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Tag:Roberto Clemente
Posted on: September 28, 2010 1:29 am

Ken Burns at the top of his game

Given documentary filmmaker Ken Burns' talent for storytelling, were he to draw them up, each baseball season would ebb and flow in perfect cadence, with six divisional races each thundering toward its own unique and dramatic climax right up until the final day of the season.

Being that the game has a mind of its own and refuses to be tamed, we're left to settle for Burns' forays into documenting it for PBS.

Given his latest work -- The Tenth Inning, to be shown on your local PBS television station in two parts on Tuesday and Wednesday -- it's a pretty darned good trade-off.

Picking up where he left off in Baseball, which, with some 43 million viewers, was the most-watched series in PBS history, Burns and his co-producer (and co-director) Lynn Novick hit all the right notes in The Tenth Inning. From the dramatic opening showing a young Barry Bonds with an ominous hint of what's to come, Burns and Novick reel you in quickly and keep things moving at a nice, crisp pace that Greg Maddux would appreciate.

Particularly good is their treatment of the 1994-1995 players' strike and the resulting break in trust with the fans, the examination of the Latin American and Asian influx into the game (there's some great, if brief, Roberto Clemente footage, and some good stuff on Ichiro Suzuki) and the treatment of the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run chase in 1998.

You can't help but be moved by the excellent chapter on 9/11 and baseball in its aftermath. And as the documentary moves beyond that into Bonds chasing the single-season and all-time home run records, his gargantuan size is maybe even more striking in hindsight than it was at the time. From there, the handling of the game's steroids scandal is skillful.

Among the interviews woven throughout, those with Joe Torre and Pedro Martinez are especially good. So, too, are those from MSNBC's Keith Olbermann -- who tells a wonderful story of meeting a New York cop on the street on the day baseball resumed following 9/11 -- and Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton.

There are so many small, perfect touches throughout that I won't get into all of them. But a couple of small examples -- and those of you who regularly read this space on the Internet know how I relate to all things music -- are from the soundtrack: As Burns and Co. are covering the Braves winning the World Series in '95, Georgia's Allman Brothers are playing in the background. And behind a segment on the Cleveland Indians of the '90s is music from Ohio-native Chrissie Hynde.

There are so many more examples like that, big and small. The Tenth Inning is beautifully done and, if you love baseball (or even are just OK with baseball but love American history), it's worth scheduling a couple of hours Tuesday night and a couple more Wednesday night to make sure you see this.

And if you can't, it's definitely worth DVRing for a look when you get a free night or two.

Believe me, you'll be thrilled that you did.

Likes: The 50th anniversary Monday of Ted Williams blasting a home run in his final at-bat before retiring, perhaps the most memorable final act in any Hall of Fame career -- and certainly the only one to be the subject of such beautiful prose as John Updike's Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu, the author's famous essay for the New Yorker. In commemoration of the 50th anniversary, the Library of America is presenting a cool little book reprinting Updike's original essay, plus an autobiographical preface and a terrific new afterward prepared by the author just months before his death. This is the essay in which Updike begins "Fenway Park in Boston is a lyric little bandbox of a place. ..." and, after describing Williams running around the bases with his head down and refusing to tip his cap to the crowd -- curtain calls wouldn't become customary until years later -- includes this sublime bit of writing: "... But immortality is nontransferable. The papers said that the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way, but he refused. Gods do not answer letters." If you're interested in the book, you can find more details (including ordering information) here.

Dislikes: Really hate to see Atlanta's Martin Prado go down with what surely looked like an oblique injury in Monday's game against Florida. This week's battle for two playoff spots involving the Braves, San Diego and San Francisco is going to be riveting, and you really don't want to see teams depleted. Atlanta already lost Chipper Jones weeks ago. ... Meantime, will injuries to Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria (quad) and Minnesota's J.J. Hardy (ankle) this week turn into significant issues for October?

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Pretty girls from the smallest towns
"Get remembered like storms and droughts
"That old men talk about for years to come"

-- Drive-By Truckers, Birthday Boy

Posted on: March 4, 2010 9:54 am

Bucs' Alvarez charging hard at third base

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Andy LaRoche feels the locomotive steaming toward him, but what's he going to do? Run?

He will open the season as Pittsburgh's third baseman.

Whether he closes it that way is an entirely different story.

Over there in the wings, Pedro Alvarez, one of the top five prospects in the game, is sharpening his defense, honing his hitting and preparing for a long future as Pittsburgh's third baseman (or, perhaps, first baseman -- Alvarez's bat is by far his most intriguing tool).

"No matter if I play with A-Rod, Pedro or nobody behind me, I have to get the things done that I need to do," LaRoche says. "It's not going to make me work any harder, or work any less.

"That's all I can focus on."

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft, Alvarez hit .288 with 27 homers, 32 doubles and 95 RBI in 126 games last season between high-Class A and Double-A.

He likely will not break camp with the Pirates and probably won't arrive until June, July or later -- partly because the organization thinks he still needs seasoning, and partly because stashing him in the minors until then will delay the clock on his major league service time and stop him from being eligible for arbitration until after the 2012 season.

"It's easy to get excited about Pedro," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington says. "You see the strength in his bat, and what he did last year. But it's also easy to forget that he hasn't swung the bat above Double-A. Triple-A pitchers are going to teach him some lessons he needs to learn."

So the good people of Indianapolis (locale of Pittsburgh's Triple-A team) are in for a treat early this season. How long he remains there -- and how long LaRoche remains in the lineup -- right now is only a matter of conjecture until what most people think is the most fearsome bat to come out of the draft for Pittsburgh since first-round pick Barry Bonds in 1985 is ready.

"Obviously, he's a great player," says LaRoche, 25, who hit .258 with 12 homers and 64 RBI last season for the Bucs. "All the publicity he gets, it's not just hype. He's the real deal. He's a great hitter and a solid third baseman.

"It would be nice to play on the same field with him one day -- even if he's at third base and I'm at second."

Sunblock Day? If things don't change around here, I'm going to have to remove this category from the blog entirely. Not to keep bitching, but according to the St. Petersburg Times, this is the coldest winter in the Tampa area since the 1950s. According to the newspaper, so far this season, "Tampa and St. Petersburg have had 26 and 28 days respectively that haven't climbed above 60 degrees — the second-highest number in recorded history. And we're only a few days away from the record, which was set in 1958 when St. Petersburg had 31 days below 60 and Tampa had 30." Brrr.

Likes: Love the blue and orange paw print pattern throughout the carpeting in the Tigers' Lakeland clubhouse. ... Pittsburgh's Pirate City, about a mile away from McKechnie Field in Bradenton, is totally first class. The Bucs have done a great job incorporating their history, with photos and nods to men like Willie Stargell, Bill Mazeroski, Danny Murtaugh and Roberto Clemente throughout. Love the Clemente quote painted onto the wall above the door through which the Pirates exit to head toward the fields: "I want to be remembered as a ballplayer who gave all he had to give." ... If you're on vacation to see the Pirates and just couldn't find a pet-sitter, there's a place just down the very rural street on which Pirate City is located that offers dog obedience training. Lessons are Tuesdays from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Woof. ... Mixon's Fruit Farm also is just down the road from Pirate City, and it's a must-stop for lunch. The fresh orange juice is out of this world. The deli sandwiches are solid, but what's really a must-have is the orange swirl ice cream cone, made with Mixon's fresh orange juice. Mmmmm.

Dislikes: Not that I was ever tempted to watch, but sure am glad I missed The Marriage Ref the other night. Based on the awful reviews and some of what we've seen lately, this painful question needs to be asked: Has Jerry Seinfeld jumped the shark?

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

Exhibition games start this week, and in tribute to Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell, who would open the Tigers' first Grapefruit League broadcast each spring with this poem, I've gotta go with this today:

"For, lo, the winter is past
"The rain is over and gone
"The flowers appear on the earth
"The time of the singing of birds is come
"And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land."

-- Song of Solomon

You can listen to Ernie himself recite this verse from the Song of Solomon here, from his Audio Scrapbook (a cool four-disc set that is extremely well done). Just click play and it's the first up in the Harwell tribute video.


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or