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.

Compiled with more than 40 hours of interviews with Coach Wooden, learn about the man behind the coach. The players tell their stories in their own words.

Click the book to read the first chapter and for ordering information. Also available on Kindle.

Sports Medley: Grandal’s Lackadaisical Catching 11 Sep 17

by Tony Medley

The following item was meant to be the lead in last week’s column. It was cut because the analysis of UCLA’s win over Texas A & M was so long.

When a catcher can’t catch: One of the Dodgers’ weakest points is the woeful defense of catcher Yasmani Grandal. Grandal will never be one of the more admirable characters on the Dodgers since his record includes a 50 day suspension in 2012 while he was a member of the San Diego Padres for using a banned substance, testosterone. But what negatively affects the Dodgers is his lazy defense. You will look long and hard to find a more lackadaisical catcher, and it jumps out at you when you look at the stats that show his passed balls. In two of the last three years, 2014 and 2016, he led the league in passed balls with 12 and 10, respectively. This year he already has 15, and there’s still another month left to play (after writing this, he had another last week). That’s 37 PBs in three years or 13.3/year. In comparison, Roy Campanella had only 56 PBs in his entire 10 year career with the Dodgers, an average of 5.6/year. Yogi Berra had only 76 PBs in a 19 year career, an average of 4/year. All those PBs often translate directly into runs.

What’s wrong with this picture? In the 4th quarter of Sunday’s NFL inaugural game between New England and Kansas City, Kansas City wide receiver Tyreek Hill injured his leg on a kick return. After Kansas City subsequently scored a touchdown, a shot was shown of Hill and a trainer both jogging off the field with Hill limping badly. Call me crazy, but if I have an athlete who has injured his leg and he had to be taken to the locker room for treatment I would not want him jogging off the field on the bad leg. How serious was it? He’s listed as “questionable” for next week’s game.

Dear Abby: The Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig needs some advice on hitting strategy from somebody who knows something about hitting (since Charley Lau and Ted Williams passed, I don’t know anybody today to recommend, considering the sad state of today’s batters who strike out more than at any other time in history). Often, like Mike Trout, he just stands erect and immobile and takes the first pitch, which is just as often a fastball down the middle, because pitchers have become used to his taking the first pitch. Also, on hitters’ counts like 2-0, he does the exact same thing. He just stands at the plate, not even going into any kind of a batting stance and lets the pitcher throw a strike right down the middle. This is nonsense.

Undeserved: One of the cheesiest records in baseball is Pittsburgh’s Roy Face’s highest winning percentage of 18-1 in 1959. Face was a relief pitcher and did not have even one start that year. In fact, he only pitched 93.1 innings! The highest winning percentage should be broken down between starting pitchers and relief pitchers, because Face rarely pitched more than 2 innings in any one game. In fact, a relief pitcher is put in the game, generally, to preserve a lead. The fact that Face had 18 victories indicates that he came in with Pittsburgh ahead, lost the lead, but got the victory because the Pirates rallied to win.

An example of a relief pitcher who got credit for a victory he did not deserve is Bob Friend, also of the Pirates. In 1955 Pirates pitcher Vern Law pitched 18 innings (on 2 days rest; explain that, Dave Roberts!), allowing the powerful Milwaukee Braves with Henry Aaron (who played second base!), Joe Adcock, and Eddie Matthews only 2 runs. Leaving after the 18th, Bob Friend took over for him and promptly allowed a run on two hits and a walk in the top of the 19th . The Pirates rallied for 2 runs in the bottom of the 19th and Friend got the win.

Fred Haney, a former third baseman, was the Pirates’ manager and Fred knew more about pitching than all the managers in MLB today combined. Fred announced the Hollywood Stars games in the late ‘40s and his tagline each night was, “This is Fred Haney, rounding third and heading for home.” He was named manager of the Stars in 1949 and his 1949 Stars team featuring center fielder Irv Noren was one of the best in Pacific Coast League history. He became manager of the Pirates in 1953, and then went over to Milwaukee in 1956 where he became manager in midseason and led the Braves to their first World Series victory in franchise history with a seven game win over the Yankees in 1957.

No Branch Rickey: Last week I questioned the "brilliance" of the Dodgers trade for Yu Darvish. It is increasingly apparent that the trade for Curtis Granderson was equally valueless. While outfielder Joc Pederson was struggling to maintain a .200 batting average, since Granderson joined the club he is batting under .120 and is a detriment in the field. Why isn’t the finally healthy Andre Ethier starting? He’s ten times more effective than both Granderson and Pederson put together.

Medley’s Rulebook:

#1: Tennis: Dump the “let service” rule, as World Team Tennis did.  Why should a serve that hits the net and lands inside the service area be a void serve to be served over again? It makes no sense to say that a ball that is struck during a rally that hits the net and lands inside the playing area continues to be in play but to say that when the serve hits the net and lands in the service area it needs to be replayed. Tennis got rid of the Net Cord Judge (all of whom were mockingly named “Fingers Fortescue” by incomparable tennis commentator Bud Collins) in 1996; now they should get rid of the “let” itself.

#2 Baseball: Ban spitting! Do you see people in ordinary walks of life spit on the ground? Yet baseball players are constantly spitting. They spit when they are on the field defensively. Pitchers spit when they're on the pitching mound. Batters spit when they're in the batting's box. When there are shots of players in the dugout, they are all spitting, constantly. It's a filthy, disgusting habit that is unhealthy to others, and sets a very bad example.