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2003: CHAPTER AND VERSE.

Byline: KEVIN MODESTI

What's the chance that this baseball season will be truly great, that it will play out like a work of literature, that it will dazzle the eye and ear like poetry?

The answer is there's a 20.4 percent chance.

I searched the local bookstores. I surfed the online booksellers. I counted up the serious books written about particular major-league seasons, from best-sellers (``The Boys of Summer,'' the story of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers) to dust-collectors (``The Boys of the Summer of '48,'' the tale of the 1948 Cleveland Indians), from old (``The Unforgettable Season,'' about Fred Merkle in 1908) to new (``Summer of '98,'' about McGwire and Sosa in 1998), from wild (``Ball Four,'' Jim Bouton's 1969 diary) to wilder (``The Pitch That Killed,'' on Ray Chapman's death and more from 1920), from Yankees-inspired (``A Legend in the Making,'' 1939) to ... Yankees-inspired (``Pinstripe Pandemonium,'' 1983).

I included the latest promising entry in the genre - ``The Long Ball,'' author Tom Adelman's novelization of the 1975 season, which climaxes with Carlton Fisk's home run, due on the shelves this week.

I ignored the instant books that fly off the mimeograph machines in stadium basements the morning after every World Series - typically with titles like ``Yippee! Our Guys Won!''.

Ninety-eight seasons have been completed, the ones that ended with a World Series. Twenty of those have had serious books written about them. Twenty-point-four percent.

Meanwhile, the books written about football and basketball seasons, you can count on one typing hand.

Now, I can't tell you whether the baseball season that begins Sunday will be a great one.

But I can tell you that if it does become one for the books, these will be the chapters.

--The New York Yankees fail for the third year in a row to win the World Series.

--Yankees owner George Steinbrenner announces plans for another foreign acquisition.

--The Dominican Republic.

--Milwaukee's Brooks Kieschnick succeeds in his bid to stick with the team as both a pitcher and an outfielder.

--Kieschnick is but an extreme example of a trend away from specialization that also sees more and more managers break their robotic reliance on designated bullpen closers.

--Managers figure out that if they quit hyping the transcendent difficulty of getting outs in the ninth inning as opposed to the eighth, pitchers won't know the difference.

--The players veto Bud Selig's ridiculous scheme to award the World Series home-field advantage to the league that wins the All-Star Game.

--Pete Rose's bid for reinstatement fails, meaning his exclusion remains a story for years to come, guaranteeing he'll remain more famous than any Hall of Famer.

--Brooks Kieschnick loses a pitching victory because of his own outfield error.

--Dodgers: 96 wins, up four from last year. Angels: 99 wins, same as last year.

--Dodgers' Guillermo Mota, making first pitch to Mets' Mike Piazza in regular season, is called for a balk after attempting to make delivery while backpedaling.

--The National League East finishes in a five-way tie for first place, six- way if you include Puerto Rico, where the Expos play 22 home games.

--Brooks Kieschnick, the pitcher, rips Brooks Kieschnick, outfielder, in a postgame interview.

--All-Star Game remains an entertaining break from the pressures of the long season, over the objections of the commissioner.

--Dodgers' Kevin Brown and Darren Dreifort make strong returns to starting rotation, leading a legion of bounce-back players that includes Ken Griffey Jr., Juan Gonzalez, Mike Hampton, Jason Kendall and Matt Morris.

--Tigers coach Kirk Gibson, 46, tries to get in a game but is tackled on his way to the on-deck circle.

--Brooks Kieschnick, pitcher, is released for causing dissension, but Brooks Kieschnick, outfielder, remains with the Brewers.

--Biggest impact by a player with a new team: David Bell, Philadelphia.

--NL MVP: Scott Rolen, St. Louis. AL: Alex Rodriguez, Texas.

--NL Cy Young Award winner: Roy Oswalt, Houston. AL: Tim Hudson, Oakland.

--NL Rookie of the Year: Jose Reyes, New York. AL: Francisco Rodriguez, Angels.

--NL division winners: Dodgers, St. Louis, Atlanta. Wild card: Houston. Pennant: St. Louis.

--AL division winners: Angels, Chicago, New York. Wild card: Oakland. Pennant: Angels.

--World Series: St. Louis over Angels in seven games.

--Somebody writes a book about it.

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Daily News/CBS 2/KCAL 9 SPORTS CENTRAL POWER RANKINGS
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Mar 28, 2003
Words:718
Previous Article:DODGERS NOTEBOOK: TOP PROSPECT'S PROSPECTS UP IN THE AIR.
Next Article:BUSINESS AS USUAL EVEN WITH THE NEW LABOR DEAL, IT'S STILL THE YANKEES VS. EVERYONE ELSE.


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