedge in a long-standing United States-Cuba stalemate – has rather badly misconstrued and misreported the stories of Cuban ballplayers” flocking to the U.S.
“Popular press accounts have mostly gotten the whole story essentially backwards” and in the end, “Cuban talent drain may now haunt MLB’s survival every bit as much as it haunts Cuba’s own baseball future.”
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