The pitch: If you’ve got yourself a 1967 Topps #581 rookie card of Tom Seaver — which, on the collectors’ market can go beyond $1,000 — hang onto it. The value may have just gone up.
The guy on the left has a story to tell, too. Perhaps no two players appear on the same card but go opposite directions. Fast.
“Tom Seaver won 311 games with an ERA of 2.86, pitching himself into the Hall of Fame,” Denehy explains on page 6 of this book. “I, on the other hand, finished my career with a one-and-ten record and a 4.70 ERA.
“And yet, compared to Tom Seaver, my life was far more entertaining and interesting … With my career over in the mid-twenties, I had to figure out how I would live the rest of my life, and that hasn’t been easy. …”
It gets more heartbreaking from there. One page over, still in the first chapter: “I was a dreamer. And time after time I figured that if I could come up with some grandiose idea, some magical plan, I could provide my family with all the trappings of success for a person no longer in major league baseball. I felt driven and under tremendous pressure to succeed, in part because my ex-wife’s mother thought I was a loser. I suffered great agony having never been able to prove her wrong.”
He had anger issues, a “wicked temper,” as he puts it. He was self-destructive. He became addicted to the amphetamines that were prevalent in the ’60s for MLB players. He drank way too much. “The root of my anger and my trouble with women began with the nuns in Catholic school,” he confesses. “These sex-starved sadists never should have been allowed around children. I thought they were a menace to society.
“Forgive me, father, for I have sinned.” Continue reading →
Blake Griffin, left, goes up for a shot next to Warriors’ David Lee during Game 4 on Sunday in Oakland. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
NBA PLAYOFFS: WESTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS: GAME 5: CLIPPERS vs. GOLDEN STATE Staples Center, Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., TNT, Prime Ticket:
Shelley Sterling, left, wife of Clippers owner Donald Sterling, watches from a court side seat during the second half in Game 4 at Oakland. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
By the time tip-off happens, the NBA may have tipped its hand on resolution in the Donald T. Sterling mess and fan reaction will be a focal point of the story as the Clippers regroup following the Game 4 sluggish loss that tied the series up at two games apiece. Clippers coach Doc Rivers says he understood how many paying customers may heed Magic Johnson’s advice and stay away from the game, even if they’ve already bought tickets. The Clippers have sold out their last 137 games. “We need (the fans), I can tell you that,” said Rivers. “We need everybody. We play for them. We always have. So we do need them. We’re going to need them bad on Tuesday. We’re going to need them there. We’re going to need them in our corner. But, listen, I get all of it.” What Rivers should be more concerned about is how Golden State shot 55.4 percent (to the Clippers’ 42.9 percent) in Game 4. That’s the best field-goal percentage allowed by the Clippers this season, and the highest by a Doc Rivers coached team in a playoff game since May 8, 2009. By the way, Sterling has already agreed not to attend this game, according to NBA commissioner Adam Silver. Maybe that opens up a court-side seat for one of Billy Crystal’s pals? The series wraps up: Game 6: at Golden State, Thursday at 7:30 p.m., TNT, Prime Game 7: at Staples Center, Saturday at TBA
The pitch: It’s all there in Chapter 8, respectfully entitled “Buzzie’s Folly: 1979.”
Goldman notes: “Since arriving in California in 1972, Ryan had thrown more than 56,000 pitches and basically re-written the record book for power pitcher. But for all that, the Angels had played just one season of .500 ball.” And Angels GM Buzzie Bavasi helped make that change. The team added Rod Carew and won the AL West before they lost to Baltimore in the playoffs to miss out on their first World Series trip.
Ryan, who started that summer’s All-Star Game in Seattle based on his 12-6 mark and 2.54 ERA, finished the year 16-14 with 223 strike outs and a 3.60 ERA that included a trip to the disabled list with a sore elbow.
Ryan and agent Dick Moss had asked the team for a new contract calling for $550,000 a year or else he’d become a free agent.
Bavasi’s famous quote: “All I need to replace Ryan is hire two 8-7 pitchers.” Bavasi said he believed in old-school, wins-and-losses statistics. Yet, he apparently didn’t realize that Ryan’s career win percentage as an Angel was .533, while the team was .481 over the same period. The Angels had averaged 1.95 runs in his 121 losses. He led the league in strike outs seven times, with four no-hitters, five one-hitters, 13 two-hitters and 19 three-hitters.
Sorry to bring that all up again, but it’s Angels history that will never stop hurting.
It caused long-time coach Jimmie Reese to break down and cry.
It hurt Ryan, sure. He wanted to end his career in Anaheim, where it blossomed. But while he and owner Gene Autry let the businessmen work it out, the Houston Astros came up with a four-year, $4 million deal that blew everything away.
“I don’t have any grudges or animosity toward anyone,” Goldman quotes Ryan about that time on page 168. “I’m a believer that everything will work out for the best and it did for me.”
For Goldman’s purpose to write “Making of A Pitcher,” that may be a very telling example that he accomplished what he set out — to explain what made Ryan not just a Hall of Fame player, but a Hall of Fame person.
Goldman, whose did a wonderful job in the 2006 book “Once They Were Angels” (with Ryan on the cover) and also helped Tim Salmon with his 2010 autobiography, set out to find out “what exactly are the attributes that Nolan possessed that made him rise above the competition and become a success on and off the field for so long?”
Authenticity, for one. Empathy, for another.
“He was happiest when he wasn’t the center of the universe,” Goldman also writes.
For the Angels, and many of their young fans, he was front and center, and getting over that 1979 offseason still doesn’t seem doable, considering how Ryan went on to not only throw three more no-hitters and finish out his career in his native state of Texas, but also become a successful businessman and rancher.
Goldman’s five-year process that involved talking to more than 80 people about Ryan doesn’t overlook his own personal story — that of an Angels batboy who witnessed some of Ryan’s greatest on-field moments.
For example: During Ryan’s fourth no-hit game against Baltimore in 1975, Goldman was sent to fetch the smaller, tighter-seamed “X”-marked balls that Ryan had set aside because he liked them better from the batch of inconsistent balls that AL teams used that year from the Rawlings company in Haiti. And afterward, Goldman gathered four balls so that they could be marked with large “0″ on them to signify Ryan’s career achievement for the photographers.
Goldman’s relationship with Ryan over the years gives him access to much more than most authors could provide, yet it doesn’t seem to taint the pursuit of what Goldman is trying to achieve.
To his credit, Goldman also circled back to see if Bavasi wanted to add some perspective of his comment about why letting Ryan go set fine with him.
“I’m not going to comment on anything,” said Bavasi, who died in 2008. “Something this outrageous I wouldn’t dignify with a comment. I’d like to do it in (Ryan’s) face, though, not in the press, the way some people do things. He’s go this money. What does he want?”
Ryan really doesn’t want anything, apparently. He did OK for himself. And, thanks to Goldman’s book, we understand why a whole lot better.
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. For 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 →
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 →
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:
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. “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. The 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 →
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).Bailey’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 →
The pitch: Until Jason Kendall told me, I never knew that I may have once been part of the “Dig-Me Tribe.” “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. “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 →
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 →