zondag 8 november 2015

Two Days that Rocked the World: Elton John Live at Dodger Stadium

A book combining one of my favorite musical artists and my favorite sports team HAD to be awesome. Now, leafing through it for the first time it doesn't disappoint, it rocks! Elton John's concert series at Dodger Stadium on the 25th and 26th of October 1975 come to life again in this book filled to the brim, cover to cover, with Terry O'Neill's back stage photographs.

The introduction is by Elton's long time friend Billy Jean King, for whom he and Bernie wrote Philadelphia Freedom. It's a two page foreword that sets up the things to come perfectly. Have you ever tried to get your hands on an official Terry O'Neill print from those concerts? Well, it'll cost you! This book is s very, very welcome compromise. For less than $35 you get it all, 143 pages!! If you were at one of the concerts I bet you'll hear the music and feel the vibe when you turn page after page of distant memories. For me, who wasn't at one of the concerts but, like I mentioned, a fan of Elton, Terry's photographs and the Dodgers it's a great addition to my book collection and maybe leafing through it will shorten the baseball draught that's called the off season, while playing some Sir Elton John records.

dinsdag 13 oktober 2015

The Dodgers' Way to Play Baseball

This is not a review in the normal sense of the word. Everybody who is a Dodgers fan, or a baseball fan for that matter, probably knows the standard reference work on how to play baseball. The book has loads of great drawings of players and the way they should stand, move, pitch, catch, field, hit and much more. It's a great reference book for players and watchers of the game both. I recommend it to all baseball lovers and Dodger fans in particular.

above: one of the 77 drawings by Tex Blaisdell, best known for his work on Little Orphan Annie and inking of DC Comics.

In the late 80's, racial remarks during an interview with Ted Koppel for Nightline were, at the time, reason for him to resign his position in the Dodgers organization. Since then hoards of baseball players and managers have come to Campanis' defense.

Acquiring the Book
I come across this book on Ebay quite often, but most of the times it's cheap and looks like it has barely survived the McCourt divorce or you pay top dollar. The copy I bought came for a reasonable price and the book looks good. The seller, though, hadn't 'international shipping' as an option. So, since I live in the Netherlands, I emailed the seller and asked if she would make an exception. She mailed me back promptly. She would gladly ship it overseas and then told me something that fit my picture of Americans and sports. The book had been her fathers', a baseball enthusiast.
I emailed the seller and asked if she could tell me more about her father and, since communication through ebay normally is very businesslike, I was surprised to find a positive reply the very same day.

Behind the Book
In the 1950's her father and some friends played on a local team called the Richmond Hill Saxons. He and a friend were both recruited. The father by the Pirates, as a pitcher (with a nasty knuckle ball), his friend as first baseman for the Yankees. They went through the mill, got their satin jackets and.... never played a game in the show. Because they didn't want to be away from their families for long periods of time, on the road with the team. What a father, what a husband! Keeping the family together didn't mean he didn't play ball anymore. The whole neighborhood got a piece of the pie. The father and his friend started an Athletic Association for multiple sports, giving hundreds of kids a chance to start playing a sport. He was always on the lookout for talented players and when he got one a try out at Ebbets Field with Al Campanis he got the book signed, or so it is believed by his widow. Apparently the Dodgers were the subject of many arguments among the Richmond Hill Saxons players.

All 5 kids got into baseball and learned to play it well. During family picknicks they played, during weekends they played, they played battered and bruised even in their late sixties. Even at the later age they gave it their all. Not just playing but stealing, whacking balls out of the field, diving catches and running the bases like they were chased. They always gave it their all, they always played 'spikes up'.
When the father passed away, 6 years ago, as a tribute to his love for the game, the son told his dad during the eulogy it was time to rest and told him: 'spikes down, dad'.
So while for some the American Dream is playing in the Bigs, for others the American Dream is being a good husband, father and friend. When you abandon the first one you'll forfeit the possibillity of becoming a Hall of Famer in Cooperstown but it will put you in the family men Hall of Fame. And that may be the best Hall of Fame to be a member of.
A story like this shows you how integrated sports is in the daily lives of lots of Americans. Not the millions-of-dollars earning sports superstars, but close to home, starting on the sandlots around the country. The way I know it from the movies, but in real life. I'm not saying it's every Americans background, but these kind of stories are out there and they warm the heart and are what makes me love the USA even more.

maandag 5 oktober 2015

Dazzy Vance: Review

Dazzy Vance - a biography of the Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Famer is the full title of the book by John C. Skipper. Once, years ago, the Brooklyn period of the Dodgers felt too long ago for me, all black and white. But after reading biographies of Campy, Walker, Hodges among other books about the pre L.A. Dodgers that period now is in full color. Because the players were colorful. Or in Dazzy's time: Daffy!
Dazzy was a minor leaguer for ten years, had trouble with his pitching arm but finally got a break and was a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1922 till 1932. Not a very succesful period for the team. He is famous for being the first Dodger to be elected in the Hall of Fame. Yes, you learn about Dazzy and his struggle to get into the Show and his years with the Dodgers, but especially the 'in-season' parts are kinda matter of factly. Often you'll read sentences like: Dazzy started the season with a win, then a loss then three wins in a row, followed by the scores. When I checked the bibliography I understood. The entire book was written with newspaper articles as source material.
So, while the book itself is not a Hall of Famer and lends a lot from the articles it is based on, Vance and the time he played with the Robins is interesting enough to recommend it to any Dodger fan.

woensdag 16 september 2015

Dixie Walker of the Dodgers: Review

This is a biography the way I like to read them! Maury Allen together with Dixie's daughter Susan Walker deliverd a fine piece of baseball player history in script. Except for some annoying repeating of facts throughout the book.

I have to confess, I wanted to read this biography because of the name Dixie Walker has in baseball history. That name that has been linked to the petition against Jackie Robinson becoming a Big League player. Walker is said to have been the initiator of the petition. I expected a biography of a bitter, southern bigot. What I got was an insightful book about a baseball lifer. A guy who loved the game, played it and managed it for decades. He played on and off for the Yankees but became a bench warmer when DiMaggio came up. With the White Sox he had a pre Tommy John kinda surgery which helped him have a great 1937 season. He's the guy who is founding father of the players pension plan, an all star and the 1944 NL batting champion. I guy I learned to love instead of hate.
Yes, he was from the South and yes, people from his home town Birmingham would have strong feelings about Dixie playing with a colored player. But he did and learned to appreciate Jackie. Later on he expressed his admiration for players like Gilliam and Mays.
This is a very nicely written book, very digestible. It dares to be critical but also let's the reader see the family side of Walker. There is even a chapter all about his wife Estelle.
So, without expecting it, within 280 pages, the Peepuls Cherce became one of my favorite Brooklyn Dodgers players.

maandag 14 september 2015

Dodgers '59

No vhs, no dvd, so how to recollect a great season of a great team? On vinyl! Steve Bailey, Ira Cook and our own Vin Scully present this ‘best of the 1959 Dodgers season’. Side 1 of the album features Roy Campanella night. 93,103 people came to L.A. Coliseum for the Yankees vs. Dodgers exhibition game. Roy’s speech and a short interview with Vin are included on the record. Next up is a lively description of a Willy Mays hit that ends up foul but is given as a home run. A brawl starts and heats up when the umpire decides to change the call to foul again. Vin describes the verbal fight as if it were a boxing match, calls it a ruhbarb, like Red Barber would. it’s Scully at his best!

Side 2 starts with Vin giving the play by play of Koufax fanning 18 to tie the one game strike out record with Bob Feller and break the same pitchers old 2 game strike out record with 31. Then it's on to the simultaneously broadcast of the Dodgers playing a double header against the Pirates at the Coliseum and the Giants at Seal Stadium playing the Phillies, September 11th. Vin does a masterful job keeping the crowd with transistors in the Coliseum and the folks back home listening to their radios up to date with the games. First place was on the line. Next up is the tie-breaker series between the Dodgers and the Milwaukee Braves which ends with Vin saying "we're going to Chicago". And that's where the record ends.

The World Series broadcast would not have fit, I get that, but it's a bit of a let down not having the first World Series celebration for L.A. on this piece of vinyl. I would have loved a second album in the sleeve. Except for this omission it's a great recollection of a historic season.

dinsdag 1 september 2015

Jackie Barnett Presents The Sound of the Dodgers!

I stumbled upon this record on Ebay, I loved the cover and was curious about Maury Wills and Willie Davis singing. The album was released in 1963, after the second world series win of the L.A. Dodgers. All songs are written by famous composer Jackie Barnett. Below is a short review of the songs and spoken tracks on the album.

Side 1

Dodger Stadium - Maury Wills, Willie Davis & Stubby Kaye
The song starts with an instrumental part that's a Marvin Gaye's 'You're a Wonderful One' rip-off. But it's a happy start to a great song sung by Wills, Davis and Kaye. It's a song from it's time but most of what they sing still is true today. Dodger Stadium: 'It's our answer to the Taj Mahal'.

Somebody's Keeping Score - Maury Wills
A gospel song performed by Maury Wills. Gospel? You better believe it! Keeping score on a whole other level. This song could be sung during a church service, not during a ballgame. It's a swinging tune, sure, but a bit of a weird choice for a baseball themed record.

What is a Dodger? - Vin Scully
Scully, in his velvet voice tells us what a Dodger is. It starts at Vero Beach. Rookies want to become a Doger, veterans want to stay one. They are All Stars, bums and heroes. It gives a real Dodger fan goosebumps. Vin concludes with this: "A Dodger is a grown up with a lot of little boy in him. It's a way of life". I can only concur!

Solilioquoy of a Dodger Fan - Stubby Kaye
Kaye compares the heroics of the Dodgers with all kind of things, a comet, Sierra Madres treasure, Mona Lisa. Followed by a happy 'we've won today' and a 'we've lost today' chorus. Ending on a high note, of course: we've won today! Funny to hear a guy with a New York accent sing this. Somehow it fits. The best song on the album.

Side 2

Dandy Sandy - Jimmy Durante
There is no voice more recognisable than Jimmy Durante's same goes for his face. Dandy Sandy is a great vehicle for Jimmy. It's reminiscent of Inka Dinka Doo melody wise. A peppy, happy ode to one of baseball's best pitchers ever. best line? "they can't hit whatever they can't see, for them a pop up is a moral victory".

That's the Way the Ball Bounces - Willy Davis
Willy Davis has a deep dark voice which does the song justice. But like the Maury Wills song on side 1 of this record, baseball terms are used as a metaphor for something entirely different. In this case a love song. It lingers in your head but again, has nothing to do with baseball. It's just a vehicle for Davis and he delivers.

The Story of the L.A. Dodgers - Vin Scully
Vin returns to us for a second monologue. In a little more than nine minutes, The Franchise recaps the first five years of the ballclub in Los Angeles. The years they played at the 'memorial goat pasture', their first world series win as an L.A. Club. The move to the new stadium and the fact the planners had forgotten to have drinking fountains installed. Koufax ailments and his glorious world series strike out record against the Yankees. It's great to listen to!

woensdag 26 augustus 2015

Dodgers Win the World Series: Dutch Newspaper articles

The sports pages in Dutch newspapers write about soccer, soccer ow and soccer. They always have and always will. Sure, there is some field hockey and ice skating and during the Olympics about every sport Dutch athletes are good at that year. The amount of space used to write about baseball, be it national or international, is minimal.

I thought it would be fun to show what has been written about the Dodgers winning the World Series and I must say, I was surprised. I even found an article from 1955.

So... here we go...

De Telegraaf published this article on October 5th, 1955. The title 'Dodgers slaan Yankees' is weird, it translates to 'Dodgers hit Yankees' while 'Dodgers verslaan Yankees' would read 'Dodgers beat Yankees' which in this case is what they did. The article mentions it's the first time the Dodgers win the World Series.

The next article was published in De Telegraaf on October 9th, 1959. The article itself is almost unreadable so I post just the title. It says 'Larry Sherry "hero of Chicago", the second part you can translate yourself :). As far as I can decipher, the article also mentions Wally Moon, Duke Snider and White Sox reliever Dick Donovan.

Newspaper 'De Waarheid' (the Truth) published this rather straightforward article on October 7th, 1963. It mentions the Dodgers winning in 4 games.

Het Vrije Volk, October 15th, 1965: 'Dodgers Champions of the World Again'. The article mentions the Twins having been more difficult to beat than was expected. Also the decision of Alston to put Koufax on the mound, not Drysdale. Followed by a short recap of the last game of the 1965 World Series.

Now things become interesting because THIS is the article that made me follow the Dodgers and become a lifelong fan. I was 10 years old at the time and I liked the name 'Dodgers'. De Telegraaf published the article on October 30th, 1981. It's a short article only mentioning the dodgers won in 6 games.

Het Vrije Volk was a bit longer. Published on the same day was this article. It mentions the Dodgers falling behing 0-2 in games but winning 4-2. Reason enough for Howe, Yeager and Garvey to do a happy dance.

In 1988 we won our last World Series. I remember it well and so does De Telegraaf on October 22nd, 1988.

Het Vrije Volk has an awesome picture of MVP Hershiser, a recap and even... the line score of the last game!!

Any mention of Gibson's home run in the first game? Sure, De Telegraaf had an article on October 17th. A shame, though, they have a picture of Canseco hitting his home run. Gibson's was better :).

For those who are wondering... The shot heard around the world, passed us by apparently. I wasn't able to find an article about that aweful moment in Dodgers history.