Tom Hoffarth / FartherOffTheWall.com
For years, the holiday lists we would post on sports-related gift suggestions we felt were too cool to keep to ourselves became, if anything, a fun exercise in our resourcefulness and sense of taste.
But it was somewhat unsatisfying. The implication that we’d actually like someone in our gifting circle to read these numbered posts and then realize that’s what we were really hinting at having for ourselves never seemed to connect.
We won’t be so subtle this time. No more dropping hints. Self-serving shall now prevail in our post-COVID lockdown holiday existence.
Consider this Top 10 a way to put into the universe things that, if someone decided we were worth spending the dough on and were willing to put it wrapped nicely under our fresh corkbark fir (look it up) Christmas tree, we’d so, so appreciate the gesture.
We embrace the idea that those who embrace the cerebral nature of baseball can be referred to as “seamheads.” At Gary Joseph Cieradkowski’s marvelous website seamheads.com, all of that is dutifully celebrated with unique artwork in baseball card form. But let’s unravel this even further. The MLB Game-Used Baseball Beanie is a creation artist Ward Wallau, who says on his website that he figured out how to use some 130 yards of “authenticated yarn” from three game-used baseballs and weave them on a hand-operated knitting machine by a single craftsman to make these hats. Cooler head are prevailing. The knitting is done in the order of the yarn as they appear inside a baseball: outer gray, white and inner gray. The yarn is then softened and the inside of the hat is lined with alpaca wool yarn. They take four weeks to knit and ship — so pick early and often, and you also decide which team you want the balls connected with. Also take some time to see what else is on the Wallau website — custom desks created out of used basketball courts, or hockey stick blades turned into a beer flight sampler. It even says on the about website how, when the Kings won the 2012 Stanley Cup, he asked for and got a puck from the decisive Game 6 win and used it to create a unique collection of cuff links for the Kings’ players. From then, it was a matter of explaining to the hockey players what cuff links were used for. At Tokens & Icons and Uncommon Goods, $235.
You’d never see us wearing an NBA (or college basketball) jersey in public.We don’t have the desire or physique for it. But some do make a nice piece of art to put on a hanger and just display in the office. For that, we’re kind of fond of the Clippers’ 2022-’23 Nike City Edition Los Angeles jersey. Especially when put up against what the Lakers did (or didn’t do).
When Los Angeles Times assistant sports editor Chuck Schilken dared to rank the 29 new City Edition jerseys for this season — noting how each was supposed to represent the stories, history and heritage that makes each franchise unique — we agreed right away that the Lakers’ version was dead last and least effective. That jersey was intentionally stripped down to a basic white, with a purple “Los Angeles” moving letters and black numbers. “LOL,” wrote Schilken. “Sounds like someone forgot their art project was due today …” As for the Clippers, it was No. 2 on his list for its rainbow background of the “los angeles” (lower case) script and nods to the Drew League (and its 50th anniversary) and the Watts Towers. By George, he’s correct. In a story posted in The Athletic, Drew League CEO Dino Smiley said he and the Clippers had been “discussing the possibility of a jersey collaboration in early 2020, before the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. The Clippers were the first of the two L.A. teams to actively reach out … The Lakers, he said, still have not.” Yet, when the Athletic staff ranked the jerseys, it picked the Clippers tied for 14th (still ahead of the Lakers at No. 23) If it’s all a matter of taste, we appreciate the effort as well and history stuffed into this design. Dick’s Sporting Goods, $120.
L.A. history/Purposeful Minimalist Art:
Our go-to man for this mission is always Anaheim-based artist S. Preston, back to when we did a 2018 piece on him for the Los Angeles Times featuring his MLB stadium collection. These days, we don’t want to minimize the fact that we exist during an historic Southern California moment in the existence of the Rose Bowl and Coliseum – both are hitting the century mark.
The Pasadena landmark opened on October 28, 1922. It was USC breaking the seal as it lost a football game to Cal, 12-0 – the Trojans’ only loss that season. Cal went unbeaten but declined a trip to the Jan. 1, 1923 Rose Bowl. USC went instead and defeated Penn State, 14-3.
In the meantime, USC was awaiting for its own campus-adjacent home to bust loose.
The Coliseum broke ground in December of ’21 and eventually came open in May of ’23 as the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (in honor of those who fought in World War I). The place had another USC game as its opening event — Oct. 6, ’23, with the Trojans’ 23-7 win over Pomona College. The Coliseum would be the selling point for having the 1932 Summer Olympics arrive amidst the Great Depression, and it still will be a vital centerpiece for the upcoming 2028 Games.
The Rose Bowl has launched a commemorative brick campaign that leads into its Jan. 2, 2023 annual “Granddaddy Of Them All.” There’s also a “Coliseum Forever” campaign going on now that features 100 years of “epic moments” at the place.
We’re apt to take a sweet and simple route, with S. Preston’s minimalist representations of both sites of worship — not just for sporting events, but for all the other things that happened there and are etched in our L.A. collective souls. S. Preston creations of the Rose Bowl and the L.A. Coliseum, $70 medium print; $140 large print. Framing optional.
L.A. History/Documentary film:
Steve DeBro told us recently it’s his intention that fans of the old Olympic Auditorium make the effort to see his new documentary, “18th and Grand,” at one of the various special theater screenings they’ve been able to have from time to time since its debut.
“I tried to make it where you’re carried on a journey that’s almost disorientating, and it should feel like you’re in the Olympic — energetic, fast moving, something that takes you out of yourself,” said the writer, director and producer of the flick. “That’s why in a theater is the best way you don’t get distracted.”
Yeah, well, when there’s a chance to own a copy of the film, you punch your way toward it. This has added features such as extended interviews with some of the key storytellers, like Gene LeBell and Jimmy Lennon. TMC’s Eddie Muller says about it: “ ‘18th & Grand’ resurrects wild and wonderful memories of the Olympic Auditorium, once the beating heart of several vital strains of Los Angeles culture—boxing, wrestling, and punk rock—that weren’t dusted with Hollywood glam and glitter. Looming large is legendary promoter Aileen Eaton, who showed the world how a ballsy broad can mix it up with the big boys.” This is also an opportunity to latch onto some of the equally fresh T-shirts. If only we could call RI.9-5171 to finish this order. www.18thandGrand.com, $20.
For the Bookshelf:
The near-50 titles we worked through for our annual new baseball book titles from March through August is a starting point for fresh ideas in this genre. We gladly steer anyone toward Ron Shelton’s “The Church of Baseball,” Jeff Fletcher’s “Sho-Time,” Dan Good’s “Playing Through the Pain” about Ken Caminiti, Pedro Moura’s “How to Beat a Broken Game: The Rise of the Dodgers in a League on the Brink,” as well as Joe Posnanski’s eternally appreciated “The Baseball 100.”But wait, there’s more.
David Maraniss’ “Path Lit by Lightning: The Life of Jim Thorpe” is, as Keith Olbermann writes in a New York Times review last August, a true-to-life, forget-the-hyperbole we’ve heard before and “in the last 200 excruciating pages, the Thorpe that Maraniss follows is less the mythological athlete and more a real-life Sisyphus. …Maraniss continually yet gently returns to an affirmation (that) taken as a whole, Jim Thorpe’s story is not one of prejudice, nor the hypocrisy of others, nor even of the superstar who doesn’t fulfill Housman’s ‘To an Athlete Dying Young.’ Whatever life took from him, Thorpe persisted and trained and worked and learned and succeeded to the point that he was the landslide winner of the 1950 Associated Press poll of experts who chose the greatest athlete of the first half of the 20th century. Given the precision with which Maraniss measures the almost unbearable weight of the odds against Thorpe, the reader begins to question if the qualifiers were actually unnecessary, and if Thorpe isn’t simply the greatest athlete — full stop.”
We also came across a New Yorker list of “The Best Books of 2022 So Far,” updated Nov. 16. They included this intriguing entry for those of us who are in the final quarter of our projected existence:
“The Last Days of Roger Federer: And Other Endings,” by Geoff Dyer (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, released last May). Dyer, who lives in Venice, writes that as he was “dilly-dallying, unsure how to start this book about how things end,” a press conference in 2019 occurred as Andy Murray announced he would retire from tennis as he lost in the Australian Open. “More than moving, it was devastating to watch,” Dyer writes. “The whole thing made for harrowing, and, of course, absolutely absorbing viewing.” Dyer had already had this book in mind watching Roger Federer’s eventual run toward his tennis retirement. There are many more sports-related angles to this as it covers an assortment of people and their heading to the finish line. Maybe it’s something we need to read at this point in our lives. “There are some gorgeous passages” in the book, writes the New York Times’ Jennifer Szalai, “some marvelous bits of criticism, some enthralling descriptions of psychedelics.”
Take a whiff:
When your thoughts drift to what it’s like walking into Dodger Stadium, what smells come to mind?
Maybe right now, there’s a Yellow Brick Road afterglow. But that will end.
From Elton John to Farmer John (and Tommy John in between), we’ve got a good sense to ask that this offering of the “Dodgers Fan Bundle” not try to hard to capture what may be impossible. But we’re willing to give it our two scents worth. Light it up.
It says the Dodgers candle has “top notes” of popcorn, tajin spice and crisp beer, with lesser notes of peanuts, grilled corn, lime, sea salt, fresh grass, red clay and peppercorn. Paired it with the “Los Angeles” candle, which features orange, rose, ylang ylang oil, lemon, jasmine and musk.
(Really, you’re gonna muck this up with musk? Isn’t that asking for trouble?)
“With fireworks as impressive as the A-list fan base, the crowd exits the stadium with a belly full of esquites and a bright blue tongue reminiscent of ice cream and ices,” reads the description. Pure poetry, right? There’s also the option to “make it person” for $15 more, using 130 characters to create a message that will be affixed to the back of the candle. Like: “Did you get that whiff of that Cody Bellinger whiff.” Homesick.com, $77 for the two.
Dining and entertaining:
Kobe Bryant was never accused of coasting when he was on the basketball court. Yet four of his greatest contributions to our memory of him are immortalized on things you’re supposed to put your beverage on to avoid a wet ring on the coffee table.
The coasters feature, in order: His lob to Shaquille O’Neal in the 2000 Western Conference Finals Game 7 (while Rick Fox, Glenn Rice and Robert Horry were all posting up for 3-point opportunities); his 2004 Western Conference Final Game 4 game winner over Phoenix as time ran out; the last points of his 2006 81-point game against Toronto (at the free-throw line with 43 seconds left and an 18-point lead); and his April 2016 final game, called “Mamba Out,” where he dribbled around a Randle screen and hit a jumper with 31 seconds left against Utah to have him finish with 60 points.
A toast, to Kobe, and other absent friends. Playbookproducts.com, in leather for $30 or in slate for $40.
We’re not expecting much any more when we happen to have six hours to spend on a golf course. The goal is to start and finish without any injuries — physical or psychological — and perhaps lose only a half-dozen balls. Playing quickly — or, at least not painfully slow — is the way to go. It’s never a walk spoiled if done with a purpose.
Here’s a gadget that may not only improve our lies, but also improve the way we don’t have to lie so much on our scorecard. The GPS Audible Golf Range Finder is said to be a first in that it can announce rather than make one read the distance to the pin from your place in the fairway.
Consider it a conversation starter. Or a way to mess with the others in your foursome who think you’re just arguing with yourself.
It’s compatible with that iPhone or Galaxy/Android that you should have left in the car, but this time there is the usefulness of allowing it to provide a screen to show the distance and pathway in map form (as you upload a variety of courses into the memory bank).
The website reviews give it 4.1 out of 5 stars. Among the few one-star reviewers: “This is too techy for me. After reading the instructions, I didn’t even take it out of the box.” Then mail it to me, pal. A five-star reviewer added: “The trick is to keep the speaker volume at maximum in order to hear easily on the remote visor unit.” Point taken.
We endorse anything that prevents slow play. Especially if you’re on one of golf’s “Top 18 most dangerous courses,” with two of them not too far away from us. Scholl Canyon in Glendale above the Verdugo Mountain range is just a par 60 track, but it’s laid out on top of an old landfill. They say there’s some issues with grass growing as well other methane bursts. (We’re led to believe the same is true with The Links at Victoria Park in Carson. Read some of these reviews.) The other time you may need to play at a quicker pace is at the Compton Par 3 course (6400 E. Compton Blvd., next to the L.A. River and the 710 Freeway near Dominguez High), which we aren’t sure if it’s reopened after the pandemic. Swing at your own risk. At SharperImages.com, $129.99.
Side note: An initial public sale of gallery and upgraded tickets to the 123rd U.S. Open Championship at Los Angeles Country Club starts Monday Nov. 28 at 9 a.m. Enter the online waiting room at usopen.com up to 30 minutes ahead of the on-sale window if you like (where’s no benefit to entering earlier). There are daily tickets that start at $125 and go up to $1,300 and beyond. You can only get two tickets per day per transaction. One for me and … More info here.
We were reading recently with some remorse about how the Southern California Curling Center in Vernon (near downtown L.A.) was getting evicted from its facility. Founder and CEO Peter Dohm had told some media members about how SCCC, which established itself at this place in July 2021, finally built the first and only curling-specific venue in Southern California (4545 Pacific Blvd., Vernon). But it has had issues with its landlord (Dynamic Holdings LLC) over the last year because of L.A. County COVID Rent Moratorium Protections.
SCCC says it lost nearly $100,000 in the process and elected officials were weary to get involved in a civil dispute between landlord and tenant, said Dohm.
“I am proud of what SCCC has achieved over the last two and a half years at our location, overcoming 15 months of COVID shutdowns to get opened, hosting over 5,000 curlers of all levels, including the USA Olympic and Paralympic Teams, the 2022 gold medalists from Sweden and many others that have helped make memories here,” said Dohm.
The place shut down in October. Lawsuits are pending. “I have put in 110 percent every day – even if most was behind the scenes – and given all the troubles, I am damn proud of what we achieved,” Dohm said. “I promise to you is that we will curl again on dedicated ice in Southern California at some point.”
We’ve tried curling before. We can’t find the story on any website, but we found a Deadspin.com compilation of all the stupid reporter-tries-curling stories prior to the 2010 Winter Games, and we made it in there. Lucky us. We’re still up to curl. At home. Where we know the landlord will be nice to us. The Hovering Curling Set won’t replace the real thing, but allows you to do that thing you do in ice with air-propelled stones that float across the floor. Do it next to a fireplace if that helps create the right mood. At SharperImage.com, $129.99.
More non-ice time stuff:
We’ve never ridden on a Zamboni but this could be the next-best thing. Of course, not for us. Something to have at the house when the grandson pops by. But we’d likely take it on a test run first. The Panorama City-based ice surfacing company has done all sorts of deals with the NHL, making die-cast toys, Pez dispensers and Monopoly tokens. All worthy of gift gifting. But now, something for kids aged 3-to-8, Kook Karz Playground has a somewhat realistic ride-on version replica ice resurfacer. It’s complete with four rubber tires, horn, LED headlights, and a “snow collection tank” that acts as a storage. It also has a 22-pound rechargeable battery. Best, a sound track of Zamboni noises. Sure, Zamboni drivers usually sit toward the back of the real deal, but now they’re front and center. In case they’re driving it up the driveway and a squirell decided to try to play chicken with it. Trust us, we’ve seen it happen. It may not end well for everyone. More info with this ESPN.com story. At NHL.com, Zamboni.com and KoolKarzPlayground.com, $349.99.