Author Archives: stevelowery12

A sign of the (L.A.) Times: How did the Clippers come to find Ralph Lawler’s replacement? He was there all along.

By Tom Hoffarth
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George made one big splash for the Clippers this summer.
But the thing that could have a ripple effect for the franchise’s long-term success was how they went forward with the broadcasting roster following the retirement of Ralph Lawler.
Brian Sieman was there all along, having done a dozen years on radio. And the team looked high and low for a “bigger name.” Then decided he was the guy.
It’s an awkward process we try to explain in the latest L.A. Times sports media column with much more between the lines that we could explore.
Could Spero Dedes have gotten this Clippers job? Sure, but he’s also committed to national NFL and college basketball assignments. Like many broadcasters today who want to be more nimble than a symbol of the team’s narrative.
Sieman could have left. He didn’t. And the Clippers are lucky to have him, as we pointed out a while back in the revival of our best-and-worst of L.A. sports broadcasting lists.
The Clippers made the hiring of Sieman as well as Chauncey Billups and Noah Eagle official on Monday with their own press release.
We attempted to ask questions of Gillian Zucker, the Clippers head of business operations who somehow was the point person for this process. She wasn’t available.
So here are some of the things you won’t find in the Clippers release here in the LA Times.  Fasten your seatbelts.
More:
= ClipsNation.com has Sieman on its latest podcast.

 

Giving you the (LA) Business (Journal): The bigger picture of how the new Inglewood Stadium (do we have to call it SoFi already?) has added value for eyes in the sky

If you’ve had the chance to land a window seat on any inbound plane for LAX, the view of the 75-percent finished Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Development in Inglewood is quite spectacular.
The white sprawling roof of the 70,000-seat stadium for the Rams and Chargers starting in 2020 makes it now easy to spot from many vantage points in Southern California.
Including overhead.
In talking to LASEC managing director Jason Gannon for a cover story in the latest issue of the Los Angeles Business Journal, the recent naming rights deal with American Airlines for the plaza area was a strategic move because of how many ways this $5 billion venue can be appreciated.
“The most incredible part of the roof and its footprint — it encompasses about a million square feet — is that it speaks to not just the physical scope and size of the project but how it fits appropriately within the entire project.
“Through (the naming rights deal with American Airlines), they were telling us that as their planes were approaching LAX, the No. 1 question from customers who might not be familiar with Los Angeles in general was about the structure they could see below. To us, that speaks not just to the location of the project but in the long term now it creates and elevated view so that you don’t have to be on the site to experience it in so many different ways — that has never been done before.”

IMG_7763As a story in the Wall Street Journal also points out, there are nearly 200,000 passengers on flights coming into and out of L.A. each day.
A link to a brief version of the LABJ story, with more available in the print edition.

 

ESPN at 40: Another list for the aged

By Tom Hoffarth
Is this where ESPN suffers a mid-life crisis like the rest of us when we hit 40?
The network’s launch on Sept. 7, 1979 was likely before many today were even born. And they will remind us of that.
For us, it landed three months after our high school graduation and pretty much at the time college started. Right in our wheelhouse, right?
We didn’t get it. Literally, figuratively or whatever other way you want to frame it.
The network plans all sorts of ways to mark this ruby anniversary. One of them is a Sept. 10 episode of “E:60” where they found the first live event the network ever telecast — a professional slo-pitch softball game between the Kentucky Bourbons and the Milwaukee Schlitzes that aired that night, has not aired since, and the video that somehow had gone missing was recently found.
As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of our 20th high school reunion, and try to remember what really was the most compelling sports shows of 1979 — and incredulous at how Fran Tarkenton got to be a co-host of “That’s Incredible!” — this is an opportunity to list the 40 things that pop into our head about ESPN’s run to this point.

Our personal Top 40 list: Read more

A sign of the (L.A.) Times: There’s more from the Mort

By Tom Hoffarth
Among the things we learned with our latest check-in with ESPN’s Chris Mortensen that didn’t make it into the lead item in the latest Los Angeles Times sports media column was an exchange he said he had last weekend with Duke head coach David Cutcliffe.

Cutcliffe and Mortensen go way back. Cutcliffe was the quarterbacks coach for Peyton Manning at Tennessee and Eli Manning at Ole Miss, and still believes rookie Daniel Jones will be the real deal with the New York Giants:

NFL Live - January 31, 2019“I’m in Atlanta for the Alabama-Duke game — my son, Alex, is one of Nick Saban’s offensive analysts — and I know ‘Cut’ will be there. He’s a great human being. I left him a long-winded message on his cellphone telling him I was coming to  the game, Alex is on the other side, maybe I could say hi before kickoff. It turns out I get to this airport hotel and there’s a big sign welcoming the Duke team. He’s staying at my same hotel. So it’s seven hours before kickoff, they’re at the morning team meal, and I got in there and spent a half hour just visiting.
“He says to me, ‘Promise me one thing, Mort. Someday, you’ll write a book with 32 chapters, and each one will be about all the things you know about that NFL team that you’ve never talked about or written about. You need to tell those stories. It’ll be a magnificent book, because every time we talk, I find out something new I never knew about.’
“The truth is, I probably on disclose about five percent of what I know,” Mortensen added. “But when you’ve been in the business 50 years, that’s a pretty big slice. It’s all relative.” Read more

A sign of the (L.A.) Times: How 50 years ago, The Baseball Encyclopedia arrived at six pounds, some 2,300 pages, and a statistical revolution was born

By Tom Hoffarth
The summer of ’69 had its lunar steps and its “Bad Moon Rising” at Woodstock.
With all that, David Neft, the first editor in chief of The Baseball Encyclopedia, is over the moon to be here today at age 82 and witness the marking of the publication’s 50th anniversary milestone.
As he says in our latest L.A. Times piece: “I realized two things from the start — one, I better damn well get it right, and two, whatever else I did professionally in my life, I figured that 50 years later, when I’m dead and buried, if anyone remembers me for anything, it’ll be for this book.”
We’re thankful to have made it out to San Diego for the annual SABR convention and see all the attention given to Neft and his project, as we are for the time Neft gave us to explain more about how it came about.

In addition to all we got into the story by way of notes, quotes and anecdotes, we offer even more tidbits:

Neft opens book

David Neft goes through The Baseball Encyclopedia with an attendee at the SABR convention in San Diego on June 28, 2019.

== The book’s $25 original price tag translates to about $175 in today’s currency.

== A link to the SABR panel discussion from June 28 is here.

== Although Neft only did the first edition, the project led him to take the template and apply it to other sports – the NBA and NFL in particular – to generate a bound statistical history for them as well. The “real” version of the Neft-birthed Baseball Encyclopedia ended up with 10 more editions with updated material before finally stopping in 1993, all of them put out by Macmillian. That led to the book’s nickname among those who used it as “The Big Mac.”
Each new edition of The Baseball Encyclopedia would tout its new information — and new research that could have cleared up postings in the previous book. By the time the ninth edition came around in ’93, for example, the “complete and definite record of Major League Baseball” had an updated listing of more than 130 Negro League stars, including nicknames, and it had the official team record of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. This edition also explained how it dealt with challenges to the hitting records of Tris Speaker, Eddie Collins and Buck Weaver, and the pitching stats of Christy Mathewson and Cy Young.
It’s an evolving process, you see.

== Simon and Schuster produced their own The Baseball Encyclopedia from 1993 to ’96.

== Rick Wolfe of Sports Illustrated became The Baseball Encyclopedia editorial director in 1987, when the book expanded to 2,780, and wrote this piece for SI in 1990.

== The New York Times reports on the book’s pending arrival:

NYT.08.29.69

== Neft had only sketchy accounts of statistics provided before his project began. The first encyclopedia of all baseball records available to the public came out in 1914. The Baseball Cyclopedia by Ernest J. Lanigan in 1922 came from that, as did a series of “The Official Encyclopedia of Baseball” by sportswriter Hy Turkin and archivist S.C. Thompson between 1951 and revised through Thompson’s death in ’67. It’s the one Neft admits in the late ‘50s he once devoured as a teenager at a summer camp one year and got the idea to thoroughly resource his own based on things he thought were missing.
“What David did was a conceptual leap from what was done before, and he didn’t just expand on things, but looked at it all completely differently,” said Retrosheet.org founder David Smith said. “He went back to the beginning and started from scratch. When I finally started Retrosheet, that was a model for me, going back to the basic raw data.”

== Smith also said at the SABR convention: “One of the great values of this physical book is I take it with me to regional meetings with MLB player and I have about 50 of them who have signed this book, including Monte Irvin. They’re delighted to see their names on the page. That was very special.”
Smith also produced something that was rarely seen from the original published book: A paper calculator that could be used to look up players to see where they ranked.

== The timing of the first book’s release was also important in the game’s evolution.
In 1969, baseball was celebrating the centennial season of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings and the dawn of professional baseball. President Nixon participated in the selection of the all-time All Star team for baseball’s first 100 years. The season climaxed with the New York Mets’ “miracle” championship in the first year of the NL and AL having a West and East division after adding the San Diego Padres, Montreal Expos (now Washington Nationals), Kansas City Royals and Seattle Pilots (who moved to Milwaukee in 1970).
From a stat-freak point of view, the pitching save was first recorded in ’69.

== If Neft had what he said was “one small regret” about his project, it’s that he could not fit on-base percentage into the hitting tables. The stat was created in the 1940s by famed Dodgers statistician Allan Roth, and not only became official, but was augmented to pair up with slugging percentage to create the OPS stat, or on-base plus slugging.

== In the original edition,

== The New York Times’ Jimmy Breslin reviews the book:

BBencyclopedia screen clip NYT review

== Check out a story entitled “The Macmillian Baseball Encyclopedia, the West System, and Sweat Equity,” by Robert C. Berring, in the Fall 2010 Baseball Research Journal.

== A fantastic 2017 piece by Rob Neyer entitled “Before Baseball-Reference, Statheads Relied On The ‘Big Mac’,” for FiveThirtyEight.com.

== On Baseball-Reference.com, which arrived in 2000, a webpage tribute for it the book includes: “The statistical record compiled for the first edition of The Baseball Encyclopedia has formed the backbone of all subsequent encyclopedias. There have been a handful of subsequent discoveries that were missed when the Encyclopedia was compiled, but it remains a landmark.”

== One of our favorite pastimes with the original book is to look up famous players — take, Babe Ruth, page 1,427 of the player register and 2,090 in the pitcher register — and find other players who can say they shared the same page in the record book with him. One such player is simply named “Rust,” with no first name, who played for the 1882 Baltimore AA team. In one game, he was 1-for-3 as both an outfielder and started the game as a pitcher, going five innings, giving up 10 hits and was the losing pitcher with an ERA of 7.20.
All that’s known about him that could be listed was that he was born in Louisville, Ky., and is now deceased. In future editions, names that didn’t include both first and last seem to be omitted.
On the other side of the page from Ruth in the pitcher register is Ryan Lynn Nolan of Refugio, Tex, who had a career record of 6-10 with a 3.35 ERA for the New York Mets in parts of two seasons.

Neft signs book

== And if anyone asks, yes, we got David Neft to sign our 1969 copy of his book.

IMG_7585

LET’S (LONG BEACH) POST IT: PATRICK CANTLAY AND THE $15 MILLION PURSUIT

By Tom Hoffarth

For those accountants keeping track of Patrick Cantlay’s spreadsheets, the Long Beach native made $487,000 this past weekend in Atlanta at the PGA Tour Championship, a tie for 21st place in a 30-man field. The 27-year-old opened with an even-par 70 in the first round to keep his pre-weighted eight-shot advantage into a fifth-place positioning. Three more rounds of 71, 75 and 73 during rain delays eventually pushed him down behind the eventual winner Rory McIlroy, who had the $15 million take-home for winning the FedEx Cup playoff format.
Going into the event, we caught up with Cantlay to get his feel on how those at the Virginia Country Club in Long Beach were in his corner and where his heart and mind was centered, also based on observations by his coach, Jamie Mulligan. It’s here and posted on the Long Beach Post website.

The Return: Rocky Bleier, Vietnam, and a doc worthy of Oscar consideration

This is an extended piece from an item in the Aug. 19 edition of the Los Angeles Times:

By Tom Hoffarth

Producer Jon Fish said he got a call about a month ago from ESPN execs to see if he could possibly speed up the editing process of his “SC Featured” documentary called “The Return,” based on former Pittsburgh Steelers running back and Army veteran Rocky Bleier agreeing to come revisit the Vietnam site where he was injured and earned a Purple Heart.

The network wanted to see if the piece could be entered into the L.A. Shorts International Film Festival last month. Fish obliged with a rough cut for the organization, without really knowing the ramifications.

Surprise: The festival not only requested a final version, but the 27-minute piece won Best Documentary. Read more

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