This article appeared in the Marin Independent Journal on October 3, 2011.

ANN KILLION HAS COVERED nine Olympics, five World Cups and more than a dozen Super Bowls. Along the way she became one of the pre-eminent voices in the national sports scene, while thoughtfully studying the evolution of women’s athletics.

So when softball superstar and Olympic gold medal winner Jennie Finch wanted to write her first book, it made sense to make a pitch to the award-winning sports writer and Marin native.

“The publishing company found her, and when they told me Ann had covered the Pac-10 and the Olympics — and I found out she was a mother of a young female athlete in high school — it was too good to be true,” said Finch, whose book “Throw Like a Girl: How to Dream Big & Believe in Yourself” had long been a dream of hers. The 31-year-old pitcher recalls her own childhood when there was virtually no information available to young women aspiring to be athletes.

“Who she is in her profession and all she has done “… it was a tremendous honor for me to work with her. It really came together magically,” Finch said. “She’s a true game-changer and a pioneer in the sports world and all that she’s done and accomplished. It was truly a perfect fit all the way around. “… I couldn’t have dreamt for it to have been any better, or be written by anyone else.”

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29 Sep 2011

War of Words: Howe vs. Beane

Author: AnnKillion | Filed under: Bay Area Sports

Billy Beane’s mean-spirited belittling of Art Howe’s fully understandable reaction to “Moneyball” accomplished two things this week.

When Beane told the Contra Costa Times “I was wondering who was going to be the first guy to think I produced, wrote or directed this movie. Now I have my answer. (Howe’s) comments are completely misguided,” he:

a) sounded suspiciously like a guy who didn’t mind in the least that Howe was portrayed as such a jack-wagon.

And he b) missed the point.  When you’ve been played by Brad Pitt – when most of the American public is going to believe that dazzling cinematic version of both you and of 2002 green-and-gold events – then you’ve won.  You can afford to be gracious.

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9 Jul 2011

Bill Neukom: the man who delivered the World Series

Author: AnnKillion | Filed under: Bay Area Sports

I recently wrote a profile of Giants owner Bill Neukom for Stanford Magazine. Having covered the team for 20+ years and followed the Giants my entire life, I was interested in digging a little bit deeper into Neukom’s role in bringing San Francisco what it had long coveted: a World Series championship. Was he simply in the right place at the right time, or did he create a change that allowed the World Series to be won?

A Giant Leap

He shepherded Microsoft through its stormiest period and helped bring a World Series title to San Francisco. In both cases, says Bill Neukom, it was all about the team.

BY ANN KILLION


Just back from the desert. I hadn’t been to spring training for a few years – not since Barry Bonds was the primary reason for going, back in the days when he used his son as a prop at a Scottsdale Stadium picnic table. My former employers didn’t and don’t make spring training a priority – even though it’s the best time to take the pulse of a team in a casual atmosphere and get a lot of work done.

So it was nice to be back. I’ve been to Phoenix for other reasons – namely football – during my spring training absence. But I’m always surprised at how much the area changes with every visit: more than any other American city. Sprawl and grid and identical strip malls as far as the eye can see. The area is still beautiful at dusk, brick-red rocks against purple sky, and early in the mornin. But, in between, it’s a grating symbol of thoughtless development, water waste and mind-numbing monotony.

The crowds this year were insane. It might be because the Giants won the World Series, it might be because of spring break, it might be because of harsh winters in the Midwest.    Whatever the reason – it was wall-to-wall people last weekend. And the crowds in Scottsdale at night were the same – highly inebriated, sunburned and loud. I saw one barefoot 40ish woman stumble out of the Pink Pony, punch her male companion in the face several times, scream at him and then run away down an alley.  She wasn’t the only one who was overserved – people kept wanting to buy Ray Ratto drinks and take his picture!  Scottsdale is one big, loud – often sloppy – party – you can see why the teams want their players to report at 7:30 or 8 a.m. most mornings.  They need incentive to get to bed early.

The baseball part was enjoyable.  The A’s are making news. Billy Beane has rebuilt them, and the talent will put manager Bob Geren to the test. Beane has also gone to lengths to make sure the A’s stay healthy. And Hideki Matsui’s presence brings a bigtime star quality.

Over at the Giants, things are relatively peaceful for a reigning World Champion.  I enjoyed my conversations with Madison Bumgarner, Miguel Tejada, Aubrey Huff and others. Brian Wilson was advertised as not being able to answer a question seriously, but I found him insightful. And Tim Lincecum looked to be in Cy Young form.

It was a quick trip. The next time I see the local teams will be back in the Bay Area, for the real thing.