Out of print for more than 30 years, now available for the first time as an eBook, this is the controversial story of John Wooden's first 25 years and first 8 NCAA Championships as UCLA Head Basketball Coach. This is the only book that gives a true picture of the character of John Wooden and the influence of his assistant, Jerry Norman, whose contributions Wooden  ignored and tried to bury.

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Sports Medley: Baseball Bits 21 Aug 17

by Tony Medley

Doesn’t anybody know how to play this game?, Continued: #1. In the bottom of the 8th inning of Tuesday night's game with the White Sox and the score tied 1-1, the Dodgers loaded the bases with one out and 2nd baseman Logan Forsythe was at bat. He hit a slow ground ball to the White Sox 3rd baseman who threw to the plate to force the runner on 3rd for one out. Then the catcher, who had plenty of time to throw the ball to first base to complete the double play, was basically blocked because Forsythe was running outside the zone that a runner must run in on a ground ball to the infield. Had he known the rule, all catcher Kevan Smith had to do was throw the ball. Ideally his throw would hit the runner making the interference obvious, and the runner would have been declared out completing the double play, ending the inning.

But Smith is apparently ignorant of the rule because he did not throw the ball and Forsythe was appropriately not called out because the rule requires that a throw be made. This allowed the bases to remain loaded. Joc Pederson then got hit by a pitch driving in the winning run, and the Dodgers proceeded to add 4 additional runs before the White Sox finally got the last out. The White Sox lost the game by those five runs, but if the catcher had just known a basic rule of baseball they could still be playing. Smith is paid over a half million dollars a year; maybe in today’s world that’s not enough to inspire him to learn the rules.

As a postscript, the Dodgers announcers did not mention this, nor did their studio commentators, nor the LA Times crack game reporter.

#2. In the top of the 6th inning with the Dodgers leading the Tigers 7-3 last Friday night, my choice for Dodgers’ MVP, Chris Taylor, was on 2nd, Justin Turner on first with 2 outs, and team-leading home run hitter Cody Bellinger at the plate. Taylor stole 3rd. Stealing 3rd with 2 outs is nonsensical, especially with a good hitter at the plate. It only takes a single to score a base runner from 2nd or 3rd. The sacrifice fly is not available with two outs because it would constitute the final out of the inning. So Taylor's theft of the 3rd was a truly dumb play with 2 outs and your leading home run hitter at bat. He could be thrown out, ending a budding rally. I saw Phillies’ Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt do the exact same thing a couple of decades ago and that play poisoned my opinion of his baseball intelligence, too.

#3. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts did it again. He pulled starting pitcher Rich Hill after Hill had pitched 5 innings (but had thrown 84 pitches; egads!). The first batter that his replacement, Josh Fields, faced, Victor Martinez, blasted Fields’ first pitch into the stands for a home run. I don't know how many times Roberts has pulled a starting pitcher for no reason other than pitch count and had the very next batter hit a home run off the relief pitcher, but it seems to me it’s happened at least five times this year already, a remarkable statistic.

Are players affected by the cheers or jeers of fans? Last weekend at a party I sat next to Anthony Sanchez, who is a Dodgers season-ticket holder. He told me that after Yasiel Puig was recalled back to the Dodgers after being demoted to the minor leagues last year he was roundly booed by the fans. Anthony, however, was close enough to the field that he could yell encouragement to Puig. Every time Yasiel came to bat he was greeted with boos and catcalls, but Anthony was cheering him. After one of Yasiel’s at-bats Anthony felt that Puig had looked to see who was cheering him and made eye contact. As it happened, the next time Puig was in the on deck circle, a foul ball trickled over to him. He picked up the ball, turned around and tossed the ball to Anthony. So don’t think players don’t hear fans. What fans yell can be hurtful, but Puig’s actions show that positive comments are appreciated. Kudos to Yasiel for a nice gesture!