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Volume 24 No. 160

People and Pop Culture

Baseball HOFer RALPH KINER, whose "achievements in the batter’s box were obscured by his decades in the broadcast booth, where he was one of the game’s most recognizable personalities," died Thursday at the age of 91 in Rancho Mirage, Calif., according to a front-page piece by Bruce Weber of the N.Y. TIMES. Kiner "spent half a century with the Mets, enlivening their broadcasts with shrewd analysis, amiable storytelling and memorable malapropisms beginning with their woeful first season" in '62. His "genial, well-informed and occasionally tongue-twisted presence accompanied all of Mets history." Kiner in addition to his game broadcasts was the "host of the popular postgame interview show 'Kiner's Korner'" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/7). On Long Island, Mark Herrmann writes Kiner's "grasp of the game and unique gift for expression appealed to generations of Mets fans." What "endeared him to his audience was his ability to capture the essence of the sport in a concise, entertaining way." After five years as GM of the Padres while they were in the Pacific Coast League, Kiner "broadcast in 1961 for the White Sox." He "joined the expansion Mets a year later, along with LINDSEY NELSON and BOB MURPHY, forming an announcing team that stayed together for 17 years" (NEWSDAY, 2/7).

NOT SMOOTH, BUT A LEGEND: In N.Y., Gary Myers writes Kiner "may not have been the smoothest broadcaster, but his knowledge of the game and his insights -- tossed in with his malaprops -- made him extremely entertaining and a New York legend" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/7). In Newark, Wolff & Fensom write Kiner gave the Mets franchise a "credibility it otherwise lacked." He was "vivid and sharp with his story telling and dissection of the game" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 2/7). In N.Y, Richard Sandomir writes Kiner was "the enduring Met," as VIN SCULLY "is the eternal Dodger." Kiner's "lack of pretension and his wit and amiability made 'Kiner’s Korner' ... required viewing, even if it looked like public access programming." Sandomir: "Inadvertently, he was a brilliant malapropist." Kiner was a "character, a bon vivant, and not an overly polished announcer, which was part of his charm." Mets ownership was "smart enough to keep Kiner, well after Bell’s palsy impaired his voice, and as his workload decreased" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/7). In N.Y., Mike Puma notes Kiner, who "spoke with slurred speech for the last decade ... had his workload reduced to about 15 games each season on SNY in recent years." But he was "still a revered figure” (N.Y. POST, 2/7). In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes in Kiner's later years, he "kept on going in spite of the cruel remarks behind his back, the crass ridicule from fans and some in the broadcast business who once celebrated him." The words "may not have always come out right, but the mind was still nimble" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/7).

FELT LIKE FAMILY: ESPN N.Y.'s Ian O'Connor wrote listening to Kiner call a ballgame "was like listening to your grandfather call a ballgame, and so a place in front of a living room TV showing 'Kiner's Korner' always felt like the most comfortable seat in the world for a kid who cherished the game and the people who talked it" (, 2/6). In New Jersey, Bob Klapisch writes "Kiner's Korner" "lasted only 15 minutes, but filled a generation of memories" (Bergen RECORD, 2/7).  In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes Kiner "preferred to watch and call ballgames, not to take them apart, dissect them, perform autopsies on them." He "wasn’t a homer, he was an observer, a cigar-blowing favorite uncle who could be reminded of someone or something he would be moved to talk about by any ground ball down either line" (N.Y. POST, 2/7). SPORTS ON EARTH's Howard Megdal writes Kiner's "staying power gave him decades of interacting with nearly every important baseball figure of the 20th century (plus a good chunk of the 21st), but he also had the intelligence to glean what mattered in the lives of those people, the significance of major events in those lives" (, 2/7).

The play "BRONX BOMBERS" on Thursday night opened on Broadway to mixed reviews. USA TODAY gives the play two stars out of four and notes it is the "third in a 'sports series for stage'" conceived by FRAN KIRMSER and written by ERIC SIMONSON. In the production, which is playing at the Circle in the Square Theatre, "changing times are noted with predictable obviousness" (USA TODAY, 2/7). In N.Y., Charles Isherwood writes with the Yankees and MLB Properties among its presenters, "you can be sure" that the play "will not throw too many spitballs or even inside fastballs in the direction of the sport." The drama "inherent in clashing egos" gives the play "some natural juice in the early innings." But the suspense about whether Yankees manager BILLY MARTIN "will be axed" -- and YOGI BERRA "will agree to replace him -- more or less gets benched in the play's second act." Yankees fans may not find the second act's "sudden lurch into fantasy" with a dinner scene featuring players from throughout team history "particularly worrisome." But the play "doesn't negotiate the move from the real world to the dream world very smoothly" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/7).

TWO THUMBS UP: In N.Y., Joe Dziemianowicz gives the play three stars out of five, and writes "all the rigorous exercise -- along with some canny tweaks" the play received before moving to Broadway "has paid off." The "central tension -- a perennial Yankee saga about team tradition versus personal stardom -- is better illuminated." The "formerly bipolar halves of the show -- part drama, part dream sequence -- now fit together better." There is a new "expanded presence" of BABE RUTH as played by C.J. WILSON. The "bigger-than-life Sultan of Swat bridges the past and the present, the real and the mythic as the show becomes a fantasy" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/7).'s Mark Newman writes the play is a "poignant production about Yankees legends" with an "enjoyable script." Actor FRANCOIS BATTISTE as REGGIE JACKSON "practically steals the entire show" during the play's first act, and "drew a loud ovation as he left the set." Theatergoers were "surrounded by Yankees memorabilia," including the '77 World Series trophy (, 2/7).

DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Frank Scheck wrote actor PETER SCOLARI is "touching and funny as the ever-awkward" Berra. The "moving final scene, set in the Yankees locker room on the day of the final game at the original stadium, will surely strike a chord with nostalgists." But the play is "ultimately too lightweight to score a theatrical home run" (, 2/6).'s Jesse Green wrote Scolari in the first act offers a "deft embodiment if not impersonation of Berra" and "smartly undercuts the desperate mannerisms by suggesting an intelligence crafty enough to have devised them on purpose." But the play "completely falls apart after that." Perhaps the producers "aren’t sure where they’re aiming to be." Green: "As Yogi probably didn’t say: 'If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else'" (, 2/6). The HUFFINGTON POST's David Finkle wrote under the header, "'Bronx Bombers' Fields Yogi Berra Well Enough" (, 2/6).

HEADED FOR THE AISLES: The AP's Mark Kennedy writes the changes to the play since its off-Broadway shows are "not enough to make it more than Yankee advertising." When it comes to drama, the play "strikes out looking" (AP, 2/7).'s Robert Kahn writes the play is "a jock drama that will appeal to any Yankees fanatic, but leave others restless in the bleachers" (, 2/7).'s Michael Dale writes under the header, "Bronx Bombers Still Bushleague Material" (, 2/7).'s Robert Hofler wrote it is "not unusual for screenwriters to direct their own scripts, but they’re working in collaboration with a cinematographer and an editor." Playwrights like Simonson who direct their own plays "don’t have that buffer, and this production of 'Bronx Bombers' is a textbook example of why they should stick to writing" (, 2/6). VARIETY's Marilyn Stasio writes marketing the play "might be more of a challenge" than with the production team's earlier "LOMBARDI" and "MAGIC/BIRD." Stasio asks, "With the exception of the baseball-crazy Japanese, can you sell the Broadway tourist audience on this rah-rah cheer for the home team?" The play is "noticeably lacking in drama." What will "bring out the fans" is "cameo appearances from the greatest players in the annals of Yankee history" (, 2/6).'s Melissa Rose Bernardo wrote over Simonson's three Broadway plays, his "efforts become more diluted and the stories more far-fetched." The play's "manufactured plot doesn't even begin to approach believability," as the second act "imagines Yankees past and present at a mashed-potato banquet together" (, 2/6).

The Red Sox announced several personnel moves. The team promoted TOM TIPPETT to Senior Baseball Analyst, DAN DYREK to Dir of Sports Medicine, STEVE SANDERS to Amateur & Int'l Scouting Coordinator and MIKE REGAN to Baseball Operations Coordinator. In addition, the Red Sox named GREG RYBARCZYK Baseball Operations Analyst, DR. BRIAN BUSCONI Head Minor League Physician, and RAY MATTFELD Major League Physical Therapist (Red Sox).

EXECS: Xerox Corp. VP/Global Experiential Marketing JON LEVINE is leaving the company to join CAA Sports (THE DAILY)....The Trail Blazers named MLS Timbers Dir of Community Relations CHRISTA THOERESZ Senior Dir of Community Relations (, 2/5)....The MLBPA named former MLBer JEFFREY HAMMONDS to the newly created position of Player Program Development Special Assistant (MLBPA)....CSN Northwest named ESPN/ABC "NASCAR Countdown" Producer JEFF INGALLS Senior Exec Producer (CSN).

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Ravens coach JOHN HARBAUGH has "embarked on another trip to honor the U.S. military," and this week has "joined Gen. RAYMOND ODIERNO, the Army chief of staff, on a trip to the Middle East to visit American troops in Turkey and Afghanistan" (, 2/6).

COURT REPORT: Former Dodgers Owner FRANK MCCOURT “wants a judge to order his ex-wife to pay him” nearly $2M in legal fees that he “spent after she unsuccessfully contested their divorce settlement last year.” His attorneys filed a motion on Jan. 30 "seeking reimbursement for the costs of fighting JAMIE MCCOURT's motion to overturn their 2010 settlement that ended an ownership dispute over the Dodgers” (AP, 2/5)....Photographer RICHARD NOBLE, who “took a once-famous portrait of football and baseball star BO JACKSON staring at the camera wearing equipment from both sports,” on Thursday sued a Massachusetts memorabilia dealer in federal court. Noble’s suit alleges that MARC FELICIO and his Worldwide Memorabilia Inc. “violated several provisions of the copyright code in selling the picture.” Noble earlier this year settled with Nike after suing over the same photograph (, 2/6).

NAMES: UFC fighter RONDA ROUSEY has signed with Warner Bros. for "two high-profile projects." Warner Bros. is "in final negotiations" to acquire rights to "THE ATHENA PROJECT" with Rousey "attached to star, and it’s also tapped her for one of the female leads in the upcoming 'ENTOURAGE' movie" (, 2/6)....Orioles CF ADAM JONES on Wednesday "chatted with the host of MTV's 'GUY CODE' over steaks at Canton Jack's Bistro" in Baltimore (, 2/6)....Knicks G J.R. SMITH on Tuesday attended the MICHAEL BASTIAN fashion show in N.Y. (, 2/6).