The New York Yankees have come to symbolize "everything good and strong and true about baseball and America and the human race in general. Either that, or avarice and unrepentant evil," writes Rob Fleder (former Executive Editor of Sports Illustrated) in the introduction to Damn Yankees: Twenty-Four Major League Writers on the World's Most Loved (and Hated) Team. In this collection of diverse, original essays, an all-star lineup of writers from the fields of sports (Tom Verducci, Sally Jenkins from Sports Illustrated), literature (Nathaniel Rich, novelist) and finance (James Surowiecki, The New Yorker) share their own unique feelings and experiences about this quintessential sports dynasty.
The array of pieces resonate with immortals, legacies and personal stories. Some are crafted with lyricism and sensitivity and a select few showcase conflicted feelings by blending a mixture of back-handed compliments with tongue-in-cheek and a bone-to-pick tone. Passion and insight fuel each essay and shed light into the historical Yankees from the Babe, Mantle and DiMaggio to Derek Jeter; the price of wearing the pinstripes and winning at all costs; rivalries and the grueling duels between teams, players and fans; and the foibles and scandals that have rocked the team. Other essays explore the more human side of the game including a visit with Catfish Hunter in his final days; the story of Jim Abbott (Rick Telander, Chicago Sun-Times), a one-handed pitcher whose rise to fame was snuffed out by the 1994 Baseball Strike; and how rooting for or against the Yankees can transcend generations (J.R. Moehringer, memoirist) and continents (Colum McCann, novelist).
The essays, as a whole, render a multi-faceted portrait of the New York Yankees and why the team evokes such strong, often polarized, feelings. The book is capped by a section that offers facts, figures and statistics which support the many reasons why the Yanks--whether revered or loathed--are considered an American institution and a symbol of greatness.
Damn Yankees: Twenty-Four Major League Writers on the World's Most Loved (and Hated) Team edited by Rob Fleder
Ecco Press (A Division of Harper Collins Publishers), $27.99, Hardcover, 9780062059628, 304 pp
Publication Date: April 3, 2012
Please note: This review is a reprint and is being posted (in a slightly different form) with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (4/13/12), click HERE.