This being the time of year when we count our blessings, let me say that I’m fortunate to have a guy as gifted as Christopher DeRosa contribute the occasional piece to Bronx Banter. For real. DeRosa, a professor of history, assembles a terrific review each year called the “Baseball Procrastinator” which he sends it off to his friends. I’m fortunate enough to be on the list and “The Procastinator” is just tons of fun. One portion that I especially enjoy is DeRosa’s book reviews. So with his permission, I’m going to reprint his 04 reading list here in this space over the Christmas weekend. I hope you enjoy em as much as I have. And hey, here’s wishing everyone a safe and heppy holidaze.
By Christopher DeRosa
Buster Olney, The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty (2004)
Here is the first good book about latest Yankee dynasty. The title refers to game seven of the 2001 World Series. On the cover, Mariano Rivera stands on the mound, hands on hips, back to the camera. On the back, Paul OíNeill sits in the dirt at second base, head buried in hands. However, they are in their home uniforms, in Yankee Stadium. Game 7 was in Arizona, so I donít know what thatís about.
Olney provides the sort of insights I crave into the inner workings of the greatest team of all time. Whereas most people portray Steinbrenner as a tyrant, Olney characterizes him as a quitter — it rings true. He is prey to the same anxieties I have watching a game, actually, but he lashes out at real people. Joe Torre, aptly described by Chad Curtis as a “social genius,” has George somewhat intimidated, “Heís stuck with me, and heís stuck with me.” Mel Stottlemyre comes off as surprisingly enthusiastic and unpretentious, one of the kindest people around the Yankees.
Thatís good. Iím sentimental about this team and Iím glad they were likable. Bernie Williams, depicted trying to comfort families of the victims of the World Trade Center attack, is also the nice guy I want him to be. Clemens has an appealing generosity. El Duque is amusingly paranoid. Mariano Rivera holds “wild thing” closer theatrics in contempt. For a while, he didnít even realize someone had tagged him with signature entrance music. Tino Martinez often seemed to me like an OK but clearly limited player, but in the clubhouse, he was one of the key motivating personalities. Itís no wonder the press has never warmed to his replacement. The happiest and saddest player was Darryl Strawberry, who lived his Yankee days as if he fully believed the team had saved his life. When cancer prevented him from going north with the club in í99, he immediately fell apart. The profile of Derek Jeter just confirms the image. What you see is what you get.
I still want to hear more of Cashmanís story, but he gets his due here, as does Gene Michael for steering the Yankees onto the OBP track. I like it when the Yankees get some recognition on this account, but the author is still a bit sketchy on the whole walking thing: “Babe Ruth and Ted Williams drew more walks than other hitters in their respective generations, but primarily because pitchers refused to throw them strikes. By the late 1980s, however, the best hitters were making walks an integral part of their offense. Wade Boggs