Bullpen carts could provide a trip back through time

I’ve been thinking quite a bit recently about baseball from the 1960s through the 1980s. A lot of this is because of my new Twitter page, Vintage Scoreboards (shameless plug). I’ve remembered that there was a lot of kitsch in the stadiums back then. After all, as Ken Burns told us, baseball has always been a reflection of American life.

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The scoreboard at Municipal Stadium promotes a softball game between Playboy bunnies and radio disc jockeys, sponsored by the Kansas City Athletics.
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In Oakland, the A’s sponsored Hotpants Day.

Tackiness abounded as teams did everything they could to draw people into the stands. Former Athletics owner Charlie Finley, when the team was still in Kansas City, held a pregame softball contest between local disc jockeys and Playboy bunnies. When the team moved to Oakland, he held Hotpants Day, with all women dressed in the short shorts admitted free. Apparently, the idea was that men would pay to gawk at the ladies — and maybe the baseball, too.

Long hair, mullets, afros and mustaches were popular among players, who, off the field, enjoyed wearing bell bottoms, big collars and wide neckties.

One element that just about every ballpark had in the ’70s was a bullpen cart, essentially a golf cart outfitted with an oversized baseball cap as the roof that would bring relief pitchers in from the bullpen.

It was a gimmick, something for fans to enjoy and maybe laugh at. Advertising soon followed, of course, with teams like the Yankees and Dodgers using Datsuns (it’s what we used to call Nissans; look it up) or Toyotas to bring their pitchers in instead of golf carts.

Team owners like Finley or Bill Veeck were showmen and loved the idea. No one is exactly sure when or why the carts died out. The Dodgers still have their old cart on display on the Club level. It may just have been that relief pitchers, especially those who might pitch to just one or two batters, wanted to show people they could actually run from the bullpen to the mound.

But now, it sounds like bullpen carts are coming back. The Arizona Diamondbacks are blazing old ground with their announcement that they will use bullpen carts this season. Soon after that, the Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres said they would study the idea, although perhaps not for this upcoming season. The Tampa Bay Rays say they won’t, mostly because of space limitations at Tropicana Field.

The Diamondbacks said the last team to motor their pitchers in from the bullpen were the Milwaukee Brewers in 1995, who used a motorcycle with a sidecar at County Stadium. That was three years before the Diamondbacks even came into existence.

What will the reaction be of the relievers to this rather outrageous throwback idea? Will they love it? Hate it? Use it? Abuse it? Some of each, I’m sure, but I’m betting many will like it a lot. There are some who use their walk or run from the pen to psych themselves up; some have even made it into a trademark, much like hitters and walk-up music.

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The Dodgers’ old bullpen cart is now on display near the suites on the Club level.

Some pitchers may also see using the bullpen cart as a show of weakness, something that might be best avoided in a ninth-inning, base-loaded save situation. But some may come to see it as a good-luck charm if using the cart turns out well for them.

Neither the D-Backs nor anyone else are forcing pitchers to use the carts; if they choose not to be chauffeured in, the cart will still appear to deliver the pitcher’s jacket to the dugout — and also to display the advertiser’s logo, of course.

Some are even suggesting bullpen carts could speed up the pace of play. But by what? A few seconds? Don’t count on that making much of a dent in game time. The cart must be offered to both teams and does not give a pitcher any extra warmup time.

But nostalgia has always been big in baseball and could use more of it, not less. Nearly anything that dampens things like analytics, high-priced tickets and higher-priced free agents and enhances the family ballpark experience is a good thing.

PRIME-TIME PLAYERS

Monday Night Football is getting a complete overhaul in the ESPN broadcast booth. Not only is Jon Gruden leaving as analyst to become coach of the Oakland Raiders, Sean McDonough is being reassigned, moving back to college football play-by-play.

“Sources” are saying Joe Tessitore will be tabbed to do MNF play-by-play, but that ESPN has not yet made an announcement about either that or about an analyst.

MNF is not the franchise it used to be and hasn’t been since ABC deemed to let it slip to cable TV.

Meanwhile, there are rumors about Peyton Manning’s interest in broadcasting. The New York Post reported Manning has passed on Monday Night Football, but the NFL says it would love to have Mike Tirico and Manning on its new Thursday night package. The only problem with that is that Tirico is under contract to NBC and Manning isn’t under contract to anybody.

Tirico used to be ESPN’s MNF voice, but Al Michaels is NBC’s No. 1 (and usually only) NFL voice. Tirico has been involved on Sunday Night Football pregame and halftime coverage and was sensational as prime-time host for the recent Winter Olympics. It would be rather ludicrous for NBC to allow Fox to use him for the NFL. It makes very little sense.

Of course, things that make little sense happen with eyebrow-raising regularity in both network TV and in the NFL, so stay tuned.

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Scoreboards tell more than the score; they tell history, too

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This photo shows the Yankee Stadium scoreboard on Friday, June 6, 1969, two days before a Mickey Mantle tribute on June 8.

I love scoreboards. Yes, I know it’s a rather weird obsession and a rather weird confession. I have other obsessions too, but I have no plans to confess any of those just yet.

I’ve been enamored with scoreboards for as long as I can remember. I suppose for most people, a scoreboard is simply a device, perhaps almost a necessary evil, for showing what the score is, how much time is left, what quarter, inning or period it is and, to a lesser degree, down and distance, where the ball is, how many timeouts remain, if a team is in the bonus, how much time is left in the power play, etc., etc., etc.

I’ve recently started a Twitter account and a Facebook group called Vintage Scoreboards that I’d like to invite you to follow or join (or whatever verb is appropriate). I really didn’t expect much reaction out of either of them, except maybe from my immediate circle of Facebook friends and whatever lunatic fringe I might attract on Twitter.

However, the response has been rather surprising, especially on Twitter. For about a week, the only two people following the account were me and my son Mark. Then I plugged it on my own Twitter page and it took off pretty well, if you call 73 followers pretty well, and I do. Even Keith Olbermann follows it. So … that’s something.

As the name implies, I concentrate mostly on older scoreboards, i.e., pre-1990. This is primarily before every scoreboard became a videoboard. So we’re talking light bulbs, not LEDs.

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The Dodger Stadium scoreboard setting the scene just before Kirk Gibson’s game-winning home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

The thing I like most about scoreboards is they record history. Sometimes it’s a no-hitter, sometimes it’s a big home run. Most of the time it’s nothing at all, but even then, they’ll show players who eventually became Hall of Famers or remind someone of a favorite player from back in the day (as the kids say — or said, back in the day).

So I started collecting photos of scoreboards through this big thing they call the Internet. A lot of these photos simply snapshots, taken on film a long time ago. Many times the scoreboard in the shot isn’t even the primary subject; it just happens to be in the background. As such it still serves to communicate what was going on at the precise moment the photo was taken.

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Ebbets Field in 1952. You can see how the “H” and “E” on the Schaefer beer sign could be lit to signal for a hit or an error. The Dodgers scored a major league-record 15 runs in the first inning. Also, you can see the out-of-town scoreboard showed only National League games — except for the Yankees on the very bottom part of the scoreboard. And why does the right column of scores have room for 10 innings, but the left column only has room for nine?

It wasn’t always abundantly clear what old-time scoreboards were trying to communicate. This was especially true in baseball. There were more doubleheaders back then, so you’d often see a column with the heading “1G” or “F” on it. That was to show the score of the first game during the second game. Want to know if the play you just saw was a hit or an error? In some ballparks, you’d have to look at the advertisements for Schaefer or Rheingold beers. They’d light up the “H” in each beer’s name if it was a hit or the “E” if it was an error. I kid you not.

A big thing in baseball was the out-of-town scoreboard. In those pre-Internet and even pre-TV days, there was no better way to find out what was going on in other games around the majors. Some old scoreboards put the entire score by innings for out-of-town games and made you add it up. A lot of boards would put up the uniform number of the pitcher in the game for each team. The way you would find out what number went with which pitcher was to buy a program. Some boards cared only about the league the home-town team played in, so you might see only the National League games at Crosley Field in Cincinnati.

And by the way, there were a lot of out-of-town scoreboards that had no idea how to abbreviate Cincinnati. The most logical (and correct) way was “CIN” but you’d often see “CINN” or “CINCY” or “CINCI.” When the Giants moved to San Francisco, teams weren’t content to simply put “SF.” A lot of them put “FRISCO” or “S FRISCO.” Of course, “Frisco” is one of the biggest insults you can give a San Franciscan, but who knows? That might have been the very reason they did it.

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The Yankee Stadium football scoreboard during the overtime NFL championship between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts.

During the era of multipurpose stadiums, converting scoreboards from baseball to football wasn’t always elegant. In the 1950s, around the time of the NFL’s “Greatest Game Ever Played” between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants, they would put it in an additional scoreboard at Yankee Stadium, given that you needed a clock for football. I remember reading that the Football Giants radio broadcasters used to announce from inside the baseball scoreboard, where it was either freezing or roasting.

Scoreboards for pro basketball and hockey have been fairly interchangeable, going from personal fouls to penalties and from timeouts remaining to shots on goal.

I’ve had the opportunity to run a few smaller scoreboards. These days, scoreboards run on wireless connections, add the score for you, synchronize with TV graphics and compute time remaining down to the tenth of a second.

But being a nostalgic kind of guy, I like the old-fashioned type better, back when a degree in hieroglyphics helped quite a bit.

Versatility, enthusiasm made Dick Enberg great

Most sportscasters are lucky if they can become well known and admired in just one sport, if they can become beloved by the fans of just one hometown team. Dick Enberg, as he himself would say as a player hit a home run, would “touch ’em all.”

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Dick Enberg, seen in this 1960s photo, died Dec. 21 at age 82.

Enberg died four days before Christmas at his home in La Jolla of an apparent heart attack. He was 82.

Enberg was not just a jack of all trades, he was a master of them all, too. Baseball, football, basketball, tennis, golf. You name it, Enberg excelled at calling it.

It was amazing how in the mid-’70s, Los Angeles sports fans could listen to Enberg broadcast the Angels, Vin Scully do the Dodgers, Chick Hearn do the Lakers and Bob Miller do the Kings. It was like hearing the World Series or Super Bowl every night.

As a kid, it was fairly routine for me in the summertime to listen to one team play an East Coast game starting out here at 4:30 p.m., then immediately switch to the other team playing a 7:30 game at home.

While Enberg was known for his “Touch ’em all!” home-run call and for saying “And the halo shines tonight!” after an Angels win, his signature phrase was simply “Oh, my!” It was perfect. It could come after any kind of sensational play in any sport. It came so naturally, most of us didn’t even realize he was saying it.

Enberg was from rural Michigan and his start in broadcasting happened when he applied for a job at a radio station in Mount Pleasant, Mich. — as a janitor for $1 an hour. He eventually wound up as a disc jockey, also for $1 an hour.

After college at Central Michigan, he went to Indiana University graduate school and announced Hoosiers football and basketball games there for $35 a game. After that, Enberg came out to L.A., not at first to be a broadcaster, but to teach and be an assistant baseball coach at San Fernando Valley State College, now Cal State Northridge. His first play-by-play assignment in Southern California? A USC-UCLA water polo match for KTTV (Channel 11) in 1963. The next football season he did four Los Angeles State College (now Cal State Los Angeles) games on Channel 11.

That led to a job in 1965 at KTLA (Channel 5) doing nightly sports reports and to doing UCLA basketball, boxing from the Olympic Auditorium and Angels pregame and postgame shows.

Enberg became Rams play-by-play announcer on the old KMPC (710 AM) starting in 1966, then the No. 1 announcer for the Angels in 1969.

Back in the days when Enberg did UCLA basketball telecasts, the games were tape-delayed and aired at 11 p.m. They drew more viewers in Los Angeles than The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

In the nine years Enberg called the games of coach John Wooden’s Bruins, they won eight national championships and lost a total of 12 games.

“Eight out of nine years they were national champions,” he told me with a smile in 2007, “and that made Enberg a pretty good announcer.”

In his 2004 autobiography, predictably titled Dick Enberg: Oh My! Enberg recalled that on Saturdays, he would often do syndicated basketball games in the Midwest in the daytime and fly back to L.A. to do a UCLA game that night. However, one Saturday, Los Angeles International Airport was fogged in and Enberg’s flight was diverted to Ontario.

KTLA wasn’t sure what to do when Enberg didn’t show up at Pauley Pavilion. But about midway through the first half, it decided to start taping the game with just crowd noise. Enberg rented a car, drove to Channel 5’s studios in Hollywood and did the play-by-play live while the tape was shown at 11 p.m.

Enberg had listened to the game on the radio, knew how it turned out and, of course, was even able to “anticipate” a few plays that night. Many nights were blowouts, as Enberg recalled from a 1970 game.

Although many remember the 1979 Michigan State-Indiana State NCAA championship featuring Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, Enberg said the most historically important game he did was the 1968 UCLA-Houston game at the Astrodome, called “the Game of the Century.” Houston’s victory snapped a 47-game UCLA winning streak. It was the first college basketball game to be televised nationally in prime time.

“That was the platform from which college basketball’s popularity was sent into the stratosphere,” Enberg told The Associated Press before his retirement. “The ’79 game, the Magic-Bird game, everyone wants to credit that as the greatest game of all time. That was just the booster rocket that sent it even higher. … UCLA, unbeaten; Houston, unbeaten. And then the thing that had to happen, and Coach Wooden hated when I said this, but UCLA had to lose. That became a monumental event.”

In his book, Enberg recalled his time working with Al McGuire, both at NBC and CBS. Once, during the first two rounds of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, Enberg and McGuire were doing their fourth game in two days and Enberg’s voice had been reduced to a croak. It was so bad, during a timeout in the second half of the final game, Enberg, fearing the sound of his voice was driving viewers batty, asked McGuire to take over.

McGuire knew his limitations. He shook his head. “Dicksie,” he said, “if you’re goin’, I’m goin’.”

I was fortunate enough to get an interview question or two with Enberg a couple of times. He told me covering the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament was brutal.

“By the time you get to that fourth game, you can’t even remember the names of the players in the first game,” Enberg said. “You’re brain-dead. The (fourth) game you only hope will be a close game because adrenaline keeps you going. You get to the arena at about 11 o’clock in the morning and you’re lucky if you’re back in the hotel room at midnight.”

I wish he had done more baseball, but after his time with the Angels, Enberg went to NBC, CBS and ESPN, covering World Series, Super Bowls, Wimbledons and Olympics before returning to baseball. He was the primary TV voice of his hometown San Diego Padres from 2010 through 2016. He was inducted into the broadcasters wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015. That matches honors from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Basketball Hall of Fame and the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame. Enberg also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the press room at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion is named for him.

If Dick Enberg was announcing a game, you knew it was a big one. He was one of the best there have ever been or will ever be.

Bob Costas — baseball’s conscience — to go into Hall of Fame

The majority of the vast television viewing audience would think of Bob Costas primarily as the host of NBC Olympics coverage, but at his heart, he has always been a baseball broadcaster.

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Bob Costas will be inducted into the broadcasters wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in July. (NBC photo)

Costas, who has done national play-by-play for NBC, The Baseball Network and MLB Network and has done a number of documentaries on the sport, was named the winner of the 2018 Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting. He’ll be honored at the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies July 28.

Costas’ impact on baseball in the way of documentaries and commentary has been so large, he has been called “Baseball’s conscience” and at one time was considered a candidate to be the sport’s commissioner.

He has won 28 Emmy awards, but on Wednesday he said they pale in comparison to going into the Hall of Fame.

“Because of my love of baseball and because of the other names that (won the Frick Award), this is at the top of the list,” Costas said on a conference call. “No disrespect of all the other awards, because they all mean a lot to me, but this means the most.”

Costas said he was thrilled to be included with the other men who have won the award.

“Even if you’re coming off the bench, you’re on the same team as Jack Buck, Vin Scully, Ernie Harwell, Red Barber, Harry Caray and Mel Allen,” he said.

Costas teamed with Tony Kubek from 1982 to 1989 on NBC’s Game of the Week, though often relegated to backup games behind No. 1 team Curt Gowdy and Joe Garagiola. However, he called the American League Championship Series in 1983, 1985, 1987 and 1989 and hosted All-Star Game those same years. He was host for World Series pregame shows in 1982, 1984, 1986 and 1988.

The Baseball Network was a rather ridiculous enterprise baseball contrived that saw NBC and ABC split postseason coverage. Thus, NBC and Costas handled play-by-play for the All-Star Game in 1994 and the 1995 Division Series and ALCS. In ’95, he called his first World Series on TV, teaming with Joe Morgan and Bob Uecker for Games 2, 3, and 6. The trio had the 1997 Series to themselves. Costas and Morgan did the 1998 ALCS, 1999 NLCS and World Series and 2000 All-Star Game and NLCS.

Of course, Costas served as NBC Olympics host for a record 11 times before turning things over to Mike Tirico for the 2018 Winter Games. He has also hosted many incarnations of NBC’s NFL pregame shows and will be the host of the network’s Super Bowl LII pregame show in February. He was also studio host for NBC’s NBA coverage and was its play-by-play voice for that sport from 1997 to 2000.

He currently does baseball play-by-play for MLB Network, as well as baseball documentaries and interview shows.

“It’s Bob’s pure affection for baseball that has made him a national treasure,” Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson said. “From the first day he entered our living rooms, Bob became one of the national pastime’s greatest friends.”

Costas was selected by a 15-member committee that also considered Morgan, Al Michaels, Joe Buck, Dizzy Dean, Don Drysdale and Pee Wee Reese.

COME TOGETHER

The $52.4 billion purchase by the Walt Disney Co. of 21st Century Fox came together Thursday just as people said last week it would.

Most notable in the deal is the acquisition of Fox’s movie and TV studios and many of its cable networks, including regional sports channels such as Fox Sports West, Prime Ticket and the YES Network. However, Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, Big Ten Network, Fox News Channel and Fox Business Channel are not part of the agreement. Fox Broadcasting, shown on over-the-air channels such as KTTV (Channel 11), also remains with Fox.

One benefit of the deal for Disney is content for its ESPN+ streaming service planned for next year. The Associated Press said the service will not be a clone of ESPN TV, but will stream tennis matches along with major league baseball, hockey and soccer games, along with college sports. Fox’s regional sports networks may also add to that content.

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ESPN president John Skipper talks to more than 450 “forward-facing talent” Wednesday in Bristol, Conn. (ESPN photo)

TALENT SUMMIT

ESPN summoned its on-air talent to its Bristol, Conn., headquarters Wednesday so that network president John Skipper and other executives could communicate several important issues, ranging from company priorities and acquisitions to its social media policy and sexual harassment.

“I want to lead an ESPN that strives purposely and confidently into a new world which is not scary but exciting,” Skipper said in regard to its future plans.

ESPN has had recent problems with commentators remarking about politics and senior vice president Kevin Merida made the company’s policy clear.

“ESPN is a journalistic organization, not a political organization. We should do nothing to undermine that position,” he said. “ESPN’s focus is sports. By and large we are not experts on politics, healthcare policies, terrorism, commerce — that’s not what we do.

“Our audience is not looking for our opinions on the general news of the day. And believe me, I get it. It can sometimes be difficult to control impulses or ignore trolls, but that’s what we’re called to do for each other.”

Sports Illustrated reported a source said that Skipper told the crowd he “did not believe sexual harassment was a major issue at ESPN and reiterated in strong terms that he encouraged all staffers to send him emails or set up a meeting with him if they believed any HR violations existed.”

ANALYSTS SUSPENDED

NFL Network suspended analysts Marshall Faulk, Heath Evans and Ike Taylor after allegations of sexual harassment as part of a wrongful termination lawsuit by a former co-worker. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday the league would launch an internal investigation of the network. “We take that very seriously,” Goodell said at the league’s winter meetings in Dallas. “Those are issues that are important to us. We want to make sure that all of our employees, whether at the NFL Network or at the league office or at clubs, are working in a safe and comfortable environment. Any time that doesn’t exist, we are going to make sure that we deal with that very quickly and very seriously.”

UP & DOWN THE DIAL

ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown will travel to Pittsburgh for its 7-10 a.m. PST show in preparation of Sunday’s much-anticipated game between the Patriots and Steelers (1:25 p.m., CBS). In the first game of CBS’ doubleheader in the Los Angeles market, it’ll be the Bengals and Vikings at 10 a.m. Fox will show Packers-Panthers to most of the nation at 10 a.m., but L.A. will get Rams-Seahawks (another pretty good game) at 1 p.m. The NBC Sunday night game will be Cowboys at Raiders at 5:20. The Monday night game on ESPN will be Falcons-Buccaneers at 5:15. The Thursday night game this week will be Broncos-Colts at 5:20 p.m. on NBC and NFL Network. There are also two Saturday night games on NFL Network this week with Bears-Lions at 1:30 p.m. and Chargers-Chiefs at 5:30 p.m. (that game will also be seen locally on KCBS [Ch. 2]) … Last Sunday’s Rams-Eagles game on Fox had a 16.0 overnight big-market rating, the best NFL mark on any network this season. … While ESPN’s Monday Night Football overnight rating of 8.5 for the Dolphins’ 27-20 win over the Patriots was down from the same week last season, it was the third best for the network this season. …

The college football bowl season starts Saturday with Grambling-North Carolina A&T in the Celebration Bowl on ABC (9 a.m.), Troy-North Texas in the New Orleans Bowl on ESPN (10 a.m.), No. 25 Boise State-Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl on ABC (12:30 p.m.), Marshall-Colorado State in the New Mexico Bowl on ESPN (1:30 p.m.) and Middle Tennessee-Arkansas State in the Camellia Bowl on ESPN (5 p.m.). … Army’s thrilling 14-13 win over Navy gave CBS the best rating the game has had in 23 years. The 5.9 overnight mark was the best since ABC had a 6.5 in 1994. … CBS Sports Network continues to show replays of this year’s game, at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, 7 a.m. Friday and 3 a.m. Sunday. … Meanwhile, the Heisman Trophy presentation had a 1.5 overnight on ESPN, a record-low rating for the second straight year. …

TNT’s Inside the NBA crew of Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal will call the Christmas Day Lakers-Timberwolves game at Staples Center. It’s the first time the four of them have called a game together. … NBA TV’s Players Only: Monthly will show a conversation between Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas at 8 p.m. Tuesday. … Mary Carillo, David Feherty and Ato Boldon will serve as correspondents for NBC’s Winter Olympics coverage. … ESPN’s MLS Cup telecast was seen by an average of 803,000 viewers, its best since 2014. … MSNBC host Joe Scarborough will be the host of This is Football, a new Premier League soccer series, debuting at 1 p.m. Dec. 26 on NBCSN.

UCLA players and Jerry Jones should all just sit awhile

Rather than one big thing going on in sports right now, there are a lot of smaller things vying for our attention. Pro and college football, pro and college basketball, pro hockey — they are all just starting to draw us in.

UCLA_WW_PRI_LOGO_ON_WHTSome of the things are on the field and some (way too many) are off the field:

  • UCLA men’s basketball players LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, who returned to the U.S. after shoplifting from stores in China, have been suspended indefinitely by the school. “Indefinitely” can be short or it can be long. It should be long. At the earliest, the players should not play again until February. The optimum length is the entire season. If their uppity, entitled parents pull them out of UCLA, so be it.
  • Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys and would-be king of all he surveys, appears to be a conspiracy of one in his effort to derail the contract extension of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. As usual, however, this does not appear to be stopping Jones one little bit.
  • New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner says manager Joe Girardi, who led his team to within one game of the World Series, would have been fired even if the Yankees had won the World Series. Sounds like Hal learned loyalty from his father George.
  • I can’t hear about Buffalo Bills quarterback Nathan Peterman without thinking of Seinfeld.
  • Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Aaron Judge of the Yankees deservedly won the Rookie of the Year Awards in the National and American leagues respectively. But let’s just say it’s a good thing those awards were voted on before the end of the regular season.
  • Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne fittingly went into the Hockey Hall of Fame together over the weekend. The start of Kariya’s career coincided with the start of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim franchise and he was soon joined by Selanne. The pair made the expansion team worth watching from the very start.
  • Dodgers fans should be smart enough to realize that Torey Lovullo of the Arizona Diamondbacks deserved the NL Manager of the Year Award this year more than Dodgers manager Dave Roberts did. Besides, Roberts won it just last year. Lovullo’s D-Backs went from 69 wins in 2016 to 93 in 2017.
  • Clayton Kershaw looks on during batting practice.
    Clayton Kershaw is 46-15 the past three seasons with a 2.07 ERA, but has no Cy Young Awards. (Arturo Pardavila III photo)

    However, it might be understandable that Dodgers fans would be irked, miffed and perhaps even a little peeved that Clayton Kershaw did not win the NL Cy Young Award. Kershaw finished second to Washington’s Max Scherzer. Scherzer was 16-6 with a 2.51 ERA, pitching 200⅔ innings and striking out 268 with 55 walks. Kershaw was 18-4 with a 2.31 ERA, pitching 175 innings (missing more than five weeks with lower back tightness) and striking out 202 with 23 walks.

  • Kershaw has won Cy Young Awards three times (2011, 2013 and 2014) and has finished second twice, third once and fifth once. He and Greg Maddux are the only two pitchers to finish in the top five for seven straight years.
  • However, it’s almost a little strange that Kershaw hasn’t won since ’14. The Cy Young is not about a body of work, but consider this: Kershaw is 46-15 the past three seasons with a 2.07 ERA, but no Cy Young Awards.
  • Bobby Doerr of the Boston Red Sox, the first Baseball Hall of Famer to live to be 99 years old, died Monday in Junction, Ore. The oldest living Hall of Famer is now Red Schoendienst, who played mostly for the St. Louis Cardinals at 94; the oldest living major leaguer is now Chuck Stevens, who played for the St. Louis Browns, at 99 (three months younger than Doerr).
  • It’s a week of big news for the Oakland Raiders. At 4-5, they’re struggling to get back to .500. They’ll be playing the New England Patriots at Mexico City on Sunday. They also broke ground Monday on their new stadium in Las Vegas.
  • Unusual: USC’s football team, which plays UCLA in its big rivalry game Saturday night, is ranked No. 11 in the latest AP poll. Its men’s basketball team is ranked No. 10.

There’s something about Joe Buck some people just can’t stand

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Joe Buck, left, and John Smoltz rubbed some people the wrong way during the World Series. (Fox Sports photo)

With the World Series over and the NFL going full steam ahead (unless you count Jerry Jones’ dealings with Roger Goodell), it’s a good time to look at the one thing baseball and football have in common:

Joe Buck.

I’m going to be up front on my feelings about Buck. I think he’s a great broadcaster. But man, if you actually try to stick up for him, especially online, you can be in for a lot of trouble.

As a matter of fact, during Game 4 of the World Series, someone I know posted a derogatory comment on Facebook about Buck and people commented their agreement, often in profane terms.

I made the mistake of posting a positive comment:

“Joe Buck is actually a very good play-by-play man: knowledgeable and impartial. The only times I can’t stand him is when he’s being interviewed. Then he’s very sarcastic. He also would much rather be doing football than baseball.”

As positive comments go, that’s really pretty tepid. It actually has more negative elements than positive ones. But people disagreed strongly with me, especially when it came to being impartial. Still, I persisted — foolishly:

“Well, I’m sure that in Game 1, Dodgers fans felt much better about him than in Games 2 or 3. His dad was Jack Buck, who was a stellar broadcaster for the St. Louis Cardinals for decades.

“I was actually more miffed at John Smoltz during Game 3 because of all the analytics he was whipping out that were essentially saying the Dodgers had no chance to win after the Astros scored four runs in the second inning and that the road for them to win the Series now would be very steep because of their Game 3 loss.”

This prompted another person, a self-described “Philly fan,” to accuse me of “mansplaining,” a term I sheepishly had to look up to find out just how much I had been insulted.

Another person added: “For those that are ‘pro buck’ [meaning me] do you honestly not hear the difference of enthusiasm in his voice when talking about anybody other than the Dodgers?”

Another said something, in a very violent way that I won’t repeat here, about how much Royals fans dislike Buck.

Here’s the thing about Buck and Smoltz’s broadcasting style during the World Series: They said disparaging things about the team that was losing.

Quite frankly, I was getting a little miffed myself by what they were saying as well until the lead of the game changed and I realized they were now saying negative things against the team that was now trailing. I paid close attention to this the rest of the Series and found this to be true. Not only that, if I had to admit it, the negative things they were saying were true.

Whenever people tell me the news media is negative, I always say this: “News is what is out of the ordinary. If something is not out of the ordinary, it’s not news. Things that are out of the ordinary are often negative, therefore news is often negative.”

It had been 29 years since the Dodgers had been in the World Series and I think their fans had never experienced what it was like to have him call their postseason games. When the Dodgers were behind, Buck and Smoltz were rough on them, talking about what they were doing wrong and being generally pessimistic about their chances. However, they did the exact same thing when the Astros were behind. The same has happened to Mr. Philly Fan and to the violent Royals fan.

The things the broadcasters were saying were true, but it’s difficult to hear people talk negatively about your team.

What really gripes me is how many people were saying they longed to have Vin Scully calling those Dodgers games. Who wouldn’t? But Scully never rooted for the Dodgers. If Vin had been calling those Series games, he would’ve been just as critical although in perhaps a gentler way.

Here’s the thing: Joe Buck just completed his 20th World Series, remarkable for someone who is only 48 years old. He must have something going for him.

FIRST AND 10

There’s an absolute plethora of ranked-team college football matchups Saturday. The top two games are No. 3 Notre Dame at No. 7 Miami at 5 p.m. PST on ABC and No. 5 Oklahoma hosting No. 8 TCU at 5 p.m. on Fox. It’s too bad such momentous games are on at the same time.

Many of the other ranked-vs.-ranked games are just as compelling. No. 1 Alabama is at No. 18 Mississippi State at 4 p.m. on ESPN, No. 2 Georgia is at No. 10 Auburn at 12:30 p.m. on CBS, No. 6 Wisconsin hosts No. 25 Iowa at 12:30 p.m. on ABC, No. 11 Ohio State hosts No. 13 Michigan State at 9 a.m. on Fox, and No. 12 Oklahoma State is at No. 24 Iowa State at 9 a.m. on ABC.

No. 15 USC is at Colorado at 1 p.m. on Fox and UCLA hosts Arizona State at 6:30 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks.

In the NFL, the Thursday night game on NBC and NFL Network is Seahawks-Cardinals at 5:20. On Sunday, the 10 a.m. games are Chargers-Jaguars on CBS and Vikings-Redskins on Fox.

The 1 and 1:25 p.m. games are a little complicated. In the Los Angeles market, CBS must show not only has the Chargers game at 10, but also the Rams’ home game against the Texans at 1. So CBS-owned KCAL (Channel 9) will show the Rams game from start to finish with KCBS (Channel 2) joining it in progress when the Chargers are done. Fox, which has its normal doubleheader this week, will show Cowboys-Falcons at 1.

The Sunday night game on NBC is Patriots-Broncos at 5:20. ESPN’s Monday night game is Dolphins-Panthers at 5:15.

SHOCKING DEVELOPMENT

When the Penn State-Michigan State football game was delayed more than three hours by lightning, it forced Fox to scramble. At first, the network put the Kansas State-Texas A&M game on that had been airing on Fox Sports 1. But the lengthy delay was going to cause problems for the Stanford-Washington State game set to follow the early game. FS1 had Oklahoma-Oklahoma State set to air in that slot.

Fox decided to stay with Penn State-Michigan State when it resumed and for most of the country, the Stanford-Washington State was relegated all the way down to the Fox Business Channel.

During the delay, the broadcast team Joe Davis (who is also the Dodgers TV announcer) and Brady Quinn, looking for something to eat, wound up going to a student cafeteria.

UP & DOWN THE DIAL

ESPN starts its college basketball coverage at 3 p.m. Friday with No. 11 West Virginia playing No. 25 Texas A&M at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Also of note is No. 21 UCLA playing Georgia Tech at Beijing at 8:30 p.m. Friday. The game has taken on a controversial tone in the wake of the shoplifting arrest of UCLA freshman players LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill. NBCSN’s NASCAR viewership is up 13% over last year with 2.7 million viewers. … NBC plans to show 450 hours of Winter Olympics coverage on cable networks NBCSN, CNBC and USA. NBCSN will account for 368.5 hours (82%) of the cable total. …

Greg Olsen, currently tight end for the Carolina Panthers, will be a booth analyst for the Nov. 19 Rams-Vikings game, joining Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis and Pam Oliver. It’ll be the Panthers’ bye week. … ESPN is adding Mark Kriegel to its boxing telecasts starting Saturday. In addition, Kriegel, who is also an author, will provide long-form storytelling and essays for the network.

Dodgers’ season is nothing but a success

There is no need for Dodgers fans to be upset about the season or even about the way the World Series turned out. The phrase “National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers” still sounds pretty good.

HA2017_PrimaryClubMark_RGBIt had been 29 years since the Dodgers had been in the World Series and I’m not about to get all anguished about them losing. I just hope it doesn’t take them another 29 years to get back to the Series.

I’d be 90.

Of course, it’s easy to be philosophical in defeat when Game 7 brought such an early and complete defeat. It’s amazing what giving up five runs in the first two innings can do to all the nervousness you were feeling before the game began. Suddenly one’s thoughts start turning to other things: “I wonder who the Rams are playing Sunday,” and “Are the Lakers any good this year?”

There are nothing but good thoughts for the Houston Astros, who are a remarkable team and who absolutely deserved to win their first world championship. Even first baseman Yuli Gurriel, whose ill-advised actions toward Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish gave Los Angeles fans someone to boo, made up for them with the right words and a tip of his helmet toward Darvish.

The Astros brought the people of Houston a measure of joy after sustaining such damage from Hurricane Harvey. Who would deny them that?

The 2017 World Series produced every emotion it possibly could have, such a roller coaster from one night to the next. Even one inning to the next. But when it came to Game 7 on Wednesday night, the Astros made it anticlimactic. All the drama was sucked out of Dodger Stadium within the first hour.

I suppose it’s just human nature, flawed as it is, to want to assess blame for failure. You could look at Cody Bellinger, likely the National League Rookie of the Year, who was unable to keep from swinging at bad pitches. He struck out 17 times in 28 at-bats, a World Series record.

You could look at Yasiel Puig. He did hit two home runs, but his tongue-wagging declined dramatically as he hit just .148 in the Series. You could look at Justin Turner, who appeared to be running on fumes in the World Series. He hit just .160 and may be nursing untold injuries. Or how about Austin Barnes? He hit so well in the regular season, he pushed Yasmani Grandal out of the catching position. But Barnes hit .174 in the Series.

The Astros knew just how to stifle the Dodgers’ bats. Los Angeles hit just .205 in the World Series and .200 with runners in scoring position (the Astros hit .230 and .260 respectively). Houston didn’t have as good an earned-run average as L.A. (4.64 to 4.45), but the Dodgers gave up 15 home runs to the Astros’ 10.

But if you want to know the true reason the Dodgers lost the World Series to the Astros, don’t look on the field. Look in the front office.

Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman made a July 31 deadline deal with the Texas Rangers to land Darvish. Then, a month later, the Astros made a waiver-deadline deal with the Detroit Tigers just moments before the deadline to make him eligible to play in the postseason.

That was the difference.

The Astros had a dependable starter that mostly plowed through the playoff competition while the Dodgers had a starter that had never really lived up to the hype he had when the Rangers signed him out of Japan. Darvish has won fewer and fewer games each season since his initial 16-9 start in 2012 and could never really be considered a dominant pitcher. He was an overall 10-13 this season, 4-3 with the Dodgers.

His playoff victories for the Dodgers over Arizona in the NL Division Series and over Chicago in the NL Championship Series were pleasant surprises because they were his first two postseason victories against two losses. Darvish had an 5.40 playoff ERA before coming to the Dodgers.

The Astros had faced Darvish plenty of times in the American League West and they were merciless against him in the World Series. They beat him twice and neither time could Darvish go any further than 1⅔ innings. He gave up four runs in each start and wound up with a Series ERA of 21.60.

Verlander won all five of his starts with the Astros with a 1.06 ERA. He was 4-1 in the postseason. Surprisingly, that one loss was to the Dodgers in Game 6 of the World Series. He had a no-decision in Game 2, but the Astros pulled that game out 7-6 in 11 innings.

Verlander is under contract for two more seasons; Darvish was merely a rental and is now a free agent.

So while the World Series lasted until Nov. 1, the season for the Dodgers actually was lost July 31.

BASEBALL ALIVE AND WELL

For a long time it has seemed like people were trying to sound the death knell for baseball. Too slow, too boring, too druggy.

Well, some of that still comes into play, particularly with pace of play, but a stellar postseason has put a cap on a great 2017 season.

Game 7 of the World Series earned an 18.8 big-market overnight rating and a 31% share of the market Wednesday night for Fox. That’s the second highest rating for any baseball broadcast since Game 7 in 2002 between the Angels and Giants (19.8/28).

Understandably, Wednesday’s rating was 25% lower than last year’s frenetic Cubs-Indians Game 7 (25.2), but it was up 24% over the Giants-Royals Game 7 in 2014 (15.2), as well as Cardinals-Rangers Game 7 in 2011 (14.1). The Royals-Mets series in 2015 went just five games.

In Houston the game had a 47.1 rating, marking the best figure on record in the market for a baseball telecast, and peaked at 51.2/76. Los Angeles had a 36.7 local rating. For Game 6 on Tuesday (a 3-1 Dodgers win), L.A. had a 30.9 rating and 53 share, peaking at 40.0/60 in the final 15 minutes. Houston had a 41.8/60.

THAT’S THE BALLGAME

And so now the season is fall and we’re hurtling headlong toward winter. Baseball is over and right on the top of that will be the return to standard time with nights becoming darker sooner and the weather colder and wetter.

It’s always been fascinating to me how the beginning of baseball season comes with springtime and optimism and the end of baseball season comes with autumn and pessimism.

But wow. Imagine how bad I’d be like if I lived on the East Coast.