The book: “Damn Yankees: Twenty-Four Major League Writers on the World’s Most Loved (and Hated) Team”
The author: Edited by Rob Fleder
The vital stats: Ecco (Harper Collins), 290 pages, $27.99
The pitch: Poor, poor Angels. They trudge into the Bronx to become the visiting opponent during the Yankees’ home opener today. They’ll have to sit through all the pompous pomp and circumstances beyond their control, with what’s mistaken as magical pageantry fully embraced by those who feel entitled to pay thousands of dollars for nose-bleed seats just to say they were in the ballpark.
Damn them all.
We’ll be damned if the word “damn” or “damned” isn’t just to easily associated with this franchise, be it from a Broadway play, a spun-off movie, or a retread books about the team (“Damned Yankees: Chaos, Confusion, and Craziness in the Steinbrenner Era,” by Bill Madden or “Those Damned Yankees: The Not-So-Great History of Baseball’s Evil Empire,” by Clarke Canfield … and we’ll even throw in “Wicked Good Barbecue: Fearless Recipes from Two Damn Yankees Who Have Won the Biggest, Baddest BBQ Competition in the World,” by Andy Husbands).
Even that dang book written by the former Yankees batboy, one what Leigh Montville called something that “should eventually find its way to that every short shelf of enduring sports nonfiction, perhaps somewhere between ‘Ball Four’ and ‘Friday Night Lights,’” should have had the word “damn” in it somehow. Especially after it went to a new printing in paperback.
Damn, if we’re not just tired of it all.
We understand that in any healthy love/hate relationship, there has to be an established villian. Gotham City has plenty. They come with an arrogance that need not be associated with insecurity. These Yankees should be secure, by now, in their own pinstripes.
We’re just so over it.
When this edition put together by Fleder, the former exec editor of Sports Illustrated and an editor of Sports Illustrated Books, found its way onto the stack, it kept getting shoved back. And back. And back. We weren’t compelled by the consumption of more bloated franchise-stroking prose from some of the best sports authors of our time.
But then there’s that line about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer.
No Dodgers or Angels fans should have to endure any Yankee-ish book, even if it’s a new twist on an old bio project related to the latest, greatest bio of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle or Joe DiMaggio.
Or even Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich.
But this book, at least, be aware of it.
If someone has the leverage to get Jane Leavy, Charlie Pierce, Tom Verducci, Steve Ruchin, Roy Blount Jr., Will Leitch, Bill Nack, Dan Okrent, Leigh Montville and Rich Hoffer to buy into a project where they submit essays (of course, they’re paid) on something that’s related to baseball, your radar goes up. You also bring Frank DeFord and Bill James to the party, even if nothing much is expected. Then, evite Pete Dexter, J.R. Moehringer and Colum McCann, and now we have an interesting mix.
An excerpt: From Leitch, the founder of Deadspin.com, comes “An Innocent Abroad,” as Chapter 13, recounting his first Yankee Stadium experience from the right-field bleachers, compared to his upbringing in Mattoon, Ill.:
“My first game, as it turned out, was a playoff game against the Red Sox in 2003. The psychology of the Yankees fans was fascinating to me. When the Yankees fell behind, no one was concerned about losing. Yankees fans just smirked; their team was coming back, obviously. The fans around me viewed the ultimate, inevitable comeback like honors students who had aced a test. When you’re as smart as we are and you study up, of course you’re going to get an A. …”
(Ha, the Yankees lost the game).
From Blount’s chapter entitled “I Have Feelings for the Yankees:”
“I don’t want to become a Yankee sympathizer. But Jeter in summer is like my tomato plants: I check every morning to see how he’s doing.”
How it goes down in the scorebook: Thirty-year penalty, excessive celebration.
“The Errors of Our Ways,” a piece by award-winning novelist Dexter about former erratic-armed Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch, might rival Michael Paterniti’s work called “Gone Fishin’,” about his meeting with an ALS-riddled Catfish Hunter, as the two most-worthy reads — pieces that would be page-turners no matter your allegiances.
But otherwise, we’re done.
No more Yankee my wankee.
It’s more heartwarming to see that on Amazon.com, they already have six copies of this book for sale that are listed as “used,” starting at $14. It means someone is ready to recycle.
Maybe if the Angels and Yankees revisit each other come playoff time, we’ll go back and review it again. Probably not. But we won’t get rid of it yet.
More: A review of the book by the L.A. Times (linked here)
Coming up: If you need more Yankee-related titles to get you through the month, may we suggest you find Mark Newman of MLB.com, who thankfully has short reviews of “Pinstripe Empire” by Marty Appel and “Driving Mr. Yogi: Yogi Berra, Ron Guidry, and Baseball’s Greatest Gift” by Harvey Aragon and (linked here).