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

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  • 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

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Indian-Pirates

  • 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’

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  • 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 ChroncleBooks.com, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com, at Amazon.com

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  • 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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