[Editor’s Note: Paul is on his annual August break from site. Deputy editor Phil Hecken is in charge from now through the end of the month, although Paul is still on the clock over at ESPN and may be popping up here occasionally.]
By Phil Hecken with Jared Pike
A couple weeks ago, in a sub-lede titled “In Case You Missed It Saturday”, I had posted some tweets from a Cubs/A’s throwback game, in which the TV broadcast used “retro graphics”. Shortly after that, reader Jared Pike contacted me with the following note, “I read your recent entry on the A’s-Cubs game with early 80s throwbacks (and TV graphics to match). Sportscasters throwing back is a relatively recent phenomenon, but it’s not unheard of.” He then explained he’d written about this and asked if I’d be interested in using it on Uni Watch.
While it’s not exactly uni-related, it’s a cool topic, and one which I’m happy to have Jared explore further and explain to us. Here’s Jared with…
Broadcast Throwbacks: 6 Times Sportscasters Turned Back the Clock
By Jared Pike
1. Cubs vs. A’s (August 6, 2016)
Everyone knows about “throwbacks” in sports — players wearing replicas of uniform designs from their team’s history. But only recently have television sportscasters joined in the fun. At a Cubs-A’s game with early 80s throwback uniforms, Comcast SportsNet created spot-on 80s television graphics to match — from the period-accurate NBC peacock logo to the delightfully long black drop shadows. (The Pirates also attempted this in April but, with absurd wigs and That-70s-Show graphics, just ended up looking goofy). Announcers also wore yellow blazers, which brings us to:
2. Monday Night Football (September 14, 2015)
ABC Sports invented the yellow blazer as the standard costume for 1970s television sportscasters. Blame Monday Night Football, in which Howard Cosell, Don Meredith, and Frank Gifford all sported the mustard-colored jackets. Gifford served in the MNF booth for 26 years, and when he died in 2015 on the eve of that season’s inaugural Monday Night Football game, Gifford’s successors at ESPN donned yellow jackets to honor the longtime announcer.
3. Southern 500 (September 6, 2015)
NASCAR caught the nostalgia bug in 2015, moving the Darlington race to Labor Day weekend, and encouraging drivers to display throwback paint schemes. NBC had some fun with their retro graphics, but more significantly, they brought back legendary NASCAR personalities Ken Squier and Ned Jarrett to call a significant chunk of the race. This was a genius move, bringing living history to a current sporting event in a way that has not yet been duplicated. Old guys rule! (Interestingly enough, the current NBC Sports crew wore goofy 1970s jackets, while the 1970s announcers dressed normally).
4. Men in Blazers (September 18, 2014)
Every week, British comedians Roger Bennett and Michael Davies lampoon soccer on their NBCSN show and podcast, Men in Blazers. Though they have a tiny closet of a set, there’s an incongruous neon sign on the wall celebrating the George Michael Sports Machine. As they explain on their blog, George Michael’s weekly highlight reels helped to acclimatize Roger and Michael to the atmosphere of American sports in the 1980s. Not only do they display George Michael’s original sign as an homage, but they frequently mimic the bloopy synth sound effect that started off Michael’s show.
5. Dodgers vs. Cubs (August 26, 2000)
Fox Sports never shies away from trying new things (anyone remember the glowing hockey puck, or explosion sound effects for a touchdown pass?) However, this ambitious broadcast was the gimmick to end all gimmicks. To celebrate the anniversary of the first televised baseball game, Fox began its broadcast in black-and-white, with one camera, no on-screen graphics, and purposely tinny audio. As each inning progressed, their broadcast style would advance one decade, and they would describe how that generation watched baseball. First they added a second camera; then, better sound. Color. Instant replay. Slow motion. Wireless cameras in the stadium. In the final inning, they unleashed all their modern toys, including mic’ed up managers, FoxBox onscreen graphics, and a helmet cam on the catcher. Lord knows what 1940s viewers would think of hashtags, high def, or live pitch tracking.
6. Brewers vs. Red Sox (June 26, 1982)
This final instance happened by accident, making it especially brilliant. Boston was down to Milwaukee 11-8, and before the bottom of the 9th, the power went out at Fenway Park. All television equipment stopped functioning except for one camera and the intercom. Luckily, the director of the telecast was Harry Coyle, who had previously guided 36 World Series broadcasts. He told the lone cameraman, Mario, “We’ll show ’em what one cameraman can do!” and proceeded to direct the final inning of the game with just a single camera and zoom lens, located above home plate — including a frantic near-comeback by the Red Sox. In essence, he was throwing back to the way baseball used to be broadcast (like Fox did), but doing it out of necessity! Even more remarkably, producer Rick Reed happened to be filming the TV truck for a segment on Coyle, and captured the entire incident, including the intercom chatter between Coyle and Mario.
Great stuff, Jared — and thanks for allowing me to share it with the Uni-verse.
…AND YOUR FINALISTS ARE…
OK, not quite — but thanks to your voting (and your patience), I’m pleased to announce our 12 finalists for the Griffins Design Contest. I’m hoping the Griffins will be able to give us their final decision on a winner(s) next week, but today I wanted to show you the reader-selected designs and the voting.
I took screen shots (which you will see below) of the each of the polls (two per day, for a total of four separate days), which list all the votes for a 24 hour period (each morning, I took a screen shot of the previous day’s poll at approximately 7:00 am). The top three vote-getters for each day (in both polls for that day) were selected as finalists, giving a total of 12 (three for each day, spread over four days).
Here are the finalists from each day (Set I, Set II, Set III, and Set IV) and the number of votes each design received (you can click on any image below to enlarge):
Set I (Groups A & B)
The top three vote-getters from Set I:
Matt Cully (a/k/a Matt Medium)
Set II (Groups C & D)
The top three vote-getters from Set II:
Set III (Groups E & F)
The top three vote-getters from Set III:
Set IV (Groups G & H)
The top three vote-getters from Set IV:
Congratulations to the 12 finalists, as well as to everyone who participated — either by submitting a design or by voting on those designs. Good luck to all the finalists as the decision on which jersey to choose now lies with the Griffins.
Mike Chamernik’s Question of the Week
Hey Boys and Girls. I asked Mike if he could come up with a “Question of the Week” for today, and he happily obliged! So…here’s Mike:
What is your favorite sports book? It could be either fiction or nonfiction.
I have plenty of favorites, but I really enjoyed “Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All” by Jack McCallum, the long-time Sports Illustrated writer. The book really isn’t about the Dream Team’s on-court success. That part was obvious. Instead, McCallum detailed how the team was put together, and all the hoopla that the team generated in both Monaco, where they trained, and Barcelona. He caught up with all the players and wrote mini-profiles on them, focusing on what they’ve done in the years since the Games. Most importantly, he covered the relationships between the players on the team, stuff like Larry Bird and Patrick Ewing becoming best friends, and the semi-friendly rivalry between Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. Of course, there are plenty of good Charles Barkley stories in there, too.
I also really liked “Loose Balls” by Terry Pluto, an oral history on the ABA; “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty” by Buster Olney, which covers the characters of the late-90s Yankees told through the lens of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series; and “The Only Rule Is It Has to Work” by Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller, two Baseball Prospectus guys who controlled an independent minor league team last year.
Tell me about your favorite sports books in the comments.
Thanks, Mike — great question. I’ll start things off:
Favorite? That’s a tough one, and I’d probably have to rank a trio I really love as top three, because I loved each one, for different reasons.
1. “Moneyball” — fantastic book by Michael Lewis (which they turned into a movie that was pretty faithful to the book); all about the A’s formula for putting together a winning team despite not having the traditional funding of powerhouses like the Yanks. Of course, the A’s never won it all in the post season, when it really counted, but not for wont of doing more with less.
2. “A Season on the Brink” — a lot of people aren’t John Feinstein fans (he’s churned out a ton of books in the past couple decades) but this one was easily his best. Basically it covered (as he was granted really unique, at the time, access to the Indiana hoops team and specifically Bobby Knight) a half year of Feinstein reporting the Indiana Hoosiers during the 1985-86 season — a year before the team would win it all in 1987. I only read the book recently (about two years ago), but it was considered “groundbreaking” at the time (and still is), and after its publication, the rules for ‘insider access’ were changed.
3. “The Natural” — if you’ve only seen the movie (and who hasn’t?), then you’re getting the sanitized, Hollywood-treatment of a really great fictional novel. While somewhat truth-based (it does mirror the shooting of Eddie Waitkus) with a mix of Ted Williams thrown in, it’s a lot darker than the movie…and the ending is just a bit different from the exploding lights and Roy Hobbs circling the bases seen in the Hollywood ending. Despite that, I enjoyed both the book and the movie. I’d highly recommend this one, especially if you haven’t seen the Redford/Levinson film.
Great question, Mike!
And now a quick word from Paul: Hi there. ESPN.com is doing a series of articles called “The Departed,” about teams that relocated to other cities, and the effect that had on the original city’s fans. My contribution is a look at Hartford’s enduring love affair with the Whalers. Check it out here.
KRC update: Paul here (again). The latest installment of Key Ring Chronicles is up, and it’s a really, really good one. See that little doohickey on the end of the chain? That’s a dust cover to an emergency air supply manifold on a U.S. Navy submarine. To find out how it ended up on someone’s key ring, look here.
By Mike Chamernik
Baseball News: The White Sox will rename their ballpark Guaranteed Rate Field. The naming rights last for 13 years, through the end of the 2029 season. The ballpark is currently called U.S. Cellular Field, and it was originally named Comiskey Park (or Comiskey Park II) from its 1991 opening through 2002. … Ken Griffey Jr. sat in on the ESPN broadcast of the Yankees-Mariners game on Tuesday night, and he discussed the M’s Turn Ahead the Clock unis. The Mariners produced a video report on the game. … Frank Thomas encouraged Ken Griffey Jr. to wear his hat backwards at his Hall of Fame induction this summer. And while Junior popularized the look, backwards hats date back to 1879. And actually, so do crooked hats! … The Rays have three variations of their fauxback caps. … Bryce Harper is promoting “Harper’s Heroes” hats, a limited edition collection from New Era. Proceeds will benefits children battling cancer (from John Muir). … Speaking of Bryce, he held Katie Ledecky’s five medals as the Olympic swimmer threw out the first pitch at the Nats game last night. … Pearl Jam played a show at Wrigley Field last weekend. Lead singer Eddie Vedder is a big Cubs fan, so the band hung a few Cubs jerseys on stage. As you can see, that’s a White Sox jersey farthest to the right. Matt Cinquegrani doesn’t know if this was done on purpose or not. I think it may be a subtle dig towards Chris Sale.
NFL News: A few readers sent this in: The Saints unveiled new field banners and big new video boards at the Superdome. Here’s more info on the boards. … “Don’t know if I’ve seen a color photo with the Lions sporting both Honolulu Blue (pants/socks) and Navy Blue (Helmet/Jersey),” writes Alex Dewitt. That comes from a slideshow on the greatest Lions by jersey number. … This 1981 photo shows a Baltimore Colts trainer wearing a Brooklyn Dodgers-esque “B” cap. Did the Colts ever use that as an alternate logo? (From Dave Holland). … Bills LB Preston Brown joked (I think) that he keeps candy in the hoodie he wears under his jersey.
College Football News: New helmets for Ball State. More photos here (from Phil). … South Carolina will have a palmetto tree nose bumper (from Daren Stoltzfus). … Here’s what Duke and Indiana’s uniforms would look like if they were inspired by their marching bands (from James Gilbert, via Phil). … Michigan Tech had an incorrect logo painted at midfield. The correct logo should be there in time for the opener next Saturday (from Jerry Nitzh). … Here are a few maps that show where college football players were born, by conference (from Jason Hillyer). … New helmets for Saint Anselm. … New uniforms for Fordham.
NBA News: Yesterday was Kobe Bryant Day in Los Angeles ”” the date was 8-24, Bryant’s two jersey numbers. The LA Rams, along with many other teams, posted a tribute on social media. … The Kings will have a new logo, uniforms, and arena this year, so its natural they will have a new court design as well. Here’s a gallery of Kings courts since they moved to Sacramento in 1985. … Gatorade bottles show Paul George wearing No. 29, which he wore during the World Championships in 2014. He wore his usual No. 13 in Rio this summer (from Adam Treiber). … Photos of the purported new signature shoe for James Harden leaked online the other day, and internet commenters had a field day making fun of it.
Soccer News: Two items from a reader named Trev: AtlÃ©tico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann wears long sleeves because David Beckham was his idol growing up, and Lokomotiv Moscow fills its jersey numbers with season ticket holder photos. … Here’s a rundown of the new kits for top European clubs (from Josh Hinton).
Grab Bag: An Olympic team comprised of refugee athletes had their own anthem and flag (from Ricky Schumaker, via Phil).
And that’s it for today. Big Thanks to Jared for the neat lede — kind of a fun sorta non-uni topic to explore, and also Mike for his QOTW and handling the ticker.
Back with more good stuff tomorrow, but…
Until then, follow me on Twitter @PhilHecken.
“I would rather read every word of the iPhone terms and conditions than read the corporate-speak of today’s uniform manufacturers. And I’d rather clean toilets than have to write that stuff.”
— Jimmer Vilk
Favorite books in no particular order:
Soccer in Sun and Shadow – Eduardo Galeano
Annapurna – Maurice Herzog
The Boys of Summer – Roger Kahn
(the aforementioned) Loose Balls – Terry Pluto
The Breaks of the Game – David Halberstam
Really looking forward to everyobody else’s!
Favorite sports book is still Loose Balls by Terry Pluto, about the aba.
Runner-up: the miracle of castel di sangro by Joe MGinniss
I check out “Loose Balls” from the library at least once every few years, it never gets old!
My favorite part of “Loose Balls” was when it went through the history of the red-white-and-blue ball that the ABA used. The quotes were arranged to show the progression from when founding Commissioner George Mikan introducing the unique design to draw attention to the league, the players’ struggle to adjust to the new equipment, Mikan standing his ground, all the way to everyone realizing how great the ball looks in action, especially when a three-point shot goes in.
Great book. Also tells how the ABA never got around to trademarking the Red White & Blue ball, and how millions of balls were produced and sold with the ABA rarely getting a royalty on it.
Or the Spirits of St. Louis – already having announced their move to Utah before the merger took hold, then conned the surviving owners to pay them 5/7 of a team share of TV money IN PERPETUITY (forever) if the Spirits agreed to fold and not sue to block the merger. Awesome details.
Favorite Book: Dead Solid Perfect by Dan Jenkins. And I’m not even a golfer.
Runner Up: Men at Work by George Will
I do remember (though I’d have to look up the date) that WGN did a similar concept to example 5 celebrating however many years of the Cubs on WGN. The first few innings were in black and white, and the lone camera looked down from the first base side. And, yeah, every couple innings would bring a new advancement.
That was in 2008 as WGN celebrated its 60th anniversary of broadcasting Cubs baseball. The Cubs and Braves wore 1948 uniforms and Len Kasper and Bob Brenly were decked out in 1940s clothes.
It was amazing. Had it on my DVR for years until the DVR just deleted everything by itself one day. I was crushed.
When I see Refugee Nation, I think American ad’s Camp Re-fugee.
My favorite sports book is The Game by Ken Dryden. It is just a tremendous book. Dryden gives a great insight into the game of hockey, the life of a goaltender, and the workings of a dynastic team, in this case the great Montreal Canadiens team of the 1970’s. I can not recommend it enough.
+1000 to this.
On top of everything else Dryden is an excellent writer. Its not ghostwritten crap or semi-literate celebrity ramblings. Its a hell of a book.
You guys beat me to it. Great book.
I actually liked Home Game better. Maybe because I read it first, or because The Game was hyped up moreso.
The Mets and their then-broadcast partner SportsChannel NY did a throwback game in the early 1990s, emulating a WOR-TV broadcast from the late 1960s or early 1970’s. Even threw in a simulated video line outage to boot. Bill Webb was directing.
Fiction: “The Art of Fielding” by Harbaugh. Forget sports, it’s one of the best novels of any kind I’ve read this century.
Runners up: “The Iowa Baseball Confederacy” by Kinsella. Better than his other baseball novel – you know, the one with the field. “The Natural” by Malamud, of course, but honestly I’d rather retread “Bang the Drum Slowly” by Harris. “The Great American Novel” by Roth. “The Universal Baseball Association, Inc.” by Coover.
Nonfiction: “Runs, Hits, and an Era: The Pacific Coast League 1903-58” by Zingg and Madeiros. The text kickstarted my interest in serious baseball history; the photos got me serious about uni watching.
Runners up: “A Good Walk Spoiled” by Feinstein. “Moneyball” by Lewis. “When Johnny Came Sliding Home” by Ryczek. “Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy” by Leavy – I normally hate biographies, but this was just that good.
Personal sports book white whale: “A Zen Way of Baseball” is Sadaharu Oh’s book on baseball and his own career. One of two books I scour used book stores and antique shops trying to find.
I forgot I had read “The Art of Fielding” and really enjoying it. Damn. Thanks for reminding me.
I read A Good Walk Spoiled when I was a teenager and really liked it.
Does purchasing online count?
Ball Four – Jim Bouton. Nothing else is close
Was going to mention that myself. +1
I vote for Ball Four too.
There’s no doubt it’s an important book. It was the first “tell-all” book and certainly helped with the players getting salary help.
But I don’t find it well written. And Bouton himself is far from sympathetic.
I bought a copy of “Ball Four” before I knew what most of the words meant. When I rediscovered the book a few years later, it gained many dog-eared pages for all the nasty bits it had. It was a departure from all the other sports books I read up to that time.
So Guaranteed Rate Field is actually only guaranteed for 13 years? I’m assuming there’s a balloon payment scheduled in the fine print for year 14, at which point the stadium will be foreclosed and repossessed.
I shudder to think about which entity would be a willing sponsor for the old International Ampitheatre. Probably Loya Insurance or Car Credit Center.
Guaranteed Rate Field…now more than ever, I still call it New Comiskey.
I’m calling it anything but that horrific moniker, and apparently other folks agree: link
Low interest at Guaranteed Rate Field
I love the idea of throwback broadcasts, but the font is probably wrong in the Cubs-A’s 2016 broadcast – it’s Arial, which was around in the early 80s but wasn’t popular until Microsoft made it a default font in Windows in the early 90s. A broadcaster would have used Helvetica or a closer knockoff, I think.
Two books I reread consistently:
– The Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association by Ed Willies
– One Dollar League: Rise and Fall of the United States Football League by Jim Byrne (Can be a hard book to find though.)
Another vote for the Rebel League!!
Favorite sports books: The Natural is up there for sure, and I really liked The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons. I was a big fan of Lance Armstrong’s autobiography until a couple of years ago. One that’s kind of gone under the radar is “The Unwritten Rules of Baseball” by Paul Dickson. It’s a light read but does a nice job highlighting the intricacies and bizarre elements of our weird national pastime.
When Nothing Else Matters
The Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights are embroiled in a fake game-worn jersey scam, says one disgruntled fan. Not really surprising as the Knights organization plays fast and loose with rules … and not just on ice.
“How to Play Baseball Better Than You Did Last Season”
by Jonah Kalb
Loved the Dream Team book. Such great insight to details. David Robinson walking off a golf course because Barkely was cursing to much. Or the scrimmage that was 5 on 5 of all Hall of Fame players. I wished he went in to detail about every member, but he didn’t. No profile on Ewing, etc…but still very good.
7 Seconds or Less by McCallum is also very good.
I’m a big Mets fan and Jeff Pearlman’s book is probably my favorite, The Bad Guys Won. So many good stories on the dysfunctional 86 Mets.
I read mostly biographies, you find great stories. In Darryl Strawberry’s book, the LA high school city championship was played at Dodgers Stadium. Darryl’s team was All Black from Crenshaw. They played against an all white team led by the pitcher and SS, John Elway.
Wwe has done old school raw’s where they use 80s graphics, with a retro stage (a hodgepodge of the raw sets in the 90s) with blue mats, steel barricades and all.
do they go back to the WWF logo?
No, it was still the WWE. They legally can’t use WWF anymore due to a lawsuit from the World Wildlife Fund.
The first one they did actually use the 80s wwf logo, but after that they use the modified version without the f. I think they can’t use any wwf logo on a current product, only when showing archival footage (they can show the attitude era logo now too, no more blurring it out)
did they at least re-stylize WWE into the block WWF look? That was so damn iconic for that era.
Whistle, by Daisuke Higuchi is a 24-volume manga concerning Sho, an undersized forward for a junior high soccer team; my favorite.
Those Lions’ uniforms with the navy-colored jerseys ended up being attractive, don’t you think? The colors go together well.
Looks good, it would be interesting to know the year, and was it a one and done? Is it Tiger Stadium in the background?
Looks like L.A. Coliseum to me; I’d recognize that short fence anywhere!
Detroit wore those jerseys on occasion from 1967-70.
From left to right, the first three players all played from 1967-70 for Detroit: #82 Jerry Rush, #71 Alex Karras, #53 Mike Lucci.
In 1967 Darris McCord wore #78 in his final season at Detroit but the center stripe on the Lions helmet was silver, so not that season.
Plus, McCord was a white guy. He’s on the right of this picture: link
In 1968 John Baker wore #78 in his only year with the Lions, which was the year Detroit changed the center stripe to white.
In 1969 there was no #78 on the Lions roster plus they had the NFL 50 patch on the right shoulder, so not that season.
In 1970 there was no #78 on Detroit’s roster, so not that season, either.
So, it’s 1968.
First thing I notice – this photo is from the mid/late 1960s, maybe early 1970s. The Lions were still wearing LONG SLEEVE, durene jerseys with sewn numerals – they were amongst the last teams to move to knit/mesh screened numeral jerseys. Further, these jerseys lack the striping consistent with Lions’ jerseys through the mid-1970s.
My guess this is an early season, warm weather game where these darker, short sleeved jerseys – probably cotton or lighter weight were worn. Jets, Bears, 49ers all did this in the later years of the durene jersey era.
While Cosell, Meredith, and Gifford are the icons of the yellow jacket MNF era, I think that’s Alex Karras in the picture in Meredith’s place.
And have you ever seen wider lapels than what Karras is sporting in that photo?
Coupla surfboards, right there. Entire families could make it from Cuba to Miami on those things.
My favorite sports book is Michael Chabon’s “Summerland.” Its a fantasy adventure about a kid who ends up in a land of magical creatures, where its always summer and baseball settles all disputes. Great fun.
Two to add in addition to those that have been listed:
“Seasons in Hell” by Mike Shropshire, covering the Texas Rangers in their early years after moving from Washington. Also, “To Hate Like This Is to Be Happy Forever” by Will Blythe about the Carolina-Duke basketball rivalry.
How long before there will be “I Still Call It The Cell” t-shirts?
My senior year of college, with all necessary credits done with, I took a Sports Literature course the final semester. The Natural was a great read, as was Iowa Baseball Confederacy. An all-time great read, though, is Joe Posnanski’s “The Soul of Baseball:A Road Trip through Buck O’Neil’s America.”
A couple books I really enjoyed were “The Glory of Their Times” by Lawrence S. Ritter and “Slugging It Out in Japan: An American Major-Leaguer in the Tokyo Outfield” by Warren Cromartie (co-written by Robert Whiting). There was another one I stumbled across as a teen called “Breaking Balls” by Marty Bell that was pretty funny and raunchy as hell (making it perfect for a fourteen-year-old boy’s primary interests).
A Civil War: Army v. Navy by Feinstein
A whole different perspective on the world of college football. After reading, I decided to attend the 100th game in 1999. A whole different feeling than your standard campus game. Pageantry unbelievable.
Not in any particular order:
Summer of ’49- Halberstam
Crazy ’08- Cait Murphy
A Good Walk Spoiled- Feinstein
The Pitch That Killed- Sowell
Roger Maris: Baseball’s Reluctant Hero- Sowell and Peary
The Glory of Their Times- Ritter
Sounds like I’m going to need to get a hold of Loose Balls at some point.
You won’t be disappointed.
“The Bad Guys Won” by Jeff Pearlman
“Wherever I Wind Up” by R.A. Dickey
“Friday Night Lights” by Buzz Bissinger
Seconding “Friday Night Lights”
“Cobb Would Have Caught It: The Golden Age of Baseball in Detroit” by Richard Bak.
Rock ‘N Roll Soccer, an excellent and entertaining account of the NASL.
Someone should do a book on the MISL. I’d read that.
Fantastic stuff today, Jared! I miss the simplicity of earlier broadcasts. Some new things are good (continuous score bug and the strike zone, for instance), but the tickers and the overabundance of replays and the roaming/onfield reporters and the noisy graphics get to me after a while.
Here’s a real guarantee: you can bet *I* won’t be calling the Sox’s stadium by its new name.
Favorite sports book – fiction: “Batter Up” by Jackson Scholz. My dad had that book in the 40s and gave it to me 30 years later.
Favorite sports book – non-fiction: I’m going to make a prediction and say “Loose Balls”…once I get around to reading it. Until then, either “The Last Amateurs” by John Feinstein (Go, Patriot League!) or “When The Game Was Ours,” by Jackie MacMullan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
My ideal baseball broadcast production: Modern score box and base tracker at the top of the screen with pitch speed indicator. No other graphics on screen except at the start and end of innings or during pitching changes (or before an at-bat for batter info). Modern pitch-track and strike zone, but only after important or unusual pitches. Slo-mo or freeze-frame replay only after close plays on the bases or interesting defensive plays, never after ordinary hits or uncontested plays. Pitches usually shown from a camera behind and slightly above home plate like in the early days of TV – always this view with runners on base. Oh, and broadcasters who are willing to shut up and let the game just happen.
You had me until the last sentence: either Vin Scully calling the game solo or just the sounds of the ballpark and no broadcasters.
But until we invent both time travel and human cloning, we’re stuck with people other than young Vin Scully. The main problem really is the use of former players as color men. If a former player is actually any kind of informed student of the game – and few of them are! – then he belongs in the dugout, coaching. Usually, half of the broadcast team is an ex-jock who either thinks he’s a student of the game but doesn’t actually know what he’s talking about – Joe Morgan – or thinks people just want to listen to him talk – most ex-player color men. When you just have professional broadcasters instead of ex-jocks in the booth, like Herb Carneal and John Gordon on radio for the Twins back in the day, you can have excellent broadcasts without relying on the presence of a rare genius of the medium like Scully.
Thing that bothers me the most is that annoying strike zone box that ESPN and TBS use.
Someone else mentioned it above, but Lance Armstrong’s first book is spectacular.
I know its tainted now, but the story of his early life and in particular his battle with cancer is gripping.
QOTW: My favorite sports books.
“The Last Shot” by Darcy Frey
“Loose Balls” by Terry Pluto
I’ll toss in 3 hockey books – a personal narrative, a hockey history book, and some equipment history minutiae
Tropic of Hockey : My Search for the Game in Unlikely Places – by Dave Bidini (possibly slightly more well known as a musician)
Deceptions and Doublecross: How the NHL Conquered Hockey – by Morey Holzman
The Stick: A history, a celebration, an elegy – by Bruce Dowbiggin
I swear, if I ever win Powerball, I’m going to start an awful, unprofitable business and then buy a ballpark’s naming rights. You know you want to see a game at “Backscratcher Warehouse Field”.
Favorite sports book: Dodger Dogs to Fenway Franks by Bob Wood. It made me into a ballpark explorer. Honorable mention to The Bronx Zoo by Sparky Lyle and Peter Golenbock. Plus one on the Iowa Baseball Confederacy.
I’d love to see someone make a film version of The Natural that’s more faithful to the book. Like the Coen brothers did for True Grit.
The Dodgers/Cubs game in which they advanced the technology every inning was amazing to watch. I really appreciated the effort that the network put into that one. I recorded it (yet, good ol’ VHS) and still have the tape somewhere.
If you ever post it in YouTube, let me know… you’ll be the only one! I couldn’t find any photos or video from that game anywhere online.
What I remember from the broadcast was Joe Buck doing a live shaving commercial between innings. Also the game was not finished when the telecast ended, but Fox brought everything up to date by then.
-Summer of ’49 by David Halberstam
-When Pride Still Mattered by David Maraniss
-Glory of Their Times by Lawrence Ritter. The book is great but the audio edition is priceless!
+1 to “When Pride Still Mattered”
Ooh. I forgot Summer of ’49. Great read. Also, the companion book to Ken Burns’ Baseball would be on my coffee table, if only I owned a coffee table.
“I’d Rather Be Wright” by Steve Wright is one of the funniest football books ever written – kinda the football version of Bouton’s “Ball Four”. Here’s a great bit of trivia: Steve Wright, former offensive tackle, was the model for what is now the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year trophy that is given out each year.
Another sports book I like very much is “All We Had Was Us…” by Bob Whittemore; it tells the story of the Very successful Milford Macs semi-pro baseball team that played in Milford, NY & Cooperstown, NY for over fifty years.
I’d be willing to bet there may be some Uni-Watchers out there who have played against the Macs at some point in their life. Anyone?
If you love college football (who the hell doesn’t?) I highly recommend my favorite book; “Horns, Hogs, & Nixon Coming” by Terry Frei.
Check out Power & The Glory – it’s about Southwest Conference. Older book, kind of pricey because so collectible and written by Ratliff. I have stacks of SWC football books. Very small list link.
I am going back a few years. My favorite sports books were written in the 70s.
My favorite sports book is 1972’s “Foul! The Connie Hawkins Story” by David Wolf. It was an excellent account of Hawkins’ life and career. The book reads like the television series “The Fugitive”- Hawkins was unfairly implicated in a college point shaving scandal, and it details his effort to redeem himself. Exploitation of inner city basketball players has been going on forever. If you think it is a recent phenomenon, read “Foul!”.
Another really good book was “Sports in America” by James A. Michener. Written in 1976, it is still relevant after four decades. The description of big time college athletics was spot on, particularly in its depiction of a major college head football coach.
Lastly, since I have been a Giants fan since I was a kiddo, I loved “SF Giants: An Oral History” by Mike Mandel. Written in 1979, it had personal stories and recollections from many players in the San Francisco era of Giants history. (Mays was the most notable exception.)
That’s one I need to read. Frei’s father was head football coach at Oregon from 1967 to 1971, forced out by know-it-all alums. Supposedly, one of the reasons was that he couldn’t recruit good assistant coaches. You have probably heard of three of the assistants on his final staff – John Robinson, George Siefert and Bruce Snyder.
I remember in the mid 1970s Paul Simon from Simon & Garfunkel doing/narrating a very short documentary film on Connie Hawkins and his plight, making the case for his return to pro basketball. It may actually have been one of the short films that Saturday Night Live featured regularly in the early episodes of the show.
Two books come to mind: Ritter’s Glory of their Times. Probably got some guys in the Hall of Fame.
Also John Updike’s Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu about Ted Williams’s last game.
And as other said, Loose Balls which sits near my bedside.
Wow mine are 2 I didn’t see;
Favorite: Game 6; Cincinnati, Boston, and the 1975 World Series: The Triumph of America’s Past Time (phew long official title) by Mark Frost.
Some of the great inside baseball (and inside television) stories and it also connects to my life as it was the first time I was allowed to stay up way past my bed time.
Runner up: Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last-String Quarterback by George Plimpton . The story is pretty funny as he talked his way into the Detroit Lions training camp. I read the book as a teenager after seeing the movie and they are equally entertaining for different reasons. The movie they made based on the book stars believe it or not Alan Alda, Alex Karras, Vincent Lombardi, Frank Gifford (to tie in with another story today) and a host of others.
“Loose Balls,” by far the most entertaining sports book I’ve ever read.
“Inverting the Pyramid,” by Jonathan Wilson. A must-read if you hope to have even a passing understanding of soccer strategy. Not sure whether I laughed or cried when I learned from it that the 2-3-5 formation that was the U.S. youth soccer norm had been supplanted around the world … for going on 35 years.
“Lords of the Realm,” by John Helyar. Ostensibly a labor history, but of the MLB Players Association. Brilliant reporting.
Surprised not a single mention of Bill James. Too many writings to choose from, but his essay “On Salary Arbitration” from his “Next Time, Let’s Not Eat the Bones” collection is incredibly insightful stuff.
Friday Night Lights. It’s a tour de force. Sports, race, politics, a little bit of it all.
Loose Balls. Another check mark for this one. Fabulous book of fabulous times.
I hope if this question is asked in a few years again Jeff Pearlman’s USFL book that is currently in the works will live up to the potential. I’ve been really hoping for a Loose Balls level book for the USFL.
I bet the Refugee Flag is already on a thousand pieces of licensed merch crap and if you try to draw it they’ll have lawyers all over you.
Baseball non-fiction: Ball Four, Moneyball, The Glory of Their Times, any of Roger Angell’s collections, The Boys of Summer, Bill James Historical Abstract, Veeck As In Wreck, Nice Guys Finish Last
Baseball fiction: The Celebrant, The Art of Fielding.
Basketball: Breaks of the Game
Soccer: Fever Pitch, The Ball is Round, Brilliant Orange, How Soccer Explains the World, Miracle of Castel di Sangro.
Seconding Fever Pitch
“Veeck As In Wreck”, for sure. My parents had a copy where the extra chapter went into all the trouble Veeck had in buying the team again in 1975. Started losing the last few pages from years of re-reading. (The copy I have now is the newest edition, doesn’t go into that sort of detail for ’75.)
“Big Hair And Plastic Grass”, “Stars And Strikes”, both by Dan Epstein. Made me realize how much I miss baseball from the 1970s. Enjoyed the look at pop culture and history from the time as well.
“Loose Balls”, I’m on my 2nd copy of that as well. Well worth seeking out.
“Instant Replay”, Dad insisted I read this. He was a big Packer fan from Wisconsin. (Is there any other kind?)
“Once In A Lifetime”, the story of the NY Cosmos and the NASL. The matching documentary is just as fun.
“Where Nobody Knows Your Name” by John Feinstein, about minor leaguers attempting to make it to the majors, former major leaguers attempting to get back into the majors. Even the umpires and broadcasters were trying to break into baseball at a big-league level.
* “One Goal: A Chronicle of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team”
By John Powers
(Essentially redone recently by Wayne Coffey as “One Goal: A Chronicle of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team.” Not too much difference between the books and both are great.
* “Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption, and Baseball’s Longest Game”
By Dan Barry. Not just a retelling of the game, but mini biographies of almost everyone involved including the batboys; history of McCoy Stadium and Pawtucket politics, and most emphasis on the game’s hero, who never did hit it big in the majors, while a couple other guys named Boggs and Ripken did, and many others went on to become the 1986 Boston Red Sox.
* “From Behind the Red Line: An American Hockey Player in Russia”
By Tod Hartje.
Published in 1992, before the idea of North Americans playing in Russia became as common as it is today.
Also, those retro TV graphics are far more readable than the graphics commonly used today.
Oops, Wayne Coffey’s book is entitled The Boys of Winter.
My favorite sports books:
Fiction: The Southpaw / Mark Harris
Non-fiction: Safe at home : a baseball wife’s story / Sharon Hargrove
Favorite Sports Book –
Instant Replay by Jerry Kramer.
A ranking of the Toronto Raptors uni. I suspect the top choice would surprise the uni-watch community
In terms of books – Ball Four and Up Up and Away – which admittedly would only appeal to Montreal Expos fans, but it is exceptionally well done.
In terms of baseball broadcast, while nostalgia is nostalgia, there’s too many things I like with the current broadcast
I know occasionally the Blue Jays broadcast don’t have the strike zone graphic, and I really miss it when that happens, and admittedly something like pitch count is changing the way I view baseball. i.e. if a batter makes an out, but makes the pitcher throw 10 pitches to make that out, it seems like a really productive out. Something 10 years ago, I would not have given much thought to
It always makes me happy to see a clip from George Michael’s Sports Machine. I loved him when he was a local DC sportscaster.
Even to this day (see Deadspin) George Michael was a liar and an asshole. Forever and ever amen.
Anyone like Ring Lardner?
My favorite sports book is “The Franklin Wonder Five.” It’s an historical chronicle of the famous basketball team from my home town. If anyone is interested in learning about them, here’s the link to their wikipedia page.
This being Uni Watch and up to now NOBODY has selected Marc Okkonen’s masterpiece “Baseball Uniforms of the 20th Century???”
Also, though I never owned a copy, the original “The Baseball Encyclopedia” from MacMillan in 1969. The price tag was a (then) prohibitive $25. But the amount of baseball statistics was beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.
“The Game” Ken Dryden
“The Long Season” Jim Brosnan
“The Players” Tex Maule
“The Trail of the Stanley Cup (Vol I, II and III)” Charles Coleman
“Road to Number One” Ridge Riley
Others that favorites but have not been mentioned
Fall River Dreams-Bill Reynolds
Bottom of the 33rd-Dan Barry
Ghosts of Manila-Mark Kram
Bootlegger’s Boy-Barry Switzer
When Mexicans Could Play Ball: Basketball, Race, and Identity in San Antonio, 1928-1945-Ignacio M. Garcia
A great sports book that was in my High School library, and that I must have read 10 times then was “High For The Game”, by Raiders hippie/linebacker Chip Oliver. Totally captures the drug culture in the NFL in the late 1960s/early 1970s plus the insane culture that was the Oakland Raiders.
Hard to find book today- last saw one on Ebay for $125.00.
In salute to the ESPN series on “The Departed”, there is a book called “Kiss ‘Em Goodbye: An ESPN Treasury of Failed, Forgotten, and Departed Teams” about departed sports franchises. Going back to the 1880s, through the ABA, through the NFL Colts relocation, the book gives varying page space to separate article ad stories about 50-60 different sports teams, their thumbnail histories, and why or how they relocated or folded. From the ABA Baltimore Claws – who lasted ONE preseason game, to the ABA Spirits of St. Louis’ lawyers who conned the NBA into a 5/7 share of TV revenue IN PERPETUITY in order to allow the NBA/ABA Merger, to the New York Highlanders baseball team – they are all there and all explained. I never knew about the NY Giants/Polo Grounds crime issues until reading this book. And so it goes ….
Two books I read as a kid, Ball Four and Instant Replay, The Green Bay Diary of Jerry Kramer. Written during Loambardi’s last season in Green Bay. A must for Packer fans.
Catchers wore their hats backwards long before Griffey did it. Made it easier to wear your mask that way :-P
By far my favorite piece of baseball related writing is the Don DeLillo short story, “Pafko at the Wall,” which also serves as the opening section of his novel Underworld. It’s a first person account of the Shot Heard Round the World. Everything I love about baseball – from the smells, to the sounds, to the emotions – is in that piece. It dwells in the ambiance and majesty more than the game itself, which – to me – is where baseball very positively distinguishes itself from other sports.
Going to also throw some love in here for “Hands of Stone” by Christian Giudice. It is an exceptionally-detailed biography of Roberto Duran which is being turned into a movie of the same name. Chris also wrote an evenhanded bio of Alexis ArgÃ¼ello after he died.