Are you a Yankee hater? I mean, do you really hate 'em? I know you think George is a bloated jerk and Billy's a brat, but do you loathe every last one of 'em—all the way back to when they were still called the Highlanders? Do you hate their money, their arrogance, the cursed pinstripes? Do you pray every night that they all sprain their thumbs in a mass shower-room brawl? If so—then, have I got a book for you!
It's The Official New York Yankees Hater's Handbook, by William B. Mead ( G.P. Putnam's Sons, $5.95), and it'll keep you happy through a week of rain delays. Mead has packed the book's 112 pages with everything that's ever gone wrong with the Yankees—every bad trade, every strikeout with the bases loaded, every biting quote by a rival, every dumb quote by their owners, every case of acne suffered by a Yankee player—beginning with the allegation that First Baseman Hal Chase (1905-1913) dumped games. Mead isn't so much a writer as he is an encyclopedist; if you worry that he has left out one of your favorite examples of Yankee perfidy, don't.
Mead reminds us of the fact, undoubtedly kept out of print by generations of Yankee p.r. men bribing reporters, that the Baby Ruth candy bar was not named after you know who, but after President Grover Cleveland's daughter Ruth—take that, you Yankee lovers! Speaking of presidents, there's a handsome still in the book from the movie The Winning Team, showing Ronald Reagan playing Grover Cleveland Alexander and about to pitch to Tony Lazzeri with two out and the bases loaded in the seventh inning of the seventh game of the 1926 World Series. Reagan and Alexander both struck out Lazzeri, and the Cardinals won the Series. This episode is featured in the Hater's Handbook, chapter eight, which is entitled "Great Yankee Humiliations." But don't get the idea that such mild titles are the standard here. The previous chapter, an unbiased discussion of Yankee tradition, is called "A Trail of Slime," which, obviously, is more like it.
Nearly all of page 44 is taken up by a large picture and its caption—the climax of chapter five, "The Truths Behind Yankee Myths." The myth this picture is meant to debunk is that Babe Ruth, emaciated and hoarse from the cancer that would kill him in seven weeks, "made his last ball park appearance before a huge and adoring Yankee Stadium throng on June 13, 1948." The picture, taken on June 19 of that year, shows the gaunt Ruth, bent over and holding on to a microphone, bidding farewell to a "largely empty" Sportsman's Park in St. Louis. Mead's caption tastefully points out: "Not even the bat boy is paying attention as...."
Thanks for taking the trouble to set the record straight, Bill.