The Bookshelf: Part 2 of 3 . . .

Bookshelf

What follows is Part 2 of a three-part look at some of the books I have read over the past 12 months. Before we get to those, here are a handful of suggestions from the thumbnails that appeared here a year ago. If you haven’t read these, you can’t go wrong with any of them:

Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times, by Mark Leibovich

Bower: A Legendary Life, by Dan Robson

Football for a Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL, by Jeff Pearlman

Hockey Fight in Canada: The Big Media Face-off Over the NHL, by David Shoults

K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches, by Tyler Kepner

The Last Cowboys: A Pioneer Family in the New West, by John Branch

Scotty: A Hockey Life Like No Other, by Ken Dryden

Us Against You, by Fredrik Backman (but only if you already have read Backman’s Beartown)

Now here is Part 2 of this year’s bookshelf . . .

Gloves Off: 40 Years of Unfiltered Sports Writing: Lowell Cohn, now retired, had a lengthy career as a sports columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle and Santa Rosa Press Democrat. This is his look back at some of the people he dealt with and things that he witnessed. He doesn’t pull any punches as he writes about his career; no, it’s not a compilation of columns. I’m a sucker for books of this type, but this one really is an entertaining read.

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The Good Earth: My mother was a reader and I can remember seeing Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth in a bookcase at home. But I can’t explain why I hadn’t read it before the summer of 2020. Published in 1931, it follows the life of a Chinese farmer and his family through more than 50 years of change, and it always returns to the importance of owning land. It won a Pulitzer Prize so I don’t need to tell you how good it is — but it’s great. It also is the first book in Buck’s House of Earth trilogy, the other two being Sons (1932) and A House Divided (1935).

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The Gray Man — This is the book that started the legend of The Gray Man, aka Courtland Gentry. He’s an assassin who at one time worked for the CIA but most times freelances. In his debut, there is a bounty on his head, and he faces down a dozen kill squads, but not without paying a price. Author Mark Greaney has created a likeable leading man, and the excitement is palpable between the front and back covers.

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The Grim Reaper: The Life and Career of a Reluctant Warrior — With help from writer Kevin Allen, then of USA TODAY, former hockey enforcer Stu Grimson told his story in a book that came out in the autumn of 2019. The book’s title is a touch misleading because Grimson, who had about 400 fights combined in major junior and the NHL, doesn’t seem to regret any of it. That may seem a bit strange seeing as he was forced into retirement by post-concussion syndrome. Anyway, he provides some valuable insight into the thought-process of NHL heavyweights — their anxieties and fears, both for the present and the future. Grimson, who was adopted, also opens up about his personal life, including a surprising introduction to his birth father.

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The Guardians — Cullen Post is a lawyer/minister who spends more time lawyering than preaching. His lawyering is aimed at correcting wrongful convictions and the group he works with, Guardian Ministeries, has had some successes. This book, by the prolific John Grisham, is about one of those cases, and a whole lot more. It’s good Grisham and the genesis, unfortunately, was a true story, as the author informs us at book’s end.

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The Huntress — I absolutely loved The Alice Network, and The Huntress is every bit as good, if not better. Both books were written by Kate Quinn. The Huntress is the story of two young men who pursue war criminals and are brought together with a Night Witch, a woman who was part of a female crew that flew night bombing missions for the Russians during the Second World War. The hunters’ latest target is a woman in Boston, who isn’t what she is trying hard to be. There are great characters and much intrigue here. You won’t be disappointed.

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The Jordan Rules — I don’t have any idea why I hadn’t read Sam Smith’s book prior to May. I finally read it while taking breaks from watching The Last Dance, the 10-part documentary on Michael Jordan, co-starring the Chicago Bulls, on Netflix. Smith, a writer with the Chicago Tribune, details the Bulls’ 1990-91 season. As the Bulls run to their first NBA title, the reader is left to decide whether The Jordan Rules was the name for the way the Detroit Pistons played defence on Jordan or how his teammates came to feel about what dictated life with the Bulls. If you haven’t read this, it’s great. Interestingly, Smith now writes for the Bulls’ website.

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Major Misconduct: The Human Cost of Fighting in Hockey — Author Jeremy Allingham, a reporter with CBC in Vancouver, takes an in-depth look at the post-hockey lives of three former enforcers — James McEwan, Stephen Peat and Dale Purinton — and what he uncovers isn’t at all pretty. Interestingly, all three got their starts as enforcers in the WHL, a major junior league that has yet to ban fighting. This is a horrifying look at life after hockey fights and should be read by anyone involved in junior hockey — from fans to parents to executives.

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The Mighty Oak — Tim O’Connor is the fighter — goon — for the West Texas Hockey League’s El Paso Storm. But his best days are behind him and he’s feeling it all over. O’Connor, whose nickname is Oak, hasn’t yet come to grips with the fact that a hip and a shoulder and a whole let else have him headed for hockey’s junk heap. He’s hoping the Oxy and Toradol and Adderall and whatever else is available will get him through it. Then he punches a cop. Author Jeff W. Bens has written an engrossing character study of a hockey enforcer trying to find a way back into a previous life.

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Mission Critical — I had heard of author Mark Greaney and his Gray Man books, but I hadn’t ready any of them until this one, which is No. 8 in the series. Court Gentry is The Gray Man; he also is an assassin, code name Violator. In Mission Critical, Violator is working for the CIA and there is a lot of nastiness happening in a paperback that runs 706 pages. But it is readable and it is fun.

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Mohawk — I don’t know if there is an author who captures small-town life in all of its idiosyncrasies like Richard Russo. Such is the case, again, in Mohawk as he follows a handful of citizens through the routine of their daily lives and stays with them as they deal with life’s ups and downs. Mohawk was published in 1986 and it is as great today as it was then.

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Molly’s Game: The True Story of the 26-Year-Old Woman Behind the Most Exclusive, High-Stakes Underground Poker Game in the World! — A member of the U.S. freestyle ski team suffers a career-ending injury and ends up running high stakes poker games in Los Angeles and, later, in New York City. This is the story of how Molly Bloom did all of that and more. She spills some of the beans in anecdotes that involve players like actors Tobey Maguire, who comes out rather poorly, Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Affleck, and some Russian gangsters. The obscene amounts of money thrown around in these games prove only that some people have no idea how the rest of us live. In the end, though, it all comes crashing down. Unfortunately, the book ends before the end, which is the part where Bloom pleads guilty to federal charges. You’ll have to turn to Google to find out what happened in court.

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Next: Part 3 of 3.

WHL: Weekend games to proceed ‘at this time’ . . . Baseball’s WCL lands in Nanaimo for 2021

The WHL said Thursday afternoon that “at this time” weekend games scheduled for the Pacific Northwest will proceed.

As of early Thursday evening, 70 people in Washington state had been diagnosed with whlCOVID-19. That includes 11 people who have died. Fifty-one of those cases, and 10 of the deaths, have occurred in King County whose county seat is Seattle.

The Everett Silvertips are to play host to the Tri-City Americans tonight (Friday) and the Seattle Thunderbirds on Saturday.

On Sunday, the Silvertips are to visit the Thunderbirds in Kent, Wash.

The Silvertips are second in the U.S. Division, one point behind the Portland Winterhawks. The Thunderbirds, who are to visit the Kelowna Rockets tonight, are in possession of the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot.

On Thursday, Cassie Franklin, the mayor of Everett, took part in a news conference that also involved the Snohomish Health District. Among the recommendations announced was to avoid “non-essential gatherings/large groups of 50+ people and postponing/cancelling events if possible.”

Later, Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, was quoted in a statement as saying the league, the Silvertips and Thunderbirds “are closely monitoring the public health developments” in the Pacific Northwest.”

He added that “at this time,” weekend games in Everett and Kent, Wash., the home of the Thunderbirds, will go ahead.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the immediate health risk to the United States public is low,” Robison said in the statement. “We will continue to monitor this situation closely and will adopt additional health and safety measures as recommended by local health authorities.”

The Seattle Times has a look right here at other sporting events scheduled for that area, including Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders, who are planning to go ahead with a Saturday night home game.

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Meanwhile, officials in B.C. announced eight new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, all on the Lower Mainland, bringing the province’s total positives to 21. That includes four patients who have recovered.

The Vancouver Giants, who play out of the Langley Events Centre, are next scheduled to play at home on March 13 against Seattle. The Giants will visit the Thunderbirds on March 14, then play host to the Prince George Cougars on March 15.



ICYMI, baseball’s West Coast League will have a franchise in Nanaimo, B.C., beginning with the 2021 season. The team, which doesn’t yet have a name, will be the WCL’s 13th team and will be owned by the group that operates the Victoria HarbourCats. That group includes former Prince George Citizen sports editor Jim Swanson, who is the managing partner and will oversee operations with both franchises. . . . The wood-bat league features teams in B.C., Washington and Oregon. . . . There is a news release on Thursday’s announcement right here.



If the Brandon Wheat Kings finish third or fourth in the WHL’s East Division, they will get bumped from Westoba Place for the first round and will play their home games in Virden. . . . The Wheat Kings go into weekend play in second place in the East Division, five points ahead of the Winnipeg Ice and seven up on the Saskatoon Blades.


Scattershooting on a Tuesday night while waiting for Meghan and Harry to arrive for tea . . .

Scattershooting


Tyler Kepner of The New York Times, writing about the MLB sign-stealing scandal and the Houston Astros:

“It was clear the Astros were doing something unusually effective. While power hitters generally strike out frequently — a trade-off for swinging aggressively — the Astros’ lineup has an extraordinary knack for slugging without whiffing. From 1910 through 2016, only two teams — the 1948 Yankees and the 1995 Cleveland Indians — led the majors in slugging percentage while also recording the fewest strikeouts. The Astros did it in both 2017 and 2019.”



G Taran Kozun, who played in the WHL with the Kamloops Blazers and Seattle Thunderbirds, now is with the U of Saskatchewan Huskies in Saskatoon. On Saturday night, he posted a shutout as the Huskies beat the host Calgary Dinos, 3-0. Oh, Kozun also scored a goal. . . . That also was Kozun’s second straight shutout, as the Huskies had beaten the Dinos, 4-0, on Friday night.

Kozun is the second goaltender in Canada West to be credited with scoring a goal, but the first to actually shoot the puck into the opposing team’s goal.

On Oct. 26, 2012, Kurtis Mucha of the Alberta Golden Bears

As Neate Sager reported for Yahoo! Sports at the time: “It was the standard opposing-goalie-off-on-a-delayed-penalty, errant-pass-goes-in-the-net scenario. Mucha . . . was credited with the goal since he was the last U of A man to touch the puck after stopping a long shot. The one twist is that the Lethbridge Pronghorns’ off-the-mark pass from out of the corner to the goaltender’s left banked off the boards in the neutral zone and rolled into the net.”

That night, Mucha, like so many snipers before him, was talking about the points that got away. He was quoted in a U of Alberta news release: “The funny thing is, I almost had a couple of assists that night, too. I moved the puck up ice a couple of times and was the third assist on a couple of goals, so I was pretty close to a two- or three-point night.”


There is good news for followers of the Winnipeg Ice. F Matt Savoie, who turned 16 on New Year’s Day, is captaining Team Canada at the Winter Youth Olympic Games, Lausanne, Switzerland. . . . Savoie hasn’t played for the Ice since Dec. 28 when he was KO’d on a fierce open-ice hit during a 3-2 victory over the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings. . . . The first selection in the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft, Savoie has five assists in 12 games with the Ice. When he isn’t with the Ice, he is with the Rink Hockey Academy Prep team in Winnipeg. He’s got 16 goals and 26 assists in 17 games with RHA. . . . Savoie had a shorthanded goal and an assist on Sunday as Canada beat Denmark, 6-0, outshooting the Danes, 44-8, in the process. That left Canada at 1-1 as it earlier had dropped a 6-2 decision to Russia. . . . Canada then lost 2-1 to the U.S. in a semifinal game played on Tuesday.




“Hey,” writes Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, “if Clint Eastwood can talk to an empty chair, why not this? Philadelphia’s WTXF-TV ‘interviewed’ T.C., the Astros’ dugout trash can, as part of its coverage of MLB’s sign-stealing scandal. ‘I was beat over and over and over,’ T.C. revealed to the Good Morning Philadelphia show. ‘It took me two years to get all the dents out. It’s the worst job in sports.’ ”

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Perry spent some time on the NFL crime beat recently . . .

“New Orleans police issued an arrest warrant for Odell Beckham Jr. after the Browns receiver slapped the butt of a Superdome security guard following LSU’s championship-game win. Though he hopes to get the simple-battery charge reduced to illegal use of hands.

New England receiver Julian Edelman jumped on the hood of a car in Beverly Hills, Calif., apparently damaging it and earning himself a police citation for vandalism. Or as Patriots apologists tried to spin it, he got flagged for piling on.”

I would suggest that Perry should be flagged for being offside.



The Kamloops Blazers lit up the visiting Tri-City Americans for a dozen goals in a 12-3 victory on Friday night. . . . If you were wondering — and I know you were — that was Kamloops1the 27th time in franchise history that Kamloops scored at least 12 times in one game. The franchise’s single-game record is 16 — the Jr. Oilers beat the visiting Kelowna Wings, 16-1, on March 11, 1983; the Blazers whipped the visiting Victoria Cougars, 16-4, on Jan. 19, 1990. . . . The last time the Blazers had struck for 12 goals in one game was on March 13, 1994, in a 12-4 victory over the host Americans. . . . Interesting note: The Blazers have scored in double figures twice this season — they beat the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds, 10-1, on Nov. 20. Prior to Nov. 20, Kamloops last scored at least 10 goals in a game on Sept. 20, 2002, in a 10-2 victory over visiting Seattle. . . . Interesting note No. 2: Kamloops once scored 10 goals in a game and lost. On March 6, 1984, the host Seattle Breakers scored an 11-10 victory. . . .

On Saturday night, the Blazers romped to a 9-0 home-ice victory over the Americans behind G Rayce Ramsay, who made 24 saves. . . . On Sunday, the Blazers went into Langley and beat the Vancouver Giants, 4-0, with G Dylan Garand stopping 21 shots. . . . The Blazers have put up six shutouts this season, with Garand and Ramsay each earning three. . . . The last time Kamloops blanked the opposition six times in one season? That would be 2012-13 when the total was seven (Cole Cheveldave, 6; Taran Kozun 1). . . . The franchise record is nine from 2003-04 (Devan Dubnyk, 6; Dustin Slade, 2; Geoff McIntosh, 1). . . .

BTW, Garand now has four shutouts in his WHL career, putting him into a tie with Kenric Exner for 10th on Kamloops’ career list. Ramsay has three and is tied for 12th with Dylan Ferguson, Jeff Bosch and Daryl Reaugh. . . . Dubnyk is the franchise’s career record holder, with 15, one more than Corey Hirsch. . . . Prior to Saturday, the Blazers last won a game by a 9-0 count on Jan. 11, 1995 when they beat the host Thunderbirds behind 21 saves by G Rod Branch. . . . Kamloops now has eight 9-0 victories in its regular-season history.



The Bookshelf: Part 2 of 3

Bookshelf

With Christmas Day only a few shopping days away, here is the second of my three-part Bookshelf piece, an annual look at some of the books I have read over the previous 12 months. . . .

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The Down Goes Brown History of the NHL — This is an irreverent, cheeky and humorous look at the history of professional hockey’s premier league. Written by Sean McIndoe, who is known as Down Goes Brown on social media channels, it also includes all kinds of interesting tidbits. I mean, who remembers that Teemu Selanne’s first signed NHL contract was with the Calgary Flames?

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George Garrett: Intrepid Reporter — George Garrett, who retired 20 years ago, spent 43 years as a reporter with radio station CKNW in Vancouver. Through diligence and hard work, the native of Mortlach, Sask., became a legend of the big city airwaves. This is his story, as written by Garrett, but, more than that, it’s the story of a completely different media era. Garrett was at CKNW from the 1950s through the 1990s, when B.C. was a cauldron of major stories, and was on the scene covering many of them. This was in the days when there was competition among TV, radio and newspaper reporters, when major news created a real buzz. That was then; this is now.

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Jail Blazers: How the Portland Trail Blazers Became the Bad Boys of Basketball — There was a time when the Portland Trail Blazers were one of the NBA’s dominant teams. But it all started to unravel as general manager Bob Whitsitt, armed with billionaire Paul Allen’s money, chose to build a team that featured as much talent as he could acquire and let the coaching staff sort it out. Character? Chemistry? What’s that? The result of this chemistry experiment is between the covers of this book that was written by Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune. As you read this book, you will continually find yourself shaking your head and asking how anyone with experience in sports management would think something like this would work. The book does get dragged down in game-by-game details, but not in the off-court antics and dramatics.

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K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches — I am a huge baseball fan, and this is a terrific addition to any library. Author Tyler Kepner is The New York Times’ baseball columnist, and he tells the stories of 10 pitches — curveball, cutter, fastball, knuckleball, sinker, slider, spitter, splitter et al — through archives and interviews with baseball people. This is baseball — and baseball’s history — at its very best. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this one.

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The Last Cowboys: A Pioneer Family in the New West — This is a stunningly good book. John Branch, a New York Times writer who also wrote Boy On Ice: The Derek Boogaard Story, documents the lives of the Wrights, the Utah-based family whose men have come to dominate the world of rodeo, especially in saddle bronc. But this book is about so much more than cowboys competing in rodeos. It is about a family whose patriarch remembers the past while he lives in the present and wonders about the future. This book is just so, so good. I can’t recommend it enough.

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Light It Up — Peter Ash, a former Marine, finds himself in the Denver area for the third of author Nick Petrie’s books in the series. Yes, that means money and marijuana and a whole lot more. This is good escapism.

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The Long and Faraway Gone — After reading the terrific November Road, which appears later on this list, I went looking for more of Lou Berney’s writing and came upon this one. Oh, what joy! In this one, Berney writes of two people who are searching to find the past while wondering what is in the future. This is a book that really does wrap itself around you.

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A Man Called Ove — Written by Fredrik Backman, who also wrote Beartown and Us Against You, both of which are terrific, this is the story of Ove, a lonely man whois moving toward life’s end following the death of his wife. It is a disheartening and delightful read, all at the same time. Like the other two books, this one provides a number of snapshots of real life, as it deals with the issues of day-to-day living.

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Mightier Than the Sword — This is the fifth book in author Jeffrey Archer’s Clifton Chronicles, a sprawling saga that follows the lives of the Clifton and Barrington families. Yes, it is a terrific soap opera, but there are more than enough twists and turns, along with good people and bad guys (and gals), to keep a reader intrigued and involved. . . . Cometh The Hour — This is Book 6 of the seven-book series. It’s all good fun from a master storyteller. . . . The series concludes with This Was A Man. This is the stuff of which hit TV series like Dallas and Dynasty once were made.

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The New Iberia Blues — This is book No. 22 in author James Lee Burke’s series about Dave Robicheaux, who now is a sheriff’s deputy in New Iberia, the parish seat of Iberia Parish, in Louisiana. The characters are as fresh in this 22nd book as in any that preceded it, and Burke can write. Oh, can he! But be forewarned . . . this one isn’t for the faint of heart.

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November Road — This one made a number of “best of 2018” lists and with good reason. Using the assassination of President John F. Kennedy as something of a backdrop, author Lou Berney puts the reader in Frank Guidry’s hip pocket as he tries to stay alive. A fixer for the New Orleans mob, Guidry realizes his time is up, but he has no desire to go quietly.

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The Other Woman — This is a spy novel and it is a good one. A really good one. Author Daniel Silva weaves quite a story around Gabriel Allon, who is the chief of Israel’s secret intelligence service, and his search for a mole. Before Allon is done, the U.S., British and Israeli intelligence services appear headed to splitsville. No spoilers here, but this book contains a wonderful plot element. Great stuff! Highly recommended. . . . Also recommended: House of Spies, The Kill Artist, and The Rembrandt Affair, three more books by Silva that I read in the last while, each of them featuring Gabriel Allon.

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Tomorrow: Part 3 of 3.

Scattershooting on a Monday after paying 1.55.9 for gas in Burnaby and feeling like I’d won a lottery . . .

Scattershooting

I don’t know how you spent you Memorial Day weekend, but here’s Bob Tory, the general manager of the Tri-City Americans, heading out on another scouting junket. . . .


Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference is ‘involuntarily’ removing Division III powerhouse St. Thomas’ football program because of its ‘competitive’ advantages. Translation: It wins too much. . . . ‘You can do that?’ asked 31 NBA teams in unison.”



Rob Vanstone, in the Regina Leader-Post, prior to St. Louis taking out San Jose a week ago: “The 2019 NBA playoffs are so much more interesting and entertaining than the NHL post-season. Honestly, is there any reason to care unless you happen to be a fan of the Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues or San Jose Sharks? The entire post-season process is a grind. The officiating is awful and the calibre of play isn’t much better.”

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Vanstone continues: “And the NHL’s video-review system? A complete mess. The offside challenges simply have to go. Give the linesmen the final say and leave it there. Please. Enough.”

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One more from Vanstone, who was on a roll earlier this week: “Drake, who seems to think that he is playing for or coaching the Toronto Raptors, has singlehandedly turned me into a Milwaukee Bucks fan.”


Phone


Hey, NHL, I tried. I really tried. I tried to watch Game 1 of your final, but, well, this thing about letting the players decide things really shouldn’t be a thing. A cross-check is a cross-check and a slash is a slash, except when you pretend it isn’t. So, sorry, but I’m outta here. I’m off to watch the NBA final. Here’s hoping I am able to find a national U.S.-based telecast.

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So . . . I don’t enjoy play-by-play voices and analysts who constantly seem to be yelling, which is why I rarely watch the Toronto Raptors on Canadian TV. But I tuned in to Game 5 of their series with the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night. I gotta say the only thing missing was Buck Martinez.



If you have ever wondered about the popularity and power of the NFL, consider this . . .


“Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay forked over $718,750 to buy John Lennon’s famed piano,” reports the aforementioned Dwight Perry. “Hey, Jim, when the player-personnel people said they wanted Peppers, they meant Julius, not Sgt.”



We got home late Monday afternoon after spending some time on the highways and byways of beautiful B.C. I am pleased to report that we saw a lot of Alberta licence plates along the way, meaning those nice folks continue to visit and spent their hard-earned dollars on our expensive gasoline.