Sports Biblio

The Imagination Of Sports In Books, History And Culture

The Sensational Rebirth of the Cleveland Indians: Sports Biblio Digest 9.17.17

One of the pleasures of growing up listening to baseball on the radio—rather than watching on television—was constantly thumbing the tuner on my transistor late at night to pick up clear signal stations beaming games from the West Coast.

A Summer to Remember, Cleveland Indians, Lew FreedmanI was supposed to be asleep, of course, as it was lights out at 10 o’clock for me, even in high school, and even in the summers. But the night owl in me improvised an occasional doubleheader that I suspected my mother may have known about, but never mentioned to me once.

After listening to Milo Hamilton and Ernie Johnson Sr. call an Atlanta Braves game, it was off to the late-night races, depending on who was playing in California: most often, it was the St. Louis Cardinals on KMOX, the Chicago Cubs on WGN and the Cleveland Indians on WWWE.

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American Football’s Cultural Crossroads: Sports Biblio Digest 9.10.17

The prelude to a new NFL season and its college counterpart has been a familiar one, laced with constant media treatment of American football’s cultural crossroads: Concussions, sexual violence and black activism. Will this be the year public consciousness about them changes?

Violated, Mark Schlach, Paula LavigneSome football books published ahead of the season also drive home these topics, again not a surprising development. Some of these books have become increasingly strident as the football-loving fandom seemingly ignores them.

But are they?

More damning studies of brain disease in retired NFL players, criminal acts by players against women and social protests by African-American stars have become routine (and quite often overdone) storylines.

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Some Great, Late Summer Sports Reads: Sports Biblio Digest, 8.27.17

It’s very deep into August, with the Labor Day weekend and the kickoff to a new American football season approaching. The stretch run of the baseball season is about to begin, and I find that a hell of a lot more intriguing than just about anything else in sports these days.

Electric October, Kevin CookThe Los Angeles Dodgers are nearing the 100-win mark and Aaron Judge, a big, rangy rookie for the New York Yankees, has a real shot to win the American League MVP.

It was 70 years ago that the Dodgers, then playing in Brooklyn, met the Yankees in a sizzling World Series that’s been recaptured by Kevin Cook in “Electric October,” published Aug. 15.

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The glory and the tragedy of high school football

In examining high school football in the wake of concerns about concussions and brain trauma in the NFL, sportswriter Kostya Kennedy noted in his 2016 book “Lasting Impact” that while the level of violence on the prep gridiron isn’t the same as it is in the pros—”not by a long shot”—the object of the game is the same:

Lasting Impact, Kostya Kennedy, high school football“Hit and be hit.”

More than a million boys hit, and are hit, in any given season in the United States, still the highest participation rate for any high school sport.

Other sports have concussion rates that rival football—girls soccer is noteworthy among them, given its popularity and perception of being relatively safe to play—and have injury concerns of their own.

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Boston’s Disquieting History of Baseball and Race: Sports Biblio Digest 8.20.17

Boston’s checkered history involving baseball and race cropped up again this week, just as the Red Sox were poised to pull away in their American League divisional race in a home series against the New York Yankees.

Shut Out, Howard Bryant, Boston, Race and Baseball In the wake of last week’s racially-charged violence in Charlottesville, Va., current Red Sox owner John Henry publicly stated he wanted to change the name of Yawkey Way, a short street adjoining Fenway Park, and named after the man whose stewardship of the franchise was known as much for his racist attitudes as its futility on the field.

The issue of race is never far from the surface in Boston. Earlier this year, an ugly fan incident at Fenway Park involving Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles, prompted familiar calls that Boston is “a racist city.”

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Softball and the Cause of Women’s Baseball: Sports Biblio Digest 8.13.17

The push to create more opportunities for girls and young women in baseball has come with a curious, and troubling corollary: The dismissal of a sport that in the United States has been at the forefront of women’s sports for decades.

fastpitch, erica westly, softballIf a ludicrous story published this week in The Washington Post is to be taken seriously (and it should not be), it is now considered an act of proud defiance for young girls to eschew softball for baseball, seemingly as part of a more strident effort to crack the glass diamond.

In an otherwise understandable campaign to champion “Baseball for All,” softball has been relegated to something approaching separate but equal status.

 

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The Eloquent Silence of Steve Bartman: Sports Biblio Digest 8.6.17

Steve Bartman had something public to say this week, for the first time since being unfairly maligned as the villain in a foul-ball incident at Wrigley Field during the 2003 National League Championship Series.

Catching Hell, Steve BartmanHis deflection of a ball that landed near the first row of left field line seating might properly have been ruled interference (and the third out for the Florida Marlins in the top of the eighth inning of Game 6). Instead, it foreshadowed how the Chicago Cubs lost their grasp of what would have been their first World Series appearance since 1945.

Bartman’s life quickly became a living hell, as he received threats, dodged stalking reporters and worked assiduously to stay out of the spotlight, and restore what was left of his privacy.

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Reimagining The Baseball Hall of Fame: Sports Biblio Digest 7.30.17

When Tim Raines, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez and Jeff Bagwell are inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame today, it will mark the start of a new era of voting by writers that could signal some profound, if gradual, changes to the process.

Cooperstown Casebook, Jay Jaffe, Baseball Hall of FameThe infusion of advanced statistics has created many new conversations about who’s worthy of inclusion, and who’s not. The issue of performance-enhancing drugs has ratcheted up emotions enormously, especially among an aging group of baby-boom voters not always enamored with sabermetrics.

Jay Jaffe, author of the newly released “The Cooperstown Casebook,” has made an innovative case for a numbers-based selection criteria and also  welcomes the steroids-tainted likes of Bobby Bonds and Roger Clemens.

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Reviving The Big City Sports Page: Sports Biblio Digest 7.23.17

It didn’t take long for my bullishness about the future of media and online sports journalism, even during the truly dark days of the recession a few years ago, to get roundly skewered on a sportswriters’ message board.

I had left the newspaper world in late 2008, after several years as an online editor. I knew it was going to be lean for me and for many others for a while, if not life-altering, and this has certainly come to be the case.

Stringing along as a freelancer and contractor, in between a few brief full-time jobs, has become the norm for too many of us of a certain age (hint: not young) who still cannot imagine doing anything but the news.

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Scorching Hot Dog Day Summer Sports Reads: Sports Biblio Digest 7.16.17

In my corner of North America, the wilting heat of the summer (compounded by a broken home air conditioner) had me reaching for some weather-related things to read, and ironically enough, actually cooled me off a little. So has a deep immersion in Roger Angell’s wondrous “The Summer Game.”

roger angell, the summer gameJuly is actually my favorite month of the baseball season, aside from October. I enjoy the historical backdrops of the All-Star Game and Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, and it’s also when I dig into some substantial baseball reading outside the winter.

I’m including in this week’s abbreviated newsletter a few stories (and a couple of fine podcasts) that I hope you’ll find worth your time, and I’ll return next week with a more robust Digest.

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