What becomes a legend most?

September 24, 2014 · 0 comments

It’s a shame that Derek Jeter’s final days as a Yankee have to be enmeshed in this “debate” over his place in team and MLB history. When I first heard about Keith Olbermann’s “Jeter smackdown,” I thought, “there Keith  goes again, trying to show he’s the smartest guy in the room.” But after listening to it, I have to admit that Olbermann made some good points. One of them was that there’s a whole generation of fans who don’t know baseball without Jeter. To hear their elders talking about how great Ruth and Gehrig and DiMaggio and Mantle were is like hearing fairy tales.

Not being a Yankee fan, I’m fairly neutral on the subject. My objections lie not in the quality of his playing, but in the season-long “Selling of Derek Jeter” campaign which features Brandon Steiner trying to rake in every dime he can (literally).

Yankees radio broadcaster Suzyn Waldman was a guest on a recent Brian Lehrer Show. She might be biased in her admiration for Jeter, but she was honest in her appraisal that she doesn’t “know” him; he’s kept a low profile over his entire career. I wish she and Lehrer had addressed this latest money-grab. (By the way, just as the Yankees had three Jeter “days,” so did the BLS have two Jeter “farewells.”)

And just in case you’re wondering, the title of this entry comes from an old advertising campaign, only instead of fur coats just substitute Michael Jordan athletic shoes.

 

 

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Divine intervention?

September 24, 2014 · 0 comments

(Because you can put all your Jeter memorabilia on a bookshelf.)

Tomorrow is Derek Jeter’s final home game.

Tomorrow is the first day of Rosh Hashana.

Tomorrow, the weather forecast calls for rain.

God is not a Yankees fan.

Note: 100% chance of rain…

So this begs the question: What will happen? Will the Yankees reschedule? How can they? It’s not not like they have an off day before traveling to Boston for their final series of the year.

Since the game no post-season implications, it is not necessary to play the game for any other reason than it would be Jeter’s last one at home.

Will MLB step in and force Baltimore — who clinched the AL East last week — to return to New York? If you were the Orioles, would you want to take a chance of one of your front-liners getting hurt? If they were forced to play, would they stock the line-up with scrubs (no offense, guys), thereby besmirching the integrity of giving it their best shot?

Derek Jeter (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

(Derek Jeter (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images))

From CBSlocal.com:

“I’m told the weather forecast for Thursday isn’t all that bad, and the rain should be out of here. But I am worried about it, and I’ll continue to worry about it,” Commissioner Bud Selig said at Yankee Stadium before Tuesday night’s game.

Isn’t all that bad??? I repeat, 100% chance of rain…

It may sound nasty and with all due respect to those who love Jeter and want him to have this grand send-off (how are there still more than 1,500 seats still unsold?), but I’m hoping the game will be rained out, just to see what happens.

 

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http://a1.mzstatic.com/us/r30/Publication5/v4/14/8a/23/148a2350-b870-14e0-5ae7-67d74e4bb0d8/9781623362980.225x225-75.jpgUsually when I do these things, there are several titles for consideration. But in this case, there are enough to give Roger Kahn’s latest title its own entry, although very few to date have appeared in mainstream publications. I’m adding my thoughts on some of the reviews, but you will make your of judgments.

My take: Brief and without an in-depth analysis of the book.

  • This comes from a non-mainstream source –  Dodger-centric blog — so I don’t know the age of the writer. Could be that this is revelatory information to him.The same could be said about this one from The Baseball Historian blog.
  • I rarely use reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly for recommendations, just news about new titles. These magazines only publish reviews of titles they want book store owners to buy or readers to read, so the inclusion doesn’t strike me as an indication of the books’ merits. Then again, maybe these are the true definitions of “review,” that is, a brief synopsis without commentary.
  • I may have opened a Pandora’s Box when I asked Jeff Pearlman about his “advance praise” blurb for the book. I was working on my own review (see below) and just wanted some sort of affirmation about a few ideas. Whether that led to Pearlman’s essay I can’t say for certain; could be he was planning on it all along. All I know is that it came after our series of texts.
  • Because The Wall Street Journal is behind a paywall, it’s hit or miss whether you can read links posted by others, so I’m reproducing their review by Leigh Montville in its entirety.

The book that pulled Roger Kahn from the crowd of New York sportswriters whacking away at old Underwoods and Olivettis and Smith-Coronas was “The Boys of Summer.” It was published in 1972, and it was a wonder.

Mr. Kahn was 45 years old when the book was released. He wrote about the Brooklyn Dodgers that he had covered in the early 1950s for the New York Herald-Tribune when he was 25, pretty much the same age they were. He had followed them into their athletic retirements, tracked them down in their hometowns and modest circumstances, talked with them about past memories and present problems. This does not sound like a revolutionary approach today, when mega-channel television is filled nightly with walks down memory lane alongside aged linebackers and former relief pitchers, but it was different when Mr. Kahn did it. Very different.

Here was Jackie Robinson, brokenhearted at the death of his son from a car accident on the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut. There was Pee Wee Reese, now the owner of a storm-window company and a bowling alley and part of a bank in Brandenburg, Ky. Here was Duke Snider, bemoaning the failure of his avocado farm in Fallbrook, Calif. There was Roy Campanella, confined to that damnable wheelchair in White Plains, N.Y.”I’ve accepted the chair,” Campanella told Mr. Kahn. “My family has accepted it. My wife has made a wonderful home. I’m not wanting many things. Sure, I’d love to walk. Sure, I would. But I’m not going to worry myself to death because I can’t. I’ve accepted the chair and I’ve accepted my life.”

In the years since then, Mr. Kahn has written 14 books. They have been solid efforts, some more solid than the rest, but none has touched the success of “The Boys of Summer.” Over the years Mr. Kahn has reworked the material from his Brooklyn days. Natural enough, but it could seem like overkill. How interested are we supposed to be about that time, that place, those people? How many times can we read about them?

Well, at least once more for sure.

In what Mr. Kahn promises is his last book, “Rickey & Robinson: The True, Untold Story of the Integration of Baseball,” he returns to Brooklyn and the Dodgers and the jangled emotions of 1947, when a black man finally played major-league baseball. He takes a moment that has been framed and hung on the wall as dusty history—dulled down by the passage of time to textbook importance in classrooms, commemorated with blustery annual speeches about Branch Rickey, the colorblind white general manager, and Robinson, the stoic black second baseman, who confounded the bigots and triumphed. He gives it fresh life.

Rickey is long dead, and Robinson is long dead, and Reese, Campanella, Snider and virtually everyone else around that Dodgers team are dead. The Dodgers have been in Los Angeles for 56 years. Mr. Kahn is 86 years old but is still here to tell the tale, which he does with grace, gusto and his unique perspective.

“The first meeting between Robinson and Rickey, on August 28, has become the stuff of both legend and fairy tales,” he writes. “In 1953, Robinson lay back on a bed in his room at the Hotel Schenley in Pittsburgh and while he talked I took notes, using my Smith-Corona portable typewriter. What follows is verbatim.”

The first time I saw Branch Rickey he was setting up a smokescreen with his cigar. Behind the smoke was a face revealing sincerity.

“Do you think you are capable enough to play baseball in the major leagues?” Mr. Rickey began.

“I don’t know. I’ve only played professional baseball for one year. I don’t know how the Negro Leagues stack up against the minors, let alone the majors.”

Mr. Rickey did not wait to deliver his punch line. “I am willing to offer you a contract in organized baseball. Are you willing to sign it?”

Mr. Kahn’s memories and clip files control all the action. He could be 91-year-old Lucy Marsden in “Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All” by Allan Gurganus, or centenarian Jack Crabb in “Little Big Man” by Thomas Berger, or the aging narrator in any number of works of historical fiction. Except this is nonfiction, and he was there. The direct quotes sound as if they were spoken last Thursday, not 50 or 60 years ago.

“It’s been what, six years since I came to Brooklyn and something like half the big-league clubs now will pick up a Negro player if he has the ability,” Robinson tells Mr. Kahn in 1952 as they sit by the swimming pool at the Sir John Motel, the all-black establishment where the athlete had to stay when he was in Miami.

“The Yankees—” Mr. Kahn starts to reply.

“The Yankees are not in that half. Or the Red Sox. Or the Cubs.”

This is anecdotal, casual history. The side trips are as entertaining as the main story. Mr. Kahn may talk about serious business, as you would expect in such a book, then become derailed by a mention of actor Errol Flynn. Or Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Or Dodger manager Leo Durocher, and how he met his movie-star wife, Laraine Day. The fun begins.

“On a slow train through Texas during spring training 1954, Durocher recounted an ensuing event,” Mr. Kahn writes. “He and Laraine began to hold secret meetings after the 1946 season, while Durocher also struck up a seeming friendship with Laraine’s husband, Ray. One night the three began to watch one of Laraine’s movies in the screening room of the large home she had purchased in the West Hollywood hills. Hendricks soon drank himself to sleep. Leo and Laraine embraced and proceeded to have at it full blast on a piano bench. Suddenly the reel of film snapped in the projector and began flapping loudly.”

The event that happened in 1946 was a story told in 1954, now told again, 60 years later. That is the magic of the book. Mr. Kahn praises the people he thought were heroes, settles scores with the people he didn’t like, fine-tunes the integration story that he thinks has become a bit too sanctified through historians’ eyes. He liked Rickey a lot, liked Robinson a lot, but who’s perfect in this life? Nobody. These are reminiscences of the living, breathing people he knew.

Hallelujah. Roger Kahn still has his fastball, and the boys of those long-ago summers live one more time for a different generation.

—Mr. Montville is the author of “The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth” and “Ted Williams: The Biography of an American Hero.

My take: Montville is quite diplomatic (the concept of authors reviewing each others’ books has always been strange to me). He alerts the reader that, yes, the Rickey-Robinson tale has been told many times before, as has the whole “Brooklyn Dodgers as people’s choice” scenario. But Kahn — having been there — makes it more personal. The “problem” is that Kahn was not there in 1947, only picking up on the story five years later. So everything up to 1952, when he began covering the Dodgers for newspapers, is second-hand.

  • Finally, my own offering from Bookreporter. Like some of the others, I tried to show due reverence to Kahn’s body of work, but have no qualms about pointing out some of the flaws, IMO.

By the way, Kahn’s latest is not to be confused with this, published by Harvey Frommer in 1982.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51BHNH1GZ9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

 

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Not on my bookshelf

September 19, 2014 · 0 comments

My old friend Steven Rosch posted a link to an SI article about the next big thing in baseball equipment on my Facebook timeline. I know you have to move along with the times, but this, this is an abomination.

I understand not all gloves are made of leather; you frequently read about poor  kids in Latin American countries using milk cartons as makeshift mitts, necessity being the mother of invention. But this obviously is more upscale.

No Love for Leather: Nike's Innovative Vapor 360 Baseball Glove is Here

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Note: Just like Chuck Lorre’s “vanity cards” at the end of The Big Bang Theory, you should read these list stories to their conclusion; the end is always changing, even though the theme is basically the same, finishing up with a self-promotional message.

On with the show…

Here are the top ten baseball books as per Amazon.com, as of this posting.

Caveat 1: Print editions only (at least for now); because I’m old school.

Caveat 2: Since the rankings are updated every hour, these lists might not longer be 100 percent accurate by the time you read them. But it’ll be close enough for government work.

Caveat 3: Sometimes they’ll try to pull one over on you and include a book within a category that doesn’t belong. I’m using my discretion to eliminate such titles from my list. For example, for some reason a recent listing included Tarnished Heels: How Unethical Actions and Deliberate Deceit at the University of North Carolina Ended the “The Carolina Way”, which, far as I can tell, is not at all about baseball, at least not in the main. For the sake of brevity, I will be omitting the subtitles, which have become ridiculously long in in some cases in recent years, also at my discretion.

  1. Derek Jeter: Born to be a Yankee, NY Post
  2. Moneyball, by Michael Lewis
  3. Derek Jeter #2: Thanks for the Memories, by David Fischer
  4. Wait Till Next Year, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  5. The Mental Game of Baseball, by H.A. Dorfman
  6. The Closer, by Mariano Rivera with Wayne Coffey. (Bookreporter.com review)
  7. The Life You Imagine: Life Lessons for Achieving Your Dreams, by Derek Jeter
  8. The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter, by Ian O’Connor
  9. A Nice Little Place on the North Side, George F. Will
  10. The Natural, Bernard Malamud

Jeter’s impending retirement are giving his titles an extra nudge, with four three currently in the top 10, including a pre-order on the Fischer book which doesn’t come out until Oct. 14. Frankly, I don’t understand why publishers are putting out new products before the end of the season. The Yankees have an outside chance at a plyoff spot. Wouldn’t that be a fitting coda to Jeter’s career?

Not on this list? 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read before They Die. Ya’ll are gonna do something about that, right? Only seven (!) copies left on Amazon.

And if you have read it, thanks, hope you enjoyed it, and please consider writing a review for the Amazon page. Doesn’t have to be long (or even complimentary, if you didn’t like it), but anything would be appreciated. And thanks to those who have :) .

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What? The season is almost over? Where did the time go?

Went to the Mets-Marlins game last night. Pretty depressing. The announced attendance was 23,892, or 57 percent of capacity. Seemed like whole sections were empty.  With just three home games left, against the Houston Astros over the last weekend of the season, doesn’t look like a great way to go out.

Empty

The team is in classic Catch-22 situation. General Manager Sandy Alderson says the team can’t pu out a better product (i.e., afford elite players) unless the fans come out, and the fans won’t come out until the Mets put a better product on the field. The youngsters they have — Jacob DeGrom, Travis D’Arnaud, Juan Legares, Matt Harvey, et al — have the makings of an exciting ball club. They would have to win seven of their final nine games to finish at .500. Lots of luck.

http://www.learnenglish.de/img/vocab/politics/soapbox.jpgBut what really grinds my gears is when the local papers can’t be bothered to include actual stories about the games anymore. That was the case in The New York Times today. Rather than covering a meaningless game (as far as playoff connotations go), they relied on an AP “story.”  And when I say story, I mean four paragraphs. Plus it’s more from the Marlins perspective than the Mets; the opening graph reminds us that Giancarlo Stanton is done for the season, a victim of a a pitched ball to the face. That was last week; move on.

The next graph begins “Wearing their bright orange alternate jerseys…”

Are you serious? Who’s writing this, an intern? Someone who doesn’t cover sports? WHO GIVES A S*** WHAT COLOR THE JERSEYS ARE??? Are we back in the 1940s, before there was television?

The final two graphs go back to the loss of Stanton. So basically you have the score and that Henderson Alvarez pitched well. Thanks a lot. Granted, you can look up the word “lackluster” in the dictionary and find a description of this game, but even so.

 

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Last month, I heard a  fascinating episode of The Leonard Lopate Show about what we “see” when we read. The guest was Peter Mendelsund, whose primary occupation is that of a book cover designer. You can listen to the segment here:

August was a busy month for Mendelsund. Not only did he publish the aforementioned What We See When We Read, bur also Cover, about the creative process and all the thinking that goes into coming up with the most appropriate book art.

Bernard Malamud’s classic novel of fall and redemption has been around since 1952. Over the decades, it has been wrapped by a number of wildly varying covers. I wonder how the discussions went for some of those designs?

I tried put these covers in guestimated order of publishing (except for the Robert Redford movie tie-in). If anyone has specific information abut the various editions, please let me know.

 TheNaturalFirstEdition1952 The-Natural-Book-Cover-3
TheNatural6 TheNatural1964
TheNatural10 TheNatural5
TheNatural7 TheNatural1967
TheNatural4 TheNatural1973
TheNatural11 TheNaturalBritish2002
TheNaturalAustralia TheNatural8

Just a few observations:

  • Some of the covers are downright dull, leaving me to wonder what the book might be about (in particular the “pinstriped” version with the script font). But the Dell paperback is just the kind of pulp design we’ve come to love from that era, full of sexual tension in a PG-13 manner.
  • I know I’ve seen that drawing of the runner sliding into home plate before, but can’t recall the details.
  • The Yankee on the left of the cover is Ron Blomberg but who are the other two? I’m wondering if that’s Bernie Allen on the right.
  • The book on the left of the middle row strikes me as coming from the late-60s, early-70s, with a kind of psychedelic/horror flavor.
  • The book on the right of the next-to-last row was published in England; the one on the left of the bottom row, Australia.

tHEnATURALpROOFSUPDATE: Facebook friend James Meier pointed me to abebooks.com where I found a few more cover versions and interesting tidbits.

A first edition, signed by the author, is available for $15,000.

You can also get a set of uncorrected proofs — the kind often sent to reviewers before the actual book is released — from the United Kingdom for $155. This was produced in 1963 and contains “an afterword by Malamud and a 10-page glossary of baseball terms not found in the American edition.”

In addition, Meier notes a strong similarity between the cover of the Penguin edition and an illustration by Dick Perez. But Edward Paul Gardner, another FB friend, points out the actual drawing is by Lance Richbourg.

TheNatural1952-155 TheNatural17UK1987
The Natural16 1966 The Natural 1952
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http://ia.media-imdb.com/images/M/MV5BMTk4OTYzMzk0MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzg4NDA0MjE@._V1_SY317_CR5,0,214,317_AL_.jpgJust found out about 108 Stitches on a Facebook post. I could have done without it.

When Roger Clemens blurbs the movie with “If Animal House, Bull Durham and Major League had a threesome, 108 Stitches would be its kid,” you know you’re looking at real art. Of course, that’s assuming that Clemens really did come up with that line. I guess that’s what passes for humor for him. Yuk yuk. (By the way, Clemens appears as himself in this, so it’s hardly an unbiased opinion.)

Here’s the plot summary from IMDB

With baseball being the last thing on these player’s minds, and dealing with one of the longest losing streaks in college history, the team of misfits comes to the realization that the school, led by the corrupt and unethical President of the University, has plans to disband the entire program. Hilarity ensues as they have one afternoon to execute a plan to fill the stadium, sign the top recruit on the planet, and help send their coach out with a bang.

And the trailer

This is actually being shown in theaters? I’ll pretty much watch anything as long as it’s got baseball as a main component, but here’s where I draw the line. This review from the LA Times pretty much expresses my feelings just from the trailer. I’m sensing bad writing and bad acting. They even got Kate Vernon, daughter of the late John Vernon who played Dean Wormer in Animal House, to play the role of the president. Her name? Jennine Wormer Pratt. Homage or precious bullshi*?

No, not even gonna wait for the third strike. Game over, get home safe.

 

 

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Once in a while it’s good to remember that the Baseball Bookshelf is not just about books, but about movies, magazines, collectibles, and illustrations, all of which can also find a spot there on.

So here’s baseball artist Graig Kreindler, whom I first “met” seven years ago when I did a profile on him for the New Jersey Jewish News. I say “met” because until last Thursday, at an exhibit at the Yogi Berra Museum marking the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man” speech, in fact I had only known Kreindler through emails, Facebook messages, and the very occasional phone call.

So after spending  good deal of time that evening chatting with Kreindler and his charming wife, Sarvanez, I decided a Conversation was long overdue.

KaplanKreindler

Kreindler at developing stages of his depiction of the 1927 Yankees, which the artist says is still a work in progress.

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1655427_10152101272639934_303257354_o

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Note: Just like Chuck Lorre’s “vanity cards” at the end of The Big Bang Theory, you should read these list stories to their conclusion; the end is always changing, even though the theme is basically the same, finishing up with a self-promotional message.

On with the show…

Here are the top ten baseball books as per Amazon.com, as of this posting.

Caveat 1: Print editions only (at least for now); because I’m old school.

Caveat 2: Since the rankings are updated every hour, these lists might not longer be 100 percent accurate by the time you read them. But it’ll be close enough for government work.

Caveat 3: Sometimes they’ll try to pull one over on you and include a book within a category that doesn’t belong. I’m using my discretion to eliminate such titles from my list. For example, for some reason a recent listing included Tarnished Heels: How Unethical Actions and Deliberate Deceit at the University of North Carolina Ended the “The Carolina Way”, which, far as I can tell, is not at all about baseball, at least not in the main. For the sake of brevity, I will be omitting the subtitles, which have become ridiculously long in in some cases in recent years, also at my discretion.

  1. Derek Jeter: Born to be a YankeeNY Post
  2. Moneyball, by Michael Lewis
  3. The Closer, by Mariano Rivera with Wayne Coffey. (Bookreporter.com review)
  4. Where Nobody Knows Your Name, by John Feinstein (Bookreporter.com review and Bookshelf Conversation)
  5. The Science of Hitting, by Ted Williams
  6. The Mental Game of Baseball, by H.A. Dorfman
  7. The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter, by Ian O’Connor
  8. The Natural, by Bernard Malamud
  9. The Life You Imagine: Life Lessons for Achieving Your Dreams, by Derek Jeter
  10. Up, Up and Away, by Jonah Keri (Bookshelf conversation)

Jeter’s impending retirement are giving his titles an extra nudge, with three titles currently in the top 10.

Although there’s no baseball book, per se, on this week’s NY Times‘ best-seller list, it’s worth noting that Charles Krauthammer’s Things That Matter (#21)  includes several essays regarding his love for the national pastime in general and the Washington Nationals in particular.

Not on this list? 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read before They Die. Still can’t understand how things work on the Amazon rankings. Last week I wrote how dejected I felt after seeing it fell under (over?) the one million mark in the rankings. On Wednesday it have moved up to 189,000+; right now it’s an even 536,700. Point is, there’s still a long way to go to get it into the top 10, so ya’ll are gonna do something about that, right? Only 10 copies left on Amazon.

And if you have read it, thanks, hope you enjoyed it, and please consider writing a review for the Amazon page. Doesn’t have to be long (or even complimentary, if you didn’t like it), but anything would be appreciated. And thanks to those who have :) .

 

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Here’s the dope on the upcoming film festival hosted at the Baseball Hall of Fame from Sept. 19-21. The following events all take place in the Grandstand Theater. Blurbs come from the Hall of Fame press release.

Following a reception at 5 p.m., The festival gets under way with an introductory discussion and opening film– as yet to be determined — at 6:30.

Saturday, September 20

Session 1 — 10 a.m.

Heading for Home
On 16th Street in Indianapolis, Indiana, stands the once proud Bush Stadium, former home to the Indianapolis Indians. Its beautiful art-deco facade has seen its share of history, including the early Negro leagues and eve n a Hollywood film.
When the team moved downtown in 1995, the stadium and field were left vacant and falling into disrepair. Despite the efforts of smaller companies and local government, the stadium was set for demolition again and again. In 2012, a plan was proposed to adapt the stadium for a modern use: housing. So began the first adaptive reuse of a sports facility for housing in American history. Heading for Home tells the story of the stadium and the historical significance of the site for the city of Indianapolis.

Stealing Home
To the bankrupt City of Detroit, it’s a nine-acre abandoned lot. But to generations of baseball fans, it still feels like home. After Tiger Stadium was demolished in 2009, blight sprung up. But a small group of passionate fans stepped up to the plate, chopping down weeds and restoring the field where more than 200 Hall of Famers played our National Pastime. It sounds like a true feel-good story, but city officials want to sell the land. They view these volunteers as trespassers; police have ordered them to leave. But the grounds crew keeps working, tirelessly spending time, energy, and money to preserve the ball field –– and with it, Detroit’s history. Can they save the field? Or will they be thrown out stealing home?

Session 2 — 1:30 p.m.

Perfect
An E:60 production from ESPN, Perfect explores the history of the 23 perfect games in major league history, headlined by those taking place since 1956. Filled with highlights of the perfect games from the television era, the film includes current interviews with a wide range of well-known hurlers, from Don Larsen to Randy Johnson to David Cone, and takes the viewer inside the mind of the pitcher as he tries to achieve baseball immortality.

Session 3 — 3:30 p.m.

A Ballpark Story
A Ballpark Story follows the behind-the-scenes story of what happens at a major-league ballpark, from the final pitch of one game to the first pitch of the next. Hosted by MLB.com youth correspondent Meggie Zahneis, the film offers a glimpse of what goes into the process of running Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, everything from cleaning the stadium to the dedication of a statue of Hall of Famer Joe Morgan.

Havana Curveball
Thirteen-year-old Mica is studying for his Bar Mitzvah, the Jewish coming of age rite. He takes to heart his Rabbi’s requirement for the adult responsibility to help “heal the world.” Remembering how his grandfather once escaped Nazi persecution and found refuge in Cuba, the boy launches a grand plan to send sports equipment to the poor but baseball-crazed Communist country. When he has assembled a sufficient number of goods, he learns of the U.S. embargo on Cuba, which endangers his dream. During the course of this documentary film, Mica learns that being an adult also means having to fight for one’s dreams. (My note: Here’s a piece I did on the project for the NJ Jewish News a few years ago.)

Session 4 — 7 p.m.

No No: A Dockumentary
On June 12, 1970, Dock Ellis of the Pittsburgh Pirates threw a no-hitter. In 137 years of organized baseball, it’s the only no-hitter tossed by a pitcher under the influence of LSD. While baseball hadn’t fully embraced racial equality, the controversial Ellis was an outspoken leader who lived the expression ‘Black and Beautiful!’ His fearlessness enabled him to become a trailblazer for a new wave of civil rights. After retiring, Dock became just as outspoken about his career-long drug abuse problems. He spent decades as a counselor, helping other addicts in their recoveries. Through intimate stories and a trove of archival footage, No No: A Dockumentary brings Dock’s vibrant life to light, burnishing the legend and revealing the man behind it.

Sunday, September 21

Session 5 — 10 p.m.

Wrigley 100: A Century Celebration
For 100 years, Wrigley Field has showcased the game’s greatest players in America’s most beautiful ballpark. An homage to the beloved ballpark, Wrigley 100 showcases the stories behind the great moments on Chicago’s North Side, as told by the men who made those memories, including Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins, Billy Williams, Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson, Ron Santo, Hank Aaron, Mike Schmidt, and many more. Over the course of its history, Wrigley Field has provided a wonderful mix of history, fun, passion and beauty.

Session 6 — 1 p.m.

Leaving Traces
Inspired by the 25th anniversary of Bull Durham, a team of artists converged on the Durham Bulls Athletic Park to document the legendary minor league team’s 2013 season. Leaving Traces follows the documentarians — including renowned photographers Alec Soth, Hiroshi Watanabe, Hank Willis Thomas, Kate Joyce, Frank Hunter, Leah Sobsey, and Alex Harris, and writer Adam Sobsey — as they confront the challenges of finding something new in a minor league ballpark. While techniques and output vary, this diverse group is united by baseball’s (and photography’s) unique experience with time. The slow, measured movements often hide the roiling drama beneath. By interweaving stories about process and craft, Leaving Traces evokes baseball’s atmosphere and captures the struggle to make the unseen visible.

Session 7 — 3 p.m.

5 Outs
A historical documentary that profiles the journey of the 2003 Cubs, 5 Outs examines the team from start to finish and explores the franchise’s failure to win its first World Series title in 95 years. The 2003 Championship Series saw the Cubs holding a 3-0 lead in the 8th inning of Game 6, when chaos broke lose, ignited by an infamous foul ball incident. The incident changed the landscape of Chicago baseball forever, affecting those in and outside of the baseball community. Voiced by Golden Globe and Emmy nominee William Petersen, the documentary features interviews with players who had never before spoken about the topic. Among others, Moises Alou, Dusty Baker, and Kerry Wood explore the impact the team had on a city thirsting for a world championship.

Festival Wrap-Up
4:30 p.m.

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Because some people eat across while others “rotate.”

I host a blog about Jews and sports as part of my day job as sports editor for the NJ Jewish News. One of the daily routines is to scan the box scores to see how the Jewish ballplayers fared, but obviously you can do this for your favorites as well. My source of choice is the ESPN coverage, which is a pretty standard layout.

The first thing I do is make sure a player got into the game. After that I check out his line. How many times did he come to bat? How many runs did he score, hits did he make, and runs did he drive in? If I see a line like Lind’s, the next thing I do is see if the hit was a home run, accounting for all three numbers. In this case, it wasn’t.

Then I look to see if any of the hits went for extra bases. In this cases, the two highlighted players are Kevin Pillar and Danny Valencia, two of the dozen Jews currently on Major League rosters. Both of them doubled.

If there are fewer at bats than seem appropriate, compared with the lineup round the batter, I look to see if he walked or was hit by a pitch to account for the discrepancy. Then I look to see the baserunning section: did he steal and or get caught or picked off?

If the batter didn’t get any hits or walks/HBP, what did he do with his plate appearances? This is where I click on ESPN’s play-by play section where I can find out if his outs were productive (did he move the baserunner along where he might score on a subsequent at bat?)

Infrequently, though, I look to see the fielding portion: any errors? The Oakland As outfielder Sam Fuld is known for his defensive prowess; did he have any assists?

It’s the same for pitchers. I’ve long said that a pitching line might not accurate reflect performance. For example, here’s what Craig Breslow did on Sept. 10 against the Baltimore Orioles:

Now at first glance, this seems pretty crappy. But when you go into the play-by-play, you see Breslow threw a perfect fourth inning, striking out two then retired the first two batters in the fifth before allowing a double and a home run. The third hit came on an infield single. Doesn’t seem to terrible now, does it?

Many years ago, I’m thinking in the mid-1990s, the Washington Post ran a piece in their science section (!) in which the challenge was to answer questions based just on the box score. If anyone has that or knows how to find it, I’d be obliged. It was a lot of fun as I recall.

There have been several good books about keeping score; here are a couple of my favorites:

* The Joy of Keeping Score: How Scoring the Game Has Influenced and Enhanced the History of Baseball, by Paul Dickson

* Baseball Scorekeeping: A Practical Guide to the Rules, by Andres Wirkmaa

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“Reality” TV

"Oddballs"

Is something I’ve never been into. I find very little “real” about it. And I don’t mean to keep on picking on Brandon Steiner (see here and here), but I accidentally came on his eponymous SNY show, The Hookup with Brandon Steiner, last night. I say “accidentally” because my on-air TV guide said it was […]

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Kids, do NOT try this at home

"Oddballs"

Leave it to the professionals. Post by MLB. Be sociable, share the Bookshelf! Tweet

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A night at the museum: Graig Kreindler

Artist profile

I don’t need an excuse to visit the Yogi Berra Museum. For one thing, it’s almost a Roberto Clemente throw from my house. For another, they always have great events with interesting guests. (The only problem is parking. Hey, Dave Kaplan, work on that, okay?) Last night the Museum hosted an opening reception for “The […]

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I’ll buy that for a dollar

Because I can...

Not bloody likely if you’re talking about the (gold)keystone combination of Derek Jeter and Brandon Steiner. Last week I gave some heat to this memorabilia stupidity. I guess if Steiner can find some fans who don’t know what to do with their money and are willing to part with it for Jeter tchotchkes, more power […]

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The Bookshelf Conversation: Nicholas Dawidoff

Author profile/interview by Ron Kaplan

Nicholas Dawidoff has pretty much done it all when it comes to non-fiction writing: memoir, biography, anthology. And done it all well. The Flyswatter, a sentimental recollection of his grandfather, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 2003.  His first book, The Catcher Was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg, is considered the […]

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Bits and pieces, Sept. 5

2014 title

Vince McKee will discuss his book,  Jacobs Field: History and Tradition at The Jake, at the  Lakewood Public Library, Lakewood, Ohio, on Thursday, Sept. 11, at 7 p.m. Another author(s) appearance: Springfield (Mass.)’s Bring It Home baseball committee will feature local writers Richard Andersen and Marty Dobrow in an Authors Night presentation on Sunday, Sept. […]

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Baseball best-sellers, Sept. 5

2014 title

Note: Just like Chuck Lorre’s “vanity cards” at the end of The Big Bang Theory, you should read these list stories to their conclusion; the end is always changing, even though the theme is basically the same, finishing up with a self-promotional message. On with the show… Here are the top ten baseball books as […]

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Sy Berger: Still the Topps

Artist profile

Sports Collectors Digest ran a nice profile on the “father of the modern baseball card,” who recently turned 91. A few years ago, Topps, seeking to nudge their way into relevance again, produced a number of videos about their work. Here’s one on Berger: Speaking of collectibles, the Miami Marlins have a Bobblehead Museum at […]

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