Friday, November 19, 2021

Books: On Women In Sports

The Sisterhood: The 99ers and the Rise of U.S. Women's Soccer

By Rob Goldman

Nebraska; hardcover, 320 pages; $32.95

Rob Goldman, the author of two baseball books, Once They Were Angels and Nolan Ryan: The Making of a Pitcher, as well as the novel Hauling Time, focuses on the rise of the United States Women's National Soccer Team in the new book The Sisterhood: The 99ers and the Rise of U.S. Women's Soccer.

When it comes to setting a high standard in sports, it's hard to find a team that does that better than the United States Women's National Soccer Team. The team has won four World Cup titles, including the last two in 2015 and 2019, and four Olympic gold medals.

The impressive thing is that it didn't take long for the team to rise, as it took just four years after its creation in 1985 to be acknowledged as the best in the world. Its ascent was neither easy not harmonious, and the team came on the scene when team sports for women were in their infancy. The players were paid little and played to small crowds on marginal pitches and carried their own equipment and luggage. They encountered discrimination from their governing bodies, FIFA and U.S. Soccer.

The first and second generations of national team players are known as the 99ers, in honor of their first Women's World Cup championship in 1999 - which was won on Brandi Chastain's game-winning goal to beat China in the final at the Rose Bowl, which was a seminal moment which became a cultural event - and that is the focus of The Sisterhood

These players were the driving force behind the rise of U.S. Women's soccer and who built the foundation for the team's enduring success. In addition to Chastain, the names are very familiar, including Michelle Akers, Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, and Brandi Chastain, as well as coaches Anson Dorrance and Tony DiCicco.

The final at the Rose Bowl had over ninety thousand fans in attendance, making it the largest crowd to ever attend a women's sporting event. These players were no longer outcasts, and they became leaders who not only transformed women's sports but led a cultural revolution. 

One of those trailblazers was Julie Foudy, as Goldman writes in this excerpt, starting with the view of the team's Sports Psychology Consultant: "Dr. Colleen Hacker considers Julie Foudy and Carla Overbeck monumental leaders who in moments of turmoil and doubt made sure the national team didn't lose their bearings or lose sight of their long-term goals. In Hacker's eyes, Julie Foudy was also a visionary, someone who looked beyond the here and now. 

'You had to have a rearview mirror to understand what you saw in Julie,' says Hacker. 'We didn't yet know she was going to be the president of the Women's Sports Foundation or a leading advocate for women's equality in sports, or founder of the Julie Foudy Leadership Academy for girls. We have the benefit now of understanding just what a massive figure she is on the national and international stage, but the seeds planted in 1996 and '99 came full bloom years later. 

'We saw those same qualities and awareness then, that same desire to create more opportunities for people coming after her. She was willing to put in the time and effort to sit with reporters, get off a bus and shake hands, and fly all night and meet with the public.

'Julie and Carla put their actions where their values were. Their philosophy was if you want to be a leader, carry the bags. Their leadership was actively and daily living the example, not telling people what to do as much as modeling what to do.

'They both literally and metaphorically carried the team's bags. They did the grunt work. They weren't just in front of the camera glamour, they were modeling it. At practice, they were the ones racing to move the goals that needed to be moved and staying after practice and running extra fitness. What do their actions say to a player who is far less in stature and accomplishment, who hadn't yet met fitness standards?

'It says her are the most accomplished and decorated among them coming early and staying late to run fitness, with people who haven't yet met national care standards.

'In ways big and small, they carried the team's bags.

'Julie would talk to our team at dinners and tell us how we were the beneficiaries of Title IX legislation, and they must never forget that. She lifted the Billie Jean Kings and Senator Birch Bayhs of the world. She wanted us to know our history and the people who made our careers possible, and you can't fabricate that, and that's visionary leadership.

'Why are those two captains? Tony knew something.

'We all shared that vision, and you can't say that about most teams, and that vision was explicit, and not after-the-fact, Monday morning quarterbacking. These iconic Tony DiCicco-coached teams were actively aware in the moment.

'Julie Foudy, consummate leader: her nickname was Loudy 

To her teammates, Foudy was a multitalented, charismatic leader who could play, inspire, sing badly, and make everybody laugh. 'People always talk about Julie's leadership off the field, but she was a great player too,' says Kristine Lilly. 'She always wanted the ball, almost to a fault, and we'd tease her about that. But the fact was she wanted the ball, made you feel good because if Jules wants it, we knew we could do this.

"She also had this glowing optimism about her. If things got rough on the field, we could look at her, and she'd make you laugh. She was passionate about life, and in our quest to grow the game, and for equal rights. Because of that passion, we jumped on board with her. She's intelligent, levelheaded, and had a voice.'"

On the Sidelines: Gendered Neoliberalism and the American Female Sportscaster

By Guy Harrison; foreword by Julie DiCaro

Nebraska; hardcover, 186 pages; $99.00

Guy Harrison is an assistant professor of journalism and electronic media at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Julie DiCaro, who wrote the foreword, is a senior writer at Deadspin. Her work has appeared in outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, and Sports Illustrated.

There are more women on sports broadcasts and channels such as ESPN and NFL Network than ever before, but that does not mean consitions has improved. Women sportscasters are still subjected to gendered and racialized mistreatment in the workplace and online, and are largely confined to anchor and sideline reporter positions in coverage of major men's sports.

Harrison weaves in-depth interviews with women sportscasters, focus groups with sports fans, and a collection of media products to argue that gendered neoliberalism, which is a cluster of exclusionary twenty-first century feminisms, maintains the status quo.

One major contention Harrison makes is that this places the onus on women to find their own success despite systemic sexism and racism. This results in women in the industry being left to their own devices to navigate a minefield of double standards, bias in hiring, and development for certain on-air positions, harassment, and emotional labor. 

Each of these challenges is examined through the lens of gendered neoliberalism and analyzes how they have been reshaped and maintained to construct a narrow portrait of the ideal neoliberal female sportscaster. One consequence is that these challenges are taken for granted as "natural" and it sustains women's marginalization in the sportscasting industry.

In this excerpt, Harrison writes: "The sexism that women in sports media encounter has not gone unnoticed by sports media scholars. A large body of scholarly literature has investigated, for example, the extent to which women in sports media face gendered double standards of appearance and sports knowledge (Harrison 2019; Sheffer and Schultz 2007) and gendered affective or emotional labor (Harrison 2018). Women sportscasters are also susceptible to visual objectification; as measured by eye-tracking technology, men and women television viewers' eyes tend to stray away from women sportscasters' faces and onto their bodies more often than they fixate on men sportscaster's bodies (Cummins, Ortiz, and Rankine 2018). Research has also found that sports media consumers hold sex biases in evaluations of sportscaster vocal tone (Etling et al. 2011) and authoritativeness (Etling and Young 2007). According to Daniel Davis and Janielle Krawczyk (2010), perceptions of woman sportscaster credibility are also positively correlated to perceived attractiveness. That is, as perceived sportscaster attractiveness increases, so does the perceived credibility of a woman sportscaster, except when a woman sportscaster is perceived to be highly attractive. In that case, a woman sportscaster's perceived credibility decreases."

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Books: On Space Travel

Space travel has been in the news a lot this year, with launches by NASA, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos capturing the country's imagination. In this review, we will take a look at three books that will deepen your knowledge of space: A Long Voyage to the Moon: The Life of Naval Aviator and Apollo 17 Astronaut Ron Evans, by Geoffrey Bowman;  Beyond: The Astonishing Story of the First Human to Leave Our Planet and Journey into Space, by Stephen Walker.

A Long Voyage to the Moon: The Life of Naval Aviator and Apollo 17 Astronaut Ron Evans

By Geoffrey Bowman; foreword by Jack Lousma

Nebraska; hardcover, 424 pages; $36.95

Geoffrey Bowman is a retired litigation lawyer living with his wife in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He is a fellow of the British Interplanetary Society and has contributed to the society's Spaceflight magazine. He contributes regularly to the quarterly magazine of the Irish Astronomical Association, of which he is a member.

Jack Lousma wrote the foreword to the book, and he is a retired United States Marine Corps colonel, former naval aviator, NASA astronaut, and politician. He was a member of the second crew on the Skylab space station in 1973 and commanded the third space shuttle flight in 1982.

A Long Voyage to the Moon tells the story of Ron Evans, the command pilot of Apollo 17, which was the last crewed flight to the moon. Evans combined precision flying and painstaking geological observation with moments of delight and enthusiasm. 

On his way to the launchpad, he literally jumped for joy in his spacesuit, and when he emerged from the command module to conduct his crucial spacewalk, he exclaimed, "Hot diggity dog!" and waved to his family. When he was in charge of command module America, and because of his patriotism, he was nicknamed "Captain America" by his fellow crew members.

Evans was born in 1933 in St. Francis, Kansas, and he distinguished himself academically and athletically in school, earned degrees in electrical engineering and aeronautical engineering, and became a naval aviator and combat flight instructor. He was one of the few astronauts to serve in combat during the Vietnam War, flying more than a hundred missions off the deck of the USS Ticonderoga, the same aircraft carrier that would recover him and his fellow astronauts after the splashdown of Apollo 17. 

The thing about Evans' career which is remarkable is that it spanned the Apollo missions and beyond. He served on the support crews for Apollo 1, 7, and 11 and the backup crew on Apollo 14 before he was chosen for Apollo 17 and flying on the final moon mission in 1972. 

Evans next trained with Soviet cosmonauts as backup command module pilot for the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz mission and carried out early work on the space shuttle program. He then left NASA to pursue a business career, and he died suddenly in 1990 at the age of fifty-six.

Bowman writes of Evans after the landing of Apollo 17 in this excerpt: "His bulky spacesuit was airtight, the gold-visored helmet securely attached. His similarly attired colleague edged out of the way to allow him room for maneuver. As the last few molecules of the spacecraft's atmosphere fled into the vacuum beyond, the hatch finally opened.

Back on Earth, giant TV antennae pointed skyward, awaiting a signal from a carefully positioned TV camera. At home in El Lago, Texas, the first astronaut's wife, Jan, and their two children stared intently at their TV set, wondering what to expect.

A live picture flashed onto the screen - a slash of white against a dark background. The astronaut eased through the hatch, taking care not to snag any part of his suit. Then his figure appeared on the screen. As he began to speak, his words triggered the microphone in front of his lips. What would he say? Across the gulf of space, an enthusiastic voice exclaimed, 'Hot diggity dog!' 

Ron Evans, command module pilot of the Apollo 17 mission, floated out of the open hatch of spacecraft America. He was, quite literally, having his day in the sun after being eclipsed by the more newsworthy activities of his companions during their three days on the moon. 

Looking back toward the hatch, Ron spotted his own reflection in the mirrored view of Dr. Harrison 'Jack' Schmitt. Resembling a snail popping out of his metal shell, Jack kept his eye on Ron's air hose to avoid tangles. This spacewalk was not for show. It was a hazardous but essential part of their mission to retrieve film cassettes from the belly of the spacecraft where cameras and other instruments had been scrutinizing the moon. Ron had trained repeatedly for this task. Of course, it hardly compared with that famous televised moonwalk conducted by his former El Lago neighbor Neil Armstrong. For one thing, Ron's audience was only a fraction of the numbers that had watched Neil's 'giant leap for mankind.'

No one would have expected Neil to have been as exuberant as Ron was on live TV, but Armstrong was doing more than making footprints in the lunar dust. He was making history. Ron Evans knew that his spacewalk, in comparison, was almost the final act in the Apollo story.

One feature of the two excursions was entirely comparable - the level of dedication and training required of each man. Ron knew how to conduct his crucial task with perfect precision. He took his job extremely seriously. But nothing in the rules said you couldn't enjoy doing your job, and right now Ron Evans - thirty-nine-year-old husband of Jan, father of Jaime and Jon, and proud American from a little town in Kansas - was having the time of his life doing what he would later call 'the best job in the world.'"

The Light of Earth: Reflections on a Life in Space

Al Worden with Francis French; foreword by Dee O'Hara

Nebraska; hardcover, 184 pages; $29.95

Al Worden served as a support crew member for Apollo 9, backup command module pilot for Apollo 12, and command module pilot for Apollo 15's mission in 1971. He retired from active duty in 1975, and then spent years in private industry before becoming the chair of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation and traveling the world as head of the Astronaut Al Worden Endeavour Scholarship. He is the author of Falling to Earth: An Apollo 15 Astronaut's Journey to the Moon, and this book can serve as a companion work to the one reviewed above, A Long Voyage to the Moon, as they are similarly produced and presented.

One of the highest-profile personalities among the Apollo astronauts, Worden was renowned for his outspokenness and potent views but also recognized as a warm and well-liked person who devoted much of his life after retiring from NASA to sharing his spaceflight experiences.

Worden passed away in 2020 at the age of eighty-eight, and was near completion of this book, which is his wide-ranging look at the greatest-ever scientific undertaking, in which he was a leading participant. His co-author is Francis French, a space historian and author of numerous best-selling history books with international experience in relating science, engineering, and astronomy to general audiences.

In this enlightening book, Worden gives his refreshingly candor opinions on the space program, flying to the moon, and the people involved in the Apollo and later shuttle programs, as well as sharing hard-hitting reflections on the space shuttle program, the agonies and extraordinary sights and delights of being a NASA Apollo astronaut, and the space program's triumphs and failures.

Worden also shines a light into the areas of personal grief that reveal the noble and truly human side of the space program's earliest years. He does not hold back when discussing the shocking deaths of his fellow astronauts in the three major tragedies that struck the space agency, and he shares his personal feelings about fellow astronauts including Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. 

Worden writes in this excerpt: "It turns out there is no such thing as an ex-astronaut.

Sure, we can retire from NASA and spend years doing other things. But it's not our choice whether we are still considered an astronaut. It seems that other people get to decide that.

When my generation of astronauts retired from NASA one by one, we generally tried to leave the astronaut stuff behind for a while. It's not too surprising. We'd all been type A personalities, at the top of whatever career we'd chosen to pursue We weren't the kind to rest on prior accomplishments. Whatever we picked to do next - mostly working in the business world - we wanted to be the best at that too. We shook the space program off and moved forward. There wasn't much choice anyway; in the mid- to late 1970s, no one cared about Apollo much anymore. Many of us grew our hair long, grew a mustache or even a beard, dressed much less conservatively, and went with the times. For a while you'd never have been able to place us if you'd tried to spot us by looking at old NASA photos. Our different directions in life also meant we rarely met in anything other than small groups.

But now, when I go to space events, we're all back in the same room again like some perennial high school reunion. Those of us who still have hair now generally have it cut short, NASA style. And although the closest we've been to a jet that week was probably flying in the dreaded middle seat of a commercial flight, we're all wearing NASA flight jackets. We even have military-looking name tags and an American flag on the shoulder - in case we forget our names and where we're from, I guess. We're back in uniform. We're each dressed as 'the astronaut' again.

I'm a lot prouder of the non-NASA stuff that I did in my life. NASA was all about learning a skill. Running for Congress, starting my own company, heading a charitable organization - those were individual achievements of mine. Nevertheless, I'm back to wearing that flight jacket. Ironically, I had to have one made. My old ones were long gone.

People think of Apollo astronauts like some band of brothers with a shared experience. But there's a difference between us and, let's say, your typical World War II fighter squadron. In that squadron, you've all gone through hell together. You've protected the people with you. If you were the wingman, you protected the lead, and if you were the lead, you protected the wingman. You flew together, you fought together, and some members died together. But with the Apollo program, everybody was an individual. We never all flew together, so there is a big difference in mentality. Fifty years later, of course, we get back together, and it's kind of fun, and we reminisce about old things. But I reminisce about things that basically didn't have much to do with the program. For example, astronaut Paul Weitz was probably my best friend in that whole group. When I saw him, Paul and I talked about fishing. Then when he lost his wife, which was a huge blow for him, I helped talk him through that. It's not about space exploration. It's personal stuff. It's catching up with old friends."

Beyond: The Astonishing Story of the First Human to Leave Our Planet and Journey into Space

By Stephen Walker

Harper; hardcover, 512 pages; $29.99

Sixty years ago, on April 13, 1961, the first human being who left Earth and took the journey into space was Yuri Gargarin was a diminutive 27-year-old Russian ex-foundry worker and father of two.

Gargarin strapped into a capsule on top of a giant intercontinental ballistic missile and blasted into orbit, circling the Earth at almost 18,000 miles per hour, ten times faster than a speeding bullet, in just 106 minutes. 

Since it was amidst the space battle between the United States and Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War, the mission was conducted in total secrecy. The Soviets beat the U.S. to space by three weeks.

In Beyond, Stephen Walker, who is known for his documentary film work and is the bestselling author of Shockwave: Countdown to Hiroshima, chronicles the sheer enormity of the undertaking, what it took to keep such a large-scale operation secret, and its impact on the United States' own space program. 

Both the U.S. and Soviets took enormous risks in the race to be first. For both, it was a long leap into a long list of terrifying unknowns. While each side grappled to solve similar challenges, their approaches were vastly different.

The U.S. chose relative transparency and a media blitz, while the Soviets chose secrecy, releasing curated storylines for mass consumption only when things were going well, and stringently covering up when they did not. While America's Mercury Seven astronauts became international celebrities, their Soviet rivals, comprised of twenty astronauts, trained under cover, forbidden to tell even their own families what they were training for. That all changed when Gargarin stunned the world.

Walker drew on extensive research and the vivid testimonies of eyewitnesses, many of whom have never spoken before. He reveals secrets that have been hidden for decades and takes the reader into the drama of one of humanity's greatest adventures. He features the scientists, engineers, and political leaders on both sides, and above all, the astronauts on both sides battling for supremacy in space.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Books: New Novels From Claire Oshetsky, Liu Xinwu & Jeffrey Cranor and Janina Matthewson


By Claire Oshetsky

Ecco; hardcover, 256 pages; $24.00; available today, Tuesday, November 16th

Claire Oshetsky is a novelist whose writing has appeared in Salon, Wired, and the New York Times, and she lives with her family in California.

Chouette is based on Oshetsky's own experiences raising a nonconforming child. Her daughter has certain disabilities which caused her, as a young child, to behave in ways that provoked tears and rage in her teachers. This harrowing experience of being mother to a disabled and misunderstood child was the direct inspiration for this compelling novel, a darkly funny parable of a mother-and-child bond run amok.

"It began as a memoir," Oshetsky says. "And there are still scenes in the novel that are adapted from diary entries written when my daughter was young. As memoir, though, the story never worked for me. I couldn't write my way to the truth of things.

In Chouette, Tiny is pregnant, her husband is delighted by the news, but Tiny can sense that something is different about the child she's carrying. When she gives birth to an owl-baby, her daughter is shunned and feared by all except her mother. 

Left on her own to care for a child who isn't close to the sweet little girl her husband envisioned, Tiny vows to raise her daughter Chouette to be her authentic self, no matter the cost to her career, her friendships, her marriage, or her life expectancy.

Tiny has an unconditional love for her daughter, and when she discovers that her husband is on an obsessive and dangerous quest to find a "cure" for their daughter, she must decide whether Chouette should be raised to fit in or to be herself. This will help her learn what it truly means to be a mother.

The Wedding Party

By Liu Xinwu; translated by Jeremy Tiang

Amazon Crossing; hardcover, $24.95; paperback, $14.95; Kindle eBook, $4.99; Brilliance Audiobook, $14.99, 16 hours; available today, Tuesday, November 16th

Liu Xinwu as born on June 4, 1942, in Chengdu, Suchuan Province, China, and has lived in Beijing since 1950. His short story "The Class Teacher," which appeared in People's Literature magazine in November 1977, is regarded as the first instance of China's "scar literature" genre. He was the editor in chief of People's Literature fro 1987 to 1989. Xinwu's other stories include "I Love Every Green Leaf," "Black Walls," "White Teeth," and "The Wish," and his novellas include Overpass and Little Dunzi

The Wedding Party was published in China in 1985 and won the country's biggest fiction prize, the Mao Dun Literature Prize, It is set a pivotal point of the turmoil of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, weaves together a rich tapestry of characters, intertwined lives, and stories within stories in this day-in-the-life tale of a Beijing wedding. 

Set in December 1982, the courtyard of a Beijing Siheyuan, which is a lively quadrangle of homes, begins to stir. Auntie Xue's son Jiyue is getting married today, and she is determined to make the day a triumph. This is despite Jiyue's woeful ignorance in matter of the heart and the body, and despite a chef in training tasked with the onerous responsibility of preparing the banquet. 

With a cross-generational multitude of guests, from anxious family members to a fretful bridal party, not to mention exasperating friends, interfering neighbors, and wedding crashers; what will the day ahead bring?

The Wedding Party will give you a look into a day in the life of this singular city, one that is perfectly normal and extraordinary, and told in a hilarious, touching way, 

You Feel It Just Below The Ribs

By Jeffrey Cranor and Janina Matthewson

Harper Perennial; paperback, 384 pages; $16.99; available today, Tuesday, November 16th

Jeffrey Cranor is the co-author, with Joseph Fink, of the New York Times bestselling novels Welcome to Night Vale, It Devours!, and The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home. Along with Fink, he is the cowriter and producer of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast, which has over 300 million downloads in its nine-year run. He also creates theater and dance pieces with his wife, the choreographer Jillian Sweeney, and they live in the Hudson Valley.

Janina Matthewson is the author of the acclaimed novel Of Things Gone Astray, which was nominated for the International Dublin Literary Award, and the novella The Understanding of Women. She has written audio drama for the BBC and Radiotopia, with credits including Murmurs, The Cipher, and Passenger List. Originally from New Zealand, she now lives in London. 

The wildly popular immersive fiction podcast that Matthewson and Cranor cowrite and produce, Within the Wires, has been downloaded nearly 6.5 million times. Their joint Twitter and Instagram handles are @withinthewires.

That podcast is the inspiration for You Feel It Just Below The Ribs, a rich fictional autobiography about the intertwining of human connection and deception. 

A manuscript is discovered under the floorboards of an attic room in Stockholm, and it is the life story of Dr. Miriam Gregory. It is about growing up during The Great Reckoning, a sprawling, decades-long war that nearly decimates humanity and strips her of friends and family. 

Wracked by grief and loneliness, Miriam emotionally exiles herself, avoiding relationships or allegiances, and throws herself into her work, a disengagement that serves her well when the war finally end, and The New Society arises in its wake. To ensure a lasting piece, The New Society forbids tribal loyalties, including traditional families. 

Miriam is a prominent psychologist and researcher at heart, so she is tasked with leading this detachment process. 

However, the bold claims the manuscript makes cannot be corroborated, and that raises disturbing questions about their very authenticity. An unnamed editor adds context to the text through an introduction, epilogue, and footnotes throughout, which casts doubt on Miriam's account. 

Is this autobiography a sincere confession or is it a fabrication, set against the backdrop of reality? The reader has to decipher what's "real" and who's "right."

This book is set in a twentieth century alternate history, but it involves topical themes a reader now can relate to, such as the tension between security and freedom, acts of government removing children from their families, and consequences of whistleblowing. This disturbing alternate world seems eerily within reach and allows readers to examine the difficult choices necessary to survive within it.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Julio Lugo, Major Leaguer Who Attended Fort Hamilton HS, Passes At 45

Julio Lugo with the Red Sox in 2007. Wikimedia Commons.

Julio Lugo, the 12-year Major League Baseball veteran who won a championship with the Boston Red Sox in 2007 and attended Fort Hamilton High School in Bay Ridge, passed away on Monday at the age of 45, most likely of a heart attack, according to reports. He would have turned 46 on Tuesday.

Lugo, a Sunset Park native, led Fort Hamilton to two PSAL baseball championships, in 1992, and 1993. He was drafted by the Houston Astros in 1994, and due to the strike that season, signed with them the following year.

In 2000, Lugo made his Major League debut with the Astros, and he played in 116 games, hit .283, with 10 home runs and 40 RBI, 37 walks, 22 doubles, five triples, and 22 stolen bases, showing his incredible speed. 

That spring, when Houston was in town to play the Mets, he came and had an assembly in the Fort Hamilton HS auditorium.

In 2001, he put up nearly identical numbers to his rookie season, as he hit .263 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI, with 46 walks, three triples and 12 stolen bases. 

Houston let him go during the 2003 season due to off-the-field issues, and he signed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, where he continued to improve on offense.

In 2003, he hit .246 with no home runs and two RBI in 22 games with Houston, and then in 117 games with Tampa Bay, he hit .275 with 15 home runs and 53 RBI, with 35 walks, 13 doubles, four triples and 10 steals. 

In his first full season with Tampa Bay, 2004, he hit .275 with seven home runs and 75 RBI, with 160 hits, 42 doubles, four triples, and 21 stolen bases.

In 2005, he excelled at the plate, hitting a career-best .295, with six home runs and 57 RBI, with 182 hits, 36 doubles, six triples, and 39 stolen bases. 

In 2006, Tampa Bay traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he got to play for them in the National League Division Series against the Mets. In an article at that time in the New York Post, Lugo talked about growing up a Mets fan, with his favorite player being Howard Johnson, and was quoted as saying, "I was raised in Brooklyn, Sunset Park. I was crazy about the Mets. I used to love the blue hats they had. This team has a lot of history." At the time, there was speculation the Mets would sign him as a free agent.

Lugo signed with the Red Sox before the 2007 season, and that year he played a solid shortstop and he hit .237 with 8 home runs, 73 RBI, and 135 hits. In the postseason that year, he delivered with three hits in 10 at-bats, with three runs scored, in the American League Division Series against the Los Angeles Angels, followed by five hits in 25 at-bats, with 2 RBI and three runs scored, against the Cleveland Indians in the A.L. Championship Series. He really shined in the World Series against the Colorado Rockies, which the Red Sox swept, as he went 5-for-13 with a double, an RBI, and two runs scored.

Lugo played with Boston through the 2009 season, when he was hampered by injuries, and they released him with a year-plus left on his contract. He finished the 2009 season with the St. Louis Cardinals, then signed with the Baltimore Orioles. In 2010 for the O's, he played in 93 games, hitting .249, with no home runs and 20 RBI. 

He then went to Atlanta for the 2011 season, and he played in just 22 games before retiring. The one memorable moment he had there was when he was scored the winning run on a controversial play in a 19-inning game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 26, 2011. The game was tied at 3 with runners on first and third in the bottom of the 19th, with Lugo on third base. Scott Proctor hit one to third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who threw home to nab Lugo, who was tagged by catcher Michael McKenry, only to have home plate umpire Jerry Meals call Lugo safe. Since it was in the pre-replay days, the call could not be overturned despite a vehement argument from Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle as Atlanta celebrated. Lugo was released on September 2, 2011, and an attempt to join Cleveland the next season fizzled, and the last professional baseball he played was with the Peoria Explorers in the independent Freedom Pro League in 2013.


Yankees Don't Have To Look Far For Their New Third Base Coach


Yankee Stadium. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Yankees, in a widely expected move, announced on Monday afternoon that they have brought in former Mets Manager Luis Rojas to be their new third base coach.

Rojas, who managed the Mets the past two seasons with a record of 103-119, was with their organization the past 16 years (2006-21). He was the sixth Dominican-born manager in Major League Baseeball history, with his father, Felipe Alou being the first.

Yankees Manager Aaron Boone also is a son of a Major League Manager, as his father Bob Boone, was at the helm of the the Kansas City Royals and Cincinnati Reds. Overall, there have been six father-son duos of Major League managers, with the other four being: Buddy and David Bell, Connie and Earle Mack, George and Dick Sisler, and Bob and Joel Skinner.

Before Rojas was appointed Mets Manager in January 2020 - after the team had to dismiss their then-new manager Carlos Beltran over his role in the 2017 Hosuton Astros cheating scandal - he was on the Mets' the Major League quality control coach in 2019. Before that, he was in the minor league system as manager of Double-A Binghamton (2017-18), Single-A St. Lucie (2015-16), Single-A Savannah (2012-14), and the Gulf Coast Mets (2011). He was the South Atlantic League Manager of the Year in 2014.

Rojas, a Santo Domingo, D.R., native, managed the Dominican Republic National Team in the WBSC Premie1r2 tournament in 2019, and he also led Leones del Escogido to a Dominican Winter League championship in 2015-16.

Rojas played in the minor league systems of the Baltimore Orioles (2000), Florida Marlins (2001-02), and Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals (2003-05). 

Sunday, November 14, 2021

College Football Week 11: FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll


The Georgia Bulldogs remain atop the Week 11 FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll, as they claimed all 52 first-place votes for the fifth straight week. They rolled past Tennessee, 41-17, to improve to 10-0 on the season.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Veteran's Day Parade In NYC


Photos by Jason Schott.

The Veteran's Day Parade was held on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan on Thursday afternoon, and below is a selection of pictures capturing the tribute to American heroes in the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force.

Mayor-elect Eric Adams greeting viewers.

A car tribute to Purple Heart recipients.

Purple Heart tribute.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Books: "The Forgotten First" On Breaking Football's Color Barrier

The Forgotten First: Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, Marion Motley, Bill Willis, and the Breaking of the NFL Color Barrier

By Keyshawn Johnson and Bob Glauber 

Grand Central Publishing; 288 pages; hardcover, $28; ebook, $14.99

Keyshawn Johnson, the former wide receiver who played 11 seasons in the NFL for the New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he won a Super Bowl ring in 2002; and the Dallas Cowboys. He was the first overall pick of the 1996 NFL Draft by the Jets after a stellar college career at USC, where he led the Trojans to the 1996 Rose Bowl. He was recently named the co-host of ESPN's morning radio show and makes regular appearances on their other shows, NFL Live, First Take, and Get Up!.

Bob Glauber has been the national football columnist for Newsday, a daily newspaper in Long Island, New York, since 1992, after four years covering the Jets, Giants, and the NFL since joining the paper in 1988. He received the 2021 Bill Nunn Jr. Career Achievement Award by the Professional Football Writers of America for long and distinguished contributions to pro football through coverage. Glauber's other book, which was released in 2019, was Guts and Genius: The Story of Three Unlikely Coaches Who Came To Dominate the NFL In The '80s (click here for our review).

The Forgotten First tells the story of the four incredible men who integrated football - Kenny Washington, Woody Strode,Marion Motley, and Bill Willis - their lives, the racism they experienced as Black players entering a segregated sport, the burden of expectations they carried, and their many achievements.

The Los Angeles Rams' signing of Washington in 1946 made him the league's first African-American player and spawned the integration of the sport. Not long after Washington signed, a concerted effort by influential Los Angeles political and civic leaders led the team to sign his UCLA teammate Strode. Interesting to note is that they both were UCLA football teammates with Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers the following season, 1947.

Soon after the Rams made their moves to integrate the NFL, Paul Brown and his fledgling Cleveland Browns, who were in the All-America Football Conference at the time, signed running back Marion Motley and defensive lineman Bill Willis. 

It was a long wait for Washington and Strode after their college farewell for the UCLA Bruins, against the rival USC Trojans, in front of 103,000 fans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 9, 1939. Washington completed one of the best seasons in college football history, as he played nearly every minute of every game to lead UCLA to a 6-0-4 record and nearly beat a USC team that had more talent, swagger and history. The game ended in a 0-0 tie, which let USC get a berth in the Rose Bowl and go on to earn the national title over Tennessee. The Bruins' best chance coming on a thirteen-play drive led by Washington, who played left fullback, which gave him prime responsibility for the passing and running game, with Robinson and Strode key contributors, and which was halted by USC at the goal line. 

That day, the NFL was holding its annual draft for the 1940 season, but Washington and Strode didn't hear their names called. In the 22-round draft in Milwaukee, all 200 players selected were white. Tennesse fullback George Cafego was the first selection that day, and five halfbacks, Washington's position, were among the top ten selections.

Johnson and Glauber write in this excerpt: "The Forgotten First is the largely untold story of integration in pro football, a painful chapter in the country's most popular spectator sport. It is the story of the first group of players to break the color barrier, the people who helped them get there - and the people who tried to block them.

A year before Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play in the major leagues, Washington, Strode, Motley, and Willis helped pave the way for the players to come after. While Robinson's transformative story is an iconic piece of sports history and American culture, the first year of integration in pro football is mostly overlooked and doesn't carry nearly the same impact as Robinson's journey.

Each year on April 15, every Major League Baseball player celebrates Jackie Robinson Day by wearing his No. 42 jersey to commemorate the day he played his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field in 1947. It was the first time a Black man had played in the big leagues in more than fifty years.

Even the most casual sports fan knows it was Robinson who broke baseball's color barrier.

Yet chances are even the most diehard football fan can't tell you the first African-American to be signed by an NFL team. It was Kenny Washington with the Los Angeles Rams on March 21, 1946, followed by his teammate Woody Strode a few weeks after that. Bill Willis was invited by Brown for a tryout with the Browns that summer, and he and Marion Motley soon made their own history by integrating the AAFC.

Washington, who played alongside Robinson in football and baseball at UCLA, made history against the wishes of the league owners, and only after public pressure was brought to bear on then-Rams owner Dan Reeves when he moved the team from Cleveland to Los Angeles.

The impact of Paul Brown's actions on integrating pro football was much more closely aligned with that of Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey in Major League Baseball in terms of intentionally bringing Willis and Motley to the Browns. It was Rickey who made the bold decision to sign Robinson to a minor league contract in 1945 that led to his Major League career two years later, even though Rickey knew there would be harsh blowbackk from fans and opposing players, and even some of Robinson's teammates. Rickey felt the combination of Robinson's talent and character would live up to the moment, as he once told Robinson he wanted a man who 'had guts enough not to fight back.'

Brown, however, was reluctant to attach the kind of racial significance that Rickey acknowledged. Even so, Willis and Motley knew the sacrifice made by their coach and the ramifications it carried, and they were grateful he would stand up for them and give them a chance. Motley and Willis would go on to produce Hall of Fame careers along with Brown, one of the most innovative coaches in sports history, who has a place in Canton alongside two of his greatest players.

'This story needs to be told over and over and over, so our young people see how all of this led them to where they are now,' said former Brown Pro Bowl guard John Wooten, the longtime executive director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, an organization dedicated to promoting coaching and executive diversity in the NFL. 'That's the history. That history is not told enough in my opinion.'

Wooten is right. Not enough people know the story of these men, and I - Keyshawn - speak from experience.

I grew up in the same city as Kenny Washington and Woody Strode, played high school football twelve miles from Lincoln High School, where Washington was a legend. I played my USC home games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, walked off the same field one last time, just like Washington did to those roars of more than 103,000 people on that December afternoon in 1939.

But I'd never heard of Washington or Strode, never realized what Motley and Willis had to go through to blaze the trail for the players, like me and so many others, who came after them. 

Yes, the story of these men - the forgotten first of the NFL - really does need to be told. They need to be remembered for who they were, for what they did, and for what they meant."

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Books: "We Want Bama" On Possibly The Greatest College Football Team Ever


We Want Bama: A Season of Hope and the Making of Nick Saban's "Ultimate Team"

By Joseph Goodman

Grand Central Publishing; hardcover, 320 pages; $28.00; available today, Tuesday, November 9th

The Alabama Crimson Tide had one of their best seasons ever in 2020, as they went 13-0, punctuated by their putting up a combined 107 points against SEC powerhouses LSU and Florida, and rolling past Ohio State 52-24 in the national championship game.

This would be incredible any year, but even more so in 2020, a year marked by a pandemic and a national reckoning on race. That is all chronicled in the engrossing new book, We want Bama, by Joseph Goodman, sports columnist for the Birmingham News, Mobile Press-Register, Huntsville Times, and

Alabama head coach Nick Saban called his 2020 championship squad, which gave him his seventh title, the "ultimate team" because, as much as they dominated on the field, it was their actions off of it that set them apart. The Crimson Tide players leveraged a power and influence born of Southern pride to push back against a hateful legacy or racism that a populist president was using to divide the nation.

The players left their training facility and, led by Saban, they marched to a campus doorway made famous by another political demagogue and showed what people can accomplish when they fight together for a just cause. They replaced former Alabama Governor George Wallace's "Segregation forever!" with a different message, written by one of the players, Alex Leatherwood, "All lives can't matter until Black lives matter."

This phrase came from an essay that became a declaration of college football players' value system to the country. It was turned into a video, in which his teammates, including quarterback Mac Jones, receiver DaVonta Smith, offensive lineman Emil Ekiyor Jr., and cornerback Patrick Surtain II participated in. Saban also gave his full support.

This provided a symbol of rebalancing of the relationship between players and their schools in college football, as Goodman writes: "In 2020, a nation witnessed a shift in the evolution of power for college football from the system to the individual, and then the Alabama football Crimson Tide took the new power and formed one of the greatest teams of all time through sacrifice for each other. And they didn't even have to play the season. And they had to stay isolated in their apartments and sit through the COVID-19 pandemic to do it. No Galettes ever, in other words."

Alabama football "isn't for everyone," as people around the team like to say, but the phrase that really caught on in 2020, hence the title of the book, is "We Want Bama." It became college football's battle cry, and "then it transformed into America's meme that represented testing yourself against the best in every walk of life," as Goodman writes.

"The maniacal pursuit of college football perfection is an American drug, and people pay thousands and thousands of dollars every year to be part of that high. In that world, there is not a more American place than Alabama. In 'Alabama the Beautiful,' it is football at all costs all of the damn time. Even during a pandemic. The best players from around the country (and one from Canada who will clean knock your teeth out) devoted their lives to one another, what they believed in, and the love of football at the University of Alabama in 2020.

"And for a maniacal coach who controls everything in his bubble, a pandemic isn't a crisis. It's an opportunity to find every advantage possible.

"It's your choice to either hate that or love it, but know that everyone in Alabama - and for that matter, everyone in the South - regardless of their political affiliation or philosophical trappings or, more important, college football team loyalty, understands the game and loves it for how unbelievably unifying it is in its craziness...

"When conferences around the country were cancelling college football in August 2020, pretty much everyone in the South understood that the game was going to be played by the schools in the SEC. The conference planned for it all along and didn't blink when the Big Ten and Pac-12 announced fall football was a wrap because of 'new research' linking the coronavirus to cardiomyopathy...

"Someone had to pay Saban's 2020 salary of $9.1 million (before the bonuses, of course).

"He's worth every penny, by the way, and the reason is not because of winning so many football games, but rather the enormous wealth all that winning has brought the University of Alabama in student enrollment, alumni donations, and national clout.

"Across the country, but especially in the SEC, telling the college experience is tied directly to football. No one has done that better than the University of Alabama since it plucked Saban and Mrs. Terry away from the Miami Dolphins. The University of Alabama's student population grew from 25,580 in Saban's first year in Tuscaloosa (2007) to 38,103 in 2018. That's so much damn cornbread for a poor Southern state."

We Want Bama is one of the best books you will read on the greatest college football coach of all time and his wonderful teams, and you will also enjoy this recent releases as well: 

Dabo's World: The Life and Career of Coach Swinney and the Rise of Clemson Football, by Lars Anderson (Grand Central Publishing; hardcover, 272 pages; $28.00) on the life of the two-time National Champion Clemson football head coach Dabo Swinney (click here for our review). 

The Forgotten First: Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, Marion Motley, Bill Willis, and the Breaking of the NFL Color Barrier, by Keyshawn Johnson and Bob Glauber (Grand Central Publishing; hardcover, 288 pages; $28) on how the Los Angeles Rams' signing of Kenny Washington made him the league's first African-American player and spawned the integration of the sport. Not long after Washington signed, a concerted effort by influential Los Angeles political and civic leaders led the team to sign his UCLA teammate Woody Strode, and the Cleveland Browns signed running back Marion Motley and defensive lineman Bill Willis. (Click here for our review)

It's Better To Be Feared: The New England Patriots Dynasty and the Pursuit of Greatness, by Seth Wickersham (Liveright; hardcover, 528 pages; $30. (Click here for our review) Seth Wickersham, a senior writer at ESPN, has written one of the most definitive books on the successful pairing of head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, as well as team owner Robert Kraft, It's Better To Be Feared. They teamed up to win a record six Super Bowl championships in their 20 years together with the Patriots before Brady bolted to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in March 2020 and promptly won another championship with his new team. Wickersham captures this two-decade quest for glory, with Belichick and Brady's unrivaled brilliance, ambition, and ruthlessness. They both are more similar than would appear, as they both united in their shared quest to prove people wrong. 

A Season in the Sun: The Inside Story of Bruce Arians, Tom Brady, and the Making of a Champion, by Lars Anderson; featuring a foreword from Coach Bruce Arians; William Morrow, hardcover, $28.99 (Click here for our review). This book documents the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2020 championship season, and how Tom Brady and head coach Bruce Arians built a title team. Brady was able to lure his old Patriots tight end, Rob Gronkowski, out of retirement, which was the first thing many people thought he would do when he relocated to Tampa Bay. He also convinced running back Leonard Fournette and wide receiver Antonio Brown, his brief teammate in New England in 2019, to sign on and complete a solid offense to go along with an already-established quality defense. For Brady, this was a new challenge, as he entered this season at 43 years old, playing long past what is the normal retirement age in the NFL, and he would be going it alone without New England head coach Bill Belichick by his side. Arians was also on a mission, as he came out of retirement to coach in Tampa Bay in 2018, at the age of 65, in search of the one thing he had not yet achieved, a Super Bowl championship.

New Novels From Around The World

This review of fascinating new works of fiction focuses on stories from here and abroad, starting with The Dangers of an Ordinary Night, by Lynne Reeves, set in Boston, and then to the north in Canada, we look at How To Murder A Marriage, by Gabrielle St. George. The Easy Life In Kamusari, by Shion Miura, is in Japan and its central theme is the interplay between ancient and modern cultures. The Other Man, by Farhad J. Dadbyburjor, is set in India and is about a man coming to terms with his identity. A Conspiracy of Mothers, by Colleen Van Niekerk, is about a mother in apartheid South Africa searching for her missing daughter, who she hoped to reconnect with.

Books: "Final Spin" by Jocko Willink

Final Spin

By Jocko Willink

St. Martin's; hardcover, 224 pages; $26.99; available today, Tuesday, November 9th

Jocko Willink was a Navy SEAL for 20 years who rose up through the ranks to command the Task Unit Bruiser, the most decorated Special Operations Unit of the Iraq War. After he retired, Willink co-founded Echelon Front, a premier leadership and management consulting company. He is author of the #1 New York Times bestsellers Extreme Ownership, Leadership Strategy and Tactics, Discipline Equals Freedom, and The Way of the Warrior Kid children's series. In addition to these wonderful works, he created and hosts the top-rated podcast, JOCKO PODCAST.

Willink has now written his debut novel, Final Spin, a fast-paced thriller that's a story of love, brotherhood, suffering, happiness, and sacrifice. It is also a story about life, told in a very unique prose, with the book presented as if it were produced on an old typewriter.

Final Spin is focused on Johnny, who shouldn't be in a dead-end job, or a dead-end bar, or a dead-end life, yet, here he is. Johnny has a hamster wheel existence, as he stocks warehouse shelves by day and drinks too much whiskey and beer at night.

Johnny fills the time between living in his childhood home, making sure his alcoholic mother hasn't drunk herself to death, and tending to his idiosyncratic older brother Arty, whose job at a laundromat dominates his existence.

It's basically rinse and repeat for Johnny, until the monotomy of his life takes a hit when the laundromat where Arty works is about to be sold. The laundromat is the one thing that gives Johnny happiness, so he takes measures into his own hands to prevent that from happening. Johnny and his friend, Goat, devise a plan to get the money to buy the laundromat, but things don't always go as planned.

Jocko Willink.

In this excerpt, Willink, writing in Johnny's voice, chronicles his main character's place in life, and you will get a sense of the poetic style Final Spin is written in: 

"How did I end up here? I'm smart. I'm funny. I look pretty damn handsome if I do say so myself.

     But here I am.


     And it seems this is where I will always be: nowhere.


       It is not an apartment, but it looks

       like one.

            Cheap furniture.

                  Well-used carpet.            

                        Not clean, but not 


   The bedroom is not unique in its wares. Bed. Desk. Chair. Dresser. Small bedside table with lamp. Overhead light. Janky ceiling fan, spinning at a low speed.

   Then there is the decor. Pictures hung neatly on the walls. They are strange. Or at least indicate a strangeness that is hard to interpret. Harmless, but different.

Johnny walks in.


            Leaning toward twenty.

   Pretty damn handsome for an unkempt young man who stays up too late and eats the wrong foods and drinks more beer and whiskey than he should.

     He looks at his brother. 

     Johnny is frustrated.

            He tries to remain restrained, 

            but it can be hard after all 

            these years.

'What the hell, Cleaner? Man, I told you about these shirts.' Arty looks distraught. Johnny sees. Johnny cannot stay frustrated. After all, this is Arty, his brother. And no one could really be mad at Arty.

    'What? Is it not clean?' Arty replies, earnestly concerned, wondering if he has somehow failed his brother.

    'No, Arty. It isn't that it's not clean. It's clean. But it's just a t-shirt...'

   'I know,' Arty cuts in. 'It's a hundred-percent cotton t-shirt. I used a warm-warm cycle. It shouldn't have shrunk at all. I'm always careful about that.'

   'It's not shrunk, Arty. That's not it. It's...just...never mind. Forget it.'

   'Forget what, Johnny? What's wrong?' This is killing Arty. The one thing he was supposed to be good at. And it seems like he messed it up.

   'Arty,' Johnny replies as kindly as he can, 'It's just's a t-shirt. You don't press t-shirts. You don't put starch in T-shirts, buddy.'

   'But the creases are sharp, aren't they?' Arty replies, wondering what on earth the problem could be.

   'The creases are sharp,' Johnny concedes, 'but that's not the point. You don't put military creases in T-shirts. I've told you this before, Arty.'

   'But why? Cotton holds the starch really well.'

   Johnny starts to get frustrated again. He's been down this road before.

                                        Many, many times.