Copies of my fifth book, BASEBALL'S ENDANGERED SPECIES: INSIDE THE CRAFT OF SCOUTING BY THOSE WHO LIVED IT (University of Nebraska Press, official pub date April 1), arrived at my doorstep a few days ago. To open that box was an amazing feeling, seeing years of work and doubt turned into a handsome hardback with legendary scout Tom Greenwade on the cover.
As readers will find out, Greenwade famously signed not only Mickey Mantle but among others Hank Bauer and Bill Virdon for Yankees and Rex Barney and Cal McLish - Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish - for Brooklyn Dodgers and gave thumbs up to Jackie Robinson after seeing him play for Negro League Kansas City Monarchs.
The calendar has turned to March and starting on the 13th I'll be in Sarasota to check in on Orioles spring training, listen to some of the music at the Sarasota Jazz Festival, and take in the lush scenery for a few days in and around Florida's most interesting city.
It's my first visit to Sarasota in twelve years. I'll never forget chatting in 2011 with three generations of fans while sitting in the left field pavillion at renovated Ed Smith Stadium. It was during an Orioles-Phillies exhibition game. It turned out the father of an avid 10-year old fan was slugger Ted Kluszewski's grand-nephew.
His father-in-law happened to be a Madison (Wisconsin) West High School graduate as was Wisconsin Badger forward Keaton Nankivil (one of the great names ever in sports). 12 years ago Keaton and his
teammates were a lock to be entrants in March Madness. By 2014 they made the Final Four and in 2015, the Final Two only to lose to Coach K's Duke.
I will never forget how Kryzewski, mercifully retired now, openly addressed the officials on national TV at halftime urging them to call more fouls on the Badgers. They complied and not long after the title went to the Blue Devils, one of the referees was led into retirement.
This year, the Badgers may miss the tournament for only the second time in an almost a quarter-century. At least, they may have found a coming star in first-year guard Connor Essegian, who is not only the grandson of Chuck Essegian, who played in the Rose Bowl for Stanford and homered in the 1959 World Series for the Los Angeles Dodgers. On his mother's side, Connor E. is related to Robin Yount.
New Wisconsin athletic director Chris McIntosh, a former football lineman under Barry Alvarez, recently told fine Madison sportswriter Jim Polzin, that cager coach Greg Gard's job is safe for at least a couple of years. I hope that's true because Gard deserves the chance to right the ship.
Getting sophomore point guard Chucky Hepburn's head in the right place is an important task ahead for Gard. As well as getting his recruiters to find more able front court players and bring them to Madison.
The Big Ten regular season is a fierce mosh pit and no wonder that no team in what is really The Big 14 has won March Madness since Tom Izzo's Michigan State over 20 years ago. They beat up on each other for 20 games and then play an intense tournament. It says here that they are probably too battered to make a good national showing.
On the other hand, my Columbia women's basketball team brings a 22-4 overall log and 11-2 league record into its final regular season game on Sat Mar 4 at 2p. It will mark the final home game for three senior starters Kaitlyn Davis, Jaida Patrick, and Hannah Pratt, and four reserves Sienna Durr, Madison Hardy, Lillian Kennedy, and Carly Rivera.
An interesting sidebar to Hannah Pratt's story is that her brother Michael Pratt was the Tulane University
quarterback that led the 2022 Green Wave to its best season in well over a half-century and a thrilling
victory over USC in the Cotton Bowl.
I haven't even mentioned the emergence of junior sharpshooter Abby Hsu who is on a watch list for national recognition. She is an improving defender, too, which is essential for playing in coach Megan
Griffith's fast-breaking fierce-defending system.
Tickets are going fast for the last Sat home game and are available at gocolumbialions.com For the third straight season, Columbia will then head for the Ivy League tournament the weekend of Mar 10-11, this year at Princeton where the red-hot defending champion Tigers are determined to hold off Columbia and Penn and Harvard. (In 2024 Columbia will host the tourney for the first time.)
That's all for this post. But one last note. Virginia Woolf's "Room of Her Own" is closing
on Sun Mar 5 on the first floor of the main branch of the 42nd Street/Fifth Avenue Public Library.
It might surprise you that Woolf was a great admirer of Ring Lardner's baseball writing. She wrote in 1925 that in an America without an established society, Lardner understood that baseball served that function.
I didn't see any reference to baseball in the NYPL exhibit, but I was moved by her 1927 thoughts on gender: "All we can do, whether we are men or women, is to admit the influence, look the fact in the face, and so hope to stare it out of countenance."
I'm also happy to report that the opera "The Hours," based on Michael Cunningham's novel inspired by
Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway," will return to the Met next season with the same all-star cast of Joyce DiDonato, Renee Fleming, and Kelli O'Hara.
The music by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts reminds me of Samuel Barber more than
Philip Glass who composed the score for "The Hours" movie of 20 years ago. That's a plus in my
book. In the NYC area on Fri Mar 17, the opera "The Hours," taped at the Met, will be on PBS.
That's all for now. Always remember: Take it easy but take it, and stay positive test negative.