With Father's Day approaching, here's list to keep him well-read


June 16, 2000|By MILTON KENT

Given the current pace of the local hometown baseball team and with football weeks away, it may be more enjoyable for Baltimore sports fans to read about their favorite sports than to watch them. Thankfully, with Father's Day on the doorstep, there are some noteworthy tomes in area bookstores to make the time pass more pleasurably.

At the top of the reading list is a wonderful new coffee-table book from former Sun baseball writer Tim Kurkjian, "America's Game (Crown, $29.95, 32 pages).

Kurkjian, who covers baseball for ESPN and ESPN The Magazine, has compiled a brief history of the game, punctuated by facsimiles of historical documents.

For instance, there's a minor-league scouting report on Mickey Mantle, a 1952 letter from Jackie Robinson to a fan explaining why he broke the color barrier, or the words to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" - including the long forgotten first verse. It's a beautiful traipse through the tradition and passion of the sport, and is a worthy addition to anyone's library.

Bob Costas' "Fair Ball: A Fan's Case for Baseball," (Broadway, $21.95, 177 pages) is a thoughtful treatise on where the game has been and where it should go.

If you've listened to the NBC announcer over the years, very little of this book will come as a surprise, as Costas' views are solid and long held. But, freed from the time restraints of the booth, Costas is able to flesh out his beliefs on the economic system that runs baseball, the wild card, interleague play and the designated hitter. At the end of "Fair Ball," the reader might not agree with what he says, but will at least acknowledge that Costas has thought out his opinions.

Scott Simon, host of National Public Radio's "Weekend Edition," has authored "Home and Away" (Hyperion, $23.95, 364 pages), a poignant chronicle of his years as a fan of Chicago sports teams. Thankfully, Simon takes the reader beyond cold recitations of fact to memories that you don't have to be from Chicago to appreciate, such as the summer of 1969, when the Cubs made a run for the Eastern Division title, or riding the bus with Bulls' wives and fans after the 1998 title.

Locally, Ted Patterson's "The Baltimore Orioles: Four Decades of Magic from 33rd Street to Camden Yards" (Taylor, $22.95, 254 pages) is out in paperback, with new chapters covering the past three seasons. It's essential for anyone who claims to be an Orioles fan.

For the hoop enthusiast, "She Got Game" (Warner, $6.99, 304 pages), the autobiography of two-time WNBA Most Valuable Player Cynthia Cooper, is solidly written and inspiring. New Jersey Nets forward Jayson Williams' "Loose Balls," (Doubleday, $23.95, 276 pages), co-written by Steve Friedman, is alternately hilarious and touching, but always worth the read, from his encounters with racism to the time his father and coaches thought he was on drugs because he was taking ginseng.

Meanwhile, New York Times columnist Ira Berkow has collected the recollections of famous basketball fans, like Woody Allen, Tom Brokaw, astronaut Brian Duffy and others, and turned them into "Court Vision: Unexpected Views on the Lure of Basketball" (Morrow, $24, 264 pages). The book, among other things, reveals that actress Sharon Stone used the moves of Magic Johnson to inspire her for the movie, "Basic Instinct," though it's not clear if that inspiration held for the scene where she faced police inquisitors without the benefit of underwear.

Beautiful vistas

His inexplicable failure to keep the score and clock on the screen during baseball and basketball telecasts notwithstanding, NBC Sports executive producer Tom Roy is no fool.

As the network covers the 100th men's U.S. Open golf championship this weekend from famed Pebble Beach (Calif.), Roy, who doubles as the golf producer, is planning to make the course as much a star as the players.

The network will debut "BoatCam," a camera on a gyro mount from a boat off the Pacific coast to shoot the view from the ocean looking back to the course, as opposed to the usual shots looking out at the water. The camera will be deployed on hole Nos. 4-10 and on 17 and 18, the holes that border the ocean.

"It's a new angle we haven't seen before; it actually happens to be prettier looking from the ocean back to the land, plus you can include the golfer in the shot and the crowds and the whole scene," Roy said.

NBC's Dan Hicks, who took over as the network's golf host when Dick Enberg left for CBS earlier this year, will get his first turn at the helm of a major and is ready for the challenge.

"I have worked with [analyst] Johnny [Miller], I have been able to get some experience - the people know who I am. It's not like an unfamiliar face is going to show up on their TV this weekend," Hicks said. "So I'm a familiar voice, a familiar face, and I think that's helped me tremendously."

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