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Monday, May 25, 2015

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.

‘Pedro’ is blunt, funny and entertaining

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

Pedro Martinez is back, full of attitude and the talent to back it up.

Only this time, he’s not on the mound, where he enjoyed a Hall of Fame career and won three Cy Young Awards. Martinez, teaming with Boston Herald sportswriter Michael Silverman, has delivered a blunt, funny, sometimes defensive yet thoroughly entertaining book.

“Pedro” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; hardback; $28; 317 pages) is like Martinez’s pitching repertoire: he paints the corners with deadly accuracy and is not afraid to come in high and tight, particularly in his opinions about players and managers he interacted with. No motion — or, in this case, paragraph — is wasted. Martinez comes right to the point.

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‘Split Season’ recalls a bizarre year in baseball

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

It was the season of Fernando Valenzuela and a devastating players’ strike. It was the season of contentious labor struggles between players and owners, with angry fans caught in the middle.

More significantly, it was the year of the split season.

The baseball strike of 1981 wiped out 713 games, slightly more than one-third of the season. It forced a split season — the first in the majors since 1892— in which the pre-strike division leaders played against the second-half front-runners, with the winners advancing to the league championship series.

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‘My Way’ reconfirms Lasorda’s passion for baseball

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BY BOB D’ANGELO Tribune staff

While some baseball fans may believe Tommy Lasorda’s mantra of “bleeding Dodger blue” is hokey, there is no denying the man’s passion and enthusiasm. There is nothing forced about the Hall of Fame manager’s love for the game, and even at age 87, his grit, determination and desire to win remains genuine.

Those are the qualities that come to the forefront in Colin Gunderson’s book. “Tommy Lasorda: My Way” (Triumph Books; hardback; $25.95; 240 pages) is not a biography in the chronological sense, and it is certainly a Lasorda lovefest. Gunderson worked for the Dodgers for 13 years — 12 as Lasorda’s press coordinator — so he does provide a unique view.

Gunderson touches on Lasorda’s youth, his major-league career and his success as a manager (1,599 victories, four pennants, two World Series titles), but this book’s strengths are the stories told by his players. Men like Bobby Valentine, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, Steve Sax, Rick Rhoden, Jerry Royster and Eric Karros all echoed the same theme — how Lasorda’s work ethic, enthusiasm and lessons he taught helped them become better players.

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Collect call: 2015 Bowman baseball

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

It’s the time of year when collectors begin prospecting for future stars, and the Bowman baseball set is almost always the place to start. The 2015 version is no different.

The 300-card base set has 150 cards that include veterans and rookies, plus 150 prospect cards — 40 more prospects than last year. A hobby box contains 24 packs, with 10 cards to a pack. Topps is promising that every Bowman baseball hobby box will have one autograph card.

An average pack seems to break down this way: five base cards, three prospects, and two chrome prospects. The design shows the players in sharp detail against a soft-focus background. The layout is vertical, which I prefer in base cards. The card backs include categories such as “résumé,” “skills” and “up close.”

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Garo’s legacy more than a passing effort

Published:   |   Updated: May 16, 2015 at 08:11 PM
BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

The death of Garo Yepremian on Friday after a yearlong battle with cancer brings back many memories for me, most of them good, since I grew up in South Florida during the Miami Dolphins’ Super Bowl seasons of the early 1970s.

Sure, stories this weekend reference the kicker’s infamous “pass” late in Super Bowl VII, which jeopardized the 1972 Dolphins’ perfect season. But there were other plays that defined Yepremian, too.

But first, the “gaffe.”

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A fresher, more thorough view of the Georgia Peach

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

“All changed, changed utterly;

A terrible beauty is born.”

William Butler Yeats wrote those lines in his poem “Easter, 1916,” referring to the Easter Rising, the armed insurrection by Irish Republicans to end British rule.

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Baseball’s oddballs, outcasts and obscurities

Published:   |   Updated: May 9, 2015 at 09:53 PM
BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

Baseball can be a quirky game, with oddball characters and obscure events. Sure, there are great players that are well-known to even the most casual baseball fan. But only a diehard baseball fan will know something about Blackie Schwamb, Eddie Klep and the Stanzak brothers.

Lovers of baseball history will revel in Gary Cieradkowski’s meticulously researched and wonderfully illustrated book, “The League of Outsider Baseball: An Illustrated History of Baseball’s Forgotten Heroes” (Touchstone; hardback, $25; 234 pages).

Cieradkowski, who runs a design and illustration shop in northern Kentucky, is the force behind the Infinite Baseball Card Set blog (http://infinitecardset.blogspot.com/). Growing up a New York Mets fan in the 1970s, Cieradkowski later enjoyed a long-distance friendship with his father, trading bits of trivia and discussing “outsider baseball” — men who played in the Negro Leagues, low minors, town teams and semipro squads.

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Ferrell cards will appear in Topps Archives

Published:   |   Updated: May 8, 2015 at 06:18 PM
BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

Never let it be said that actor/comedian Will Ferrell isn’t a team guy.

On March 12, Ferrell appeared for 10 teams during spring training, playing a different position for each team. It was part of an HBO special and a way to raise $1 million to pay for scholarships for cancer survivors.

Topps has documented that day, issuing 10 different cards that will appear in its Archives series, which hits stores and hobby shops on June 10. There also will be autograph cards, numbered to — you guessed it — 10 for each card.

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Bowman baseball will include Twitter exclusive cards

Published:   |   Updated: May 8, 2015 at 06:17 PM
BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

Fans tweet about their favorite baseball players and teams on Twitter. From what I’ve seen, many fans are very passionate about them. So how about a baseball card that collectors can get by following a Twitter account?

That’s what Topps is doing with Twitter-exclusive cards.

The company has put together 150 exclusive, blue-bordered refractor packs. The only way a collector can get these cards is by following Bowman on Twitter (@BowmanCards). In its news release, Topps doesn’t say exactly how collectors can get these cards, but more than likely a follow-up release will explain that. Topps obliquely notes that the packs will be given away through various giveaways on Twitter until there are no packs left, and to check back next week on @BowmanCards for details.

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Remembering Japan’s first major-leaguer

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

It’s not unusual any more to find Japanese-born players on major-league baseball rosters. Start with the Marlins’ Ichiro Suzuki and Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish, and throw in Red Sox closer Koji Uehara. Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka was just sent to the disabled list.

In previous seasons, Akinori Iwamura played for the Rays and appeared in the 2008 World Series for Tampa Bay. Designated hitter Hideki Matsui was the World Series MVP for the Yankees in 2009.

Fifty-three men from Japan have played in the majors, but the first one hardly could be called a trailblazer in the Jackie Robinson mode. Masanori Murakami was a 20-year-old rookie when he debuted for the San Francisco Giants on Sept. 1, 1964. “Mashi” made a splash as a left-handed reliever who threw with a three-quarters motion.

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