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Sunday, Nov 23, 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.

A jaunty ride through an iconic broadcasting career

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

Even though he has made one of the most iconic calls in television sports history, Al Michaels still projects a guy-next-door image. He’s the neighbor who visits with you and chats about the game on the TV, sprinkling in stories and bits of knowledge and perspective as the action unfolds.

It’s not that easy, of course. Michaels just makes it look that way.

I was convinced Michaels was a regular guy in December 1983. I was in Jacksonville to cover the 39th annual Gator Bowl that pitted Florida against Iowa. I was walking through the lobby of the media hotel and peeked into a cubbyhole that served as a small game room — and there was Michaels, playing a video game. Don’t recall if it was Pac-Man or Space Invaders, but he was beating it pretty good.

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James’ ‘Handbook’ perfect companion for hot stove league

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

So, whose shifts don’t stink?

According to sabermetrics guru Bill James, the Houston Astros. Even though they lost 92 games last season, the Astros employed 1,341 shifts during 2014 and saved 27 runs to lead the majors.

That’s just one of the new bits of information contained in “The Bill James Handbook” (ACTA Sports; paperback; $28.95; 586 pages). For his 2015 edition, James puts out his usual, exhaustive statistics — career data for every major-leaguer who played in 2014, the annual Fielding Bible Awards, career projections and targets, and a Hall of Fame monitor.

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Collect call: 2014 Topps Supreme baseball

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

Topps Supreme has been a high-end staple for football collectors the past few years. In baseball, it has not been a mainstream product in the United States.

Until this year.

A two-card hobby box is available for collectors in the $60 to $80 range, depending on what website or hobby shop you visit. Each card will be an autograph card and will be numbered to 50 or less.

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Baseball’s most important people? Here are the poll results

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

The results are in, and Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson are the two most important people in baseball history.

Those are among the opinions gleaned from 262 voters (including me) who voted in Graham Womack’s online poll, “The 25 Most Important People in Baseball History.”

Womack is a freelance writer/blogger/statistics guy, and in September he created a 190-person ballot (write-in votes also were encouraged) available to anyone who wanted to vote.

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A fresh look at an old baseball controversy

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

Writing about baseball history, particularly an isolated, controversial event that took place more than a century ago, can be a daunting task.

But author/historian Rick Huhn is equal to the challenge. A member of the Society for American Baseball Research and a lawyer with more than 30 years of litigation experience, Huhn uses his writing and legal abilities to blow the musty dust away from an incident that smelled bad in 1910 — and still has a lingering odor — and brings some fresh perspective to a fascinating chapter of baseball’s dead-ball era.

“The Chalmers Race: Ty Cobb, Napoleon Lajoie, and the Controversial 1910 Batting Title That Became a National Obsession” (University of Nebraska Press; hardback; $29.95; 283 pages) is a well-researched, entertaining read. It shows that like politics, numbers can be used — or misused — to win a prize.

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Collect call: 2014 Topps Valor football

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

After a year’s absence, Topps has brought back Valor football, touting the attributes most of us admire in football players—courage, strength, speed, discipline and of course, valor.

With a gold foil “V” in the top left-hand corner of every card (reminds one of a shield) and a smoky, impressionistic-looking design, Topps lends a military air to this set of cards, which should appeal to collectors whose spending falls in the mid-range.

A hobby contains 20 packs, with six cards to a pack. Topps is promising an autograph card, an auto-relic, a jumbo relic and a patch relic in each hobby box. There are 200 cards in the base set, and parallels for each. A Speed parallel is included in every pack in a hobby b0x, and numbered parallels are included for Strength (499), Courage (399), Discipline (299), Glory (199), Valor (199) and Heart (1/1).

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The uneasy relationship between two Brooklyn legends

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

Author/historian William C. Kashatus has taken one of the subplots of Roger Kahn’s iconic baseball book “The Boys of Summer,” fleshed it out and made it his own.

What results is a surprising, thought-provoking look at Hall of Fame teammates Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella, their different approaches to fighting racism, and their competitive, often prickly co-existence.

In “Jackie & Campy: The Untold Story of Their Rocky Relationship and the Breaking of Baseball’s Color Line” (University of Nebraska Press; hardback; $24.95; 234 pages) Kashatus digs beneath the surface to support Kahn’s premise that in this “ironic rivalry,” between two of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ most beloved stars.

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Collect call: 2014 Topps Update baseball

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

Topps winds up production of its flagship baseball product with its 2014 Update set, and it’s a nice finish. Sharp photography, All-Star memories and traded players in new uniforms make for a satisfying product.

Some of the photography really pops. Card No. 203, for example, shows Cole Figueroa being doused by a bucket of Gatorade. The stream of liquid is frozen perfectly in the horizontal shot.

As usual, there are 330 cards to the base set, along with short-printed variations. A hobby box contains 36 packs, with 10 cards to a pack. That’s always good news for set builders.

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Collect call: 2014 Topps Heritage Minor League baseball

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

What’s fun about opening a box of Topps Heritage Minor League baseball is the idea that somebody in this set could become a major-league star someday.

Following the trend of the Heritage set for major-league players, Topps used the 1965 design for this set, which consists of 200 base cards and 25 short prints. A hobby box contains 24 packs, with nine cards to a pack. Topps promises two autograph cards and one memorabilia card in every hobby box.

And while this set emphasizes prospects and up-and-coming stars, it’s interesting to pull a minor-league card of longtime slugger Manny Ramirez, now 42, who spent three months as a player-instructor for the Iowa Cubs before an injury ended his season. It’s also fun to pull a card of a local player like Valrico’s Tyler Danish (card No. 148), who starred at Durant High and led the Cougars to the Class 8A state championship game in 2013.

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Collect call: 2014 Topps Stadium Club baseball

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

Topps Stadium Club was a big hit when it made its debut in 1991 as a 600-card set that contained two series of 300 cards apiece. Topps made use of full-bleed photography and high gloss to produce one of the nicer sets of the 1990s.

The product ran through the 2003 season and took a five-year hiatus before re-emerging in 2008. And now, after another six-year stint on the sidelines, Stadium Club returns in 2014.

A hobby box contains three mini-boxes. There are five packs per mini-box, with five cards to a pack. Topps promises one on-card autograph in every mini-box. The base set has 200 cards, and there are an additional 69 autograph cards. The hobby box I opened yielded 78 base cards and three signature cards.

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