Play It Forward April 27-May 3 on your sports calendar: Kimmel vs. Bieber or Pacquiao vs. Mayweather?

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:
BOXING: MANNY PACQUIAO vs. FLOYD MAYWEATHER JR.
Details/TV: At Las Vegas MGM Grand Garden Arena, Saturday at 6 p.m., pay-per-view TV ($99.95 HD):
The New York Post’s George Willis wrote this weekend: “Let’s hope Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao wage an epic battle May 2 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Otherwise, the Fight of the Century could be remembered as the Fiasco of the Century. Right now, it’s headed for the latter, leaving boxing fans feeling gouged, and excluded.” cd_manny-pacquiaoHere’s real fiasco: Late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel brought Manny Pacquaio onto his show last Wednesday and floated the idea of letting him part of his ring-walk entourage, insisting that he would sing Pacquiao’s recently-recorded song “Lalaban Ako Para Sa Pilipino” (I Will Fight For the Filipino) while inside the ropes waiting for Pacquaio to enter. And if Pacquaio needed more incentive, Kimmel also said he would fight current Mayweather hanger-on Justin Bieber. It was lovely gesture, made more so by watching Kimmel and Pacquiao actually sang “Lalaban Ako” together before a swooning audience. Maybe it was also done for a strategic, karmatic reason. Since Pacquaio made his U.S. national TV talk-show debut on Kimmel’s show back in 2009, he has appeared nine times. And every time he sang a song in an appearance before a fight, he has won, going back to his KO over defending WBO welterweight champ Miguel Cotto. You don’t think Vegas noticed that coincidence? Some sports books say they have seen more money bet on a Pacquaio (57-5-2, 38 KOs), the lone congressional representative of the Sarangani province, since his Kimmel appearance. Still, Mayweather (47-0, 26 KOs) continues to remain the controversial favorite, just two wins shy of matching Rocky Marciano’s undefeated record of 49-0. Pacquiao’s Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach insists that won’t happen. “I can assure you Mayweather’s party will end on May 2 and Marciano’s record will remain just that — the record. And Mayweather will forever be known as ‘Mr. 47 and 1.’” Sounds like the possible title of the next song that Pacquaio and Kimmel can go all duet on.

ALSO THIS WEEK:

There’s heightened anxiety for the Clippers playing Game 5 of their NBA Western Conference quarterfinal series against San Antonio on Tuesday at Staples Center …. Bob Baffert’s American Pharoah and Santa Anita Derby winner Dortmund are at the top of the betting board for the 141st Kentucky Derby (Saturday, 3:30 p.m., Channel 4) … The NFL Draft has moved to Chicago for its weekend cheer-leading festival, starting with the first round on Thursday (5 p.m., ESPN) …. The Ducks have a date with their former goalie Jonas Hiller and the Calgary Flames as the second round of the NHL playoffs begin … More to read at this link.

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30 baseball books for April ’15, Day 26: It’s still George Brett’s story, and he’s sticking with it

Freelance Boston-based graphic artist Aaron Hadley Dana has recreated the Pine Tar Game incident with George Brett being restrained. The print is for sale on etsy.com () Art by aarondana.com

Freelance Boston-based graphic artist Aaron Hadley Dana has recreated the Pine Tar Game incident with George Brett being restrained. The print is for sale on etsy.com. Artists website: www.aarondana.com

The book: “The Pine Tar Game: The Kansas City Royals, the New York Yankees, and Baseball’s Most Absurd and Entertaining Controversy”
The author: Filip Bondy
The vital statistics: Scribner, 256 pages, $25
Find it: At Amazon.com, at BarnesandNoble.com, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com

71LC6q3aHwLThe pitch: The book won’t come out until July – schedule for release right before the next anniversary of the incident that took place in 1983 – but this review copy has stuck by us for some time now.
Honestly, we’d been pining for a book about this subject for years.
Factually, and actually, we have a bottle of “liquid pine tar.” It came from the Brett Brothers bat company, included in an order we made to buy a new bamboo bat so we could head to the batting cages and not feel as if we were making some heavy metal music.
With the jar came a pine tar rag (which we also have, but haven’t used either).
To make it clear why this particular pine tar is special, the Bretts decided to attach a sheet to the side of the bottle to explain the “controversial ‘pine tar’ game.”
It goes like this:
“The controversy began on July 24, 1983, in Yankee Stadium, when Brett hit a ninth-inning, two-out, two-run homer off Goose Gossage that gave the Royals a 5-4 lead. Moments after crossing the plate and entering the dugout, Brett saw Yankee manager Billy Martin approach home plate umpire Tim McClelland. Later McClelland thrust his arm in the air and signaled that Brett was out for excessive use of pine tar on his bat, nullifying the home run and ending the game. Brett stormed from the dugout in a rage and had to be restrained by teammates and coaches. Despite the protest of Brett and Royals manager Dick Howser, the ruling stood. The next day AL president Lee MacPhail acknowledged Brett had pine tar too high on the bat but overturned McClelland’s decision and reinstated Brett’s homer.”
If only it was that simple. Continue reading

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30 baseball books for April ’15, Day 25: Get back to where you once belonged, or ‘Ben and Eric’s excellent adventure’

You can draw it out on a napkin, or on page 11.

You can draw it out on a napkin, or on page 11.

The book: “I Don’t Care if We Never Get Back: 30 Games in 30 Days on the Best Worst Baseball Road Trip Ever”
The authors: Ben Blatt and Eric Brewster
The vital statistics: Grove Press, 342 pages, $16
Find it: At Amazon.com, at BarnesandNoble.com, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com

51nyC-V-OmLThe pitch: Here’s where we pull a U-turn on this April roadie.
This one came out just too late for the 2014 review list, and too early to be included in what we like to do for the 2015, but it did get a mention last December when were put together holiday gift ideas.
Because we need for a mental road trip at this point in our journey, and this has been reissued this month in paperback at $16 (from the $24 hardback), we’re calling shotgun.
Plus it beats two top-deck tickets for a game where we would have got stuck in traffic the whole way up and been cursing by the time we hit the parking toll booth.
So, we circle back, because we care about these two Harvard grads — Ben Blatt, a staff writer at Slate whose writing has appeared on Deadspin, and Eric Brewster, a Long Beach native whom we really don’t need to know much else about except that he’s doing this somewhat because he seems bored.
They met at Harvard one day when Brewster was wearing a Dodgers cap.
“You’re a Dodgers’ fan?” Ben asked.
“No, but the sun’s out,” Eric said, ending the conversation.
He’s already won us over.

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30 baseball books for April ’15, Day 24: Miller’s outpost as a revolutionary union leader

From Baseball American cartoonist Trap (http://www.baseballamerica.com/traps-view/trap-s-view-remembering-marvin-miller-14750/)

From Baseball American cartoonist Paul Trap (http://www.baseballamerica.com/traps-view/trap-s-view-remembering-marvin-miller-14750/)

The book: “Marvin Miller, Baseball Revolutionary”
The author: By Robert F. Burk
The vital statistics: University of Illinois Press, 336 pages, $35
Find it: At Amazon.com, at BarnesandNoble.com, at Powells.com

814nwV6IMGLThe pitch: “If Albert Spaulding had been the architect of baseball’s first durable cartel, Babe Ruth had converted the game into a marquee attraction to the masses, Branch Rickey had both pioneered the farm system of talent accumulation and spearheaded management acceptance of racial integration, and Jackie Robinson had changed the literal face of the game …” Burk writes succinctly in the preface.
Then …
“Marvin Miller had been the man who, more than any other individual, had wrenched the national pastime – for better and worse – into a modern industry with modern labor management relations. … On any Mount Rushmore of the sport, unquestionably he belonged.”
Just not in Baseball’s beloved Hall of Fame.
Not yet. And if it happens, not in his lifetime.
So how do we best view, and possibly judge, the man who brought structure, smarts and progress to the game, tipped the balance of power and created something of a mess with all the trappings that come with new fame and personal importance?
Do it with a book like this, one that purposefully explains Miller’s upbringing and experiences, treats him with respect and honesty and, while the author admits to some biases in favor of Miller, explains all sides and ramifications of his actions.
It’s the story of American labor, just on a more public scale, that has most American’s hearts and minds invested in its outcome. It’s believeing, as Miller did, that the MLB players at the time 50 years ago were “the most exploited group of workers I had ever seen—more exploited than the grape pickers of Cesar Chavez.”
Miller_1The dichotomy of Miller’s legacy may be more clearly explained in Chapter 16, called “Lightning Rod,” where the public’s view of Miller could be best illustrated in the way that someone like Bob Costas choose to frame it.
On one hand, upon the 83-year-old Miller’s induction into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2000, Costas remarked that he had “keen intelligence and unshakeable honesty” and called him “one of the significant figures in baseball history.” He even noted that fans blaming Miller for “every pain-in-the-ass .250 hitter (now) making six million dollars a year” is like “blaming Alexander Graham Bell for call waiting.”
Note, there is no real praise there. Because not long after, Costas used his own book, “Fair Ball: A Fan’s Case For Baseball,” to perhaps market himself as a commission-in-training and to attack Miller. He then appeared with him on Charlie Rose’s show and amped up the argument. Miller accused Costas of towing baseball management’s line, acting unprofessional and not as an impartial journalist. Costas came unglued and accused Miller of being “constitutionally incapable of letting go of the wars he had already fought and won” and claiming Miller “will remain in his encampment, railing at the heretics.”
The public surely sided with Costas. As if Miller really cared.
As the media continues to wrestle with how to shape Miller’s legacy to date, this is a book that will pull things back into a calmer perspective, written “not necessarily” as Miller or his wife, Terry, would have done, but a “biography neither authorized nor ghost-written.” Now that Miller is gone, it’s easier to be impressed with how he did things aside from what he actually did.
Burk, a history professor at Muskingum University in Ohio and author of two books that deal with the relationship of players, owners and the game before and after 1920, puts his  baseball business knowledge to work and has given it a human narrative rather than just a soundbite that many have become accustomed to seeing or hearing. Continue reading

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30 baseball books for April ’15, Day 23: Gotta hand it to Andy Pafko

On Oct. 1, 1951, the Dodgers' Andy Pafko is greeted by teammate Gil Hodges (14) and a Dodgers' batboy as he scores on his home run in the second inning of the opening game of the National League playoff series against the New York Giants at Ebbets Field. (Associated Press)

On Oct. 1, 1951, the Dodgers’ Andy Pafko is greeted by teammate Gil Hodges (14) and a Dodgers’ batboy as he scores on his home run in the second inning of the opening game of the National League playoff series against the New York Giants at Ebbets Field. (Associated Press)

The book: “Handy Andy: The Andy Pafko Story”
The author: Joe Niese
The vital statistics: Chippewa River Press, 246 pages, $25
Find it: At Amazon.com, and at the author’s website

71YoH9YIOhLThe pitch: In Roger Kahn’s 1972 classic “The Boys of Summer,” Dodgers short-time left fielder Andy Pafko merited his own chapter entitled “The Sandwich Man,” a brief interlude between pages 262 and 270.
Kahn writes: “Across seventeen major league seasons, Andy Pafko batted .285, hit 213 home runs and fired every throw and ran out each pop fly with the full measure of his strength. Certain athletes who grew up in the Great Depressions played that way, the mongrels of poverty tearing at their calves.”
Pafko debated with Kahn about meriting inclusion in such an important story about a beloved franchise, one that included him as a member for just the second half of the 1951 season and then entire NL champion ’52 campaign before he was sold to the Braves.
“Put me in,” he eventually told Kahn, who chronicled this discussion in the chapter, “but don’t make it a big thing. I never felt I was a Dodger star … Nobody remembers I was a Dodger.”
Maybe that’s because he started with 8 1/2 seasons as a Chicago Cub – where he was a four-time NL All-Star and played on their last World Series team in 1945 – and ended his career with seven more seasons for the Milwaukee Braves, who made “The Kid from Boyceville” virtually a home-town hero. Pafko may have played in four World Series, but it’s the one he won with the Braves in  1957 that capped his run, even if much of it was spent as a mentor to a young outfielder named Henry Aaron.

Oct. 3, 1951: Brooklyn Dodgers left fielder Andy Pafko watches as the ball sails over the wall and drops into the lower deck of seats for New York Giants' Bobby Thomson's three-run homer and so-called "shot heard `round the world,"  in the bottom of the ninth inning of the playoff game at the Polo Grounds in New York. (AP Photo/File)

Oct. 3, 1951: Brooklyn Dodgers left fielder Andy Pafko watches as the ball sails over the wall and drops into the lower deck of seats for New York Giants’ Bobby Thomson’s three-run homer and so-called “shot heard `round the world,” in the bottom of the ninth inning of the playoff game at the Polo Grounds in New York. (AP Photo/File)

As the Dodgers and Giants end their three-game series in whatever they call the ballpark in San Fran-
cisco these days, we bring back a Dodger- Giant moment from 1951: That heart-breaking photo of a helpless Pafko, standing next to the giant left-field corner wall at the Polo Grounds watching Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard Round the World” sail over his head.
It may be the one Pafko moment that Dodgers fans remember most about him, and it gave Don DeLillo a novella title in “Pafko at the Wall.”
But after discovering all that really made up the injury-prone but well- regarded player in this book by Niese, a member of the Society for American Baseball Research and a Chippewa Falls, Wisc., resident (and not the New York Mets pitcher, whose name is Jon), that photo from the third game of the 1951 National League playoff needs a longer caption.

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