All Roads Lead to October
By Maury Allen/ St. Martin's Press, $24.95
This book, subtitled Boss Steinbrenner's 25-Year Reign over the New York Yankees, has many of the virtues and nearly all the defects of a meandering bull session among vintage baseball writers. Allen tells a good story, as anyone who has covered New York baseball for the better part of four decades should. One anecdote will remind him of another, sometimes only dimly related to the first, and he'll be off and running. Fortunately, he generally finds his way back to Point A, although there is no assurance the reader will join him there.
Along his wandering way, Allen covers a lot of ground, some of it quite familiar, and introduces a vast assortment of characters, some of them even more familiar. He's at his best issuing pithy assessments of such personalities as Reggie Jackson, Billy Martin, Thurman Munson and the curmudgeonly sportswriter Dick Young. His protagonist, though, is the most complicated character of them all, the Boss, George Steinbrenner. Allen captures the paradoxical mixture of callousness and generosity, arrogance and sentimentality, competence and silliness that propelled the Yankee leader onto baseball's center stage. There is even the suggestion that the man might have a conscience. Allen thinks that despite "a generation of tyranny and terror" Steinbrenner might well belong in the Hall of Fame.
Me and Hank
By Sandy Tolan/The Free Press, $24
On the surface this is a fan's love letter to his boyhood idol, Hank Aaron. But if the reader can wade through the first 50 pages of treacle, he'll find much more than initially meets the eye. A freelance writer and radio producer, Tolan examines Aaron's record-breaking, troubled and now increasingly overlooked career from every conceivable angle, interviewing the slugger's family, friends, fans and teammates. There is rich material here. I just wish the author hadn't called his hero "Hank" all the way through.
See How She Runs
By Ron Rapoport/Algonquin Books, $21.95
With the Olympic Games virtually upon us, the timing couldn't be more ripe for a biography of America's greatest female track athlete, Marion Jones, even if she's not yet 25-years-old. Rapoport, who writes for the Chicago Sun-Times and is a contributor to National Public Radio, certainly should be capable of bringing such a short life to, well, life. The only problem is that his affection for his subject and his reverence for her deeds are so manifest that this biography reads more like hagiography. Not that this will much bother Jones's international legion of fans.