30 baseball books for April ’15, Day 11: Knuck, knuck, knuck

the knuckleball grip by Chicago White Sox pitcher Eddie Ciotti.

The knuckleball grip of Chicago White Sox pitcher Eddie Ciotti. The 1913 photo by famed photographer Charles Conlon on a glass plate negative was published in The Sporting News.

The book: “Knuckleball: The History of the Unhittable Pitch”
The author: Lew Freedman
The vital statistics: Sports Publishing/Skyhorse, 310 pages, $24.99
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Barnesandnoble.com, at Powells.com

51F3nNOCfLLThe pitch: Two knuckleball-related stories that are fresh in our knuckleheads:
One: A Bob Uecker quote: “The way to catch a knuckleball is to wait until it stops rolling and pick it up.”
Two: In 2013, former major league infielder and LSU quarterback Josh Booty beat out a group that included his brother, former USC quarterback John David Booty, as well as Doug Flutie, and won an MLB Network reality show called “The Next Knuckler.” With it came a spring training invite to the Arizona Diamondbacks spring camp. The elder Booty didn’t pan out.
While neither that Ueck quote nor the updated yarn is even broached in this book by Freedman, a former Chicago Tribune and Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer, inquiring minds may want to know: Why not?
Meaning, if what little we know already about the story of the pitch can be found in somewhat greater detail on Wikipedia, we’re kind of wondering what else we’re supposed to learn by this, which simply reads like an elongated newspaper story. Continue reading

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One-third through with 30 baseball books for April 15 …

10exIn 2008, author Benjamin Wiker put a book together called “10 Books That Screwed Up The World,” a list that, if updated, would not have included any of the 10 baseball books that we found so far in 2015 to be placed among his choices of Machiavelli’s “The Prince,” Darwin’s “Descent of Man,” Nietzsche’s “Beyond Good and Evil” or Kinsey’s “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male.”
Although Bouton’s “Ball Four” may have covered all those topics in 1970.
With 10 books down, the final 20 spots for the baseball book review series of 2015 is becoming more difficult to decide on what to include and what to cut.
Looks like a survival of the fittest situation.
For those late to the literary party:
Day 1: “Tommy Lasorda: My Way” by Colin Gunderson
Day 2: “Out At Home: The True Story of Glenn Burke, Baseball’s First Openly Gay Player” by Glenn Burke with Erik Sherman
Day 3: “Perfect: The Rise and Fall of John Paciorek, Baseball’s Greatest One-Game Wonder” by Steven K. Wagner
Day 4: “The Joy of Ballpark Food: From Hot Dogs to Haute Cusine” by Bennett Jacobstein
Day 5: “101 Baseball Places To See Before You Strike Out: Second Edition” by Josh Pahigian
Day 6: “100 Years of Who’s Who in Baseball” by the staff of “Who’s Who in Baseball” and Douglas B. Lyons
Day 7: “The Matheny Manifesto: A Young Manager’s Old-School Views on Success in Sports and Life” by Mike Matheny, with Jerry B. Jenkins
Day 8: “Bats, Balls, and Hollywood Stars: Hollywood’s Love Affair with Baseball” by Joe Siegman
Day 9: “A Game of Their Own: Voices of Contemporary Women in Baseball” by Jennifer Ring
Day 10: “The Hidden Game of Baseball: A New Edition of the Baseball Classic that Ignited the Sabermetric Revolution” by John Thorn and Pete Palmer

What we have planned to hit on for the next 20 days includes:
== “Knuckleball: The History of the Unhittable Pitch” by Lew Freedman
== “Picker’s Pocket Guide – Baseball Memorabilia: How to Pick Antiques Like a Pro” by Jeff Figler
== “Joe Black: More Than a Dodger” by Martha Jo Black and Chuck Schoffner
== “Gil Hodges: A Hall of Fame Life” by Mort Zachter
== “I Am Jackie Robinson,” from the series “Ordinary People Change the World” by Brad Meltzer
== “The Game Must Go On: Hank Greenberg, Pete Gray, and the Great Days of Baseball on the Home Front in WWII” by John Klima
== ” In Pursuit of Pennants: Baseball Operations from Deadball to Moneyball” by Mark L. Armour and Dan Levitt
==  “Seeing Home: The Ed Lucas Story: A Blind Broadcaster’s Story of Overcoming Life’s Greatest Obstacles” by Ed and Christopher Lucas
== “A History of Baseball in 100 Objects” by Josh Leventhal
== “Throw Like A Woman,” by Susan Petrone
== “Billy Martin: Baseball’s Flawed Genius” by Bill Pennington
== “Marvin Miller, Baseball Revolutionary” by Robert F. Burk
== “The League of Outsider Baseball: An Illustrated History of Baseball’s Forgotten Heroes” by Gary Cieradkowski

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How USC’s “Swim With Mike” program keeps those like former UCLA lineman Nick Ekbatani more than just afloat

Former UCLA offensive lineman Nick Ekbatani visits groups to promote the Swim With Mike program that has helped him pursue an MBA at USC.

Former UCLA offensive lineman Nick Ekbatani visits groups to promote the Swim With Mike program that has helped him pursue an MBA at USC.

When you pool your money together, things that once seemed improbable can actually happen.

SmallNickNick Ekbatani, who said he never swam before he lost part of his left leg in horrific a 2012 motorcycle accident, now gets to a training pool at 5 a.m. three times a week to work out with a group of master triathletes. They swim more than 2,500 meters in a session that covers about an hour and 15 minutes.

“It’s brutal,” the 27-year-old former UCLA offensive lineman out of South Torrance High and Harbor College says. “But I love it. These kinds of challenges fire me up.”

Quite a few other things Ekbatani never thought he’d be doing are now part of his daily routine. Pursuing a Masters in Business Administration degree at USC might be at the top of the list for someone who majored in political science as a Bruin and had a goal of becoming a lawyer.

But he’s got two semesters left before he figures out what direction that will point him. The scholarships he has received from USC’s Swim With Mike program, which has its 35th annual swim-a-thon fundraiser on Saturday at the on-campus Uytengsu Aquatics Center from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., have more than kept him more than just afloat.

“For someone like me who has lost a leg and almost died, this MBA program has given me stability during the most volatile time in my life and I’m so grateful,” said Ekbatani, living in Westwood these days.

“You have to use your gifts and combine them with your passion. I’ve always idealized going to grad school and this is just a serendipitous thing. Literally, this program has saved my life, that’s how I look at it. I have been in the most miserable, depressed places in my life, but this has given me a light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t feel sorry for myself. I’m eternally grateful.”

Ekbatani has had more than a dozen surgeries since that accident in Redondo Beach, but endured the miserable moments to connect with the Swim With Mike program in 2013.

The organization has been more proactive in recent years reaching out to scholar athletes who have life-changing physically challenging situations. The growth of it has expanded well beyond USC in the last dozen years to where more than 160 scholarships totaling $14.2 million have been given out since 1981.

Ekbatani is one of 61 benefactors currently with the Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship. Only a quarter of them go to USC; the others are part of a nation-wide program to where swim-a-thon fundraising it taking place through the year at places such as the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center, UC Berkeley, Stanford, Arizona, UC Santa Barbara and Hawaii.

350DA1_3669Mike Nyeholt, the three-time USC All-American swimmer in the late ‘70s whose own dirt bike accident left him with a broken neck and little hope to walk again, says stories like Ekbatani continue to push him through his own dark moments.

“He’s an incredible young man and I’m proud to say he’s as big a Trojan now as he was a Bruin before,” said Nyeholt, who, at 58, recently retired as a sales rep at the Capital Group investment company and lives in San Gabriel. “I can’t say enough about all the kids we now have helped. They’re crazy good people.”

Ekbatani says Nyeholt “inspires me so much. He has given me a lot of perspective. I can’t believe how someone in a wheel chair continues to roll on, be so positive. He’s the man.”

Nyeholt’s workout routine includes four trips a week to the Rose Bowl Aquatic Pool to swim with former USC Olympian John Naber.

“It’s absolutely beyond my believe that it has come this far,” said Nyeholt of the program that was initially started by Ron Orr, the current USC associate athletic director and longtime friend of Nyeholt, to help him cover initial medical expenses.

“I rely on this to keep my spirits up. The young men and women we’ve helped remain athletes in their own right. They have drive and perseverance that’s very important, and they want to move forward. As important as the financial assistance is for their academics, it’s important to be surrounded by those who understand their injuries and get caught up in this swim event. I am so proud of them.”

SWIM WITH MIKE:
Event: Saturday at the USC Uytengsu Aquatics Center, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., free parking.
Website: www.swimwithmike.org
Scholarships: Applicants for the Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarships must have suffered an illness or injury that resulted in a physical disability that substantially limits major life activities; have participated in organized high school or college sports prior; met admissions requirements at selected universities and maintain a 2.5 GPA while enrolled.
Benefactors: Among those who are currently receiving scholarships for their education based on the program include:
= Jorge Mendoza of Los Angeles: A right leg amputee who competed in basketball and volleyball, now attending Cal State L.A. in Exercise Science.
= Jennifer Bou Lahoud of San Dimas: T-10, T-11 spinal injury from a sledding accident who competed in basketball and cycling, now at USC in Physiology and Neuroscience.
= Stephen Wilson of Redondo Beach: A paraplegic after an auto accident who competed in soccer and football, now at USC in Mechanical Engineering.
= Sharon Lee of Glendora: A quadriplegic from a fall off a balcony who competed in cross country, now at the University of La Verne in biology and premed.
= David Rodarte of Downey: A paraplegic after an auto accident who competed in football, soccer, basketball and wrestling, now at Long Beach State getting a masters in Counseling in Higher Education.
= Matt Wesley of St. John, Indiana: A quadriplegic from a football injury, now at Notre Dame studying law.
= Andrew Luk of Walnut: Blind and deaf from a brain tumor who competed in swimming, soccer and baseball, now at UCLA as a political science major.

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30 baseball books for April ’15, Day 10: By the numbers, there’s not much hide and seek anymore

Dodgers GM Branch Rickey, left, father of the baseball farm system, checks his 18 minor-league teams on his office blackboard with his son, Branch Jr. (Look Magazine Collection, Prints and Photographs Division)

Dodgers GM Branch Rickey, left, father of the baseball farm system, checks his 18 minor-league teams on his office blackboard with his son, Branch Jr. (Look Magazine Collection, Prints and Photographs Division)

The book: “The Hidden Game of Baseball: A New Edition of the Baseball Classic that Ignited the Sabermetric Revolution”
The authors: John Thorn and Pete Palmer
The vital statistics: The University of Chicago Press, 432 pages, $22.50
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Barnesandnoble.com, at Powells.com

HIDDENBOOKThe pitch: This all kind of adds up now.
Even, perhaps, in a world where Charles Barkley still exists and may want to know just why Michael Jordan never made it as a baseball player.
In many ways, we’ve yielded to the notion that a player’s WAR, FIP and UZR are equal to or greater than an RBI, OBP or SLG.
And even more current, Wins Above Replacement has replaced Total Player Rating in the evolution of sabermetrics.
What’s intriguing now in circling back to pour over the thought process behind what Palmer, the stat-man, and Thorn, the history guy, attempted to convey 30 years ago in the original edition that seemed to rock the foundation of seamheads everywhere.
Continue reading

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Media column weekly notes version 04.10.15 — It’s become a quality-of-life decision: Take us out of the choke hold and we’ll take TWC and SportsNet LA, you filthy #$%&@*s

IMG_3198What’s coming up in Sunday’s media column:

Milton Bradley (left) is restrained by teammates Alex Cora (center) and Steve Finley as he shouts at fans after throwing a bottle back at a fan who threw it onto the field at him in 2004.

Milton Bradley (left) is restrained by teammates Alex Cora (center) and Steve Finley as he shouts at fans after throwing a bottle back at a fan who threw it onto the field at him in 2004.

In July 2013, a judge sentenced former Dodgers outfielder Milton Bradley to 32 months in prison and a year of domestic violence and anger-management classes after he was found guilty one month earlier on nine counts that included inflicting corporal injury on a spouse, assault with a deadly weapon (a baseball bat), criminal threats and brandishing a deadly weapon.
But he remains free pending a second appeal of his conviction. He hasn’t spent a day in jail.
And his former wife, Monique, died last September of strange physical ailments at age 33.
A haunting Sports Illustrated exclusive covering a 10-year period of the Bradley relationship is included in the new April 13 edition, and SI executive editor and senior writer Jon Wertheim, who co-authored the story with Michael McKnight, explains how the presentation of the “This Is What Domestic Abuse Looks Like” jarring piece came together in a Q-and-A with us.

Former Dodger Milton Bradley is in a Van Nuys Superior Court on July 2, 2013 for sentencing on his convictions on 9 misdemeanor counts steaming from incidents involving his estranged wife. (Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

Former Dodger Milton Bradley is in a Van Nuys Superior Court on July 2, 2013 for sentencing on his convictions on nine misdemeanor counts steaming from incidents involving his estranged wife. (Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

What’s worth making a note of here and now:

== Full disclosure: We’ve been wavering internally on how to deal with this whole Dodgers-TWC-SportsNet LA-DirecTV disaster from long before Day 1.
We’ve been asked by plenty of readers for advice. We suggested sitting tight and riding it out.
L.A. sues Time Warner Cable over feesWith this story we did for Sunday’s editions on the distribution mess, we weren’t advocating you do anything illegal, just pointing out that some have creatively circumvented the MLB.tv restrictions and found a way to get the SportsNet L.A. feed through other means.
In a depression situation, you survive by whatever means you can.
We won’t say that Adrian Gonzalez’s three-homer game on Wednesday night was the straw that broke open the pack of Camels that we’ve put aside in case we needed to ease our nerves. But our son living in Pittsburgh and daughter in Portland could comfortably watch that same game on ESPN2. It was blacked out here as well as SportsNet L.A.
What it did was reinforce a tentative decision we made last week, just before Opening Day, that our household has resisted the option to switch to TWC long enough.
Our installation date is on April 15. It was scheduled far enough in advance to cancel it if we had second thoughts.
Right now, we don’t have any.
You’ve broken us down.
Send Bill Cowher over ASAP with his tool belt.
Nothing personal, DirecTV. We’re all in favor of protecting those who don’t want their monthly bills gouged an extra $5 just for a channel they don’t necessarily want. I’ve been a strong advocate for a la carte programming, even if the current bundling is less expensive but more expansive. I don’t blame TWC any longer for outbidding Prime Ticket, and others, for the TV rights to the Dodgers. If they weren’t going to pay this exorbitant amount, then try to pass it onto the viewers, someone else was.
We’re just finished with all this foolishness.
horns-of-a-dilemmaBy dumb luck, we have the means and ability and live in an area where we do have a choice, yet we feel the anguish for those who don’t at this moment.
This is a selfish resolution, based on a quality-of-life issue, plain and not-so-simple.
We could keep waiting it out. We’re stubborn. But we’re also tired.
We can at least accept reality that, for now, we’ll bend. But we aren’t breaking the bank to do this. And we reserve the right to switch back if the numbers add up again.
The TWC promotional bundle currently out there actually makes financial sense when we consider that our household has paid for DirecTV as a separate entity, then had another service for phone and internet. The TWC package deal is reasonably less per month, has a stronger internet than our current Verizon provider and we understand we are substituting what has been premium customer service for one with a reputation that makes it one of the worst cable companies on anyone’s list.
But they’ve got the goods. And we’re hungry enough to bite.
Reluctantly. Regrettably. Not resourcefully.
I’m giving up on NFL Sunday Ticket? I haven’t bought it in years. I’m not a fantasy junkie. This doesn’t tap my veins.
I’m gaining SportsNet L.A. and — what do you know? — the Pac-12 Network. I’m keeping HBO and Showtime as well in the deal.
As a sports media writer, it’s not fair in many ways that I don’t have first-hand knowledge of the quality work that many have put into the SportsNet LA programming during its first year. But as a consumer, I can’t justify adding two TV delivery systems.
We listened to the post-game Dodger talk after Opening Day, and the first caller started to complain about the SportsNet LA distribution issue when he was cut off. The hosts decided that wasn’t what their show was going to be focused on. That’s an editorial decision AM-570 can make, but the fact is, at this point, they’re part-owned by the Dodgers. So you could say the team isn’t interested in hearing fan response on their own radio outlet.
What kind of message does that send?
Besides, the greater problem still isn’t being address in this whole situation. Even if SportsNet LA was available on every cable system, only those who pay a monthly cable or dish bill could afford to see it. Those who can’t afford the luxury of a cable or dish service would still be left in a black hole, unable to see any Dodgers game as it was in the prior Prime Ticket/KCAL Channel 9 construction. Think of all those intercity families who are asked to make a choice between food and cable, between rent or a satellite dish.
n0tjcf-b781263813z.120140210222030000ghq1ifsoq.2This is more moral and demoralization corrupt than anything the Dodgers want to admit to being an accessory of in this scenario, and someday, when this smoke clears, that will be the next debate.
You wonder what the citizens of Brooklyn once may have felt when the Dodgers finally did move away. Out of sight, out of mind. Some never recovered. These Dodgers are at a tipping point, and nothing any team executive says at this point (see this “exclusive” with CNBC where Dodgers CEO Stan Kasten laments that the situation) resonates with the customers. Just stop.
And stop using “if you want to hear Vin Scully” as a marketing ploy in this whole hostage situation.
Take off our blindfold, and give us a cup of dirty water. We surrender.
Unless something crazy happens before tax day, we’re going forward with the switch. Why wait’ll next year, as they used to say in Brooklyn, since we’re not even sure that’s going to come.

The Washington Times June 29 1914 Home Editino page 11 - Grantland Rice poem - w wait until next year== Meanwhile, a decent list of places, via KPCC-FM 89.3, that have hooked into Dodgers’ coverage this season. What’s missing? The Dugout in Simi Valley, for one.

== One downtown news organization lets you know that the MLB commish says he’s talked to L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti about the Dodgers’ TV issues. That’s not news to us (see eighth paragraph).

== Ratings for those who need ratings: The Dodgers’ opener had as many watching on TV than in the stadium, unless you were in an unmetered bar or restaurant or dorm room, and you weren’t counted.

== What do you make of this full-page ad taken out in Monday’s edition of the L.A. Daily News’ sports section, about “who owns Vin Scully”?

== Through Change.org, you can support a statue build in Scully’s honor, to be created by someone, and placed somewhere, at the cost of who-knows-what. Got any spare change?

== A Q-and-A with the Dodgers’ Hall of Fame broadcaster Jaime Jarrin, via PRI radio.

== Tommy Lasorda signs copies of his new book “My Way,” along with author Colin Gunderson, during a special event at Cal State Northridge on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Matador Field, prior to the CSUN-UC Santa Barbara baseball game. A game ticket ($8) is necessary for entry, and book copies are for sale at the site. Lasorda also signs his book at the Barnes & Noble at the Grove in L.A. on Sunday at 2 p.m.

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