Day 19: 30 days of baseball books in April, 2014 — Why the 1910 AL batting race wasn’t necessarily on autopilot


  • The pitch: It’s a story that first came across our radar a few years back in an L. Jon Werthheim Sports Illustrated story, and then again while reading the new book, “Tales From the Deadball Era: Ty Cobb, Home Run Baker, Shoeless Joe Jackson and the Wildest Times in Baseball History” (by Mark S. Halfon, Potomac Books, 248 pages, $26.95).
    51hxIluE-uL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_There, contained to pages 12-15, in the course of giving example after example about the “blatant corruption” that often took place in baseball during the first 20 years of the 20th Century, came this incomprehensible tale.
    When famous auto maker named Hugh Chalmers offered one of his Chalmers “30″ Roasters to the player with the base batting average in the big leagues in 1910, fans took notice. Few people owned a car at that time but were captivated by the technology.
    (Imagine Richard Branson offering the home-run winner of 2014 a chance to fly into space on one of his new-fangled Virgin Galactic rocket ships).
    So there went Detroit’s Ty Cobb and Cleveland’s Nap Lajoie in the “great automobile race” — far and away ahead of the eventual NL champion Sherry Magee.
    Huhn, who has done bios on Eddie Collins and George Sisler, allows the story to play out without giving away the ending — which you could easily look up.
    Continue reading
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Day 18: 30 days of baseball books in April, 2014 — Hamm-ing it up, from Bollywood to Hollywood



  • The pitch: Before it comes out in theaters billed as the new Jon Hamm movie (release date: May 16), this quasi-young-adult book version written by Las Vegas agent Bernstein (portrayed by Hamm) who experienced it all first hand does more than lay the groundwork for those who want to read up on what’s going before swallowing the Hollywood-ized version. Continue reading
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Weekly media column version 04.18.14: Strength in numbers for the Boston Marathon coverage this year

boston-marathon-statistics-thinkstock-480455353-617x416The focus of this week’s sports media column (at this link):
There will be some 3,000 members of the media gathering around Boston for Monday’s 118th Boston Marathon, including the entire Universal Sports Network team returning from a year ago when their coverage of the 2013 was marred by two bombs going off near the finish line, killing three and injuring hundreds more. How USN will cover the marathon moving forward is finding the balance of remembering the past and focusing on the future and its redemptive healing process. More notes on the Lakers’ final TV ratings versus the Clippers, how ESPN/ABC and TNT have plans for the NBA playoffs and what happened to the Tiger-less Masters last weekend as far as a TV draw.

What else could have been included but will be situated just fine here:

== USN’s 2013 Boston Marathon tribute show, which first aired live Tuesday, repeats Friday at 9 p.m. and Sunday at 8 p.m. The 2014 race preview show airs at 1 and 5 p.m. Saturday, plus at 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

Gregory Heisler/For Sports Illustrated

Gregory Heisler/For Sports Illustrated

== Sports Illustrated sent out a call for whomever wanted to be part of the April 21 cover to show up at the Boston Marathon finish line at Boyston and Dartmouth at 7 a.m. on Saturday, April 12. Some 3,000 appeared with mayor Marty Walsh, first responders and some of last year’s runners.
16COVpromo(1)Said SI Managing Editor Chris Stone in a press reelase: “Boston Strong is a story about people, ordinary people doing extraordinary things, ordinary people doing ordinary things. SI’s creative director, Chris Hercik, believed the best way to tell this story a year later was to bring all those people, or as many as possible, into a single photo at the finish line. If you look at last year’s cover photo, you see all that empty space all the way down Boylston Street filled by smoke and that backdrop of chaos and destruction. This year’s photo fills those spaces with the Bostonians who wrote the Boston Strong story.”

== Add to the Boston Marathon: The next episode of “Backstage: Galaxy” on TWC SportsNet (Saturday at 7 p.m., after the Galaxy-Vancouver game) includes an interview with Galaxy goalie coach Matt Reis, whose father-in-law, John Odom, was seriously injured in last year’s race. Both are interviewed as Odom talks about his progress and plans to return to Boston. This Boston Globe story explains what Odom went through.

Continue reading

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Day 17: 30 days of baseball books in April, 2014 — OK, kids, they call this a ‘page turner’


  • The book: “How to Speak Baseball: An Illustrated Guide to Ballpark Banter”
  • The author: By James Charlton and Sally Cook, illustrations by Ross MacDonald
  • Vital stats: Chronicle Books, 127 pages, $14.95
  • Find it: At, at, at, at

  • The pitch: So there was Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt talking the other day on a Philadelphia radio station about ways to speed up the game:
    “I think the umpire at home plate should not call balls and strikes. I think they should have a force field over home plate and if the pitcher throws and the ball touches the force field a little bell goes off and it’s a strike. That would expand the strike zone to the point where the hitters would now have to swing the ball, which would shorten the game. … You’d think it would be something very easy to do with what they can do electronically in our world today.”
    In our world as we know it today, “force field” is not a baseball term. Those things that Schmidt talks about may be forcing the issue. Continue reading
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Day 16: 30 days of baseball books in April, 2004 — If baseball was so biracial after the Civil War, why did we need Jackie Robinson?


  • The book: “When Baseball Went White: Reconstruction, Reconciliation and Dreams of a National Pastime”
  • The author: Ryan A. Swanson
  • Vital stats: University of Nebraska Press, 304 pages, $29.95
  • Find it: The University of Nebraska Press site, at, at and at

  • The pitch: If this latest Jackie Robinson Day has taught the young-ins another history lesson about race relations and the game of baseball, here’s something that turns the clock back even further.
    “Whereas much has been written on Jackie Robinson and the process of baseball’s racial desegregation, not nearly enough attention has been paid to an obvious but oft-overlooked question: how did baseball develop to the point where it needed Jackie Robinson in the first place?” Swanson writes in the introduction.
    Philadelphia, Richmond, Va., and Washington D.C. are Swanson’s focus on how baseball may have thrived in dense black populated cities after the Civil War, but this “fanatical desire by white baseball leaders to foster a ‘national game’ was the preeminent force behind baseball’s segregation,” the University of New Mexico professor continues about how the Reconciliation period of America compromised racial progress, and baseball was merely a reflection of that.”
    Strange, eh? Continue reading
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Day 15: 30 baseball books in April, 2014 — The Robinson-Campanella connection had its barriers, too


Jackie Robinson, right, with Roy Campanella, left, at the Harlem YMCA on Nov. 15, 1948 ( Robinson is a member of the Hall of Fame.

Jackie Robinson, right, with Roy Campanella, left, at the Harlem YMCA on Nov. 15, 1948 (

  • The pitch:  Maybe this story has been told before.
    In the notes to the introduction of this book, Kashatus cites some stories found in his research: “A Feud Grows in Brooklyn,” is the headline on a piece by the L.A. Sentinel’s Doc Young in 1957. “Campy Envied Me,’ Busy Robby Hastens to Explain,” wrote Dick Young in the New York Daily News about a month before Doc Young’s story. “Campy Ridicules Robinson: I’ll Catch 5 More Years,” Young wrote again, the day after his previous story.
    Maybe those of us who were not around when Robinson was retiring in 1956, or as  Campanella had his career end in 1957 after a car accident never heard this side of their relationship before.
    Not that we expect all teammates to get along. Winning solves a lot of relationship issues.
    m9rxu9SP2Zc2rEdMSuJMOcgSo why bring it up again? Because as the latest rounds of Jackie Robinson tributes come again on this day set aside in his honor, some reflection on how his legacy didn’t always mix with his fellow African-American Dodgers teammates, and why differing approaches toward the end-goal of equality was more likely a reflection of society as a whole as it fought through ways of getting to the end game.
    It shouldn’t surprise us that Robinson and Campanella were from almost two different worlds.
    rrrrgesJust look at the titles of their autobiographies — “I Never Had It Made,” went with Robinson, who moved to Pasadena with his mom as school kid, while “It’s Great To Be Alive” is connected to Campanella, whose father was Italian and his mother black.
    Robinson was all about intensity, aggressiveness, pride. Campanella was more easy going, charming, and wanted his abilities to speak for themselves. And there they butted heads often, writes Kashatus, using the comparison in his introduction to how the two mirrored a philosophy toward ending segregation as Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois did in their own ways. Continue reading
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Day 14: 30 baseball books in April, 2014: Reframing Rose, if you’re up for it

  • pete-rose-bookThe book: “Pete Rose: An American Dilemma”
  • The author: Kostya Kennedy
  • Vital stats: Time Home Entertainment Inc., 342 pages, $26.95
  • Find it: At the author’s website, at, at, at
  • The pitch: In an excerpt of the book that appeared in the March 10 issue of Sports Illustrated — it was the cover story, for that matter — this paragraph explained best what was at the crux of the matter:
    140305102734-pete-rose-cover--single-image-cut“Of all the ways one might characterize the differences and similarities between Rose and those players known to have used performance-enhancing drugs — the Hall of Shamers, as it were — it comes to this: Rose has been banished for the incalculable damage he might have done to the foundation of the game. Steroid users are reviled for the damage they actually did.”
    That paragraph doesn’t make until Chapter 22 of this book by Kennedy, the Sports Illustrated assistant managing editor who decided to take on this project.
    Our dilemma: Do we care enough to invest our time and patience into this project?
    For the writing of Kennedy, sure. It’s not like he’s got Rose-colored glasses on here.
    For the filibuster that takes place in trying to make us all understand this complicated matter? We’re not sure. But then, maybe this book isn’t intended for someone like us to digest. You don’t have to convince us.
    After plowing through the evidence that Kennedy re-unearths, our better sense is that we believe more than ever that use of the words like “fatal flaws” and “enigmatic” or “conundrums” are really what is derailing any progress in Rose’s legacy. Continue reading
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Play It Forward: April 14-20 on your sports calendar — NBA, NHL playoffs launch, so who’s in (and more glaring, who isn’t)?


Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, left, smiles at teammate forward Blake Griffin, right, after Griffin dunked against the Sacramento Kings during the second half of Saturday's game at Staples Center. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, left, smiles at teammate forward Blake Griffin, right, after Griffin dunked against the Sacramento Kings during the second half of Saturday’s game at Staples Center. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

At Staples Center: Post season begins Saturday, times and TV to be announced:
The Clippers are playing it cool these days. “It doesn’t matter who we play in the first round,” Matt Barnes was saying the other day. “We’ll be ready regardless and we have no preference.” Spoken like a true vet of post-season, this-is-out-of-our-hands experiences.  ”We’re going to have to play three tough teams to get to the finals no matter what seed we are,” teammate Blake Griffin seemed to agree. “If we were 1 or we were 8, we would have to play some tough teams home and away.”

Rihanna seems to enjoy her courtside seats watching the Clippers face Oklahoma City last week.  (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

Rihanna seems to enjoy her courtside seats watching the Clippers face Oklahoma City last week. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

How toughened up the Clippers are considering their recent playoff history and their transformation under Doc Rivers this year will now be under more intense scrutiny. If you go by the Hollinger Power Rankings on, the Clippers have held down the No. 2 spot of all 30 teams for the last couple of weeks (behind San Antonio, ahead of Oklahoma City), so they’ve powered up at the right time. There are a couple of ways things could go for them in the first round, depending on how the Warriors (No. 5 in the same power rankings, one spot ahead of Miami), Mavericks (No. 9) and Grizzlies (No. 10) decide to angle for position. At least there is no more talk of the “Hallway Series” meetings with the Lakers any more, unless some players happen to run into Pau Gasol cleaning out his locker. The key to the Clippers’ future is how they hold up defensively, and that seems to fall on the consistency of DeAndre Jordan, leading the league in rebounding (13.8) and third in blocked shots (2.46), not to mention a league-best in field-goal percentage (.674) to go with a career-best 10.4 points a game in an already star-studded offense. “You talk about so many different awards for so many different people,” teammate Chris Paul said recently. “I think D.J. is a guy who should be up for most improved, who should be up for defensive player of the year, all that type of stuff. He’s got to get something.”

BEST OF THE REST: Continue reading

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Day 13: 30 baseball books in April, 2014 — Don’t overthink this, anthro majors


  • The pitch: An anthropologist, from what we understand, is more than just someone who apologizes for frequently shopping at Anthropologie. Especially if they’re of the male species.
    thinkOstergaard, who got his Master of Arts degree in that field from the University of Illinois at Chicago, followed that up with a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Minnesota in creative writing. Throw in baseball, and here’s where all that mashes together in one glorious brain purge.
    On the blog, Ostergaard says this book idea about the cultural force of baseball came a decade ago, but “it’s gone through tons of iterations…It started out as a novel, but I scrapped everything I had in 2009, and it turned into something different entirely.” Something, in this case, we don’t recall ever seeing before.
    Continue reading
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Day 12: 30 baseball books in April, 2014 — Sometimes, it’s like talking to a wall with Puig


  • 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, at, at
  • 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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