Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Damn Yankees: A Review, Part Two

Titans get attention. Living or dead, they remain with us. Years ago on vacation I happened to tune in to the 'Today' show and caught Matt Lauer doing a book review with Tina Sinatra, Frank's daughter, and keeper of the flame. Perhaps the usual TV book review stuff, except for the length. They went to commercial and came back for more. Then Matt announced that Tina would be back the next day to further discuss the book and her famous father. I said to myself, "that's pull." You get two days with Matt Lauer to discuss a book. Frank's not dead, he's just resting.

Well, I'm not Matt Lauer, and 'Damn Yankees' has nothing to do with Frank Sinatra, but the subject is of epic proportions, and deserves more commentary.

One of the essay entries that gets praise is Colum McCann's 'The Long Way Home.' Even the title gives you a sense this isn't going to be solely about the Yankees. It's like that scene is the movie, 'A Bronx Tale' that really isn't about a parking spot.

That the Irish can write should be of no news to anyone. They may have started with Gaelic, but they're doing a pretty good job of using English. I never met Mr. McCann, but first really became aware of him when he appeared at a Barnes and Noble book presentation, promoting a more traditional Sports anthology, 'At the Fights,' a book he wrote the forward to.

There were several other writers on the stage, Pete Hamill, Mike Lupica, George Kimball, and Robert Lipsyte, all of course connected to the book. Each got their turn at saying something.  Once you realized that Lupica is not really any bigger than the chair he was sitting in, even he was entertaining.

Colum professed being a bit out of his element, not being a sports writer. But of course the way he said he was not sports writer made you pay attention. In his case, a light, Irish brogue to his voice, coming from a neck swaddled in a scarf, completed the image of the Irish writer. Anyone who wears a scarf indoors is definitely not a bricklayer.

Since then, I keep bumping into Mr. McCann's name. He's written liner notes on the latest Chieftains album; his name has appeared in connection with the publishing of a photo book on Marilyn Monroe. He of course wrote, 'Let The Great World Spin,' by all accounts a book worth reading. And then of course there's the essay in 'Damn Yankees' that pleases the senses on many fronts, but is certainly the one piece I'd like to hear read out loud. By Mr. McCann.

Tom Verducci contributes 'Captain America,' what the very cynical would call a puff-piece on Derek Jeter, but a subject who truly deserves the good things said about him. Even what's not said about him.

The advantage to a specialized anthology like this one is that it is current. Most entries are not discussions of ancient times going back to the Harding and Hoover administrations.

Depite being a lifelong New Yorker, I didn't remember that Derek Jeter's full name is Derek Sanderson Jeter, named after the Boston Bruins hockey player of the early 70s who gave the Rangers fits, everyone else fits, then who eventually joined the Rangers, then the upstart WHA on the Philadelphia Screaming Eagles, and gave them financial fits. Sanderson was a partyer, and eventually disappeared into rehabs.

To read that Jeter's father was a drug counselor is all the more interesting. The Derek Sanderson name tangent is not mentioned in Mr. Verducci's piece, but makes me wonder if Jeter's father had a touch of 'A Boy Named Sue' in his veins, and "give him that name" so he'd have to stay tough and dry. I can't tell.

Jeter might have slowed down a bit, on and off the field, but anyone with a decent memory can recall the ads that teased Derek about his downtown lifestyle with compliant A-list females and drinking buddies. Certainly General George brought things to Derek's attention, and when Derek started going out with Mariah Carey it was really cause for worry that there would be sleep-deprived nights and tons of dropped balls at second base. Didn't happen.

Captain America seems to have emerged with a healthy, scandal-free lifestyle that only includes an on-again relationship with an actress and a city-state home in Florida. He's still the guy you want to tell your kids about.

Editing. Like umpiring, you're not supposed to notice. Twenty-four pieces placed is who knows what order. The editor knows, but really, do you care? Not really, but I did notice that the last piece has a certain resonance with death, and the continuity of life, that which of course always precedes death. Perfect for where we've been, and where we're going.

It's good to read that Steve Rushin describes the George Steinbrenner memorial in Yankee Stadium's Memorial Park as "sun-blotting...Ozymandian" in size.

I read a piece of tongue-in-cheek financial advice that went, "when they build a monument to themselves, get out." Certainly the AOL Time-Warner towers at New York's Columbus Circle were enough warning.

So, when a story was floated that the Steinbrenner family was thinking of selling the team. it made sense. After all, even the O'Malley family sold the Dodgers. Selling the Yankees still makes sense, even if it is hotly denied by majority ownership that doesn't appear in New York too often.

The monument to George is obscene given the other people he's with. But, New York is where a mayor outlaws super-size soft drinks, but not super-size egos. And really, how could you do that?

An updated wiretap of organized crime's Meyer Lansky talking to Bugsy Siegel would now have to go: "You know Benny, the Yankees are bigger than Microsoft and Apple right now."


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