Saturday media: An appreciation of Bob Miller heading into his final home Kings game

Vin Scully, Chick Hearn and Bob Miller all have their own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Miller’s marker at 6771 Hollywood Blvd., is right between the Hollywood Wax Museum a few steps to West and – we’re not making this up – the Museum of Broken Relationships a few steps the other way.
The three always have a permanent relationship in Southern California sports and the regional growth of baseball, basketball and hockey. They are linked, compared and embraced. And now they’re officially all signed off.
If Scully was like our sports grandfather, and Hearn was like our colorful sports uncle, Miller’s personality fit in as our sports dad.
Like Robert Young in “Father Knows Best,” or Fred MacMurray in “My Three Sons.” The every-man sense of responsibility, with a sense of humor.
“I think of Chick as our rock star – Chickie Baby – and Vin, as gracious and humble as he was, it was still like meeting the Pope, like talking to some deity,” said John Ondrasik, the singer-songwriter best known as Five for Fighting.
“But with Bob … he’s like your friend. Just that guy.”
More of an appreciation of Miller on the eve of Bob Miller Appreciation Day during the Kings-Blackhawks game on Saturday at Staples Center at this link.

= Also: Miller’s memorable calls

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30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 8: Astericks aside, what’s the risk with a Frick bio?

The book: “Frick*: Baseball’s Third Commissioner”
The author: John P. Carvalho
The vital statistics: McFarland, 324 pages, $29.95, released Nov. 9, 2016
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Barnes and Noble, at Vromans.com, at the publishers’ website

The pitch: The three things we generally knew going about the third commissioner of baseball, Ford Christopher Frick, going into this:
= His career has often been defined by the way he fumbled around trying to determine how the 1961 single-season home-run record set by Roger Maris would be recognized in deference to the record that Babe Ruth set in a 154-game season.
= Frick was a first a sports writer, then a sports radio broadcaster, before he got roped into the baseball hierarchy.
= They named the annual award after him given to a baseball broadcaster after his passing in 1978.
Our exit velocity with what Frick actually did, and tried to do, despite his wishes, is at a much great speed and respect after getting through this book by Carvalho, an associate professor of journalism at Auburn who has also become an historian on the sports media from the 1920s and ‘30s.
Frick’s tenure as commissioner from 1951 to ’65 came after a 17-run as the president of the National League, a job that demanded just as much attention in those days as the game’s hired administrator by the NL and AL owners.
Continue reading “30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 8: Astericks aside, what’s the risk with a Frick bio?” »

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30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 7: That ’60s Show, with 50 years of perspective

The book: “One Nation Under Baseball: How the 1960s Collided with the National Pastime”
The author: John Florio and Ouisie Shapiro
The vital statistics: University of Nebraska Press, 256 pages, pages, $29.95, released April 1, 2017
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Barnes & Noble, at Powells.com, at Vromans, at the publishers’ website and at the authors’ website.

The pitch: With the right amount of perspective – it’s been a half-century now, as if we need to be reminded – the 1960s can be looked back on as a gloriously creative time in history, as well as a violently liberating period when the world changed from black-and-white TV to color and dragged everything, including the Vietnam War and the assassinations of our civil rights leaders right along with it.
We were born at the start of the decade (same year as the Los Angeles Angels, 1961) and are still shaped by how we exited it.
Discovering baseball in that period was all of the above. We had Little League coaches who were basically hippies, but pretty cool dudes (dads as well). We watched Dodgers-Giants games that were dripping in hatred based on the color of the jerseys instead of the players. We had just a Game of the Week on NBC and we lived with it, Curt Gowdy and all. We appreciated Ron Fairly as much as Jim Fregosi.
To go back to that time with these 21 chapters by Florio and Shapiro, who give that period a renewed framework without inserting their own opinions or going nostalgic in any sort of way, we come out with a better appreciation for how things went down. A very educated approach but also easy to consume and ponder about what happened and why, we can go back and submerge ourselves in things we may have misremembered a bit but now figure out how they were all interconnected in some non-psychedelic way.
“Over the course of a single decade, the national pastime had come of age. It now resembled the new America, one that had survived persistent upheaval,” they write. “The game wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t even close. But it finally reflected the country in which it was played.”
We know much about Jim Bouton and his journey with the book, “Ball Four,” which was written about the 1969 season and shook up the baseball world in 1970. Some in the media were down on it, like the L.A. Times’ John Hall, who suggested Bouton had “gone beyond the foul line in the matter of good taste a few times.” But the New York Times’ Robert Lipsyte praised it as “enlightening, hilarious and most important, unavailable anywhere else. They breathe a new life into a game choked by pontificating statisticians, image-conscious officials and scared ballplayers.” That gave Bouton a renewed energy as he was called into the office of Bowie Kuhn, then MLB commissioner, and forced to defend it. As it turned out, in Bouton’s interview for this book explains, Kuhn actually made the book a best-seller by virtue of him getting all bent out of shape about it. “He had just made Jim Bouton the most popular sportswriter in the country,” the authors sum up in up Chapter 20.
Continue reading “30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 7: That ’60s Show, with 50 years of perspective” »

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30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 6: The Ila Borders line of demarcation, and more girl power for the archives

The book: “Making My Pitch: A Woman’s Baseball Odyssey”
The author: Ila Borders, with Jean Hastings Ardell
The vital statistics: University of Nebraska Press, 264 pages, $26.95, released April 1
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Barnes and Noble, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com, at the publishers’ website

The pitch: In 2003, Ila Borders was at the Pasadena Central Library, wondering if she deserved a standing ovation.
She was voted in by the members of the Pasadena-based Baseball Reliquary into their Shrine of the Eternals, sharing that induction day with Jim Abbott and Marvin Miller.
“I realized that I was in good company as one of the game’s outliers,” Borders writes in Chapter 8 of her autobiography. Jean Hastings Ardell, author of the book “Breaking into Baseball: Women in the National Pasttime,” did the introduction for Borders, saying that her career illustrated that “women have remained the game’s last outpost regarding discrimination” and a story like Borders’ “embodies the classic theme of literature: Somebody wants something that is denied them and they set out to find a way to get it.”
“Yes, I thought, that sums up my career,” Borders added.
With Ardell’s valuable assistance, the 42-year-old Borders gets to tell her own story her own way, instead of through the newspapers, magazines and even a “60 Minutes” piece about her time as a left-handed pitcher for four pro minor leagues (most notably with Mike Veeck’s St. Paul Saints) after growing up in La Mirada, playing at Whittier Christian High, Whittier College and then Southern California College in Costa Mesa (now Vanguard University). Continue reading “30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 6: The Ila Borders line of demarcation, and more girl power for the archives” »

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30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 5: Two looks at the border patrol for baseball’s future

Pedestrians in Tokyo watch a TV showing the live broadcasting of a Word Baseball Classic semifinal game between Japan and U.S. on March 22 at Dodger Stadium. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

The book: “Baseball Beyond Our Borders: An International Pastime”
The author: Edited by George Gmelch and Daniel Nathan
The vital statistics: University of Nebraska Press, 528 pages, $24.95, released March 1
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Powells.com,  at Barnes & Noble, at the publishers’ website

The pitch: The once-every-four-year arrival of the World Baseball Classic last month still has us applauding, contemplating and somewhat confused.
The two high-intensity semifinals and the lopsided U.S. win in the championship at Dodger Stadium should be something of a measure of how the American game has taken root in other countries.
It is, of course, not that way.
Teams like the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico may have been filled with current Major League Baseball players, and the squad from Israel was simply loaded up with U.S. Jewish players — minus Ryan Braun or Joc Pederson – who had no ties to their homeland.
Was this a cultural celebration within the MLB, or a real olive-branch extension to teams that were really playing by the implied guidelines? Japan may have had the closest to a true star-picked team for its roster, but the U.S. certainly didn’t, and still won.
How can it be fixed?
Cubs manager Joe Maddon suggests mashing it up with the World Series. Yankees manager Joe Girardi wonders if it could be part of a week-long event meshed with the All-Star Game.
At least they’re trying to make it work. But they’re kind of missing the point.
Ten years after the first edition of this book, Gmelch, a college anthropology professor and former pro player, has brought on Nathan, the chair of American studies at Skidmore College and past president of the North American Society for Sports History, to reassess the game’s global standing among 19 nations, plus Puerto Rico and Tasmania.
They are resigned to the findings that growth has “been glacially and spotty, characterized  by periods of sound organization interrupted by stagnation, internal strife and national events such as war and economic crisis. … Major League Baseball International has spent a great deal of money trying to promote baseball in Europe with little to show for it.”
Which grinds us back to the WBC, and wondering if it serves the sport’s best interest.
Continue reading “30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 5: Two looks at the border patrol for baseball’s future” »

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