THE DIAMOND IN THE BRONX: Yankee Stadium and the Politics of New York
by Neil J. Sullivan/ Oxford University Press, $30
The house that Ruth built is the focal point of this wide-ranging exploration into the avarice and folly of what Sullivan calls "the stadium game." Irony abounds. For example, Yankee Stadium was built in the middle of Prohibition by a man who made a fortune selling beer. Jacob Ruppert may have benefited from having political friends at Tammany Hall, but the ballpark, privately financed, was his, not the city's. Fifty years later, in 1973, the city assumed ownership of Yankee Stadium before rebuilding it for $100 million in public money at a time when New York City was on the brink of bankruptcy. Now, a quarter century later, the city is being pressed by the Yankees' principal owner to build a new stadium at public expense.
That's the stadium game as it has been played across the country for 50 years. The moment municipalities indicated their willingness to spend taxpayers' money for new stadiums, the owners of sports franchises had the whip hand. Build us a place to play, they say, or we'll take our game elsewhere. Moving to another town, writes Sullivan, has become "a feasible option and a credible threat."
But is this any way to run a city? That question is posed by the author, a professor of public affairs at Baruch College, of the City University of New York. "At their worst," Sullivan writes, "publicly financed stadiums represent a luxury for the privileged, paid for largely by the middle class, in communities that often neglect the essential needs of the helpless."
Oh, how those other sports magnates must detest San Francisco Giants owner Pete Magowan, who with a little help from his friends privately financed construction of his team's beautiful new Pacific Bell Park, just as Jake Ruppert had done almost 80 years earlier.
1918—BABE RUTH AND THE WORLD CHAMPION RED SOX
by Allan Wood/Writers Club Press, $20.95
Was Boston's last victorious World Series—way back in 1918—fixed? That possibility is suggested in the last chapter of this history of the long-ago encounter between the two classic also-rans of the modern game, the Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs. Gambling was rampant then, and as we now know, the next World Series was definitely in the tank.
Wood, a sportswriter and music critic, only speculates about a crooked '18 Series. The rest of his book provides an entertaining and exhaustive account of a tumultuous season that was threatened and then shortened by the exigencies of World War 1. This was also the year that Babe Ruth made what would soon become a permanent move from the mound to the outfield. Although later, as a Yankee, he was strictly a slugger, in 1918 Ruth demonstrated his astonishing versatility by pitching and powering Boston to its last world championship.
By then, Red Sox fans were notoriously jaded, what with five Series titles in 15 years and no end to the victory parade in sight. If only they had known.
A FEEL FOR THE GAME
by Ben Crenshaw with Melanie Hauser/Doubleday, $24.95