NOTE: I have been posting these things long enough now that a few have commented that the introductory section isn’t necessary anymore. But I’m leaving it in because, to paraphrase Joe DiMaggio when asked why he played so hard all the time, there may be people who’ve never read the best-seller entries before. So on with the show…

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.

  1. The Baseball Whisperer: A Small-Town Coach Who Shaped Big League Dreams, by Michael Tackett
  2. House of Nails: A Memoir of Life on the Edge, by Lenny Dykstra
  3. Ahead of the Curve: Inside the Baseball Revolution, by Brian Kenny (Here’s my Bookshelf Conversation with Kenny.
  4.  The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports, by Jeff Passan
  5. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis
  6. The Matheny Manifesto: A Young Manager’s Old-School Views on Success in Sports and Life, by Matheny with Jerry Jenkins
  7. The Natural, by Bernard Malamud
  8. The Only Rule Is It Has to Work: Our Wild Experiment Building a New Kind of Baseball Team, by Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller. (A review from The Hardball Times. Lindbergh was also the featured speaker at an author event at the Bergino Baseball Clubhouse. You can hear him on the store’s podcast here:
  9. I’m Fascinated by Sacrifice Flies: Inside the Game We All Love, by Tim Kurkjian
  10. Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty, by Charles Leerhsen.

* Indicates debut on this list

My faith in America improves as Dykstra drops to number two behind a book that seems to be, nostalgically, “what baseball is all about.”

NY Times: Two baseball titles are included in the most recent monthly (July) Times‘ sports list: The Arm is at #6, with Tom Stanton’s Terror in the City of Champions: Murder, Baseball, and the Secret Society that Shocked Depression-era Detroit at #16.

Not on either the Amazon or Times‘ lists? 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read before They Die. Today: 1,004,890; last week: 115,571. Whaaaa? Ugly reversal of fortune. ow!

If you have read 501, thanks, hope you enjoyed it, and please consider writing a review for the Amazon page; it’s never too late. There haven’t been any in awhile. 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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The old grind

July 21, 2016 · 0 comments

One idea that’s being increasingly  kicked around is reducing the Major League schedule from 162 to 154 games. This was one of the segments on yesterday’s Pardon the Interruption.

Co-host Tony Kornheiser, being old, remembers the pre-1961 expansion era when the regular season consisted of the lower figure. There was also no post-season other than the World Series.

There are a few advantages to this. For one thing, the players stay fresher. Kornheiser pointed out the grind of being on the job from February to — for some — the end of October (if not November if each round of playoffs goes the distance). You can listen to the show here (skip to just before the four-minute mark). Barry Svrluga devoted a whole book to the topic.

Sorry, but I’m not buying that one. Yes, they do a lot of travelling through several time zones, but they are not actually putting in an eight-hour day on the assembly line. And yes, they’re at the ballpark several hours before the game, but there’s a lot of down time, even while they’re on the field.

I’m more in agreement with either starting the season later or ending it earlier. Of course, starting later is no guarantee the weather will cooperate and the suggestion to hold all earl-season contests in domed stadiums or in warm-weather cities seems a bit unfair.

And as much as we love baseball, not having the World Series drag into November is also to be desired (as is earlier starting times for the games so they don’t span two days).

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Crossover episode

July 19, 2016 · 0 comments

As a “reward” for having my submission on an episode of Deadwood accepted into the Extra Hot Great canon (you can go ahead and skip to about the 37-minute mark), I got to choose a topic for an “EHG mini.” Shouldn’t surprise anyone that I found a way to combine my two favorite pastimes — sports and TV. The topic was, which pro athletes did the best job of portraying themselves on the small screen

They posted the mini yesterday; here you go.

Among the players/shows selected by the panel:

  • John McEnroe on 30 Rock
  • Martina Navratilova on Will and Grace
  • Ryan Lochkte, also on 30 Rock
  • Bill Buckner on Curb Your Enthusiasm

 

  • and Keith Hernandez on Seinfeld

 

 

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The Dykstra debacle

July 18, 2016 · 0 comments

As you might have noticed from my weekly posting about baseball best-sellers, I’m not overly happy that Lenny Dykstra’s new memoir, House of Nails, is doing well. It came in at No. 11 on the most recent New York Times best-seller list for non-fiction.

This isn’t a case of schadenfreude. It’s that people are more interested in dirt from someone who many wouldn’t even consider a celebrity than more important issues from writers who toil so hard for such little return. As Richard Sandomir, the Times‘ sports media columnist observes in his recent review, several interviewers — mostly, it seems, of the low-brow sports-talk radio shows, dote on Dykstra as if he was some sort of hero, kissing his butt with bro-praise, ignoring the terrible things he claims to have done to get ahead, including hiring private detectives to get dirt on umpires as possible blackmail material.

This is what holds our interest at a time when citizens and polic offers are being killed with sad regularity and the November elections portend such dire results?

In Sandomir’s considered opinion, House of Nails

… is not an eloquent autobiography, like Andre Agassi’s Open, and is more in keeping with the spirit of Jose Canseco’s Juiced. It is not explosive, unless his accusation that the former Mets manager Davey Johnson drank a lot is big news. It is rather a narcissist’s delight, so relentlessly focused on Dykstra’s ego and antics that you need to rest occasionally from the Lenniness of it all.

At least Canesco’s book served a purpose in bringing to light the reach of PED, even though many in the baseball hierarchy sought to turn a blind eye to the situation. What life lesson is Dykstra offering?

Add to that his firing of veteran author Peter Golenbock as his co-writer because, as Sandomir writes, “Dykstra said he had needed to take control of the book to preserve his singular voice, which is notably profane and blustery and as obsessed with sex as a pubescent boy.”

(I’ve also lost some respect for Stephen King, whose blurb is featured on the cover. Unless it’s one of those situations where the publisher cobbled together words that King included in his assessment, although not necessarily in the order in which it appears.)

I often link the books in these entries to the Amazon page, hoping to earn a few coins if some of you readers decided to order the various merchandise. Not this time.

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Once in awhile a book will come along purporting to be “the next big thing” in how people perceive, discuss, and/or enjoy the national pastime. These are usually written by someone in the broadcasting industry, which makes sense. After all, these people have seen hundreds of games a year; who better to offer insight with no particular allegiance to a specific team or player?

Brian Kenny is one such person. A veteran broadcaster/analyst for the MLB Network, his new book Ahead of the Curve: Inside the Baseball Revolution offers an interesting examination of some of the flaws in the sport, both in recent years as time has changed the way the game is played and historically, when you really think about it.

I had a chance to talk with Kenny recently about some of his theories and how long he thought it might take for the baseball establishment to come around to his way of thinking.

 

 

 

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Re-routed from a post on Facebook by the Hall of Fame:

A busy week of Author Series events is coming to the Hall of Fame next week, as we lead up to this year’s Induction Ceremony on July 24.

On Wednesday, July 20, longtime author Dan Schlossberg will discuss his newest book, 14 Flags Over Atlanta, in a 1 p.m. presentation in the Bullpen Theater.

On Friday, July 22, at 1 p.m., Spink Award winner Hal McCoy will be available to sign copies of his book, The Real McCoy: My Half Century with the Cincinnati Reds.

And then on Saturday, July 23, MLB Network personality Brian Kenny will lead a presentation on his first book, Ahead of the Curve. The talk will begin at 1 p.m. in the Grandstand Theater and will be followed by a book signing in the Library Atrium.

For more information on any or all of these Author Series events, call 607-547-0362.

 

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NOTE: I have been posting these things long enough now that a few have commented that the introductory section isn’t necessary anymore. But I’m leaving it in because, to paraphrase Joe DiMaggio when asked why he played so hard all the time, there may be people who’ve never read the best-seller entries before. So on with the show…

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.

  1. House of Nails: A Memoir of Life on the Edge, by Lenny Dykstra
  2. The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports, by Jeff Passan
  3. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis
  4. The Baseball Whisperer: A Small-Town Coach Who Shaped Big League Dreams, by Michael Tackett
  5. Ahead of the Curve: Inside the Baseball Revolution, by Brian Kenny (look for a Bookshelf Conversation with Kenny next week)
  6. One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, an Unlikely Coach, and a Magical Baseball Season, by Chris Ballard
  7. The Matheny Manifesto: A Young Manager’s Old-School Views on Success in Sports and Life, by Matheny with Jerry Jenkins
  8. The Only Rule Is It Has to Work: Our Wild Experiment Building a New Kind of Baseball Team, by Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller. (A review from The Hardball Times. Lindbergh was also the featured speaker at an author event at the Bergino Baseball Clubhouse. You can hear him on the store’s podcast here:
  9. The Natural, by Bernard Malamud
  10. I’m Fascinated by Sacrifice Flies: Inside the Game We All Love, by Tim Kurkjian

* Indicates debut on this list

My weeping for America continues unabated: Dykstra’s book remaining on the best-seller list (the other meaning for BS?). Although I would be curious to hear the audio version, which is narrated by Patrick Lawlor. (Actually here’s a sample from Audible.com. Not doofy enough, IMO, since this is supposed to be a first-person read.)

TWO books on small-town baseball? On the one hand, it’s a nice relief from the high-pressure, money-grabbing, big-city version. A throwback to a kinder, gentler time perhaps?

NY Times: Two baseball titles are included in the most recent (July) Times‘ sports list: The Arm is at #6, with Tom Stanton’s Terror in the City of Champions: Murder, Baseball, and the Secret Society that Shocked Depression-era Detroit at #16.

Not on either the Amazon or Times‘ lists? 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read before They Die. Today: 115,571; last week: 1,049,782. Wow! At this rate it should be #1 by tomorrow around 3 p.m.

If you have read 501, thanks, hope you enjoyed it, and please consider writing a review for the Amazon page; it’s never too late. There haven’t been any in awhile. 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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Yesterday I spoke with Brian Kenny, MLB Network broadcaster and author of a new book on, basically, how a lot of our thinking about baseball is wrong. The subtitle is “Inside the Baseball Revolution,” but I think “evolution” is more accurate. After all, it’s taken decades for some of the new generation of analytics to gain acceptance by the powers that be in the front office. Kenny certainly has some revolutionary ideas, but several commentators have noted, baseball, as perhaps the most tradition-conscious of the major sports, moves pretty slowly when it comes to change.

I won’t say I’m a “dinosaur,” the word — unkind in my opinion — used by Baseball Prospectus to describe former NY Times and notorious blog-hater Murray Chass — but I do think that some of these metrics go above and beyond my interest level when it comes to deconstructing the game. A few years ago I received a copy of Eric Blabac’s Encyclopedia of Baseball Statistics: From A to ZrIt’s obvious a lot of work went into this; after all, there are over 500 pages in the large format paperback. But are all of these stats really necessary? I may be wrong, but if I recall correctly, there are different formulas for calculating WAR (Wins Above Replacement), which is one of the new standards.

Back to Kenny: his new book is certainly not all about numbers. One of the most interesting sections has to do with the “importance” of wins in judging a pitcher’s value. According to Kenny, baseball should abolish that individual stat altogether. I won’t go into it in detail here; buy the book or listen to the Bookshelf Conversation which will be posted next week (actually listen and buy). But do we really expect that concept to be adopted any time soon?

Evolution, not revolution.

Here are a few pieces about Ahead of the Curve:

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More appropriately, perhaps, a Tribute from Johnny Bench, who contributed this “Field Notes” piece on some of his experiences on the field via The Players Tribune site, a part of which is his essay on “The Greatest Play I Ever Made.” Surprisingly thoughtful.

At last year’s All-Star Game, Bench — along with Willie Mays , Hank Aaron, and Sandy Koufax — were designated as the greatest living players in baseball. The MLB Network featured a round-table interview hosted by Bob Costas and it was fascinating to hear them chat, especially Koufax, whom we rarely hear from. Here’s just a little taste:

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The All-Star break affects more than just the ball clubs. It leaves fans hungry for something to watch and puts a big burden on the MLB Network and other sports channels to find content. After all, there are only so many highlight-reel shows you can watch.

So tonight at 9:30 (EST) ESPN airs Doc & Darryl, one of their 30-for-30 documentaries. Here’s a review by NY Times sports media columnist Richard Sandomir.

The 90-minute film ( so what exactly does “30-for-30” mean?) was co-directed by Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio.

 

From the ESPN description:

When they were good, they were the biggest stars on a team that captured New York City and the 1986 World Series. But when they were bad, Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry broke the hearts of Mets fans. … Reunited at a diner in Queens, the pitcher and the power hitter look back on the glory days of the mid-’80s and the harrowing nights that turned them from surefire Hall of Famers into prisoners of their own addictions. Listening to Doc talk about missing the parade down the Canyon of Heroes, or Darryl counsel others at his ministry, you can only wish that these two very different men had not followed the same destructive path.

The premise is fairly standard, especially to us Mets fans of that era, and not particularly new. Doc and Darryl came on the scene very young, bright stars that burned out too quickly. Ironically, they got one of many second chances through the good graces of the rival Yankees and George Steinbrenner: Gooden threw a no-hitter and Strawberry had the chance to throw in a few nostalgic home runs.

The question in so many of these stories: what might have been?

Frankly, I’m tired of these programs that pull at the heart strings, the silent stares of the subjects as the look off into the distance while the audio offers highlights culled from old broadcasts. That’s basically the whole 30-second trailer, so I didn’t bother posting it here.

But since there’s nothing else to watch…

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The 1957 film version of Jim Piersall’s Fear Strikes Out depicted the relationship between a star player, performed by Anthony Perkins — in his first starring role (according to the trailer below) and in one of the silliest examples of athletic casting since Paul Bendix tried to pull off being Babe Ruth — and his overbearing father, portrayed by the steady Karl Malden.

http://ia.media-imdb.com/images/M/MV5BMTg0Mjg5MTY2NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzM4NjEwOTE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_.jpgNow we have The Phenom, starring with Johnny Simmons in the titular role and Ethan Hawke as the domineering dad. Of course, in this current climate, the story has to be even darker, with a nod to controlling Little League parents who indulge their kids in the hopes of stardom and multi-million dollar deal as well as and physical abuse replacing the mere emotional pressures in  of Fear.

Throw in Paul Giammati (son of the late commissioner of baseball Bart) as the empathetic therapist to make it more palatable and hopes were high. At least until the premiere on June 23. Upshot from the New York Times‘ four-paragraph review by Neil Genzlinger: “The Phenom is a baseball movie with virtually no baseball, which would be fine if the thing it relied on instead — lots and lots of talking — exhibited zest and originality. It doesn’t.”

Trouble with the Curve had a stellar cast, too — Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, to name a few — and look how stinko that one was. In fact, I had not heard about TWTC until after it came out; same for Phenom. It’s certainly not playing at any of my local theaters. That has to be some indication — the lack of advance hype (look how far ahead we hear about blockbusters like Star Trek et al) — as to the faith the studio have in the project.

Submitted for your consideration, the trailers for each movie:

 

I fine it interesting that some 60 years ago, the emphasis was on Perkins as the star of the film. It takes 30 seconds to get to what the movie is actually about.

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NOTE: I have been posting these things long enough now that a few have commented that the introductory section isn’t necessary anymore. But I’m leaving it in because, to paraphrase Joe DiMaggio when asked why he played so hard all the time, there may be people who’ve never read the best-seller entries before. So on with the show…

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.

  1. http://d28hgpri8am2if.cloudfront.net/book_images/onix/cvr9781501106330/ahead-of-the-curve-9781501106330_hr.jpgHouse of Nails: A Memoir of Life on the Edge, by Lenny Dykstra
  2. Ahead of the Curve: Inside the Baseball Revolution, by Brian Kenny (look for a Bookshelf Conversation with Kenny in the coming weeks) *
  3. The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports, by Jeff Passan
  4. The Baseball Whisperer: A Small-Town Coach Who Shaped Big League Dreams, by Michael Tackett
  5. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis
  6. The Only Rule Is It Has to Work: Our Wild Experiment Building a New Kind of Baseball Team, by Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller. (A review from The Hardball Times. Lindbergh was also the featured speaker at an author event at the Bergino Baseball Clubhouse. You can hear him on the store’s podcast here:
  7. The Matheny Manifesto: A Young Manager’s Old-School Views on Success in Sports and Life, by Matheny with Jerry Jenkins
  8. I’m Fascinated by Sacrifice Flies: Inside the Game We All Love, by Tim Kurkjian (Here’s my review on Bookreporter.com and the “Bookshelf Conversation” with the author.)
  9. The Mental Game of Baseball: A Guide to Peak Performance, by H.A. Dorfman
  10. The Natural, by Bernard Malamud

* Indicates debut on this list

My weeping for America continues re: Dykstra’s book remaining on the best-seller list (the other meaning for BS?).

Currently reading Kenny’s book and find it interestingly iconoclastic and have to wonder if it’s so just to gain buzz? One notion that was mentioned on an episode of NPR’s Only a Game: eliminating the stats for pitchers’ wins. Whaaa? It even has its own hashtag: #killthewin.

If memory serves, The Natural was on and off the list last summer. I wonder if it’s one of those books assigned over the summer by some high schools?

NY Times: Two baseball titles are included in the most recent (July) Times‘ sports list: The Arm is at #6, with Tom Stanton’s Terror in the City of Champions: Murder, Baseball, and the Secret Society that Shocked Depression-era Detroit at #16.

Not on either the Amazon or Times‘ lists? 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read before They Die. Today: 1,049,782; last week: 968,167. Come on, folks, 501 is great summer reading.

If you have read 501, thanks, hope you enjoyed it, and please consider writing a review for the Amazon page; it’s never too late. There haven’t been any in awhile. 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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Back to the future predictions

"Oddballs"

A few weeks back I did a review of Chuck Klosterman’s latest book, But What If We’re Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past. Klosterman refereed to The Book of Predictions as an example of just how wrong people can be. It’s fun to look at some of the entries in Predictions — […]

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Baseball Best-Sellers, July 1, 2016

2016 title

NOTE: I have been posting these things long enough now that a few have commented that the introductory section isn’t necessary anymore. But I’m leaving it in because, to paraphrase Joe DiMaggio when asked why he played so hard all the time, there may be people who’ve never read the best-seller entries before. So on […]

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Life imitates art?

"Ripped from today's headlines..."

Several weeks ago, I posted about Pitch, a new TV show coming to FOX this fall. It’s the story about the first woman player in the Major Leagues. Well the Sonoma Stompers aren’t exactly the Show, but they are a pro outfit. They recently signed two women to their roster. Tomorrow night, Kelsie Whitmore (below, […]

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Oh, I have got to get me one of these

"Oddballs"

“The unwritten rules of baseball, courtesy of Goose Gossage and the St. Paul Saints.” I’ll be looking for this on eBay very soon. But wait, if the unwritten rules are written, doesn’t that no longer make them unwritten, which means everything is written now? Be sociable, share the Bookshelf! Tweet

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National Pastime Radio: Another baseball book not about baseball?

2016 title

I quite enjoyed David Duchovny’s first novel, Holy Cow. He’s out with a new one, titled Bucky F*cking Dent. As you might guess by the name, there’s a good deal of baseball in it, but it’s one of those things that is not about baseball (are any of them ever?). Rather it’s about the relationship […]

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National Pastime Radio: Lenny Dykstra on the Lopate show

"Oddballs"

When I saw this segment pop up in my iTunes podcast list, I was surprised. Surprised that Leonard Lopate would want Lenny Dykstra on as a guest, and surprised that Dykstra would appear. I do not know him at all other than  the profiles I’ve read about him but my impression is that he’s not […]

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Separated at birth?

Because I can...

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Recommended readings from CSM

2016 title

The Christian Science Monitor posted this piece recommending six baseball titles including: Game 7, 1986: Failure and Triumph in the Biggest Game of My Life, by Ron Darling and Daniel Paisner Dodgerland: Decadent Los Angeles and the 1977-78 Dodgers, by Michael Fallon I’m Fascinated by Sacrifice Flies: Inside the Game We All Love, by Tim […]

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