The pitch: With all due respect to Rich Hill, we learned how to throw a curveball that wouldn’t give us blisters once we got into high school.
A pitching coach with a former big-league pedigree showed us how to grip it, flip it, and hope for the best.
Until then, we threw spin balls at various rates of spin. It was mixed in with slower spinning balls.
They often moved, but in what direction, we could only assume we had control of it. They made up their own minds, and the hitters took full advantage when a curve, drop or accidental screwball came up there like a coach’s batting-practice toss.
Yet, when trying to explain to someone recently the difference between a slider and a sinker, if felt like we were sliding off the rails.
The go-to analogy we had was describing the difference between a slice and a hook with a golf club swing. Both balls start out deceptively straight, but intent is to either have them dart down to the left or the right, depending on the desired effect and overcompensation on the wrist action. We kind of shanked that one.
All that said, we have been led to believe that the five forces involved in what happens to a pitch – direction, velocity, spin, gravity and atmosphere drag – are predicated on one’s ability, flexibility and mobility on getting out of the way of a ball that irrationally will be hit back through the box with much more speed than it was delivered.
We recommend a helmet on both the batter, pitcher and center fielder. And, perhaps, the official score keeper.
All of that is worth keeping in mind as you wrap your mind around perhaps the best-constructed essay-account of what happens in pitching with this memoir/history lession by a former L.A. Times national reporter and author of three previous books that had nothing to do all with baseball.
So, nice change up here.
McDermott is a Seattle Mariners fan who uses the 2012 perfect game thrown by Felix Hernandez against Tampa Bay as the backdrop to how demystify the way nine different pitches can be effectively used in a game. The starting point is how it came to be, and then it goes into how it affected the way Hernandez mastered some of them in his historic effort. Continue reading “30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 27: The speed ball could make you look like a fool, but there’s more cool in this arsenal” »
The pitch: Refresh, and resend.
Some may remember this as it was published in 2002 as “The Baseball Almanac: Big Bodacious Book of Baseball,” but it is actually a cut-and-
paste collection of items that once came out as “The Baseball Catalog” in 1980, a Book of the Month Club alternative.
That was when something of this immense size and substance could have a more profound effect for a kid growing up in a much less media-cluttered existence.
As Schlossberg writes in the introduction, this edition “was not just written; it was assembled like a giant jigsaw puzzle.”
Mostly, it’s nostalgia for those in the same sort of way as it was ripping open a pack of baseball cards and reading as much as they could between national NBC Game of the Week telecasts.
This was the media — an oversized mishmash of history, quirkiness and stats to inhale.
This “is meant to be a book of memories,” Schlossberg adds. “Pretty enough to reside on a coffee table, it is also practical enough to leave in the bathroom.”
No apps. No digital enhancing. No timing out.
What else can make good on that promise? Continue reading “30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 26: The bible stories that never grow old” »
The pitch: In his 2013 collection “501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read Before They Die,” Kaplan’s only notation of a Hank Greenberg-related book is “The Story Of My Life,” which the Hall of Famer did with Ira Berkow in 1989. That was also the inspiration for the exceptional documentary nine years later by Aviva Kempner called “The Life And Times of Hank Greenberg.”
Kaplan’s “501” came out a month after the release of John Rosengren’s “Hank Greenberg: The Hero of Heroes,” and two years after Mark Kurlansky’s “Hank Greenberg: The Hero Who Didn’t Want to Be One.”
With that in mind, the thing that compelled Kaplan, the force behind RonKaplansBaseballBookshelf.com and former editor for the New Jersey Jewish News, to re-examine the Greenberg experience through the prism of his 1938 pursuit of Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record is how it would overlay what else was going on in the world. In particular, it was Hitler, just named Time magazine’s controversial choice for Man of the Year because of all the noise he made ramping up Germany for World War II, and the threat to the Jewish population, to which Greenberg belonged.
As Greenberg got closer to Ruth’s record of 60 homers, did anti-Semitism come into play? Were teams pitching around him? What did Greenberg sense publicly or say privately?
Was is more than a coincidence that a Sept. 20 column in the Chicago Heights Star concluded with a paragraph: “Note to State Department, U.S.: If the Nazis don’t behave, send Hank Greenberg over there to hit ‘em with a ball bat,” as Kaplan notes on page 138. Continue reading “30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 25: What Hank Greenberg did, and didn’t quite do, in ’38, relative to everything else going on” »
The pitch: You can’t put yourself in the heart of Union Square in San Francisco and not end up wandering into Lefty O’Doul’s Restaurant and Piano Bar across the street from the St. Francis Hotel.
Well, not any more.
If any Dodgers fans plan a getaway to see the team start a four-game series against the Giants today, be prepared for disappointment. The place is vacant.
A dispute over the expiring lease with the bar’s operator and the hotel landlord led to Lefty’s shutting down in early February. Lefty’s operator Nick Bovis said he’ll find a new site for it and reopen this fall, bringing all the memorabilia and musical acts with him.
It must be done.
The cafeteria-style restaurant may have shown some age, but it was still an institution that kept O’Doul’s name in lights that cut through the fog, in the city that created him.
“The atmosphere was that of a Hofbrau house, with a menu featuring a wide range of drinks at the bar … corned beef sandwiches, roast beef, turkey and gravy with mashed potatoes … mementos from O’Doul’s long career lined the walls – there were photos of Lefty with Douglas MacArthur, with Babe Ruth, with Gary Cooper, Ty Cobb, Joe DiMaggio. It was a second home (for O’Doul) and a celebration of his accomplishments.”
Dennis Snelling’s recreation of the place built in 1958 is there on page 255. Continue reading “30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 24: Lefty O’Doul, the man from San Fran … plus the Giants’ turbulent S.F. history” »
The NFL tries to class things up by holding its annual college star auction near a famous art museum — Round 1 of the draft is Thursday, 5 p.m. outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art. ESPN and the NFL Network have it wall-to-wall.
Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon carries the ball during a game in 2016. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
But if art imitates life, a survey released last week by HBO Real Sports and Marist College Center for Sports Communication Poll indicated that fans generally aren’t so happy when their teams draft problem players — either those connected with domestic violence or performance-enhancing drugs. It comes up as topical now because of Oklahoma 20-year-old running back Joe Mixon as the most polarizing player involved in this year’s draft, based on the video still circulating of him hitting a woman in a pizza parlor in 2014. Without that red flag on his resume, some predict he’d be a first-round choice, in the top 20. With it, he’s at best a second-round gamble. The Oakland Raiders Formerly Of Los Angeles, with the No. 24 choice of the first round and No. 56 overall in the second round, apparently need a running back. Who better than them to take on this challenge as they’re already rolling the dice with a pending move to Vegas, with or without Marshawn Lynch signed on.
Your Los Angeles Chargers have the seventh overall choice and could be hooked on Ohio State safety Malik Hooker. Or not. Your Los Angeles Rams have no first-round picks to concern themselves with, giving away the No. 4 slot they earned in this one to Tennessee based on their over-urgent urge to get Jared Goff last season at No. 1 overall. The Rams don’t pick until No. 37 of the second round.
Aside from Mixon, the picks that will create the most noise appear to be whomever decides to grab LSU running back Leonard Fourtnette, Clemson quarterback DeShaun Watson or Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey. How the rest of the week shapes up with the Clippers-Jazz NBA playoff series, the Ducks starting round two of their NHL playoffs against Edmonton and the Dodgers heading to San Francisco.