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As I write, it's mid-October, just days away from the World Series. This is the time of year when all genuine baseball fans ask themselves the same thing.  No, not: Who's going to win the Series? Rather: What do I do with myself until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in February?  Luckily, this winter we've a couple terrific baseball books by Harvey Frommer to get us through.

A Yankee Century may at first glance seem like a special interest book, and it will indeed appeal particularly to Yankee fans.  However, because of their sheer dominance--it really was their century--the history of the Yankees is to a unique extent a history of baseball in general. Where 100 years of a team like the Reds would inevitably have vast dry patches, we all know and rooted vigorously for or against the Yankees of many different eras.  Thus while there are delights in store for the fanatic--like the fact that Babe Ruth by himself had more homeruns (60) in 1927 than the 2nd place team (the A's with 56) or that when Grover Cleveland Alexander had his legendary confrontation with Tony Lazzeri, the Yankee was just 22 years old, just a kid really--no one who follows the game will have trouble finding material here that interests them.  Mr. Frommer has included copious illustrations and the book is broken up into a wide variety of sections, from quizzes to profiles to statistics.  This makes the book very accessible and, in the best sense, putdownable.  It's a book that you want to delve into a bit at a time and to skip around in, rather than to read in one sitting.  It's like a king-size Whitman Sampler.

If, on the other hand, you're such a confirmed Yankee-hater that you just can't stand to read hundreds of pages about them and to see all those pictures of them celebrating victories, try Growing Up Baseball. In the great tradition of Lawrence Ritter's Glory of their Times and Donald Honig's Baseball When the Grass Was Real, Mr. Frommer and his son, Frederic, offer an oral history with a narrowed and fascinating focus: players' personal stories of the role baseball played in their youths.  Everyone will have his or her favorite players in the bunch, especially since the wide variety includes old-timers and current players, stars and scrubs, blacks, Latinos, Jews (Al Rosen and Shawn Green), and sons (Dale Berra) and brothers (Ken Brett ) of superstars.  Everyone's represented and, as in Mr. Ritter's book, they please us by having loved the game as we'd have hoped and by pretty uniformly looking back fondly on their experiences.

There's a minor but representative moment when Joey Amalfitano is about to sign his first contract and has to go get his father off of a fishing boat where he works:

    He was in his working clothes. I introduced him to the two scouts, Ebo and Dutch.  We sat in the living room.  He signed the contract.
    Then they got up, and my father said to me in Italian, "Take me back to the boat."

    So I drove him back.  My father asked, "What did you sign for?"--meaning what kind of money did you sign for.

    I said, "$35,000."

    He said, "America is a great country."

In both these books we get to see, once again, how baseball knits together generations of Americans, gives us memories we share first with brothers, fathers and grandfathers and then with sons and grandsons.  So, I never got to see Ralph Kiner play, but as a Mets announcer he explained games to me for thirty years, and now, thanks to the Frommers, here he is again sharing stories of his youth and of the game he loves and that he helped me and my brother learn to love.  And so his growing up baseball melds into ours.  America really is a great country and baseball its great game.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (B+)

  

Websites:

See also:

Harvey Frommer (5 books reviewed)
Sports (Baseball)
Harvey Frommer Links:

    -AUTHOR SITE: Harvey Frommer Sports
    -BOOK SITE: Remembering Yankee Stadium
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Remembering Yankee Stadium with Harvey Frommer (WCBS Radio)
    -BOOK SITE: Rickey and Robinson (Harvey Frommer)
    -ARCHIVES: Harvey Frommer on Sports & Culture (Travel-Watch)
    -EXCERPT: Dale Berra from Growing up Baseball
    -EXCERPT: Gene Conley from Growing up Baseball
    -EXCERPT: Pumpsie Green from Growing up Baseball
    -EXCERPT: Keith Hernandez from Growing up Baseball
    -EXCERPT: Monte Irvin from Growing up Baseball
    -EXCERPT: Mel Parnell from Growing up Baseball
    -EXCERPT: Johnny Pesky from Growing up Baseball
    -EXCERPT: Al Rosen from Growing up Baseball
    -EXCERPT: Nolan Ryan from Growing up Baseball
    -EXCERPT: Bobby Thomson from Growing up Baseball
    -ESSAY: Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -ESSAY: The Yankee Mystique (Harvey Frommer, Travel-Watch)
    -ESSAY: Don Larsen - The Perfect Game: October 8, 1956 (Harvey Frommer)
    -ESSAY: Celebrating Jackie Robinson (Harvey Frommer, January 31, 2000, Travel-Watch)
    -ESSAY: Bobby Thomson's Famous Homer Lives On (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -ESSAY: Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson  (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -ESSAY: The Mets Have Always Been Amazing (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -ESSAY: Shoeless Joe Remains a Scapegoat  (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -ESSAY: Remembering the Yankee Clipper: Joe DiMaggio  (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -ESSAY: Celebrating Hank Greenberg   (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -ESSAY: Yankees vs. Red Sox: Baseball's Greatest Rivalry  (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -ESSAY:  Reese was no Pee Wee (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -ESSAY: Willie Mays and the Month of May  (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -ESSAY: Gehrig's Streak (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -ESSAY: Yankee Stadium's First Opening Day (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -ESSAY: The Birth of Baseball's First Professional Team (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -ESSAY: Midsummer Classic: Midsummer Mockery (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -ESSAY: Subway Series  (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -ESSAY: Remembering Irving Rudd (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -ESSAY:  Satchel Paige: World's Greatest Pitcher (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -ESSAY: The Yankee Mystique (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -ESSAY:  Trade a Player a Year Too Early, Not a Year Too Late (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -ESSAY: Baseball's Mecca: The Hall of Fame in Cooperstown (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -ESSAY: The Harmonica Incident: August 20, 1964  (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -ESSAY:  The 1919 Black Sox (Part I) (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -ESSAY: The 1919 Black Sox (Part II)  (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -ESSAY: The First World Series  (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -ESSAY: Let's Play Two (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -ESSAY: Wee Willie Keeler: Good Things Come in Small Packages (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -ESSAY: The Big Train:  Walter Johnson, Baseball Immortal (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -ESSAY: New York City Baseball: Once Upon A Time (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -REVIEW: of Baseball's Best Shots  (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -REVIEW: of The Barry Halper Collection of Baseball Memorabilia (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -REVIEW: of Red Smith on Baseball (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -REVIEW: of "Fenway: A Biography in Words and Pictures"  (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -REVIEW: of  Yankee Doodle Dandies: Yankee Books  (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -REVIEW: of Baseball Books On Parade (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -REVIEW: of Sandy Koufax, Out of Brooklyn (Harvey Frommer, Baseball Library)
    -CHAT TRANSCRIPT: Growing Up Baseball with Harvey Frommer (Washington Post, 4/01/02)
    -CHAT TRANSCRIPT: It Happened in Manhattans with Myrna & Harvey Frommer (Washington Post, 5/13/02)
    -CHAT TRANSCRIPT: Baseball Labor Negotiations with Harvey Frommer (Washington Post, 8/30/02)
    -CHAT TRANSCRIPT: A Yankee Century with Harvey Frommer (Washington Post, 10/11/02)
    -REVIEW: of Remembering Yankee Stadium (Travis Nelson, Bleacher Report)
    -REVIEW: of A Yankee Century (Phil Speranza, Behind the Bombers)
    -REVIEW: of The New York Yankee Encyclopedia By Harvey Frommer (Dan Albaugh, World-Wide Collectors Digest)
    -REVIEW: of Primitive Baseball by Harvey Frommer (Gene Murdoch, Journal of Sport History)
    -REVIEW: of It Happened in Manhattan By Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer (Carter B. Horsley, City Review)
    -REVIEW: of It Happened in Manhattan (Kendal Dodge Butler, Culture Vulture)
    -REVIEW: of It Happened on Broadway:  An Oral History of the Great White Way By Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer (Carter B. Horsley, City Review)
    -REVIEW: of It Happened on Broadway (Kendal Dodge Butler, Culture Vulture)
    -REVIEW: of It Happened on Broadway (Victor Castillo, KC Stage)
    -REVIEW: of It Happened on Broadway (Elyse Sommer, Curtain Up)

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