Book Review - "The Arm" by Jeff Passan

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right side bar.

9780062400369_p0_v4_s192x300The Arm by Jeff Passan, a lead writer for Yahoo Sports, is a must read for baseball fans, those interested in learning about pitchers, the Tommy John injury and surgery, as well as youth baseball coaches and parents. He explains how a tiny ligament in the elbow, the UCL, can snap, sending Little Leaguers and Major Leaguers to undergo surgery. In traveling the world he was able to interview with Sandy Koufax, Japanese pitchers, and Tommy John, the All-Star pitcher who underwent the surgery forty years ago to save his career. But the true heart of the book resides in the interwoven stories of Daniel Hudson and Todd Coffey, Major Leaguers whom Passan follows through UCL surgery and rehab.

Passan explains how in 1974 Dr. Frank Jobe rebuilt the left elbow of John, the Dodgers pitcher, in a revolutionary surgery that continues to give pitchers a second chance. He essentially made John a new ligament by taking a tendon from the wrist, drilling holes into the elbow. Readers will learn that about a quarter of pitchers at any given time on major league rosters have had Tommy John surgery. But a more frightening statistic is that more than half of Tommy John surgeries now occur with teenagers. He writes about a youth baseball tournament, where star 10-year-olds have their arms taxed in the name of victory, and in Japan where overuse of young pitchers also seems to be a chronic practice.

He told the book is a warning “for parents and coaches out there who don't quite understand that the amount of pitching you do as a child could significantly damage you for years to come. We should be stressing how to throw the ball properly, know how to place it, and to learn the mental side of pitching. Growth plates in children’s elbows don’t close until they are 15/16 years old. When they do reach this age they can take on more wear and tear. Dr. Jobe said not to throw a curve ball until you can shave. Remember when Dr. Frank Jobe did the surgery it was on a thirty year old pitcher to save his career. I cannot imagine he thought it would become the domain of children instead of adults. It is frightening how many parents push their children. I hope there is enough people out there that can shame these other parents and coaches. A parent’s job is to be realistic. A Japanese study that came out after the book was published said that 43% of 9 to 12 year olds had damage to their UCL and of those more than 60% were pitchers.”

But to humanize the story Passan followed two pitchers, Todd Coffey and Daniel Hudson. He spent time with them and their families as they went through the surgery, rehab, and their attempts to pitch again in the Major Leagues. It's a very good insight into the parts of baseball most people don't see, the personal lives of the players and how they cope with various setbacks in the course of their careers.

He commented to, “Todd Coffey, while a relief pitcher for the Dodgers in 2012, had a recurring elbow injury and underwent his second Tommy John surgery. He threw with a velocity about 95 to 96 mph. In 2015 he tried to play for the Mexican League and is currently in the Atlantic League. Because he was a reliever and does not throw now at 95 it became difficult to latch on with a team. They are afraid he would get hurt again and they would then be stuck with the medical expenses. Plus, they think it makes sense to go with a guy who has been in their own organization.”

Regarding Daniel Hudson, “He had Tommy John surgery in 2012 and another surgery in 2013. He is still pitching for the Diamondbacks and so far is having a great year. If he stays healthy he is setting himself up for a big payday. He looks good and says his arm feels great. I think Daniel is an inspirational story. I hope with him and Coffey readers will see what it is really like, that it is not easy and not fun with a lot of trials and tribulations.”

The Arm is a must read for all fans of baseball and parents who have children playing the sport. In tackling a massive and complicated subject, Passan finds ways to educate and warn about the UCL injury.

Come Run, Walk, Roll


I wrote about this a few weeks ago, and you can now join Team Mission: VALOR and come run, walk, roll, limp or whatever you do for one mile or the full three.  Several of us are planning to put in a little extra distance to make it a full 5k, but that's optional.  What matters is simply the doing, and we invite you to join us.  There will be some news shared next week that is partly related, but good things are happening.  

For those interested, Mission: VALOR is taking off, and we need your help.  Our three most critical needs are up here, and I note that we need people.  Right now, mostly in NYC, but that may be about to change soon too.  So, stay tuned. 

Meantime, if I can get my not-quite-as-fat fluffy rump out to run/walk/limp (probably going to do all three), you should too.  Let's go have a good time, and help a good cause. 

UPDATE:  Below the fold, some incentives to donate:

Continue reading "Come Run, Walk, Roll" »

Running A 5K

Those of you who have been following over at LaughingWolf and Facebook know that I made a major lifestyle change just about a year ago.  The result is that I have dropped more than a few inches off the waist (have no idea on weight as that is, frankly, a meaningless measure), enjoyed the best health I've had in years, and have picked up doing things I've not done in far too long.  

One such is running, as in cross-country/long-distance running.  I'm a plodder more than a runner, always have been, but it is one of the things I really want to do.  So, I will be taking part in Hope For The Warrior's 5th Annual Big Apple Run For The Warriors, which is also starts events for Army Week .  What does that have to do with you? Well, there are two things. 

I want to invite all our readers to join me in walking/running/rolling/loping/whatever the 5k.  It isn't about how fast we do it, but rather that we do it.  

Second, I want to use this to raise funds for Mission: VALOR as well as Hope for the Warriors.  So, I've set a goal to raise $500 which will cover expenses (registration and new shoes, literally nothing fits anymore) with everything over expenses going to Mission: VALOR.  I've got some free coaching and such lined up, and plan to start building for this as quickly as possible.  You can donate through my GoFundMe (, or the PayPal link at LaughingWolf.  Just want to donate to Mission: VALOR?  The best way is via the Square Marketplace.  Reminder, we are not yet at 501(c)(3), but working on it.  Want to just put it to HftW?  Well, that info coming soon once I get registered.  


Northwestern Wildcats "Honor" Wounded Warriors With Controversial/Bloody Uniforms

Eh, not really a big deal to me, but there is some controversy brewing up over the Northwestern University deal to wear different uniforms in their next game to support the Wounded Warrior Project.  I just wonder who over at WWP decided that the blood effect was a good idea...seems REALLY kind of off to me - especially in College sports. 

Other than that, play ball.

Book Review - Jewish Jocks: An Unorthodox Hall of Fame

While this isn't normally the kind of book we review here, it is an interesting read and it's about SPORTS.  The following book review is a special for Blackfive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the far right sidebar.

9781455516131_p0_v1_s260x420Jewish Jocks: An Unorthodox Hall of Fame is a collection of essays compiled and edited by Franklin Foer and Marc Tracy of The New Republic magazine. It’s a portrait of fifty Jewish individuals and the role that they played in sports. This compilation is about Jews from different areas of the world, and playing different sports, that also include executives and coaches.

Tracy commented, “Franklin Foer and I are big sports fans who identify with our Jewishness, and are also fans of good writing. There was the realization that this book could be a way to gather great writers, most who were Jewish, but were not professional sports writers; yet, loved sports. I am talking about big names such as: David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, Simon Schama, a superstar English historian who wrote about the boxer Daniel Mendoza, Mark Leiborvich, of the New York Times, and Lawrence Summers, the former Treasury Secretary, who wrote about Harold Solomon, the tennis player.”

The athletes chosen included a range of players from Bobby Fischer to Sandy Koufax. Fischer was born and raised Jewish; yet, later in his life he hated his own people by becoming an Anti-Semite. There was also the discussion about Sid Luckman and Benny Friedman, who pioneered the game of football while playing for their respective teams, the Chicago Bears and the New York Giants. They revolutionized football with the forward pass, and having the quarterback as the superstar. Rich Cohen stated in the essay about these two players, “It was the birth of the quarterback as we know him: the general who calmly leads his team down the field.”

The most powerful part of the book was the discussion of the 1972 Munich Olympics. Tracy noted, Lipstadt fabulously pointed out how these athletes came to Germany to compete in peace and instead were murdered. The Munich massacre maybe showed what we write in our introduction, that Jewish athleticism originally comes out of the instinct for self-defense. How Zionism sprung from the violence against Jews. This is also emphasized in the essay by Shalom Auslander who wrote about an older Jewish man, confronted by two black kids, on a New York subway, “And he turned around and pushed them back-hard-and they fell back down in the seat…And he said, ‘We’re Jews, we won this war, we beat our enemies, we don’t take this stuff anymore.”

Another interesting point is how Mark Spitz and Shep Messing responded differently to this horrific event in Jewish history. Messing, a soccer player for the US team reunited with David Berger, an Israeli weightlifter with whom he had become close friends. While being sequestered along with other Jewish athletes he learned that a group of Palestinian terrorists had taken eleven members of the Israeli team hostage, killing his friend Berger. He was described as being overcome with grief and rage, that “a Jewish wire in him that even he hadn’t known existed had been tripped.” Compare that to Mark Spitz who was described as ignoring questions about his feelings and was more bitter about being hustled out of Munich, not for the Israeli athletes who died, but “that he never got to stop at the Mercedes-Benz factory and pick up the 450 SL he had been promised.”

Tracy described Jewish Jocks: An Unorthodox Hall of Fame as the story of the “Jews in sports is a microcosm to the story of sports in America. The story of Jews in sports is the story of sports. From Al Davis who was a path breaker by integrating the NFL for head coaches to Hank Greenberg who, as the general manager of the Indians, mistreated one of his players, Al Rosen, solely because he did not want to be seen as playing favorites to one of his own, another Jewish slugger.” This book is an interesting read for both Jew and non-Jew alike since it involves interesting facts and tidbits about some of the most important athletes in sports history.

An Exclusive Interview With Kaiti C.

Is up over at This Ain't Hell.  Go check it out, and please vote for her everyday in her quest to become a Colt's cheerleader. 

To help motivate you, here is a bit of video from the 2010 Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade that shows a bit of the dance team of which Kaiti was a member


Previous Blackfive post and previous TAH post.

Tim Kennedy - There's a Time to be a Quiet Professional and then there's a time to tell it like it is

Tim Kennedy gives an interview and pulls no punches on MMA fighters that pull out of bouts for an injury, gun control, and leaving Strikeforce for the UFC. 

...Stephie Daniels: When you do come over, is there somebody in particular that you have in mind to fight?

Tim Kennedy: I'm fighting on January 12th, but if you tested positive for steroids, and you're running your mouth about how awesome you are, I pretty much want to punch you in the face, because you're embarrassing me and my sport. I don't even think we have time to cover them all. I"ve got the 12th to worry about, and that's what I'm focusing on. Then I'll worry about all the cheaters.

Stephie Daniels: Since we're on the topic of cheaters, are you a proponent of VADA?

Tim Kennedy: Absolutely. You can come over and draw a sample out of my eyeball, if you want...

And it gets better after that.  Be sure to read the whole interview.

Here's an older spot from Ranger Up about Tim:

Tim's last fight for Showtime's Strikeforce will be in Oklahoma City on January 12th.

We will be there supporting him all the way.