The Sports Media Misery Index: September, 2021

Back, back, back when we were once lancing free at the Los Angeles Times, the creation of the maniacal Sports Media Misery Index was our small-but-regular check and balance on the temperature of what sort of things we learned, liked and loathed at various points in time during our media consumption.
Our own dysfunctional erectile thermometer pointing true south.
With the complete acknowledgment that perhaps we’ve missed this more than you did, here’s a calculated risk in trying to make a call to the bullpen and bring this back when we feel it becomes slightly necessary.
Like, now.
With summer all but gone, and the fantasy of football coming back to haunt us, the Sports Media Index labors into September, 2021:


There is still joy in listening to Vin Scully call a game, reinforced the other day on SportsNet LA — one of those “Timeless Dodger” telecasts from June, 2016, Vin’s final season. The headline was giving us the chance to watch Corey Seager’s three-homer game versus Atlanta during his Rookie of the Year season. But we didn’t stick with it because of that.
At one point, the TV camera points to the dugout. There’s the 22-year-old Seager, after one his fencebusters, sitting next to and talking with the 19-year-old Julio Urias.
Scully comments, rather matter-of-factly, about how these two young men will someday lead the team to greater feats and accomplishments. As if he knew that would give us chills five years later when were to recall how the 2020 World Series played out.
How does he do that? Still?
With all the anxieties and imperfections and upside-down MLB decisions that keeps getting thrown at our psyche, who couldn’t use a refresher batch of a Scully Marathon. Not just to fill programming on a 24/7 channel loop, but do wonders for the soul. Sirius XM has channels devoted to the Beatles, Springsteen, Elvis and the Beach Boys (which somehow they moved and we can’t find it, just as they’ve released a new retro boxed set). They devote a channel to the Rolling Stones after the passing of Charlie Watts, and it’s brilliant to hear their songs again, to interpret the drum beats and the authentic way he contributed to their sound.
The Sounds of Scully could be alone the price of the monthly RSN fees for SportsNet LA, which doesn’t seem to be doing too badly these days in its musical chairs distribution game.
That said, at least during this SportsNet LA airing, there were no commercials popping up for the latest Scully-related things to knee-jerkingly consider purchasing.

Scully, who will turn 94 in November, was telling us recently that he’s doing good but a bit lonely. He’d been watching a lot of things on TV in his room — especially English soccer. A sport he says he’d have the nerve to call because “I have no idea what’s going on.” We had a nice long talk, and I posted a few highlights. Nothing on the record. Then the L.A. Times’ Bill Plaschke did his own Q&A with Scully shortly thereafter, and that’s the story, morning glory.

Last September, Scully was talked into getting a Twitter account, which could then promote the fact he was going to sell off a bunch of his memorabilia — rings, awards, golf clubs. He raised about $1 million and said the proceeds were going to charity as well as his family.
All fine and dandy.
But lately, something popped up called, where someone is in the process of peddling “Vin Scully merch.” It’s not clear who is behind it, where the proceeds go, or, most importantly, why it’s needed. Adult T-shirts are selling for $35 each, a youth shirt at $30 and an adult sweatshirt for $67. If only there was a small blanket we could wrap ourselves into in a time of need, but … who’d really be getting fleeced?
This comes on the heels of Scully’s business manager, Dennis Gilbert, introducing him the bizarreness of selling off NFT — something of course Scully had to have explained to him.

The auction included a chance to go to a game with Gilbert in those backstop seats — Scully said he wasn’t part of the package. It topped out at $5,800. All 140 of Scully’s story about Kirk Gibson and the 1988 World Series sold out at $88 apiece. There are still less than 100 left of the original 255 of Scully talking about Sandy Amorous’ 1955 World Series catch at $32 each.
How about as we go forward, pump the breaks on Scully Branding opportunities tugging at our nostalgic heartstrings — fungible or otherwise.
His relationship to Twitter still draws a smile, especially when he discovered how he could personal make something trend. His participation on Twitter now is a sweet deal — it hasn’t moved to a pay tier yet, but that’s always a business plan someone might consider.
Twitter is free, but still doesn’t seem to fit his personality. There is too much sniping on the social media site that forces some of us to just give it up on some days. With Vin, it’s a win-win situation to dictate a post, just to check in. But it now seems to have ulterior motives, to keep his brand fresh with hip demographics so that it can be monetized when the mood strikes.
And, for the record: Please, no Go-Go Gilbert ideas about Vin pitching reverse mortgages or Cameo calls. Or as Vin might be paraphrased, if you want to make God smile, tell him your memory-milking schemes.


A legal-binding shot-gun wedding this past June blissfully uniting Fox Sports with Clay Travis apparently bypassed any sort objection by someone who didn’t want to hold their piece of credibility. It is a marriage of convenience — the parent company network that leans on its crutch of fact-challenged bloviation united with one who provides the same guaranteed nerve reactions in the sports world by Travis’ platform.

A place that really isn’t “OK” as the logo implies, and asks one immediately if they want to sign up for “facts” delivered to their inbox every morning, with the choices of “Yes, Count Me In” or “No, I Prefer Mainstream Bias.”

Give an idiot two choices, and he’ll pick the one that he doesn’t even realize proves what everyone else already knows about him. Or her. Or them. Or whatever they hate these days.
This relationship’s first act of attention-grabbing anarchy is having Travis become an element of their otherwise predictably re-unwatchable (now that Urban Meyer has left) “Big Noon Kickoff,” where Clay will be traveling to Fox- and FS1-covered college football games — played in the South, speaking to his backward fan base.
It starts with Georgia-Clemson on Saturday. Then to Texas-Arkansas in Week 2 and Alabama-Florida in Week 3 — complete with a tour bus with an oddly decorated photograph to attract the months.

You can just look away, as most with some sense of personal protection should. But if you enjoy the pain, check out the many disturbing facets to this farcical arrangement, which Fox explains in its press release:
“Outkick is an omnichannel leader in sports, opinion, politics, and pop culture content across its radio, podcasts, online and social outlets, as well as being one of the foremost sources of sports wagering information in the United States. Further, Outkick has an incredible track record in the wagering category, serving as one of the most successful sources of referrals to FanDuel sportsbook.”
In the hands of that Southern base, Clay becomes more clayful, to mould into their own NIL.
Best get a vaccination shot if you plan to be within 100 yards of his coverage.

Writes man above from the South with dozens of followers.
Perhaps forgive them, for they not know how far they E-I-E-I-owe Fox to continue as their beacon of hateful hope while submerged too far into their own howdy doody.


Anyone who tries to give ESPN a pass in this whole Bishop Sycamore-IMG high school football game telecast debacle hasn’t been paying to all the info dug up in the ball-to-ball coverage, with even the dubious as well. It’s right in their wheelhouses.

ESPN’s passing the buck on this one is even more hypocritically and morally obtuse than anything else it has tried to bait-and-switch this past month — it doesn’t even come close to the Jump-the-shark yarn that festered to the New York Times’ radar and led to the departure of Maria Taylor because of what Rachel What’s-Her-Name told someone on a recorded phone call mess. Those who chased their own tails trying to follow on that one must realize now they were sucked into “ESPN has a pervasive race problem” narrative with something that sounds like another bad episode of “Friends” must see now that the real exploitation of some high school kids who trust adults to help them make life-altering decisions is far more tragic, and ESPN is complicit in the crime to kids predominantly of minority races.

So … what if on whatever high school games that come on this year on ESPN (with the help of its accomplices in the contracted marketing company), fans in the stands buy up and start wearing these Bishop Sycamore T-shirts. It may not be that obvious to the casual viewer, but those who know, will know, and realize that Centurions Lives Matter.

And there’s a very good reason why Tigers game analyst and Baseball Hall of Fame jackass Jack Morris won the battle for Deadspin Idiot of the Month honors for August. “If I offended you …” Maybe you didn’t. But that apology sure did. Shoulda listened to how Stephen A. Smith did his.


Bet we can wrap up the NBC Tokyo Olympics coverage in one tweet.
OK, have at it:


Speaking of The Real Vin Scully …

David J. Halbertstam, a sports broadcasting industry veteran (and no relation to the real David Halberstam, author extraordinaire), has achieved a variety of roles in the business, and luckily votes on the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award for lifetime achievement.
He decided to post a list in mid-August on his website of what he believes to be “Southern California’s top all-time play-by-play voices.”
His Top 16 is topped off by Scully, Chick Hearn and Dick Enberg. He decided to wedge in Ralph Lawler ahead of Bob Miller — perhaps not our choice, but then we did push Lawler to finally get recognition in the Basketball Hall of Fame before his retirement with the Clippers, but always knew Miller was Hockey Hall of Fame material and needed no campaign (same with Nick Nickson).
It starts to run out of some steam with Jerry Doggett somehow included, ahead of Tom Kelly, and Bob Starr, and Pete Arbogast
The particulars are there for debate. The beauty of lists, it must be pointed out. We all read and learn.
In 2013, we did a similar exercise — the “most influential” of all time. We wanted to keep it at 10, but went to 11 to include the Raiders’ Bill King. We didn’t rank our picks, but we look back now and are pleased our choices included the likes of Frick Award winner Jaime Jarrin, Dick Lane (famed for roller derby and boxing) as well as Fred Haney, a Pacific Coast League broadcaster who influenced the likes of Enberg growing up in the San Fernando Valley.
We showed Halberstam our list, which he said he’d never seen before. As long as he was impressed, we’re good.
We at least could agree on another thing: Charley Steiner would likely never be on any sort of “best of” lists, no matter his length of service in the L.A. market.
We actually recruited Halberstam to help us with a critique of Steiner around the 2018 World Series — when we had enough of his “contagiously imprecise descriptions” and put forth the idea that his time on the air must have been affecting his ability to do simple things, like follow the flight of a ball.
Maybe it’s time soon to compare notes with Halberstam on an all-time worst list.
Got any ideas?


The Dodgers’ set of media notes prior to their Aug. 27 game included the fact that Steiner, in his 17th year with the team, was announced as part of the “25th Mountain Valley Conference Hall of Fame class” as a 1971 graduate of Bradley University — a school that allowed him to buy the naming rights to its “Charley Steiner School of Sports Communication,” and notes that it is “the first named sports communication school in the nation.” He was also included in the National Radio Hall of Fame in November 2013.
More power to him trying to follow the trajectory of his career from here until retirement as he tries to dream up another rehearsed ad-lib he can use on the air from his living room watching on TV if the Dodgers win back-to-back titles.


One of the newest show on ESPN’s pay-to-view platform called ESPN+ (we don’t get it, on many levels, no matter how Disney wants to us to bundle and save as if we were buying unprogressive car and home insurance) involves Mike Greenberg hosting a dramatization of some of the wacky things that can happen in sports gambling.
So cool to see the promo for it during the Little League World Series, the latest step in normalizing sports wagering.
C’mon, it’s all innocent fun. Just like watching 12-year-old kids on TV crying after their team loses a game in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. This year, they don’t have to worry about all those foreign teams coming over to challenge them for the title. COVID says you’re welcome.
Premiere channels to draw viewer money is like paying the extra $50 at Disneyland to park closer to the entrance, or giving up and finally kicking in the extra $5 a month for USA Today to read some exclusive rewrite of a press release. One can find value in it.
But inch by inch, we’re watching our freedoms monetized. Because they can be, and will be, for someone else’s benefits.
ESPN+ is a minus when it comes to another tier of disconcerting programming that plays into how sports channels are getting viewers comfortable with having more live events diverted onto their premium services.
So just weeks after NBC laid on us an abundance of prime-time beach volleyball from Tokyo during the Summer Olympics, it recently bypassed showing any of the iconic AVP Manhattan Beach Open on its NBC network of NBCSN all-sports cable feeds (the later of which will soon fade away).
Instead, it harness all the content onto Peacock streaming service — one level is free, then there are two more that run $4.99 and $9.99 a month. Notre Dame’s first college football home game of the season against Toledo on Sept. 11 (after the Irish opener at Florida State this Sunday afternoon on ABC) will be on Peacock Premium upgrade, but there is surely a lure to sign up for free just to get you situated, like the frog in the cool pot of water that doesn’t notice how the flame underneath is at a low setting so that it can get acclimated to a warmer and warmer surrounding, soon to perish under the boil.
Because by that time, you’ll already be somewhat OK with an idea somewhere sooner than later that a Super Bowl can be justified worthy of a premium service stream just like a boxing event or a fantastically phony WWE spectacle.


On August, 18, KLAA-AM (830) afternoon drive talk show host Roger Lodge lost his longtime producer, James Allen. He lost a bout with COVID. The greater loss is to Allen’s wife and four daughters. A service in Whittier is coming up Tuesday. A GoFundMe page has nearly raised $50,000 to help the family he leaves behind.
Please, on as many levels as you can comprehend this, do what you can to prevent something this tragic from happening to those you love. It should be that difficult.


Bon voyage to the good ship Jackie MacMullan, exiting ESPN’s “Around the Horn” this week on her final show Tuesday filled with a variety of really sweet tributes. She was then pit against Bob Ryan in the final segment and, of course, declared the winner. Whatever you win on that thing.
Now, at age 60, she says he’s retiring.

In 2012, she was part of a story we did about the 40th anniversary of Title IX impact on women in sports journalism. MacMullen, a former Boston Globe and Sports Illustrated columnist, was fittingly the first woman to receive the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame media award

Otherwise, she still hasn’t Tweeted since June, 2011. That’s an achievement in itself. And this one still holds up.


Without the lanes paved by the likes of MacMullan, we don’t doubt there would be any sort of legitimate discussion about how someone like Mina Kines could be using her appearances on the ESPN sports-blabbering circuit to reach a point in any conversation about how someday she could legit join the ESPN “Monday Night Football” team.
Not sideline reporter. As analyst/color commentator/information provider.
This possibility has been on many a radar for awhile, yet it wasn’t really broached in this L.A. Times profile last September. It finally was pushed more forward during a Twitter exchange with former ESPN TV mate Dan LeBatard in early August:

There’s good reason why Kimes was given a couple of reps during the NFL exhibition season to put on her sizzle reel. ESPN allowed her to join the Disney-owned KABC-Channel 7 broadcast team of pro’s pro Andrew Siciliano and the otherwise undecipherable Aqub Talib on a Rams’ home and road contest. That first one was also simulcast on the NFL Network.
There’s work to be done in the live-game shaping, but at the very least, she was never caught with her pants down on the Rams’ telecasts, never sounding like a frilly, misplaced sideline reporter who kept turning on her mike at the 40 yard line to prove she had inside info. Kimes’ development in this area, on the heels of what Andrea Kremer was doing with Thursday Night Amazon Prime streaming in 2018, continues to prove that it’s a talent that needs its reps, and reinforces how someone like an Erin Andrews has absolutely no shot at this kind of consideration no matter what network employs her despite her own feelings of import.

If a MNF crew could once sub in non-NFL types like Dennis Miller or Tony Kornheiser at various points in the show’s de-evolution, the thinking is that there would be progress in many ways if more was bestowed on Kimes, if something could be slow grilling to be ready for the start of the 2022 season opening doubleheader. When perhaps Kimes could work with Beth Mowins and possibly put that idea out there that began in 2017.

Kimes over Rex Ryan, any day.
Add to that, Kimes has this story and video produced on her discussion with Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert — more proof she’s got the goods.

A few more specific links to stories and other assorted whatnot that brightened up our previous August:

And the rest … In our book, the 2021 spring baseball book reviews are done, but can there be more?

We’re grateful for all the response we’ve received – especially from authors – to books we were able to get to review between March and mid-June this year, as the COVID pandemic restrictions were loosening and things were getting back in many ways.

Like, L.A. traffic. So if you’re heading to bookstores, maybe shop online, including the independent sellers. It’s why we put multiple links with each review.

The first wave of baseball books has passed – and others dropped in unannounced – and we’re sorry we couldn’t get to them all. It’s been a challenging process to get these 30 done and whittled down in due time. The next sets will drop in the next few months. They’re also on our radar and are worth passing on for consideration:

“The Baseball 100,” by Joe Posnanski
(Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster, 848 pages, $33, to be released September 28, 2021)

The marketing people have called this “a magnum opus” and “instant classic) from the acclaimed Posnanski, who started his project at The Athletic in late 2019 and spread it out, announcing one player per day going forward.
Normally, a list of 100 anything is more of an easy marketing pitch to get people to read it, disagree, justify and move on. But this is no ordinary Joe pulling these essays together. Whether you agree with the ranking, you’re guaranteed to be informed and entertained. George Will writes in the forward: “Posnanski must already have lived more than two hundred years. How else could he have acquired such a stock of illuminating facts and entertaining stories about the rich history of this endlessly fascinating sport?
This shouldn’t be a spoiler alert, but his top 20 are Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, then Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Oscar Charleston, Ted Williams, Walter Johnson, Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Satchel Paige, Mickey Mantle, Honus Wagner, Roger Clemens, Lou Gehrig, Josh Gibson, Alex Rodriguez, Rogers Hornsby, Tris Speaker and (a tie for No. 20) Mike Schmidt and Frank Robinson. More recognizable names later include Albert Pujols (No. 23), Mike Trout (No. 27, fittingly), Jackie Robinson (fittingly at No. 42), Nolan Ryan (No. 50), Sandy Koufax (No. 70), Clayton Kershaw (No. 78), Mike Piazza (No. 89) and Roy Campanella (No. 94).

“Remember Who You Are: What Pedro Gomez Showed Us About Baseball and Life,” essays edited by Steve Kettman, from the Pedro Gomez Foundation
(Wellstone Books, 440 pages, $26.95, due for release July 13, 2021)

The late ESPN baseball reporter, who died suddenly at age 58 last February, left his mark on many. As a return favor, essays have been written about his impact on their career and their lives. The contributors include Jack Curry, Tim Kurkjian, Peter Gammons, Ross Newhan, Tracy Ringolsby, Howard Bryant, Ken Rosenthal, Bob Ley, Jeremy Schaap and Keith Olbermann.
(Personal aside: An essay by Brian Murphy called “Always Grab the Corks” is particularly poignant for me. I had talked to Pedro off and on about stories he was doing for ESPN. When I covered the Dodgers’ NL West clincher down in the visiting locker room at Chase Field in Phoenix in late September of 2013 — the one when the players jumped into the right-field pool — I ran into Pedro as the champagne was flowing. He had already mentioned to me how fun it is to pick up a cork and give it to someone special, so they can feel they were part of the celebration. I did just that and can’t believe — but why not? — that this was a piece of advice Pedro apparently told many in the journalism field).
Profits from every purchase of this book will benefit the Pedro Gomez Foundation, which was created by Nikki Balich and Micah Kinsler for the Gomez family to honor Pedro’s legacy in sports journalism. Currently all donations are also being directed to undergraduate students completing a degree in Sports Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

“COVID Curveball: An Inside View of the 2020 Los Angeles Dodgers World Championship Season,” by Tim Neverett
(Permuted Press/Simon and Schuster, 304 pages, $28, due for release Aug. 31, 2021)

The Dodgers’ backup TV and radio play-by-play man had to do games, like Joe Davis, in empty ballparks, off video monitors, not knowing what was coming day to day, and associated with a team that was awarded the 2020 championship while playing at a neutral site in Texas. Orel Hershiser does the forward. For what it’s worth, it can also be pointed out that “The Bronx Zoom: Inside the New York Yankees’ Most Bizarre Season,” by Bryan Hoch, the Yankees’ beat reporter (forward by Gerrit Cole) from Triumph Books ($28, 240 pages) came out on June 8.

“Gathering Crowds: Catching Baseball Fever in the New Era of Free Agency,” by Paul Hensler
(Rowman & Littlefield, 360 pages, $40, released April 2021)

As we learned from a discussion Hensler had with Baseball By The Book podcaster Justin McGuire, the title comes from the instrumental theme song that many associate with the ending of the Mel Allen-narrated syndicated show, “This Week in Baseball,” which makes sense as you’re researching how the game reacted to this latest incarnation of the game between 1977 and ’89. The show started in ’77.

“Crowds did indeed gather, at the ballpark and in front of the television set, to watch and enjoy the national pastime as never before,” Hensler notes on page 233.

If owners predicted doom and gloom after the Andy Messersmith-led free-agency case, it seemed the opposite occurred, giving the sport more competition and parity. The Angels may have been one of the bigger spenders in this time as owner Gene Autry went out fishing for, among others, Reggie Jackson, Joe Rudi, Bobby Grich, Don Baylor, Bruce Kison, Doug DeCinces, Ken Forsch and Bob Boone as he competed for attention in the Southern California market. But this was also a time when the Toronto Blue Jays were bolstering their farm system under Pat Gillick, as Hensler points out. There were many more competitive teams in this era. Marketing and cable TV was influential. There was little needed with expansion. It was a far more stable time. A surge of baseball card collecting and rotisseries leagues. Fantasy camps for older folks yearning for nostalgia. New ballparks were springing out of it as Janet Marie Smith, who the Dodgers recently elevated to EVP of Planning and Development after her recent facelift of Dodger Stadium, gets plenty of run here as well for her creativity put into the Orioles Park at Camden Yards as a game changer. “If Marvin Miller could be elected to the Hall of Fame in his role as the kind of baseball’s economic revolution, then the same honor is due for Janet Marie Smith, the queen of baseball’s architectural revolution who fronted the effort to construct Camden Yards. She would later take her discerning eye to other cities to apply a deft hand in construction and remodeling endeavors.” Hensler, who also did “The New Boys of Summer: Baseball’s Radical Transformation in the Late Sixities, points out that this period he covers now is when the game “grew, matured and prospered.” In the McGuire interview, Hensler also admits that he may be “showing my age … but the modern game doesn’t hold interest for me. I’m not sure what (commissioner Rob) Manfred can do. He’s tried some gimmicks, but it’s a radical turn from the game we grew up watching.”

“Hardball Architects: Evaluating Roster Construction and Team Performance Based On Player Acquisition Methods,” by Derek Bain
(Independently published, $19.99, 376 pages)

The two-volume set comes with the American League version released in July, 2020, and the National League version due later this year. Bain, involved in baseball analytics for more than 10 years, also includes a chapter focused on the evolution of the game’s general managers and a discussion with former Dodgers GM Fred Claire.

As we did with several authors along the way, we’ve connected with Derek for a quick Q&A on his work:

Q: Where did your love of baseball take you on this path of statistical analysis and interpretation?

A: As a baseball fan since the age of 10, I’ve always been interested in the statistical side of the game. I started collecting baseball cards in the mid-1980s and spent hours pouring over the numbers on the card backs. My interest evolved as new computer baseball simulations were released every year and I played MicroLeague, Earl Weaver, Tony La Russa and APBA Baseball (among others). In particular I enjoyed modifying the team rosters and creating All-Time Teams for each franchise. Roster construction and player development has always been top of mind for me during the writing process and in my overall fascination with the sport.

Q: What was your biggest takeaway talking to Fred Claire about the job of a modern day GM?

A: Growing up I always envisioned the General Manager as the “wheeler-dealer” type in the Frank Lane mold, making quick decisions based on their years of experience and relying on their gut instincts. While that may have been the case with certain individuals, Mr. Claire displayed a willingness to gather input from his scouts, trainers, physicians, managers, coaches and others in the organization before making critical decisions. He also relied on his scouting director to preside over the Amateur Draft and his farm director in relation to many decisions regarding minor league personnel. The second edition of Hardball Architects (Volume 2 – National League) includes interviews with former Angels GM Mike Port and current Reds GM Nick Krall along with Fred Claire’s interview. My hope is that those interviews serve as a link between the modern and not-so-distant past regarding front office strategies and the use of analytics.

Q: That’s an interesting cover you created to illustrate a connection to all those in the GM field who have had experience as an MLB player. Do you think those will be far and few between as the years go one?

A: The former player-turned-General Manager appears to be a dying breed but I wouldn’t completely rule it out in the future. I would imagine that an organization would not be opposed to bringing a former player up through the front office ranks and eventually promoting them to the Executive / General Manager level.

Q: What is the main thing you’d like readers to come away with after reading your book and all its research?

A: I want to engage the reader not only with the text but also interactively with the various charts and graphs to give them a better understanding of the ebbs and flows of each team’s roster along with how the standings correlate with transactions over different periods in a franchise’s history. Although I sometimes refer to crediting a GM with making certain moves or scouting directors with drafting a player, know that many of these transactions are consummated only after a thorough review of multiple scenarios with a variety of input from employees throughout an organization.

Q: As we listen sometimes to Dodgers games on the radio here, broadcasters Charley Steiner and Rick Monday will almost never recite statistical data/SABR-created analysis because they want to be “old-school guys” and not cross over into the non-traditional numbers. It seems as if they are doing the listeners a disservice. What do you think has to do be done to entice a reader into digging in about things that are statistical-based without having them roll their eyes and think they are going to be bored since they are married to their disposition that some numbers are just going too far out there?

A: Given the amount of statistical information that I include in my work, I’m sure it’s a limiting factor as far as the percentage of baseball fans who are willing to delve into the data and really dig into the content but that’s OK. I believe that baseball fans who are not interested in all of the analytics can still enjoy the information that I present.

Q: What can of nuggets can we expect from the look at the National League coming out soon?

A: Further evidence about the talent level of the 1960’s Giants despite the fact that they only reached the World Series in ’62. Cincinnati’s policy against free agency which lasted nearly two decades with the exception of the Dave Parker signing in ’83 .. and the aforementioned interviews with Mike Port and Nick Krall.

Q: What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?

A: The pros are that I control the content, scheduling, pricing – nearly every aspect of the book’s release except for the royalty rate 😊 … the cons are that I’m the only one promoting my work so I’ve had to reach out to customers through multiple venues with a limited budget.

“Is This Heaven? The Magic of the Field of Dreams,” by Brett Mandel
(Globe Pequot/Lyons Press/Rowman & Littlefield, 224 pages, $17.95, released Nov., 2020)

This updated paperback from the original hardback released in 2002 allows Philadelphia native Mandel to dust it off in time for the MLB “Field of Dreams” Yankees-White Sox game to come around on Aug. 12 of this year (after a postponement last year). It may also be worth going back to Mandel’s 1997 book, “Minor Players, Major Dreams” for Bison Books, where he convinced the Rookie League’s new Ogden Raptors in Utah to let him join the 1994 team and write about the experience.

“The Case for Barry Bonds in the Hall of Fame: The Untold and Forgotten Stories of Baseball’s Home Run King,” by K.P. Wee
(Riverdale Avenue Books, $16.99, 270 pages, released April 6, 2021)

An argument must be made — and fast — to get Bonds into the Hall after he’s been rejected his first eight years of eligibility for his link to steroid use. In the last vote, he received 61.8 percent (with 75 percent needed), a sizeable jump from the 36.2 percent he had in his first year of 2013. But Bonds has only one year left in the Baseball Writers Association of America voting.

The all-time career home run leader (762), the single-season home-run leader (73 in ’01), just short of 3,000 hits and 2,000 RBIs, 500-plus steals, two batting titles, 12 Silver Sluggers, eight Gold Gloves, and first overall in career WAR for position players (162.7) … The numbers are all there, of course.

“This book isn’t going to convince you of the author’s position if it’s different from yours,” Wee writes. “The purpose of this book is to share the lesser-known and lesser-remembered stories about Bonds, who simply wanted to be the greatest baseball player who ever lived. … Bonds, just like any professional athlete in any era, is a human being and has flaws just like you and me. …”

Sure, why not. We’ve always taken the stand that if what Bonds ever did was illegal, he would have been banned. They let him play. And this is what he accomplished. The numbers add up this Hall status, and then it becomes a talking point for dads to take their kids to Cooperstown and explain what the context of all this involves. Turn the other way, and you’re doing Bonds and the game a disservice.

“Picturing America’s Pastime: Historic Photography from the Baseball Hall of Fame Archives,” by the staff of the National Baseball Hall of Fame
(Forward by Randy Johnson, 320 pages, $34.95, released June 17, 2021)

It draws us back to the Sports Illustrated creation, “The Story of Baseball in 100 Photographs,” from 2018, where the emphasis was on those evocative and stunning. If that grabbed you, so should this one, although the first review we spied on said: “Cheap paper only adds to the disappointment of this uninspired collection of photographs, surprisingly few of which have not been reproduced elsewhere. Don’t waste your time or money on this book.”  And if you’re a member of the Hall, there’s a nice discount awaiting.

“Dr. Strangeglove: The Live and Times of All-Star Slugger Dick Stuart,” by William J. Ryczek
(McFarland, 254 pages, $39.95, released May, 2021)

A full-press examination of the all-hit, no-field first baseman who once made both 1961 NL All Star teams (in a season of 35 homers and 117 RBIs), and led the AL in RBIs and errors by a first baseman in ’63. Dick Stuart still was, in Ryczek’s assessment, “a bottomless font of outrageous quotes. He was brash, he was boastful; he was funny, and nothing seemed to faze him.” In his acknowledgements, Ryczek, who has done many books for this publisher over the years, writes: “Works of this nature are never best-sellers; most casual baseball fans haven’t a clue who Dick Stuart was or why he might be an interesting biographical subject. I like exploring areas where few have gone and thankfully there are enough of you out there with an interest in baseball history to make it worthwhile for someone to publish those more obscure but fascinating stories.”  By the way: Ryczek’s research indicated that his family never called him Dike, but Rich or Richard. For an appetizer, Stuart, who also had some local fame with  the PCL’s Hollywood Stars and hit his final four MLB homers while playing for both the Dodgers (in ’66, and appearing in the World Series) and Angels (in ’69), has this writeup on the SABR Bio Project.

“Baseball Under the Lights: The Rise of the Night Game,” by Charlie Bevis
(McFarland, 239 pages, $38, released April, 2021)

Remember when they first started putting World Series games at night? It’s coming up on 40 years ago, Game 4 of the Pirates-Orioles 1971 World Series.

“All of us at NBC feel certain that a World Series game played at night bears witness to the increasing popularity of sports on nighttime television,” said Carl Lindemann Jr., vice president of NBC Sports.

Since Game 6 of the ’87 Series, all have been at night.

That ’71 game was about 35 years from the first night game in MLB history — at Cincinnati’s Crosley Field when the Reds faced the Phillies, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt threw a ceremonial switch at the White House in Washington for the lights to go on in Cincinnati. And that was five years after they pulled off the first official try at a night game —

Something that definitely sheds new light on why there was a push to play more games after the sun set to maximize attendance and profits as well as TV viewership. On that note, we also have a heads up for “Lightning Strikes Twice: Johnny Vander Meer and the Cincinnati Reds,” by Lew Freedman (McFarland, 203 pages, to be released in October, 2021). After he no-hit the Boston Bees on the Saturday afternoon of June 11, 1938 at Crosley Field, he came back four days later and – in the first night game at Ebbets Field – no hit the Brooklyn Dodgers. The 23-year-old in his first full season with the Reds still has a record many think can rarely be matched, let alone extended, with the back-to-back no hitters. In both games, he actually outhit the opponent (with a hit of his own). His SABR biography is here.

“The Iconic Jersey: Baseball x Fashion,” by Erin R. Corrales-Diaz
(Giles Publishing, 192 pages, $34.95, to be released June 29, 2021)

As an extension of an exhibit at the Worcester Art Museum in Worcester, Mass., honoring the fashion history of the baseball-inspired uniform, the book highlights the cultural impact of the threads that are far more than representing one’s favorite team. Baseball jerseys as artwork combined aesthetics and athletics, nostalgia and modern garments.

On that note, we turn to the cover artwork of the new book, “That Lively Railroad Town: Waverly, New York and the Making of Modern Baseball, 1899-1901,” self-published by William H. Brewster (released December, 2020, 388 pages), about the town that was a small railroad crossing and took pride in native son Hughie Jennings promoting the Players League.

It’s also where Gary Cieradkowski explains how his artwork got to this point.

“The Reshaping of America’s Game: Major League Baseball after the Player’s Strike” and “America’s Game in the Wild-Card Era: From Strike to Pandemic,” by Bryan Soderholm-Difatte
(Both by Rowman & Littlefield, $45 each, released April 23, 2021)

These are the two follow-ups to Soderholm-Difatte’s previous three books, the 2015 “The Golden Era of Major League Baseball: A Time of Transition and Integration,” the 2018 “America’s Game: A History of Major League Baseball Through World War II” and the 2019 “Tumultuous Times in America’s Game: From Jackie Robinson’s Breakthrough to the War Over Free Agency.” There doesn’t seem to be a real demand for these works by the SABR member and contributor to “The Baseball Research Journal,” but they’re at our disposal regardless. The same could be said for another McFarland title, “Major League Turbulence: Baseball in the Era of Drug Use, Labor Strife and Black Power, 1968-1988,” by Douglas M. Branson (to be released in September, 2021), although it does have rather a wild cover art design.

“Before Brooklyn: The Unsung Heroes Who Helped Break Baseball’s Color Barrier,” by Ted Reinstein
(Lyons Press, 265 pages, $29.95, scheduled to come out Nov. 1, 2021)

As told by a Boston-based TV reporter, Reinstein seems interested in the story about how Boston City Councilman Izzy Muchnick persuaded the Red Sox to try out three black players in return for a favorable vote to allow the team to play on Sundays. The Red Sox got the councilman’s vote, but the tryout was a sham. Jackie Robinson was one of them. Who else fought segregation in baseball, from communist newspaper reporters to the Pullman car porters?

“The Sports Revolution: How Texas Changed the Culture of American Athletics,” by Frank Andrew Guridy
(University of Texas Press, 432 pages, $29.95, released March, 2021)

In his argument that the Lone Star State was the center of America’s expanding political, economic and emotional investment in sports teams, he covers the Washington Senators move to Arlington, Tex., to become the Rangers, and the birth of the Houston Colt .45s and their stupendous Eighth Wonder of the World that now sits abandoned. An author part of the Pandemic Baseball Book Club, Guridy explains more here:


From the SABR list of Winter/Spring books of 2021 as promoted by many of its members, we shall note:

Detroit Tigers Gone Wild: Mischief, Crimes and Hard Times,” by George Hunter (History Press/Arcadia Publishing, $21.99): For the only Major League franchise to sign two star player out of prison — Gates Brown and Ron Leflore – it takes a veteran Detroit News cop reporter to go over all the times players from the organization found their way onto the police blotter.

Historic Ballparks of the Twin Cities,” by Stew Thornley (History Press/Arcadia Publishing, $21.99): The official scorer at Twins home games and an historian of Minnesota baseball for decades, Thornley goes well beyond what we know of Target Field, the Metrodome and the old Metropolitan Stadium.

Baseball and the House of David: The Legendary Barnstorming Teams, 1915-1956,” by P.J. Dragseth (McFarland, $39.95): The bearded outcasts on this traveling team formed for religious evangelization purposes occasionally picked up some big names along the way to play with them – Babe Ruth, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Satchel Paige. Meanwhile, Bill Nowlin writes about the time in 1932 when the House of David touring team faced the Boston Braves.

“Zack Wheat: The Life of the Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Famer,” by Joe Niese (McFarland, $29.95, 206 pages, released in Nov., 2020): If you’re still looking for the background on who is still considered by many the organization’s greatest player (1909 through 1926), holder of several team career records (games played, hits, total bases, doubles, triples, runs created), and 1959 Hall of Fame inductee, maybe the most interesting stuff is what happened to him after his playing days were done.

“After Jackie: Fifteen Pioneers Who Helped Change the Face of Baseball,” by Jeffrey S. Copeland (Paragon House, $19.95, 320 pages, to be released January, 2022): The cover shows the 15 highlighted include Hank Thompson (the only player in Negro League history to integrate two MLB teams – St. Louis Browns and New York Giants), Ernie Banks, Larry Doby, Pumpsie  Green, Sam Jethroe, Minnie Minoso, Monty Irvin and Curt Roberts.

Day 30 of new baseball book reviews in 2021: Go ahead and trip on your way out

“Moon Baseball Road Trips: The Complete Guide
to All the Ballparks, With Beer, Bites and Sights Nearby”

The author:
Timothy Malcolm

The publishing info:
Moon Travel
/Hatchette Books
712 pages
Released May 4, 2021

The links:
At the publisher’s website
At the author’s website
At The Last Book Store in L.A.

“100 Miles of Baseball: Fifty Games, One Summer”

The authors:
Dale Jacobs
Heidi LM Jacobs

The publishing info:
368 pages
Released March 30, 2021

The links:
At the publisher’s website
At the author’s website
At The Last Book Store in L.A.

The review in 90 feet or less

There was once a plumber named Roy Riegel.

The New York Times picked up on it in 2017, and then NPR. It was about this New York Mets fan who had died in 2008 and left as his final wish for a friend to flush his ashes in every Major League Baseball public restroom while a game was going on.

It seemed appropriate to not only start the journey with the Mets, but also in Flushing, N.Y.

“I know people might think it’s weird, and if it were anyone else’s ashes, I’d agree,” said his friend, Tim MacDonald. “But for Roy, this is the perfect tribute to a plumber and a baseball fan and just a brilliant, wild guy.”

We never heard if this task flowed well to the end or if it somehow got clogged up somewhere between Kansas City and Arlington, Texas. Anyone have some verification?

We’ve reached the first day of summer, and what seems to be the last day of our annual book reviews. It started in early March and concludes here, as many of us are preparing for post-COVID, get-out-and-breathe-some-fresh-air road trips.

If baseball intersects somehow in those excursions, all the better.

A friend and I are planning to hit the road for the MLB’s Field of Dreams game in Iowa coming up in mid-August. The trip will include several side trips when there’s horsehide to be found.

If we were to start a game plan today and uphold a fan’s wishes, alive or deceased, to make a visit all 30 MLB parks, here might be some entertainment value in picking up Moon’s Baseball Road Trips guide.

In his own list of Top 10 Ballparks, Wrigley is first, with Dodger Stadium at No. 4. The Field of Dreams is among a list of “best baseball attractions” along with the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, the Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City and the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum in Baltimore.

It becomes a very basic “how to” book for those who’ve considered such trips, but considered trying to do all 30 parks is just too daunting. Instead, section it off and tackle it in pieces. He suggests a color-coded way dividing it up by way of the East Coast, Florida and the Southeast, The Great Lakes, Chicago and the Midwest, The Heartland and Texas, Arizona and the Rocky Mountains and, finally, the West Coast – from San Diego to Seattle in six stops over 1,300 miles that should take less than two weeks if done efficiently. He’s even got it laid out for a Day 1 to Day 11 scenario that fits in a tourist day in L.A. and alternates visiting Dodger Stadium or Angel Stadium around that break.

His highlights of Dodger Stadium: “It’s hard not to see Dodger Stadium (1000 Vin Scully Ave.) and immediately wax poetic about how the game is supposed to look .. It’s a deceptively simple ballpark that looks absolutely perfect.” And this was before all the renovations to upgrade a center-field front porch and navigation access to all areas.”

And of Angel Stadium: “Dodger Stadium gets all the love, but Angel Stadium (2000 Gene Autry Way, Anaheim) is arguably the most influential ballpark in America. .. Anaheim was arguably the first example of an American city that grew exponentially because of tourism … Angel Stadium may not possess the classic, unvarnished beauty of Dodger Stadium, but it’s a nice park that long ago pointed the way forward for how baseball is experienced today.”

From there are mini-stops for what the best seats are to look for and purchase (you’ll bake on the first-base side at Dodger Stadium so maybe avoid it, and club level works best at the Big A, as does the lower view MVP level in sections 411-426), how to get there most effectively, what to expect for food, if there are stadium tours available, where to shop, where to stay if you’re out of town (yes, the Super 8 on Sunset is OK),  and then other sights to take in around the area, including recreation and hiking.

It’s best to pre-read this before taking any baseball-related trip, but take along as well as to not forget some of the finer nuances of where you end up.

As a bonus, there’s a two-sided pull-out map in the back – one side is a general map of the regions and stadiums to visualize, the other side is the checklist to make sure you’ve got to where you want to go and document it.

Meanwhile, in “100 Miles of Baseball,” the husband and wife team of Dale and Heidi Jacobs are itching to get out and see the baseball world. How will they accomplish it, based in Detroit, and seemingly losing some of their passion for the game?

As the title implies, the map out a way to spend the summer of 2018 hitting as many different live baseball experiences as possible. In providing a map just after the table of contents, they manage their 50 games in 26 ballparks, starting in Windsor, Ontario in Canada, directly east from Detroit.

The impetus is how baseball games with the Tigers sort of became a chore for them. They decided against renewing their 2017 season seats. What could they do instead?

The MLB visits would be minimal — Comerica Park in Detroit and Progressive Field in Cleveland. Most times, they found themselves at places like the Police Athletic League fields, minor league games with Lugnuts, college games, junior college games, secondary school games, amateur men’s leagues … whatever got in their sight-lines, even if they were still wearing mittens and gloves in late March to fight off the cold.

“I tried to maintain a connection to baseball that seemed to be slipping away,” Heidi writes in the prologue.

“As we traveled around Southwestern Ontario and eastern Michigan in the summer of 2017, I started to understand that baseball could still have a place in my life and in the life I shared with Heidi,” adds Dale.

Between March 30 and August 29, ’18, traveling more than 54,000 miles round trip and spending more than $11,000 in tickets, they saw their share of rain delays (Chapter 2), managed to hit three games in 24 hours (Chapter 3), the NCAA Division III regional tournament (Chapter 6), the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League (Chapter 13), the Under  21 Canadian Baseball Championship (Chapter 17), and even a match up of the Tecumseh Green Giants 35+ against the Tillsonburg Old Sox played at Oriole Park in Woodslee, Ontario off Country Road 46.

They are so immersed in the experience that, even while keeping a scorebook, they only know the final result was 6-4, but they aren’t sure who won.

With the idea of what would happen if the couple went to 50 games in a 100-mile radius in one summer, they came out of it even more muddled when the 2020 COVID shutdown occurred as they were finishing up the final edits.

They conclude, without giving away any spoiler alerts:

Baseball is about connecting – with people we’ve just met, people we’ll never meet again, people we know, people we love and miss. Above all, baseball, with its springtime opening, is about new beginnings, about possibility, about hope. Perhaps that’s what we miss and need the most right now.”

How it goes in the scorebook

Pretty trippy even without a GPS.

As neither are traditional baseball books that we’ve come across, both easy to manage paperbacks are interesting in their own right for how they can teach someone about the ways to approach a baseball-related journey.

“Baseball Road Trips” is more something you might expect to get at the Auto Club but with far more detail about what else there is to get to en route, going out of town, and then while you’re there. Few details are left to chance. Opinions/ratings are welcome.

“100 Miles of Baseball” allows for a mindful, stay-in-the-moment experience as the game, and life, unfolds. The Jacobs aren’t necessarily seeking information on how to get from place to place, but to be present and aware at each stop they pick. There is at times far more detail about what happens in the games — maybe some tighter editing would make it a better read, because not every play documented is essential to what we need to discover. But at the end of the day — or the end of 50 days — it is a somewhat predictable conclusion about the game’s impact on their existence. But sometimes, you just need that reinforced. Especially these days.

More to cover

*Some of the better travelogues we have in our personal collection are three key ones by Josh Pahigian for Lyons Press:
=  “The Ultimate Baseball Road Trip,” with Kevin O’Connell (2nd edition), 500 pages, 2012
= “101 Baseball Places To See Before You Strike Out,” (2nd edition), 238 pages, 2015
= “The Amazing Baseball Adventure: Ballpark Wonders from the Bushes to the Show,” 238 pages, 2017

= “I Don’t Care if We Never Get Back: 30 Games in 30 Days on the Best Worst Road Trip Ever,” by Ben Blatt and Eric Brewster, Grove Press, 348 pages, 2014
= “The Baseball Fan’s Bucket List: 162 Things You Must See, Do, Get & Experience Before You Die,” by Robert and Jenna Santelli, Running Press, 287 pages, 2010

*The Moon guides offer such diverse background and planning for those wishing to take on things such as take walking tours of major cities, a visit to national parks, camping and hiking trails; conquer a list of the 50 best road trips in the U.S., and even revisit U.S. Civil Rights Trail.

Day 29 of new baseball book reviews in 2021: What’s the real deal, or the fix for fiction can lead to friction

“Escape from Castro’s Cuba”

The author:
Tim Wendel

The publishing info:
University of Nebraska Press
270 pages
Released March 1, 2021

The links:
At the publisher’s website
At the author’s website
At L.A.’s The Last Book Store

“Big League Life”

The author:
Chip Scarinzi

The publishing info:
Rowe Publishing
244 pages
Released March 30, 2021

The links:
At the publisher’s website
At the author’s website
At L.A.’s The Last Book Store

“This Never Happened: The Mystery Behind
the Death of Christy Mathewson”

The author:
J.B. Manheim

The publishing info:
Summer Game Books
272 pages
Released released April 28, 2021

The links:
At the publisher’s website
At the author’s website
At L.A.’s The Last Book Store

The reviews in 90 feet or less

Here’s our angle when it comes to this fixation on fiction: It’s not real, it can be really compelling, or really gnarly. The end game: Is it entertaining enough to commit the time and brain room for it? It depends on your disposition, expectations and a higher tolerance for pain. Also, your trust in someone’s recommendation.

Starting with our fiction heroes: Robert Pirsig (“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintence”), John Irving (“The World According to Garp,” “The Cider House Rules,” “A Prayer for Owen Meany”) and Harper Lee (“To Kill A Mockingbird”) would be at the top. With Francis Scott Key  Fitzgerald (“This Side of Paradise,’ “The Beautiful and Damned,” “The Great Gatsby” and “Tender Is the Night”) the best go-to author in any English Lit class for a lesson on how to get things done in a short lifespan.

The most current fiction read in our rotation is Paul Theroux’s “Under the Wave at Waimea,” which we jumped on after hearing him appear with Scott Simon on NPR’s “Weekend Edition” and then reading a profile about him in the New York Times. He has a very cool space created for himself to create sentences and paragraphs (above).

Theroux focuses on Joe Sharkey, an aging North Shore surfer who, the Times says, resembles characters Theroux has gotten to know on the beaches near his home. Sharkey has lost a connection to current-day surfers, feeling forgotten. His life as it is connected to surfing is a simple existence.

Amidst this, Sharkey is driving one stormy day and hits, and kills, a homeless man by accident. He doesn’t know how to process how all the bad karma starts to follow him.

Theroux is said to have found surfing to be a metaphor for his own life, just wanting to write without interruption or distractions. And also wonder if people still remember the writer who put “The Mosquito Coast” on the map, as well as many other best sellers.

“I was once a hot shot, I was once the punk,” Theroux says in the story. “And anyone who has once been a punk, eventually you’re older, and you see the turning of the years as it is. We all feel it, every writer. They might deny it. But they do, they all feel it.”

Continue reading “Day 29 of new baseball book reviews in 2021: What’s the real deal, or the fix for fiction can lead to friction”

Day 28 of (at least) 30 baseball book reviews in 2021: A cheat sheet/check list as to who, what, how and why not try

“Cheated: The Inside Story of the Astros Scandal
and a Colorful History of Sign Stealing”

The author:
Andrew Martino

The publishing info:
Doubleday Book
288 pages
Released June 8, 2021

The links:
At the publisher’s website
At The Last Book Store in L.A.
At Eso Won
At Diesel

The review in 90 feet or less

However many fans were allowed into Dodger Stadium last May 21, eventually they weren’t going to go away feeling cheated.

The Arizona Diamondbacks’ Josh Reddick took his turn at the plate in the eighth inning against the Dodgers’ Blake Treinen, but Dodger fans could see past this new skin he was wearing. A one-time Dodger half-season rental in 2016 who never really endeared himself to the L.A. home base before going to Houston, Reddick might not have guessed there were only about 15,000 COVID-restricted fans in the facility when the chant started in the right field pavilion, and soon became pretty obvious for those watching on TV.

“Cheater … Cheater …”

Maybe they were prompted a few innings earlier, when Dodger Stadium organist Dieter Ruehle played a peppy version of the song, “I Saw The Sign,” when Reddick was coming to the plate.

No matter what you choose to be still angry about concerning the recent actions of the Astros — winners of the 2017 World Series over the Dodgers, losers in the 2018 ALCS to eventual World Champion Boston, losers in a seven-game 2019 World Series to Washington and nearly winning the 2020 ALCS which would have put them over Tampa Bay and into a World Series rematch in against the Dodgers in last year’s bizarre finish in Texas — you should know as much of the facts as possible.

Continue reading “Day 28 of (at least) 30 baseball book reviews in 2021: A cheat sheet/check list as to who, what, how and why not try”