dinsdag 21 juli 2015

The Best Team Money Can Buy: the Los Angeles Dodger' Wild Struggle to Build a Baseball Powerhouse: Review

The Best Team Money Can Buy: the Los Angeles Dodger' Wild Struggle to Build a Baseball Powerhouse. I think the title is a bit deceptive. I was expecting a 'Moneyball'-like book with a look behind the scenes of the organization. See more of the management side of it all. It only does in chapter 10 (the last chapter of the book). Instead it tells us the story of the takeover by Guggenheim through the coming and going of new players and a detailed account of the 2013 & 2014 seasons. Which is awesome none the less.
I never liked McCourt, in the end I hated him, but after reading 'The Best Team Money can Buy' I loathe the man. He single handedly ruined one of baseballs most famous and historic clubs. He and his wife used the Dodgers as their personal bank which is a well known fact, but reading about it in such detail made me cringe.
The book is very well written by knowledgeable and Dodgerloving Molly Knight. She knows the game and the players, and players you'll read plenty about. There are loads of backgroud stories of the recent and current players. For example chapter 4 of the book is a condensed biography of Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. If you haven't already, you'll fall in love with him. The book made me dislike Puig and Kemp a bit, but most of the players got a lot more endearing. Also, the part about the Gonzalez, Punto, Beckett, Crawford deal is suspensfully awesome (or Awesomely suspensefull)! The flip side of all this is you relive the post season endings of the 2013 and 2014 seasons as well. It's not pretty and no fun.
I recommend this book to every Dodger fan who wants to know more about the players and the coach because (auto)biographies of them won't be published for years! Until then, this will be the book to read!

dinsdag 30 juni 2015

D.O.D.G.E.R.S. Song

I love Danny Kaye. He was a fast talking, funny guy with great facial expressions. His performance in The Court Jester still has me LOLling when I watch it. So when I first heard about his Dodgers song I knew it had to be good. Turned out it was and still is. There are some fun fanmade little movies on youtube that accompany the song. The one by 'The Blue Crew' has great pics of all the players during the song. I tried to get my hand on the 45rpm but it was either too expensive or just plain unavailable on ebay. After some time of inaction I tried a Dutch online vinyl seller and yup, they had one! So, last week I could finally play the song on my record player. I can assure you, it's even more fun when you can play it on your own player. Kaye is so fast with names and plays, it's hilarious.

The 1962 season Dodgers-Giants rivalry inspired Kaye to record the song and most players of both teams are in it. I wondered if the plays he sings about were from a real game. The question was answered in a book I recently finished reading: The rivalry heared 'round the world: the Dodgers - Giants feud from coast to coast by Joe Konte (review coming up shortly).

So, not from real games, but could have been. Still love the song and every time the Dodgers and Giants play a series I'll play the record for good luck. Since we're at 3 wins and 9 losses against the hated ones this season... they could use some luck!

vrijdag 8 mei 2015

Tommy Lasorda: My Way: Review

I was really looking forward to a great read about the skipper, but I was let down immensly. Colin Gunderson was press coordinator and assistent to Tommy which, apparently, does not make you a writer. Like 'Miracle Men', of which you can read my review here, this manuscript was not proof read. Too many double words or missing ones don't make for a smooth read. 
I had hoped to learn more about Tom, his childhood, his upbringing, his struggle as a pitcher, his triumphs as a coach. Sure, there is some mention, but when it starts to get interesting it changes to players who were inspired by Tom's work ethics (self-confidence, hard work, determination, family, God). And lots of those player memories come from other books, literally! Quotes from Hershisers 'Out of the Blue', 'Miracle Men' and Piazza's 'Long Shot'. I don't need a summary of other books I've already read! 
Sure, I believe Tom has a great approach to the game, has a Blue heart and will fight for his players, but I didn't need this book to believe that. What the writer does is make Lasorda look like some kind of Oracle, God's right hand on earth, which almost makes me dislike him. Maybe that's because the writer has worked with Tom too long to be critical about him. All that positive talk while we all know Tommy can be very angry and profane if someone bad mouths him or his Dodgers.
Gunderson should get a thesaurus as well. Reading the same words sentence after sentence is boring as hell. 
I tried to read the entire book, but couldn't. I really hoped for an enlightening read... skip this one!

maandag 29 juli 2013

The Echoing Green: Review

The Echoing Green: the untold story of Bobby Thomson, Ralph Branca and the shot heard around the world by Joshua Prager is a book first published in 2006, 55 years after that heartbreaking moment.
It's 350 pages are not easily digested. The writer painstakingly introduces every character and fact that had something to do with the moment itself and the period leading up to it. Sometimes you think 'what do I care', sometimes the background information is very interesting. The history of baseball signs and the act of sign stealing make for a great chapter. The half a page spent on the description of the Wollensak used by the Giants during part of the 1951 season is boring. Page after page about people like Schenz, Yvars and Franks, their history and their role in the scheme is a bit dry, but it's the positioning of the pawns that lead up to the foul play. Then the book turns into a biography, weaving the lives of Branca and Thomson alinea after alinea. To my taste a bit too detailed since I didn't choose this book to read so much about the two leads in the drama but about the drama itself. Still, I guess you can't give a dramatic ending to any drama when the leads are like card board. And the book ís called 'Bobby Thomson, Ralph Branca and the shot heard around the world', so I could have known.
After the biography chapter (12) comes the story of the play off games between Brooklyn and New York which ends with that blast to left that was heard around the world. After this, the books sort of runs out of steam. As a Dodger fan I don't really care what EVERY newspaper in the world had to say about the blast by Thomson.
Then the aftermath. How Thomson and Branca coop with this moment in time for the rest of their lives. Great insights in their lives, especially after the rumors of sign stealing get louder. Their friendship and animosity through the years and the awareness that they will be, forever, linked to that moment and through that, to each other.
Like I said: not an easy but it's a very well researched book, could be a thesis, with 66 pages of notes, 41 pages with bibliography!

vrijdag 19 juli 2013

Graded Baseball Cards: A Warning

If there was ever a concept sensitive to counterfeiting it’s autographs. It’s been around for ages. Players of the New York Giants had kids perfect their signature and let them sign balls for them. I’m sure loads of other teams did/do that. There are baseballs out there being auctioned as ‘signed by the player’. Who knows, even some of the Babe Ruth ones might be fake after all. One way to determine if a signature is fake or not is to have it authenticated and graded by one of the companies providing said service. There are a bunch of them out there. Some of the biggest/best known:

- Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA)
- Beckett Grading Services (BGS)
- Sports Cart Guaranty (SCG)
- Global Authority Inc (GAI)

I’ve never been an autograph collecting guy. Only when I get the chance to meet with the signer him-/herself I’m sure that it’s real. Other items that pop up often being fake or tampered with are baseball cards. They, like autographs, can get you big bucks, hence a lot of forgeries or pimping of an original card. Now, again, if you want to make sure you’ve got the real thing, send your item to one of the companies listed above and they’ll do an authentification and can grade it as well. A few weeks ago I blogged about the Bowman Campanella cards I wanted to collect. A big step for me because of the possibillities of cards being fake or tampered with. So I decided to go with PSA graded and encapsulated cards only. I did find a 1949 Bowman Campanella Rookie card on Ebay that was graded by GAI with a 8.5 and judgeing by the picture it looked great. Sharp corners, centered picture. I even thought it might be a 9 if I had it regraded by another company. I checked on the Internet and the company’s reputation looked rotten. But I thought: it’s no autograph and if it’s graded it at least is original, no reprint. I took a chance, did a best offer and it was accepted.

The day I bought the card I filled out a form to have it regraded by PSA. I could choose what minimum grade I wanted the card to receive. Which I thought was weird, because they are the experts. If I say ‘give my GAI 8.5 at least a 8.5’ how is this independed grading? So I filled in: Minimum Grade ANY. If it’s a 7, it’s a 7. No problem.
A few days ago I received the results. My GAI 8.5 was graded N1 by PSA: ‘Evidence of trimming’, which made my card worthless. Now, what I don’t understand is how GAI could ever have graded a trimmed card with a 8.5! What I díd understand now was why the picture was so nicely centered! So the fact that a trimmed card got a high grade made me doubt grading companies. I send an e-mail to PSA asking how it’s possible a company gave a trimmed card an 8.5. The answer I got shocked me and made my distrust in ALL grading companies complete. The reply read: ‘Different grading companies have different standards and opinions.’
NO company should EVER have such low standards as to admit a trimmed card let alone give it a high grade! No surprise I’m done with baseball cards, graded or not.

maandag 15 juli 2013

Fernando Nation

A friend of mine drew my attention to a documentary on YouTube. Knowing about my love for the Dodgers he was sure I would enjoy ‘Fernando Nation’. I guess most of you have seen it, but I only heard about it and never found it online. I must confess I never tried to find it on YouTube. Turns out it was uploaded only two months ago. Fernando Nation is part of the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary series telling sports related stories during the first 30-year existence of ESPN-network (1979-2009). Fernando Nation was the 27th episode, originally aired on October 26th 2010 and was directed by Cruz Angeles. He gives us the historical lowdown of Chavez Ravine and how the Dodgers turned a negative image among the Mexican community to a positive one by signing this Mexican kid from Etchohuaquila.
Angeles loves his subject, that’s clear from the beginning of the 53 minute long documentary. Loads of people get their say and Fernando himself talks a lot about his time with the Dodgers an even his stint with the Orioles. It’s very heart warming to see how people still love him.
Best scene? The one in which Tom Lasorda wrongfully translates Valenzuela and tells the press how happy he is to be with the Dodgers, loves the Dodgers, loves the stadium. After a while Fernando looks at Tom like ‘what the fuck? That doesn't sound like what I said’. Funny! If you love the Dodgers and haven’t seen it yet, do! You can find it here!

woensdag 3 juli 2013

Roogie's Bump: Review

I came across this movie when I was scavenging Ebay for nice Dodgers related items. I never heard of this... ever! I searched for it at Amazon, but found out it never had a dvd release. On IMDB the movie gets a 6.3 and the price on Ebay was $15.- so, my curiosity won and I bought the VHS tape. Some spoilers below.

The 1954 black and white movie is about Remington, who wants to be called Roogie, a boy who just moved to Brooklyn. None of the other boys want to play ball with him. Then, after he sees the ghost of fictional Hall of Famer Red O'Malley he gets a bump on his throwing arm. Okay, ghosts we've seen in 'Angels in the Outfield' and 'Field of Dreams', so nothing weird there. But after this it gets a bit absurd. Roogie throws a baseball through a wall and from the Brooklyn side of the East River throws a stone that breaks a chimney of a power plant on Manhattan.
Roogie writes the coach of the Dodgers, telling him about his power. A fictional coach reads the letter to real Dodger players Campanella, Hoes, Erskine and Meyer. They all have a good laugh. Roogie gets two tickets for a game, catches a foul ball and throws it back to Campy who tumbles back into the dugout because of the power of the throw. Roogie gets a contract but at the end of the season when he tries to pitch the Dodgers to the pennant, his bump disappears. He becomes the team's mascot and the Dodgers win the pennant.
Acting wise it's not a very good movie. The kid who plays Roogie never acted in another movie again, but he's not bad, I've seen worse kid actors. The Dodgers players are a bit stiff but clearly enjoy the experience. Campanella is the only one who gives a good performance. The other actors are of no importance. There is the beginning of a love story between Roogie's widowed mother and the Dodgers coach. The story is a bit slow, there is much talk about exploiting the kid just to earn a buck and too little actual baseball.
The scenes of games we see are stock footage, which is okay because we see Ebbets Field in it's glory days, Jackie Robinson at bat and a roaring crowd. There's a sound of a crowd cheering looped over and over and once you notice it gets on your nerves.
Conclusion: fun for Dodger fans to see some of the boys of summer act. Other than that there is no reason to watch it.