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The combination of Red Smith's passing, the political correctness of the rest of the paper, and a grown man with a name like Buster somehow combined to ensure that I'd never read anything by Mr. Olney until this book. That was certainly my own loss, as he proves to be a tremendous journalist and a good, if not necessarily great, writer. He'll never be confused with Smith, Roger Angell or Tom Boswell, but that's an awfully high standard. Meanwhile, he makes excellent use of the dramatic arc he's been handed in order to portray the rise and "fall" of the latest Yankee dynasty as a kind of Greek tragedy, complete with a "hero," the Yankees' notorious owner, who succumbs to hubris:
For a decade, George Steinbrenner had grudgingly deferred to some of his high-ranking baseball advisors -- Gene Michael, Brian Cashman, Joe Torre, Mark Newman -- when major decisions were considered. But some of his executives thought the loss to the Diamondbacks damaged their credibility in the owner's eyes. Steinbrenner took the reins back, veering onto his own erratic course, following his impetuous instincts. "You have no idea, day to day, what he's going to do," said one club official in 2003.
The Yankees have obviously remained a very good team, but you can't help noticing that as Mr. Olney somewhat audaciously predicted in the title of his book, they haven't won a World Series in a while now.

The format of the book is reminiscent of Daniel Okrent's great Nine Innings, as Mr. Olney intercuts a series of biographies and set pieces of reportage about the building of the Yankee team with the play by play of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. Along the way he makes it very much harder for a Yankee hater to dislike guys like Paul O'Neill, Scot Brosius, Tino Martinez and Mariano Rivera and develops a real sense of admiration for the work that Gene Michael in particular, but also Joe Torre, Brian Cashman and company put into developing a team that would play a certain brand of baseball. In this last regard, the book could almost be considered par of a trilogy--along with Moneyball and Feeding the Monster--about how the modern understanding of baseball statistics and some managerial vision, persistence, and patience can be used to build a winning ball club. But it also demonstrates just how hard it is to get the guys who write the pay checks to stick to the plan.


(Reviewed:)

Grade: (A-)

  

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Sports (Baseball)
Buster Olney Links:

    -AUTHOR SITE: Buster Olney (Harper Collins)
    -BLOG: Buster Olney (ESPN Insider)
    -Buster Olney (Wikipedia)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Buster Olney (IMDB.com)
    -EXCERPT: Epilogue: 'The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty' (Buster Olney, 5/02/05, ESPN)
    -EXCERPT: First Chapter from Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty
    -PROFILE: The Confidence Man: Inside the mind of baseballs greatest closer, Mariano Rivera. (Buster Olney, June 28, 2004, New York Magazine)
    -ESSAY: Yankees fans have come to love Clemens: Pitcher is enjoying best year of his career (Buster Olney, September 30, 2001, New York Times)
    -ESSAY: Will he throw it away?: Knoblauch works hard on his second chance (Buster Olney, February 18, 2001, New York Times)
    -ESSAY: No place like home: Mussina braces for the Big Apple (Buster Olney, December 10, 2000, New York Times)
    -ESSAY: Clemens and Pettitte Are Workout in Progress (Buster Olney, October 21, 2000, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: For Clemens, No Shea Start Is No Secret (Buster Olney, 10/20/00, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: Clemens Floors Mariners as Yankees Take Commanding Lead in Series (Buster Olney, 10/15/00, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: A's ace first test: Oakland sinks fading Yankees (Buster Olney, October 4, 2000, New York Times)
    -ESSAY: Clemens's New Deal Is Most Unusual (Buster Olney, 8/12/00, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: Rivera's victims get no relief: Hitters fear Yankees closer's out pitch (Buster Olney, April 9, 2000, New York Times)
    -ESSAY: YANKEES 3, RANGERS 0 (Buster Olney, Oct 10, 1999, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: Yankees' Torre has prostate cancer (Buster Olney, Mar 11, 1999, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: Clemens brings baggage (Buster Olney, Feb 21, 1999, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: Picture perfect (Buster Olney, May 18, 1998, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: The King of Contact (Buster Olney, January 17, 2005, ESPN The Magazine)
    -ESSAY: A deserved rest (Buster Olney, Sep 21, 1998, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: RELUCTANT STAR: Reds' Griffey doesn't enjoy being in spotlight (Buster Olney, June 23, 2002, New York Times)
    -ESSAY: Our town: a national tragedy hits home for Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina (Buster Olney, March 3, 1997, Sporting News)
    -REVIEW: of A LEGEND IN THE MAKING: The New York Yankees in 1939. By Richard J. Tofel (Buster Olney, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of PERFECT I'M NOT: Boomer on Beer, Brawls, Backaches, and Baseball By David Wells with Chris Kreski (Buster Olney, NY Times Book Review)
    -ARCHIVES: buster olney (NPR)
    -ARCHIVES: Buster Olney (ESPN)
    -ARCHIVES: Times Topics > Buster Olney (NY Times)
    -ARCHIVES: "buster olney" (Find Articles)
    -PROFILE: A Long Road to ESPN (Tony Lane, 8/18/06, Valley News)
    -PROFILE: Yorktown resident pens book on Yankees dynasty (Rick Pezzullo, 9/29/04, North Country News)
    -INTERVIEW: Change Up: Baseball writer Buster Olney tells Jose Negroni what it is like to go from the dugout to the sky box. (Jose Negroni, NY Review of Magazines)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Buster Olney (Mark Moran, April 30, 2005, KJZZ Radio)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Author/writer Buster Olney talks about the playoffs and his new book about the end of the Yankee dynasty of the late '90's (Baseball Breakfast, 9/12/04, MLB.com)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Upset in Underdog Nation (Dick Gordon, 10/22/2004, The Connection)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Baseball Makes Pitch for Global Audience: The World Baseball Classic is Major League Baseball's attempt to go global. Will it pay off, or is it just a distraction? Liane Hansen asks Buster Olney, a senior writer for ESPN: The Magazine. (Weekend Edition Sunday, March 5, 2006)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Yankees Dynasty?: As the New York Yankees continue their bid for another world series title, NPR's Tom Goldman considers the history of the Yankee's mystique. (All Things Considered, October 27, 2001)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: World Series Preview (All Things Considered, October 22, 1999)
    -INTERVIEW: Bronx Banter Interview: Buster Olney (Alex Belth, 9/01/04, Bronx Banter)
    -INTERVIEW: OUT AT THE OLD BALLGAME: Opening weekend for Major League Baseball came amid league-led efforts to stamp out the use of steroids. Terence Smith discusses the battle against performance-enhancing drugs with Buster Olney of ESPN magazine. (Online Newshour, 4/05/04)
    -ESSAY: Professional Baseball and Fan Disillusionment: A Religious Ritual Analysis (Jeffrey Scholes, University of Denver/Iliff School of Theology, Summer 04, Journal of Religion and Popular Culture)
    -REVIEW: of The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty: The Game, the Team, and the Cost of Greatness by Buster Olney (David Margolick, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty (Kevin Baker, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty (Bill Reynolds, Providence Journal)
    -REVIEW: of Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty (Ron Wynn, City Paper)
    -REVIEW: of Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty (Benjamin Kabak, Talking Baseball)
    -REVIEW: of Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty (Eric Olsen, Blog Critics)
    -REVIEW: of Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty (Batter's Box)
    -REVIEW: of Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty (Paul Katcher)
    -REVIEW: of Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty (Daniel Paulling, AtHomePlate)

Book-related and General Links:

    -ESSAY: The House That Steinbrenner Is Building (Ken Belson, 7/23/06, NY Times)

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