Category Archives: books

Media Play


I haven’t written much about baseball lately. Truth be told, I haven’t watched much since the Red Sox collapsed. Maybe I will write a post-mortem on their season, but what can I add that hasn’t already been said? I have been reading about the World Series and it does sound like a classic. Albert Pujols evoked memories of Reggie Jackson over the weekend with his three homer game that was likely the best one game hitting display ever in WS history. Then, on Monday nite, there was the biggest telephonic mixup since last week when Derek Lilliquist misheard TLR. (I have a tendency to think of Carson Daly and Total Request Live when I see Tony LaRussa’s initials.) I’m pulling for Texas to win. They’ve never done it before. They are the AL representative, and Saint Louis has one plenty of times; including five years ago. Bill Lee picked the L.A. Dodgers as the NL’s answer to the Yankees, but I picked Saint Louis when I was in high school and had a fling with the Mets. They were a team to respect, but not like. (I was glad to see Whitey Herzog get inducted into the Hall of Fame last year.)

There used to be a chain of stores called Media Play that sold books, DVDs and CDs. I liked it, but it went out of business around the time Saint Louis defeated Detroit. Today, I wanted to highlight three former baseball players that personify that store’s merchandise; an author, an actor, and a singer.

Before Jim Bouton, there was Jim Brosnan. Brosnan wrote two in-season diaries; The Long Season and Pennant Race. I have yet to read the latter, but I thought that the former was better than Ball Four once I finally read it. Plus, he didn’t have to have Leonard Schecter help him write it. Bouton’s book may have been more historic at the time he wrote it, but I didn’t read it until at least ten years after it came out. Brosnan was inducted into the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of Eternals four years ago. If you ask me, that is a higher honor than getting a plaque in Cooperstown.

Chuck Connors was an Eisenhower-era Man. He played baseball and hoops and was also Lucas McCain on “The Rifleman.” I’m still in search of the elusive Center of the Entertainment Universe, but he might be it. Dennis Hopper appeared on that Western. And Hopper is The Center of The Hollywood Universe. Connors connects you to the NBA, major league baseball and the Pacific Cast League; which was still big back then. There’s also a football connection. Sid Gillman appeared on the show. He was one of the most influential coaches in football history; practically invented film study. His coaching tree is like a sequoia.

Last but not least, I checked out Dave Marsh’s New Book of Rock Lists the other day and came across Lee Maye. I had heard of The Rifleman even if the show was before my time, but I wasn’t familiar with Maye at all. Phill Millstein argues that this doo wopping outfielder was the best combination baseball player-musical artist. Check the link out.

I was on Monday Night Sports a month ago and he suggested that the reason some players of that era moonlighted in other entertainment fields was because sports salaries weren’t as high as they are now and they needed the money. He may have a point. Ironically, I was talking about Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax and their joint holdout. Chuck Connors helped act as an intermediary between the two pitchers and the Dodgers.

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WSJ: The Genius Of The Tinkerer


This one is for me. I’d rather link it on my blog than bookmark it. I dug the article. Apparently, Johnson has a new book that sounds very reminiscent of James Burke. I read Everything That Is Bad Is Good For You about a year ago. I may have to check this and some of his other work out.

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Popular Crime


I’m really fatigued by steroid arguments. How long has this been a hot button issue in baseball? Feels like years. To me, the most important part of this Bill James essay is the mention of his soon to be published new book. Soon, that is, if you consider next May soon.

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Pour Low The Foundation, Masons


Interesting stuff from Keith Olbermann’s blog:

Autographs, documents, confirmation of personal interaction with the late and famously reclusive author of The Catcher In The Rye (J.D. Salinger) are rare, to say the least.

But this one describes, to his World War 2 Division Commander, meeting a teenaged Carlton Fisk when he came to put in the foundation for Salinger’s home in Cornish, New Hampshire. I have no way of verifying the story (the inquiries to Fisk are out, but I only saw this thing tonight) but it offers verisimilitude: born in Maine, Fisk grew up in Charlestown, N.H., about 20 miles away from the site of the concrete in question.

I mentioned Salinger earlier this year after his passing. In W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe, Ray Kinsella kidnaps Salinger and takes him to a game at Fenway Park. Near as I can tell, the game took place in either ’78 or ’79. Mike Torrez pitches for Boston against the Twins while Don Zimmer manages. Among the Twins are Roy Smalley, Bombo Rivera, and Ken Landreaux. And while on that trip, Kinsella stops at another game where Thurman Munson was playing (Munson died in ’79.)

I could not find a game that matched Kinsella’s description perfectly. However, if that story of the baseball road trip were true, then it’s quite possible that Fisk was Torrez’s batterymate. I wonder if Salinger leaned over to Kinsella at some point and said, “You know, that young man once poured my foundation.” If I were Salinger, I would’ve name-dropped Fisk in a heartbeat.

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What Mark Read: The Maltese Falcon


Good review by my friend Mark of The Maltese Falcon. He didn’t mention the Flitcraft story, which was my favorite part of the book. Otherwise, I liked this.

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Nails


Last nite, Rob Neyer posted about Lenny Dykstra at his Sweet Spot blog. To me, the most interesting part was the last graf:

And speaking of books, most baseball players really aren’t interesting enough to write about. Not in a serious biography, anyway. But Dykstra’s different. Between his baseball career and his business adventures and the fractured relationship with his baseball-playing son, there’s the makings here of a Shakespearian tragedy. The only problem is that you sort of have to wait until the ending, to really do the story justice.

Who else would Rob (or you) consider bio-worthy? Tacks Latimer had an interesting post-baseball life, but I doubt you could get a book out of it. His story is probably better suited for a film. Then again, no one knows who he is.

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American Tabloid by James Ellroy


Mark S reviews some political noir.

American Tabloid by James Ellroy was a giant curveball by the hard-boiled detective writer. Those of us who loved his L.A. Quartet didn’t know what to expect when Ellroy finished with the 50s and started on the 1960s. The writing stayed as hard-boiled as ever, but Ellroy upped the scope from Los Angeles to the entire nation with a book that covers Kennedy’s campaign through his death. And what a ride we are on.

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