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Seeing baseball's colorful history

July 04, 2008|Larry Stewart | Times Staff Writer

Back when you could fill your gas tank for about $5 and life was a lot simpler, baseball was the national pastime. The big-name players almost always stayed with one team throughout their careers and were regarded as heroes.

Oh what memories.

A 13-part series, "Baseball's Golden Age," will bring back some of those memories for old-timers and fascinate younger fans by showing legends such as Babe Ruth in living color.

The series makes its debut with two showings on FSN regional networks Sunday. Show times on FSN West are 5 and 8 p.m. On most Sundays during the 13-week run, the first airing will follow Angels baseball, but this Sunday the Angels' game against Toronto is on Channel 13.

The series is an offshoot of the award-winning HBO documentary, "When It Was a Game," first shown in the summer of 1991. A subsequent episode was shown the following year and the third of a trilogy in 2000.

The company that created and produced those shows was Black Canyon Productions, founded by Steve Stern and George Roy. That company was sold five years ago, but Stern and Roy retained rights to the vast library of baseball home movies shot by players and fans.

Roy still does documentaries for HBO, and Stern now has his own company, Flagstaff Films, which produced the new FSN series.

In Sunday's debut episode, one topic is the rivalry between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants. Larry King talks about how much he hated the Giants. Joe Torre, a Giants fan who was 11 when the Giants' Bobby Thomson hit the "shot heard 'round the world" against the Dodgers in 1951, says, "That was the highlight of my childhood, basically."

Another segment deals with the old debate, who was better, Ted Williams or Joe DiMaggio?

Bob Feller offers this: "Trying to sneak a fastball by Ted Williams was like trying to sneak a sunbeam by a rooster in the morning. You couldn't."

Bob Costas tells viewers that DiMaggio himself believed he was the better all-around player "but Williams was the greater hitter."

The interviews add a nice touch, but as with "When It Was A Game," it is the old footage that makes this series can't-miss television.

Weekend events and other programs available for viewing:

Tennis, Wimbledon (Today, 4 a.m., ESPN2; noon, Channel 4; Saturday and Sunday, 6 a.m., Channel 4). If Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal win their semifinal matches today -- Nadal's is live on ESPN2, Federer's is delayed on Channel 4 -- they will meet for a third time in the Wimbledon finals in a showdown that NBC was hoping for all along. NBC has the Williams sisters in Saturday's women's final.

Cycling, Tour de France (Saturday and Sunday, 5:30 p.m., Versus). Versus is offering an average of 14 hours a day of coverage through the event's conclusion July 27.

Baseball, All-Star selection show (Sunday, 11 a.m., TBS). Newcomers Dennis Eckersley and Harold Reynolds join Cal Ripken, back for a second year, and host Ernie Johnson for the announcement of the All-Star game lineups. Following the show, TBS has the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals.

NASCAR, Coke Zero 400 at Daytona (Saturday, 5 p.m., TNT). As was the case last year for this event, there will be no national commercial breaks, only local ones.

Horse racing, NTRA Summer Racing series (Saturday, 3 p.m. ESPN2); American Oaks and CashCall Mile at Hollywood Park ("Trackside Live," 1 p.m., TVG). Two major races at New Jersey's Monmouth Park -- both Breeders' Cup Challenge events -- highlight the ESPN2 program. The Hollywood Park races each offer a purse of $750,000.

WNBA, Phoenix at Sparks. (Sunday, 6:30 p.m., FSN Prime Ticket). This game marks the second of five Sparks telecasts with Lakers guard Derek Fisher as a commentator. He made his debut alongside play-by-play announcer Larry Burnett on Tuesday night.

Beach volleyball, AVP Crocs Tour Boulder Open (Saturday, noon, Sunday, 1:30 p.m., Channel 4). This is the first of four beach volleyball tournaments NBC will televise leading up to the Olympics. Chris Marlowe and Karch Kiraly call the action.

Recommended viewing:

"Fists of Freedom: The Story of the '68 Summer Games," Tuesday, 7 p.m., HBO. This award-winning documentary originally aired in 1999.

"Dodgers Insider: Trip to China," Tuesday, around 10:30 p.m. The team's trip to China in March and its games against the San Diego Padres are reviewed.


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