Day 26: 30 days of baseball books in April 2014 — Seriously, the ‘best series ever’? Wendel makes a strong case for ’91

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  • The book: “Down to the Last Pitch: How the 1991 Minnesota Twins and the Atlanta Braves Gave Us the Best World Series of All Time”
  • The author: Tim Wendel
  • Vital stats: Da Capo Press, 271 pages, $25.99
  • Find it: At Powells.com, at Vromans.com, at Barnes & Nobel, at Amazon.com.

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  • The pitch: Take your pick from the World Series through history that came down to the last pitch and could be worthy of “best of all time.”
    Pittsburgh’s triumph over the New York Yankees in Game 7 of 1960, thanks to Bill Mazeroski in the bottom of the ninth.
    Arizona outlasting the New York Yankees in Game 7 of 2001, the “9/11 Season” that seemed to have a tribute to New York all over it, thanks to Luis Gonzalez in the bottom of the ninth.
    Miami’s improbable triumph over Cleveland in Game 7 of 1997, thanks to Edgar Renteria in the bottom of the 11th.
    “When you have a dog in the fight, things can become downright personal,” Wendel writes in the “Appendix II” section of this book.
    1991-Homer-HankyFor Wendel, the ’91 Series is his dog and he has decided to fight for it.
    Wendel,  the current writer in residence at Johns Hopkins University who had already captured our fancy with his 2013 book, “The Summer of ’68″ and in 2011 with “High Heat,” was a founding editor at USA Today’s Baseball Weekly in 1991. When that seven-game set ended, the cover headline in his publication read: “BEST WORLD SERIES EVER?”
    Apparently, time to drop the question mark. Continue reading
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Day 25: 30 days of baseball books in April 2014 — Say, hey: Where you in ’54?

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  • The book: “1954: The Year Willie Mays and the First Generation of Black Superstars Changed Major League Baseball Forever”
  • The author: Bill Madden
  • Vital stats: Da Capo Press, 320 pages, $25.99
  • Find it: At Powells.com, at Vromans.com, at Amazon.com
  • The pitch: It’s baseball’s seven-year itch — we’re seven years into Jackie Robinson breaking into baseball with the Dodgers. Where does the game stand on racial acceptance?
    Maybe it depends on your perspective. Continue reading
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Weekly media column version 04.25.14 — Settle down, mom, it isn’t settled

Our tweet about seeing this SportsNetLA ad featuring Vin Scully: It's

Our tweet about seeing this SportsNetLA ad featuring Vin Scully: It’s Vinsulting, Vinfuriating, Vinsensitive … no vindication.

What made it into this week’s media column (linked here):
Try explaining to mom why a) she just can’t go out and buy the new Dodgers channel as if it was offered as some deal on QVC, b) why Vin Scully isn’t picked to do Fox network games, but the other team’s broadcasters are, c) why the Dodgers and Lakers can’t just share a channel on TWC and d) maybe the radio is the way to go these days. More notes on Fox’s decision to use Greg Norman with Joe Buck on its upcoming golf coverage.

What didn’t quite make it but will rest easily in this area of the Internet machine:

== TWC “risks alienating fans” of the Dodgers? This analysis just keeps getting deeper and deeper. (Substitute “deeper” for “obvious.”)

== A guest columnist explains why she’s so bent on the Dodgers’ TV deal — then admits she has Time Warner Cable.

== Bidding continues for a Scully-signed Opening Day “mound” used during the pre-game ceremonies. Continue reading

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Day 24: 30 days of baseball books in April 2014 — The red, white and (not really Dodger) blue summer of ’76, all about weed and greed

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  • The pitch: It was March 21, 1976 when The Who played a concert at the Big A before 55,000 fans, the largest show on the band’s North American tour. The Angels’ season wouldn’t start until 2 1/2 weeks later against Oakland. Good thing there was all that time in between for some house keeping.
    whosonfirst“A few days (after the concert), Angels groundskeepers discovered what turned out to be hundreds of marijuana plants growing robustly along the ballpark’s left-field line, and another lush patch in center field,” Epstein writes on page 86. “These herbal invaders were presumably the result of pot seeds discarded during the concert, which were then inadvertently watered and fertilized by the ballpark’s grounds crew.
    ” ‘At first we thought it was weeds,’ said stadium manager Tom Lieger. ‘Later, we found out we were right.’”
    A couple of weeks earlier, the Dodgers were wondering what got into Mike Marshall’s frosted flakes.
    ny_i_mike-marshall_mb_600The relief pitcher who won the Cy Young Award for them less than two years was arrested. Employed by Michigan State University as a graduate assistant in their phys ed department, Marshall was upset that the owners had locked the players out from spring training, and he was trying to throw off a mound in an indoor facility at the Intramural Building. The school, however, wanted no part of him being there. So when he tried to get in and found it locked, he returned with bolt cutters and a hacksaw and told his accomplice/catcher: “Before the police get here, let’s get some throwing done.” By the time June 15 trading deadline came around, Dodgers GM Al Campanis waived Marshall, and made Charlie Hough their closer.
    “It’s probably more the Dodgers being down on Mike than being wild about me,” said the knuckleballer. Continue reading
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Day 23: 30 days of baseball books in April 2014 — When juicing and its ramifications has reached a point where it can be the stuff of fiction

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  • The pitch: We’ll come clean here: Baseball novels are as tough to review as baseball movies.
    (What, did you expect some personal PED revelation here? I only go as far as what my pharmacist recommends on generic versus name brand.)
    Naturally, you want authenticity as much as entertainment when baseball is portrayed in fiction (like, in “The Natural.”)
    You appreciate creativity as long as its believable.
    Otherwise, it kinda drives us nuts.
    We’ve been careful to pick and choose the novels we want to include in this annual series over the years — Joseph Shuster’s “The Might Have Been” from 2012 was in, but Chad Harbach’s “The Art of Fielding” in 2011 wasn’t, mostly because of the timing of getting a copy despite all its publicity).Greatestshow_frontcoverBailey’s first effort, “The Greatest Show on Dirt” in 2012, was worth taking a chance based on our respect for the depth of storylines from the minor-league game that he lived through, and we enjoyed giving the first-time author some swings in the cage.
    With “Nine Bucks,” Bailey has hit it on the screws again. Continue reading
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Day 22: 30 days of baseball books in April 2014 — If there’s a catch to it, Kendall isn’t just throwing his mask away, he’s got it

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  • The pitch: Until Jason Kendall told me, I never knew that I may have once been part of the “Dig-Me Tribe.”
    0821_jason-kendall_400x2801“When the catcher throws the ball to second, the second baseman catches it and throws it to the shortstop, the shortstop throws to third, and the third baseman throws the ball back to the pitcher,” Kendall explains on page 23 about what happens once a pitcher is done taking his warmups before an inning.
    “If you see the third baseman studding the ball before he gives it to the pitcher, he’s not really accomplishing anything except looking cool: he’s part of the Dig-Me Tribe. You can spot them by their wristbands and the batting gloves hanging out of their back pocket. These are the players who worry about looking pretty.”
    And to think, when I did that in Little League some 40 years ago, all I was doing was imitating the big league guys.
    Looking for what, on that piece of cowhide covered in plastic coating? I had no idea. You just had to look at the ball before the pitcher did. It was just the way it was done.
    $_35“But if the pitcher looks closely at the ball, he’s checking the surface for scuffs or nicks,” Kendall continues. “A scuffed or nicked baseball will have extra movement if the pitcher knows what he’s doing. If the pitcher suddenly has extra break on a pitch, you might see the batter ask the umpire to check the ball. He knows something’s not right. Either that or the hitter’s also in the Dig-Me Tribe and just wants to look cool on TV. Those prima-donna players are getting more TV time for themselves. Hey, look how cool I am. I can tell the umpire to check the ball.”
    We can dig that, too.
    In fact, the more we dig into “Throwback,” the less we realize what we really thought we already knew, so a lot of this really shouldn’t be new to us, but who knew? Continue reading
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Day 21: 30 days of baseball books in April 2014 — The book on Brooks, trying to share the glove

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Not a great Dodger moment: Brooks Robinson leaps for joy with teammates Dave McNally and Andy Echebarren after the Orioles swept the Dodgers in four games in the 1966 World Series.

Not a great Dodger moment: Brooks Robinson leaps for joy with teammates Dave McNally and Andy Etchebarren after the Orioles swept the Dodgers in four games in the 1966 World Series.

  • The pitch: The Brooks Robinson we grew up with in the ’60s and ’70s as the most ultimate warrior wearing Rawlings leather is tough to read about these days.
    The 76 year old took a fall off at a Hollywood, Fla., casino during an appearance in 2012, and he’s involved in a lawsuit against the Seminole Tribe for $10 million in physical damages and future earnings lost. A recent story in the Miami Herald said he still experiences bleeding on the brain, cracks in his spine, and has lost five inches in height. His attorney says Robinson requires constant care, and “has aged 10 years” since that incident.
    Wilson, an Indiana-based ophthalmologist and Society for American Baseball Research member who last year did a biography on Mark Fidrych, makes mention near the end of this book about Robinson’s “near-catastrophic fall,” an event that a “close associate” is quoted as saying that Robinson should never have attended because he was still too weak from a recent recovery that involved prostate cancer as well as complications from a serious infection during some abdominal surgery. Continue reading
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Play It Forward: April 21-27 on your sports calendar — Boston’s back in the running business, while Clippers, Kings and Ducks continue a post-season run

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

A makeshift memorial for the Boston Marathon bombing victims is near the finish line ahead of Monday's 118th Boston Marathon. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

A makeshift memorial for the Boston Marathon bombing victims is near the finish line ahead of Monday’s 118th Boston Marathon. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

THE 118th BOSTON MARATHON
Monday at 6:30 a.m., Universal Sports Network:
“There’s a road race in Boston on Monday,” Boston Globe columnist Dan Schaughnessy wrote Sunday. “An actual athletic competition. Thousands of athletes will compete to see who can cover 26.2 miles faster than anybody else. Remember when the Boston Marathon was just a footrace? …. Everything, of course, has changed. This year, the Boston Marathon belongs to the world. It stands as a symbol of American freedom and a population refusing to cower to terrorism. Bostonians, New Englanders, Americans, and citizens of the free world on Monday will return to Hopkinton to reclaim a celebration that last year was interrupted by murder and mayhem.”

Shalane Flanagan approaches the finish line to finish fourth in the women's division of the 2013 Boston Marathon.  Flanagan is more determined to win the race for her battered hometown, and if she does, the Marblehead, Mass., native would be the first American winner since 1985. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

Shalane Flanagan approaches the finish line to finish fourth in the women’s division of the 2013 Boston Marathon. Flanagan is more determined to win the race for her battered hometown, and if she does, the Marblehead, Mass., native would be the first American winner since 1985. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

For example: There will be 100 runners in this year’s race as part of Team MR8, all picked by the Martin W. Richard Charitable Foundation to honor the 8-year-old who was the youngest of three who died during the bombings last year. One of those chosen Pat Brophy, who was stopped with less than a mile to go from the finish line when the two blasts occurred. “I have unfinished business on that course,” she told CBS News this week. The group, who applied through the www.teammr8.org website, is made up of many who didn’t get to complete the race a year ago, but “they are also running for our son Martin, and finishing a race he wanted to someday run, but will never get the chance to,” his mother, Denise Richard, said in a statement to CBS News. Pre-race coverage starts at 5:30 a.m. and race coverage ends at 10 a.m., with a one-hour wrap-up show at 1 p.m. A two-hour condensed version of the race airs from 5-to-7 p.m. and 8-to-10 p.m. with the wrap-up re-airing each time.
Adding to the day: The Boston Red Sox host the Baltimore Orioles in an 8 a.m. first pitch (MLB Network, with Bob Costas and Jim Kaat), coming back just hours after playing for ESPN on Sunday night.

BEST OF THE REST: Continue reading

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Day 20: 30 days of baseball books in April 2014 — The Continental divide, or a fresh take on the ghost league that was history before it was ever made history

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From left: Casey Stengel, Branch Rickey and baseball Commissioner Ford Frick in the fall of 1960, a time when Stengel would be fired as the New York Yankees' manager and when Rickey's plans for a rival league were unraveling. Bettmann/CORBIS

From left: Casey Stengel, Branch Rickey and baseball Commissioner Ford Frick in the fall of 1960, a time when Stengel would be fired as the New York Yankees’ manager and when Rickey’s plans for a rival league were unraveling. Bettmann/CORBIS

  • The pitch: Spaulding must have thought there’d be a Continental League ready to launch in the late ’50s or early ’60s. Or how else do you explain the baseball it all prepared for this thing?
    The plans to construct this rival to Major League Baseball (before such a phrase like “Major League Baseball” was even thought to be an entity to compete with the National Football League or National Basketball Association) has been documented in several places. Most notably, see the 2009 amazing biography of Branch Rickey by Leo Lowenfish and the 2010 book by Michael Shapiro called “Bottom of the Ninth: Branch Rickey, Casey Stengel and the Daring Scheme to Save Baseball From Itself.”
    Buhite, a professor emeritus of history at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, has made his mark with books about Douglas MacArthur, FDR’s fire-side chats, foreign policy, and decisions made at Yalta. But where his history crosses with the interest on how the Continental League almost came to be is directly related to the fact that he was a first base prospect in the late 1950s who, after some time in the New York Giants,Baltimore and Washington, signed a contract to play with the Western Carolina League. That was to be a minor-league feeder for the Denver team of the Continental League, according to plans.
    Buhite sites the work by Lowenfish and Shapiro in his own account, but adds: “Despite their excellent work, however, the story is in many ways incomplete.” Buhite’s own work on documenting what happened actually preceded their publications, he notes.
    Continue reading
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Q and A: Frank Shorter doesn’t have short-term memory about going back to the Boston Marathon

Bill Rodgers (right) makes his move to take the lead in the 1978 Boston Marathon as they pass through Natick, Massachusetts. At left is Frank Shorter. (Outsideonline.com)

Frank Shorter (5, center) and Bill Rodgers (right) makes their move in the 1978 Boston Marathon as they pass through Natick, Massachusetts.  (Outsideonline.com)

Frank Shorter gave thought to running in Monday’s 118th Boston Marathon.
It was a short-lived idea.
“I’m really not that fast anymore,” said the 66-year-old who transformed the sport decades ago to what it has evolved into.
Why would speed matter? Tis not how fast you run the race, but . . .
“Yeah, I know, but it’s hard for me to answer,” he hemmed. “I’m not sure why.”

frankshorterjul500x310The only American male to win Olympic gold in the marathon really does know – he wants to finish what he started a year ago, without any horrific interruptions.
It’s been ingrained in him since an early age to never drop out of a race.
The long-distance legend who never finished in the top three in all his attempts for the Boston Marathon, was part of the Universal Sports Network telecast last year as a studio analyst. He and his team never got to do their afternoon wrap-up show after two bombs ripped through the area near the finish line, killing three people and leaving more than 250 injured.
He’s going back to be part of the broadcast again, no second thoughts about running it. Even if Boston Marathon legend Bill Rogers told Shorter he’d run with him in the event before injuring a hamstring during training, ending that thought.
Shorter instead has some time to sort out his approach to being back in Boston a year later: Continue reading

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