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Friday, Aug 22, 2014

The Sports Bookie

A sports blog by Bob D'Angelo

Bob is a longtime member of the Florida sports media, having served as a reporter and copy editor for more than 30 years. His true sports passion, however, is the history of the various games, exhibited by his in-depth book reviews and hobby of collecting cards and other sports memorabilia.

How three giants of boxing defined a turbulent decade

Published:   |   Updated: August 19, 2014 at 10:01 PM
BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

Boxing mattered in the 1970s, particularly in the heavyweight division. It had been relevant before: Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney gave the sport luster in the 1920s, and Joe Louis dominated during the late 1930s and ’40s. More recently, Mike Tyson was a terrifying force during the 1980s until his cloak of invincibility was shredded by Buster Douglas.

But the 1970s brought together three dominant and diverse personalities, and through five fights during the decade, they gave heavyweight boxing a golden age that hasn’t been equaled since.

Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and Ge0rge Foreman are the main focus in Richard Hoffer’s smartly written “Bouts of Mania: Ali, Frazier and Foreman and an America on the Ropes” (Da Capo Press; hardback; $25.99; 278 pages). But Hoffer, a writer at Sports Illustrated for more than two decades, provides necessary and nuanced context as the fighters competed during a turbulent decade.

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Panini previews Flawless basketball

Published:   |   Updated: August 19, 2014 at 12:23 AM
BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

It takes a lot of nerve and even more confidence to name a product Flawless, but Panini America is banking on the same buzz for 2013-14 Flawless basketball that it received in its debut last season.

Last year’s product came packaged in a metal briefcase-like configuration. This year’s version, which will be released on Sept. 17, will have 10 cards per pack in the same padded briefcase design. Two of the cards will be base, but will be slabbed and embedded with diamonds, emeralds and rubies.

The other eight will include six autographs and two jumbo prime memorabilia cards. And no card in the set will be numbered higher than 25.

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Some home cookin’ about college football’s best conference

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

It might seem simplistic, but Paul Finebaum is like boiled okra: you either love it or hate it. There is no middle ground.

The same holds true for Finebaum, a college football analyst for ESPN who cut his teeth as a sportswriter and columnist in Alabama and then rose to fame (or infamy) as a brash, opinionated radio talk-show host.

He gives readers plenty to chew on in his book, “My Conference Can Beat Your Conference: Why the SEC Still Rules College Football” (Harper; hardback; $26.99; 275 pages). Finebaum passionately advocates the sheer dominance of the Southeastern Conference as a football powerhouse, and tells some great stories gleaned from his 34 years as a sports journalist.

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Unearthed ‘Chesapeake Wagner’ to be auctioned in fall

Published:   |   Updated: August 6, 2014 at 11:14 PM
BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

The 1909 T-206 Honus Wagner card has been called the “Holy Grail” of sports memorabilia. There are between 50 and 100 in circulation, and a Wagner graded PSA 5 sold for more than $2.1 million at an auction during the spring of 2013.

A Wagner card that was once owned by hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky once sold for $2.8 million, but it was later discovered that the card edges had been trimmed by memorabilia dealer Bill Mastro, who admitted last year that he altered the card.

More than a century after it was issued, the Wagner card still creates a buzz.

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Panini’s Immaculate basketball has got sole

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

Now, here’s a card with a lot of sole.

Panini America’s Immaculate basketball product will hit stores on Sept. 3, and the newest insert will be called Sole of the Game. This card will feature the tread from NBA players’ game-worn sneakers.

The mock-up card Panini showcased in a news release Monday features the blue sneaker tread of Vince Carter. It definitely provides a different kind of look. Imagine a card with ridges and grooves.

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Collect call: 2014 Topps Allen & Ginter

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By BOB D’ANGELO Tribune staff

It’s one of the baseball card sets I look forward to every year.

Just like the anticipation I feel for Topps’ flagship Series One and Two, the Allen & Ginter set delivers interesting cards that have an eclectic mix that is irresistible. Never mind that the design has remained pretty much the same since it debuted in 2006. These cards always seem to have some nice surprises from an educational standpoint.

And if nothing else, I like to be entertained and educated.

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Connecting the dots between baseball and society

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

At first glance, the title of Hal Bodley’s latest book on baseball seems almost too deep. “How Baseball Explains America” (Triumph Books; hardcover; $24.95; 244 pages) offers a challenging premise. It’s a book about how the game has impacted the fiber of American society, but how can Bodley pull it off in less than 250 pages?

Simple. Draw upon the wealth of knowledge and observations gleaned from more than 55 years of covering the game, and artfully fit them within 17 compact chapters. Bodley, the first baseball editor at USA Today and currently the senior correspondent for MLB.com, writes thoughtfully and passionately about the game. This is a guy that has covered 43 World Series, 42 All-Star games and has covered more than 4,000 games. He also has interviewed six sitting presidents of the United States.

The reader may not agree with all of his opinions — in some cases, I certainly didn’t, particularly in his assessments of Bud Selig and Bowie Kuhn — but one cannot dispute Bodley’s smooth style.

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Collect call: 2014 Bowman football

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

With some enticing rookie cards to tout this season, the 2014 Bowman football set will be an exciting one for collectors who enjoy rookie cards. Sure, veterans are represented too, but Bowman’s focus remains on up-and-coming players.

Rookies a collector can expect to find include No. 1 pick Jadeveon Clowney, Teddy Bridgewater, ex- Central Florida star Blake Bortles, former Plant High standouts Aaron Murray and James Wilder Jr., Sammy Watkins, and Bucs rookies Mike Evans, Robert Herron, Charles Sims and Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

Am I forgetting anyone? Oh yeah, Johnny Football, too.

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Collect call: 2014 Bowman Inception baseball

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

Bowman Inception baseball returns for its sophomore season, and it’s once again a marriage made for higher-end collectors who like rookies and prospects.

A hobby box includes one pack of five cards, and even though it hovers around the $100 mark, there are four autographs and one autograph/relic card. All are on-card signatures except for the auto/relic, which is a sticker. How valuable the hits are depends on your collecting habits. If you’re looking for established stars, there is at least one insert that caters to that taste (1989 Bowman is Back Silver Diamond Refractors). Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the youth movement, because Bowman excels in this category.

I really like the wood background on the card. It really stands out as the backdrop for prospect cards, which have a vertical design. Rookie cards are horizontal in design. Wood also is the theme on the card backs.

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A timeless look at the 1920 Cleveland Indians

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

There is always time to read books about baseball, especially when the subject is timeless.

So even though Scott Longert’s latest book was published more than a year ago, it still deserves a look by fans of baseball history.

“The Best They Could Be: How the Cleveland Indians became the Kings of Baseball, 1916-1920” (Potomac Books; hardback; $27.50; 256 pages) is a nicely written, interesting look at how the Indians went from American League doormats in 1914 to World Series champions in 1920. It’s Longert’s second book about the Indians; in 1999, the Beachwood, Ohio resident wrote “King of the Pitchers,” a biography of pitching great Addie Joss.

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