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Baseball Fans Talk "Damn Yankees" in Tarrytown

TARRYTOWN, N.Y. – When Rob Fleder decided to compile a book about the Yankees, he wanted to make sure he included writers who hated the team.

I didn't want the book to “be another Yankees book that just covered the same old Yankees mythology,” Fleder said.

“Damn Yankees: Twenty-Four Major League Writers on the World's Most Loved (And Hated) Team” is the result of Fleder's work. The book is a collection of 24 essays, reporting and humor about the famed baseball franchise. Fleder, a former executive editor of Sports Illustrated, spoke about his book at Warner Library on Monday with Alex Belth of the Bronx Banter blog.

A small group of about 20 people gathered in the reading room to hear Fleder and Belth chat about the book and the Yankees. More than a few audience members brought their own stories or perspectives about the team to the conversation.

The first question in Belth's mind was why Fleder decided another book about the Yankees was needed.

“Great forests have died to produce books about the Yankees,” Fleder said. ”I thought that if I could get many of the best writers... that it could be a book that could be different from all the others.”

Fleder's strategy was to get many of the best writers he could and let them come up with ideas, noting that some of the book's best pieces were things he could never have thought up.

One writer decided to tackle the story of Chuck Knoblauch, whose second-base throwing skills suddenly stopped during a game and he never really recovered. Knoblauch “gets to the top of the world,” Fleder said, and then he “ends up paying the price.”

Fleder pointed out other pieces which dealt with an Irish-American writer learning to love baseball from his son, a twist to the old cliché, and a piece that dealt with the first Yankees game after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“That was one of those moments that transcended sports,” Fleder said.

The book ends with a piece on the mortality of Yankee players. Fleder notes that the writer remembered getting news of various Yankee deaths throughout his life and he had visited several graves of Yankee players.

Fleder and Belth ended the conversation with a comparison of “Damn Yankees” and another recently-released book “Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees From Before the Babe to After the Boss" by Marty Appel, a former publc relations director for the team.

The two noted Fleder's book wasn't afraid to point out the team's flaws, unlike “Pinstripe Empire.”

“I'm not going to be a part of the official Yankee canon,” Fleder said jokingly.

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