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Day 26 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: Cone isn’t just a YES man, and, no, he doesn’t gloss over that time in ’88 …

41M523FGBbLThe book:

“Full Count: The Education of a Pitcher”

The author:
David Cone with Jack Curry

The publishing info:
Grand Central Publishing (part of the Hachette Book Group), $28, 400 pages, due out May 14

The links:
At the publisher’s website, at Amazon.com, at BarnesAndNoble.com (signed copies available), at Powells.com

The review in 90 feet or less

The original thought was to make this as a combo-item with “108 Stiches” by Ron Darling  – both were Mets teammates for a time in the late ’80s and both are now New York-local team broadcasters.
Cone even writes about a time in ’87 when he just came up with the Mets, and Darling took him to a men’s clothing store to teach him how to dress — blue blazer, find some slacks to match.
“That was a big deal,” Cone writes on page 116, ” and I appreciated how Darling guided me and taught me how to be a professional.”
But there were some things Darling couldn’t stop from happening in ’88.
The deeper we went into this Cone tome, it was worth extracting the time when Cone decided to reveal himself to the world. Knowing his impact on the outcome of the ’88 NLCS against the Dodgers, we didn’t want to just gloss over his part in L.A.-sports history for those who may not remember.
He gets right to it in Chapter 2, “When The Going Gets Tough.” Continue reading “Day 26 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: Cone isn’t just a YES man, and, no, he doesn’t gloss over that time in ’88 …”

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Day 25 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: Re-meet the Mets of ’69, from every nostalgic entry point possible

Fifty years later, the Miracle Mets may be more in demand than ever before for franchise die-hards looking for something to latch onto. (As a treat, watch the entire decisive Game 5 of the 1969 World Series on NBC with Curt Gowdy on the call, and Sandy Koufax and Mickey Mantle in the studio with weird red blazers).
Honestly, we have little patience for all this. It’s a great milestone of sorts, a seared memory for many whose fancy was captured eight years after the team was launched as a group of misfits under Casey Stengel.
We don’t need a lot of rehashed history if you’re a Southern California baseball fan. But we let you know these exist just the same.

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 Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

We are into reunions. In 2009, they had a 40-year anniversary: Yogi Berra, Nolan Ryan, Jerry Grote, Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Duffy Dyer made it. This time it’s going to be much more difficult.
As Patrick J. Sauer writes in a New York magazine review of all the books churned out this time of year on this anniversary – and Sauer wasn’t even alive then — “the ’69 Mets still have a psychic hold on a substantial chunk of the fan base — even those, like myself, who only know the legend of Tommie Agee through fuzzy television clips and the barstool-chatterbox oral histories passed down from the rickety cheap seats of Shea Stadium. … But ’69, man: That team is frozen in time, encased in the bedrock on which this baseball-mad city was built. I knew the broad strokes, but I wanted a crash course in the day-to-day and the aftermath, then and now, and the looming anniversary gave me hundreds of pages’ worth. What I came to understand is that, while the outcome of the ’69 Series never changes, the lives of the players and those who follow them do. Records are broken, memories fade, players get older and then they die; their blunders and triumphs live on only in books.”
So now, the Mets, with all their blue-and-orange glory,  are a thing again. We’ve decided to recap all this revisionist history in one fell swoop of a Swoboda-looking dive: Continue reading “Day 25 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: Re-meet the Mets of ’69, from every nostalgic entry point possible”

Day 24 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: Everyone’s still wild about Harry? Let’s not get carried away

71e5kd7-O0LThe book:

“The Legendary Harry Caray: Baseball’s Greatest Salesman”

The author:
Don Zmida

The publishing info:
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, $34, 352 pages, released April 12

The links:
At the publisher’s website, at Amazon.com, at BarnesAndNoble.com, at Powells.com

The review in 90 feet or less

Using the Dodgers’ annual trip to Wrigley Field as a news hook, as noted in the Day 23 review, there will likely include a recorded version of Harry Caray singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch.
That’s still a stretch in our book. The guest singers who have stepped in to do it since Caray’s death in Rancho Mirage just before his 84th birthday as spring training approached in 1998 are able to make the song live and personal. Like, when Bob Costas and John Smoltz did it Tuesday night (and avoided singing they would “root, root, root for the Cubbies.”).
Keeping the artificial spirit of Caray alive with the recording … not necessary.
But the process of recording anything that is attached to the life of Caray, things can get a little hairy.
carraeThe Baseball Hall of Fame resident in the broadcasters’ wing — getting there 13th in line — isn’t someone you may recognize by the portrait used by the Cooperstown-based website. Instead, there is this cartoon version from his 13-year run with the Cubs that too often defines him.
That brings us to Zminda, a Chicago native now L.A.-based SABR member who spent decades working at Stats LLC in publications and research. The Northwestern grad has several important books published on the game, and decided to jump into this one when the publishers came asking one day if he had any projects he wanted to work on upon his 2016 retirement.
What do we need to know about him after knowing there were books done that include Caray’s own sorta biography (“Holy Cow!” with Bob Verdi, from 1989).
After his death, we remember “I Remember Harry Caray,” by George Castille with Rich Wolfe and a forward by Jack Brickhouse in 1998, plus “Where’s Harry?: Steve Stone Remembers 25 Years with Harry Caray” by Steve Stone in 1999. Eventually came “Harry Caray: Voice of the Fans” by Pat Hughes, with a CD of calls, from 2007.
We can even throw in there as a dessert topping: “The Harry Caray’s Restaurant Cookbook: The Official Home Plate of the Chicago Cubs” by Jane and Michael Stern in 2003. Continue reading “Day 24 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: Everyone’s still wild about Harry? Let’s not get carried away”

Day 23 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: Another Wrigley moment from 40 years ago

91TCtdnavnLThe book:

“Ten Innings at Wrigley: The Wildest Ballgame Ever, with Baseball on the Brink”

The author:
Kevin Cook

The publishing info:
Henry Holt & Company, $30, 242 pages, to be released May 7

The links:
At the publisher’s website, at Amazon.com, at BarnesAndNoble.com, at Powells.com

The review in 90 feet or less

The Dodgers’ annual venture today into Wrigley Field for a three-game series against the Cubs comes with its own crazy history to lean upon and laugh.
October, 2017: Kiki Hernandez hits three homers in the decisive 2017 NL Championship Series Game 5. We can read that sentence three times and it still makes no sense.
June 2015: Adrian Gonzalez reaches over a tarp roller along the first base line to make a catch, but a dad holding his baby in his left arm reaches out to grab the ball with his bare right hand. Fan interference prevailed.

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May, 2000: Nineteen Dodgers players and coaches are fined or suspended after a fan reaches into the bullpen down the first-base line, grabs the cap off the head of Chad Krueter after hitting him in the head, and then the team roster went into the stands to chase him down.
August, 1982: Six years before they put lights in the park, the Cubs have to suspend a game in the 17th inning against the Dodgers because of darkness. So, they picked it up the next day. Ron Cey gets kicked out in the 20th inning. Tommy Lasorda has no more position players. Pedro Guerrero moves from right field to third base, and Fernando Valenzuela grabs a glove and heads to the outfield. Bob Welch ends up playing in the outfield as well, and the Dodgers claim a 2-1 win in the 21st inning in a game listed as six hours and 10 minutes. And not one home run.
Add to that: Jerry Reuss got the win pitching four innings of one-hit shutout relief. After resting a little bit, he pitches the first five innings of the next game and gets another win. Nine innings in one day, two wins, no complete games. You can’t make that up.

Was it as silly as the game play at Wrigley 40 years ago  — May 17, 1979 – when the Philadelphia Phillies prevailed in a 23-22 decision that needed a 10th inning to sort it all out and create a line score that reads like a couple of random phone numbers from suburban Chicago and somewhere in Canada (area codes included)? Probably not.

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Continue reading “Day 23 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: Another Wrigley moment from 40 years ago”

Day 22 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: The pridefulness of the Yankees … and all the fallen trees sacrificed for more (better?) history

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With all the dollars and sentiments expended each year on the newest shipment of Yankees-related and rebranded baseball books, how does one make educated purchases?
If you live in New York, apparently you buy ’em up.
In Southern California, it’s a cluster mess.
We liken it to walking into a Yankee Candle store. The nose knows which ones might be a little more spicy than the others, but mostly … old and musty.
As the Yankees hobble into Orange County tonight for the first of a four game series and practically everyone of importance on the injured list – they’ll be back in late August for a weekend series at Dodger Stadium, perhaps feeling better – here are the best, OK and worst of what’s out there this season when it comes to pride-fullness Yankeeness:

The book:

71cIGPQGuaL“Inside the Empire: The True Power Behind the New York Yankees”

The authors: Bob Klapish and Paul Solotaroff

The publishing info: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books, $28, 256 pages, released March 26
The links: At the publisher’s website,  at Amazon.com, at BarnesAndNoble.com, 
at Powells.com

The reviews in 90 feet or less: The book jacket promises this to be along the lines of an HBO “Hard Knocks” look at how the Yankees operate, behind the scenes, as Klapish and Solotaroff “pull back the curtain” on the completed 2018 season.
There are plenty of unnamed sources quoted, making this far more a journalistic endeavor that seems to be necessary in getting to some truths. Klapish, a longtime New York reporter at the Post and Daily News, and Solotaroff, a best-selling author, have one thing in common: Their work has appeared in Rolling Stone and Men’s Journal. The way this is written makes it something that is best suited for either publication, but there’s enough material to make it into a couple hundred pages of phrase-turning pleasure that you don’t often get in one of these kind of projects. Continue reading “Day 22 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: The pridefulness of the Yankees … and all the fallen trees sacrificed for more (better?) history”

04.22.19: Five things you should plan for the week ahead based on unscientific evidence of guaranteed importance

black 1We come not to mock the mock-jock drafts, but to concoct our own sense of interest in how the NFL has moved its annual shindig to Nashville, Tenn., and invited ABC to make it a prime-time event.
ABC’s plan, by the way, is to have Robin Roberts at the controls in sort of a “remember me from ESPN?” meets “Good Morning America” vibes. Joining her are the College GameDay crew of Rece Davis, Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso, Desmond Howard, David Pollack, Tom Rinaldi and Maria Taylor, plus Jesse Palmer and special guest Patrick Mahomes. Country singer Luke Bryan is also involved somehow. That leaves ESPN’s coverage with the crew of Trey Wingo, Mel Kiper Jr., Todd McShay, Louis Riddick, Booger McFarland, Chris Mortensen, Adam Schefter and Suzy Kolber.
It’s not quite all hands on deck, but it sure smells like it.
Meanwhile, the NFL Network has its own burst of boys in the 15th year of operation with Rich Eisen and his gang of merry men.
The Rams pick next-to-last in the first round based on winning the NFC (31st pick) with the Chargers locked in at No. 28. Arizona chooses first, most expecting it to take Heisman winning quarterback Kyler Murray — but that’s the drama of it. San Francisco, N.Y. Jets, Oakland, Tampa Bay and the N.Y. Giants are next in line as the prime movers and shakers. No one from USC or UCLA are expected to sniff first-round territory or even rank in the Top 100 of prospects.
How it happens:
* Thursday: First round, 5 p.m., Channel 7, ESPN, NFL Network
* Friday: Rounds two and three, 4 p.m., Channel 7,  ESPN/ESPN2 and NFL Network
* Saturday: Rounds four through seven, 9 a.m., Channel 7, ESPN and NFL Network

****************

black 2Considering the Angels had a game snowed out recently at Wrigley Field, the Dodgers can’t take anything for granted with a starting pitching staff that seems to be bordering on the snowflake flexibility range. Continue reading “04.22.19: Five things you should plan for the week ahead based on unscientific evidence of guaranteed importance”

Day 21 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: The urban and rural co-existence of ballparks, from the architectural critic view

91wiqBL3m9LThe book:

“Ballpark: Baseball in the American City”

The author: Paul Goldberger
The publishing info: Knopf (Doubleday/Penguin Random House), $35, 384 pages, to be released May 14
The links: At the publisher’s website, at Amazon.com, at BarnesAndNoble.com. Also at the author’s website.

The review in 90 feet or less

We bring two points of reference here:

0214_SPO_LDN-L-MEDIA-DCFirst, in 2016, Dr. Chris Kimball, the president and CEO of Cal Lutheran, invited us to a special history class he carved out to teach that spring semester. “U.S. History Through Baseball” was his passion for a 30-session class. On the day we attended, the lesson plan focused on William Cammeyer, a businessman who, in 1862, bought a six-acre vacant lot in Brooklyn and converted it from an outdoor ice-skating pond into a baseball field called Union Grounds. It was a residue of how business was starting to spring up in that New York borough – the predecessor to Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, which was the predecessor to the Dodgers moving to L.A. after trying to get a domed stadium approved.

Kimball had an entire class do a term paper about on stadiums –  a way for them to relate to a ballpark from whatever part of the country they grew up and may have been attached, and then do more research more about it. Kimball, a Boston native, had an affinity for Fenway Park but also talked about his interest in reading more about the old Shibe Park in Philadelphia, where an urban historian described how that section of the city grew and then declined around the life of the ballpark.

51ujxNuE5ULA year later, we came across a book by Jerald E. Podair called “City of Dreams: Dodger Stadium and the Birth of Modern Los Angeles,” and included it high up in our annual book reviews.

Podair, a professor of history and American studies at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisc., devoted all sorts of research into declaring: “Dodger Stadium made downtown Los Angeles possible. Downtown Los Angeles in turn made modern Los Angeles possible.” This, after the construction of the L.A. Aqueduct (1913), City Hall (1928), the Coliseum (1923) and Union Station (1939) gave that central core specific definition, Dodger Stadium’s opening on April 10. 1962, with its modernistic form and accessibility, “began the process of change … the gateway that transformed downtown.”

In beginning work on this unique project, Goldberger, a 68-year-old Pulitzer Prize–winning architecture critic from Yale and contributing editor to Vanity Fair, admits he drew much insight from Podair’s book when it came to the part where he would discuss the evolution of Dodger Stadium.

 

 

In much of his Chapter 6 titled “Leaving The City,” Goldberger gets into how ballparks built or rebuilt in the twentieth century were “dense, lively, curious mixes of the eccentric and the grand. They were disheveled, scrappy and for the most part good natured places, constructed on the premise that there was something valuable in the notion of even so expansive a public space as a baseball park being tightly woven into the urban environment. Baseball parks were a part of the urban fabric because, up until the middle of the twentieth century, everything was part of the urban fabric.”

While Goldberger recounts the motives behind the O’Malleys moving to Los Angeles, buying Wrigley Field in L.A., deciding to use the Coliseum as a home stadium in ’58 while allowing the A.L. expansion Angels to use it as their home field in ’61 as both awaited the construction of Dodger Stadium, we are more enamored with his professional assessments of the Southern California-based landmarks that have undergone several remodels but remain true to their usefulness. Continue reading “Day 21 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: The urban and rural co-existence of ballparks, from the architectural critic view”