Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Book Review: The Bullpen Gospels

Originally published on Pinstripe Alley

Most sports books labor under the same burdensome motif: the subject is the greatest example there has ever been.

The Mick is the most tragic tragic-hero, while the Boss is the most contradictory contradiction; or this season or that season most embodies the soul of baseball.  It's easy to understand why writers take this tack- why else would we bother to read the book?

So when a book comes along that is relatively hyperbole free, I find it refreshing.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Book Review: Yankee Classics by Les Krantz

Originally published on Pinstripe Alley

I was recently given the chance to review Yankee Classics: World Series Magic from the Bronx Bombers, 1921 to Today, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. In a nice twist from the sort of Yankee Classics that get airtime on YES, this coffee-table book takes a look at the Yanks' World Series wins and losses.

Author Les Krantz gives about 2-3 pages to each Fall Classic, about half of which is taken up by some lovely photo spreads. In that space, Krantz is forced to recap the Series in a couple hundred words. He does an admirable job considering that limitation, though I'm sure hardcore fans will feel that the analysis is perfunctory for the World Series they can remember.

The book also features periodic sidebars highlighting things like notable events (The called shot, Larson's perfect game), important players (Yogi Berra and Lou Gehrig), and other historic footnotes (Yankee-Dodger matchups and Yankees in the Armed Forces).

Beyond the wonderful collection of images (both photographs and pictures of tickets, pins and program covers), I think one of the real strengths of the book is in connecting the key narrative of the season to the events of the postseason. This makes it a great starting point for younger fans, and for those of us who wish we had a stronger grasp on the team's early history.

3.5 stars (out of four): Only a more in-depth (and significantly longer) book would have been more satisfying, and Krantz gets extra points for not whitewashing Yankee history- from rightly noting the footnote status of the '51 World Series, to the lousy ratings for the 2000 Subway Series, to Alex Rodriguez's steroid admission, he's willing to remind us that the Yankees' dominance of baseball is not monolithic, uncontroversial or pre-ordained. Each Fall Classic (win or lose) is a unique event, and each is something to celebrate.