Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Derek Jeter is a human being. That seems to be the lesson derived from the New York Post’s preview of Ian O’Connor’s forthcoming book about Jeter, which will focus on the Captain’s relationship with Alex Rodriguez.

Arod’s unflattering comments about Jeter in the March 2001 issue of Esquire led to a cooling off period in their friendship.

Weaving Arod into the narrative has almost become a prerequisite for publishing a baseball book, so it’s not surprising that O’Connor would go that route. What is difficult to understand, however, is why so many people seem to be regarding the excerpts as groundbreaking news.

Just about anyone who has followed the Yankees over the past 10 years is well aware of the icy relationship that existed between the two superstars for most of the past decade, so O’Connor’s initial revelations hardly qualify as news. Although the quotes attributed to Brian Cashman aren’t part of the record, most of the other details have been widely reported and discussed.

A common reaction to the New York Post’s predictably sensational presentation of the excerpts has gone something like this: “You see…Jeter isn’t perfect. What’s more, he has been a bad leader all along.” Considering the piling on that the Captain has endured since showing the first signs of succumbing to age, that reaction has pretty much been par for the course. However, that doesn’t give the book’s author, or its readers, a license for hypocrisy.


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During his over 40 years in the game of baseball, Bill White was a successful player, broadcaster and executive. Now, you can add author to the list.

Uppity: My Untold Story About the Games People Play” is due out on April 1, an ironic date considering White earned the reputation of being nobody’s fool. As a college educated black man playing throughout the segregated south in the minors and then in St. Louis as a big leaguer, White’s career began in the early days of integration, continued with him becoming the first black man to hold a full-time broadcasting position and then culminated with him blazing another trail as the first minority to be appointed to a major executive position in major league baseball.

This afternoon, White joined WFAN’s Mike Francessa in the studio for an hour to promote his book, which focuses on the obstacles he had to overcome during his career. In his discussion with Francessa, White mentioned that his main motivation for writing the book was to educate people, but mostly modern players, about the how far the game of baseball has come since Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.

For perspective, when White broke into the big leagues segregation was still rampant, especially in the south and during spring training. After playing his first game, one newspaper headline read “No Jittery Big-Time Debut for Giants’ Negro Rookie”. Even though he debuted nine years after Robinson, black players in White’s era were still expected to keep a low profile. As the book describes, that was apparently the one thing White could not do.

Bill White, 22-year old New York Giants rookie, is a somber young man who refused to be nervous over his first appearance in a major league lineup.” – AP, May 8, 1956

Most Yankees fans who are over 30 years old have some memory of White on the air, either doing radio for WMCA, WINS or WABC or TV for WPIX. If George Steinbrenner had his way, however, White could have left a different stamp on the team. In his interview with Francessa, White stated that the Boss once offered him the job of General Manager. Considering the job security of that position compared to his broadcast role, White obviously made the right choice.


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The last remnants of the old Yankee Stadium may have been cleared away, but thanks to books like the just released Lasting Yankee Stadium Memories, the old place will never be forgotten.

For those familiar with the esteemed blog Bronx Banter (and those who aren’t should be), Stadium Memories will ring a bell because it is a collection of essays mostly compiled from a series that was published on the website back in 2008. Over the course of that year, Alex Belth, the talented writer and storyteller behind Bronx Banter, culled together a random sampling of memoirs from a variety of men and women who had the privilege to walk through the gates of the old Yankee Stadium.

The force that transformed a series of blog posts into a poignant scrapbook of memories was the untimely passing of one of the contributors. The first essay in Stadium Memories was written by Todd Drew, a talented writer, social activist, local historian and, above all else, rabid Yankee fan. Drew started out as a frequent commentator at Bronx Banter, and eventually joined the blog’s team of writers, imparting a unique style that was hard to ignore. Sadly, however, Drew’s time at Bronx Banter was short. Only months after penning his Stadium memoir, he passed away at the much too young age of 41. After his death, the essay would be honored by appearing in The Best American Sports Writing 2009, but its existence as the foundation of Stadium Memories is probably the reward that Drew would have cherished most.

Stadium Memories is about more than just a recollection of great games and events from the past. Instead, the anthology is really a series personal memoirs woven around Yankee Stadium. In each account, the Stadium is always in the background, but the real stars of the show are the family members, friends and personal experiences that can make even the most mundane occurrences seem so special. Whether it is Jane Leavy explaining how she could best relate to her grandmother through the pain experienced by Mickey Mantle, or Leigh Montville “sharing” his newspaper’s press credentials with buddies from the old neighborhood, the book is filled with stories of personal relationships, which for many is what being a baseball fan is all about.

To be sure, Stadium Memories has its share of sportswriters talking shop and recollections of the many big games played within the ballpark, but ultimately what makes it a must read for any Yankee fan is that it invites the reader to reminisce and chip in with a few memories of their own.

While reading through the different essays, more than a few of my own recollections emerged. Like rushing my way through an economics exam in college so I could scurry to the Bronx and attend the first game of 1995 ALDS, the first playoff game I had ever experienced after years of dreaming about the possibility. While taking the exam, I couldn’t suppress the building excitement. By the time I made it the Stadium, however, I was experiencing a tinge of regret. You see, left behind in the class was a certain young lady whom I just started getting to know. Although I didn’t want to forfeit the time we might spend together after class, this was the playoffs. Sadly, it wouldn’t be the last time the Yankees won out over love.

I also couldn’t help remember the time I brought my young niece to Yankee Stadium, and had to spend an entire inning explaining to her how I was not like the crazy man behind us yelling each time the Yankees made an out or gave up a hit. The first game I attended with my father also came to the fore. Did we really have to park 10 blocks away in a supermarket lot?

The most striking memory, however, was one that actually never happened. Growing up, my grandfather made me a Yankee fan by sharing his passion for the team (cheering “Willie…hit one for Willie”, each time Randolph would come to the plate). In those days, my grandfather, a “professional boxer” during the depression who was mostly paid in things like watches and free meals, wasn’t very nimble on his feet. He was also a very stubborn man who could get emotional at times. As a result, my mother cringed at the idea of him taking the subway from Brooklyn to the Bronx, not to mention interacting amid a big crowd. Although she couldn’t stop him from seeing his beloved Yankees, there was no way she was going to let him take his grandson.

So, instead, he would buy two tickets and then bring me home a whole host of goodies (my grandfather would always go to the giveaways). Whether it was caps, bats, umbrellas, t-shirts or calendars (especially the calendars), I always reaped the benefits of his visits to the Stadium. Unfortunately, by the time I was old enough to take care of myself, by grandfather no longer could do the same. Sadly, I never would get the chance to go with him to see the Yankees…not at Yankee Stadium at least. In 1985, just after the mini-strike, we saw the Yankees play at Fenway Park along with family we had been visiting in Connecticut. During the game in which the Yankees routed the Sox, my grandfather raised from his seat and started to cheery lustily. Several Red Sox fans around us leered angrily in our direction, prompting my aunt to pull him back down. I guess my mother was right!

If it seems like a review of Stadium Memories has lapsed into my own trip down memory lane, well, that’s exactly the point. If you are a Yankee fan, the book might not teach you much about the team or the Stadium, but you’ll definitely come away learning something about yourself.

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