Sunday, December 15, 2013

Last Minute Xmas Gift for the Baseball- Conscious  

I'm interrupting the La Russa Invention of Agile series to share a quick and joyful book review just in time for last minute Kwanzaa and Samain shoppers to transcieve something cool. And it's an odd object for me to recommend.

It's the exact kind of "novelty" book that usually ends up being one of those phoned-in, phoney gimmick ideas some unimaginative publisher talked some mediocre house writer to pen. Last year's Damn Yankees: Twenty-Four Major League Writers on the World's Most Loved (and Hated) Team is thoroughly-amusing, readable, perfect bathroom book, whether you love or hate the Yankees (or like I do, respect the long history of skillful management while rooting against them no matter who they're playing... except one team).

The work is a collection of original essays by a blend of Yankee-haters but also by Yankee lovers who share their observation of Yankee haters. The 24 authors were well-chosen, especially at the beginning of the book, because while a couple of authors were phoning it in, they are the kind of authors who can totally get away with it because of their effortless humor. I count the Roy Blount, Jr. and Pete Dexter essays squarely in that category. Blount's, a jumble sale of cute anecdotes about the team and the players and his experiences as a fan tossed in no particular order. In less skillful hands, this is a prescription for mediocrity, but if you're willing to slalom though his topic shifts, the work is a total delight.

Pete Dexter's essay is hyperfocused on a single Yankee and said Yankee's doppelgänger, Dexter's feckless dog. Laugh out loud material. Which isn't how I'd describe Sally Jenkins' essay, reminiscences of her street athlete childhood, how she got various scars she wears to this day, and how it relates to the Yanks' Early Steinbrenner Era. It's a joy, because while I've read Jenkins for years and appreciated her insight without loving her work, this is a revealing and engaging glimpse into the person behind the byline.

Damn Yankees is light. It has only the most slender connection to management topics (some of the sociological insights by and about Yankee haters do illustrate personality angles you should take into consideration when you manage people). It's a fine book that'll put several smiles on a baseball-engaged person's face.

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