This accounts for Tartabull and Kennedy, too; but what about Van Slyke, the son of a former high school principal? He devoured David Halberstam's breathtaking book about the Yankees-Red Sox pennant race, Summer of '49, in the midst of his own team's pennant race in the summer of '90. Van Slyke grew up in New Hartford, N.Y., but it is Cooperstown, 30 miles away, that he calls "a very special part of my life."
"I think it's important to know where the game has come from," he says, "where it's been and how it got where it is." Just then Van Slyke produces from his locker a crisp white T-shirt draped neatly on a hanger. He turns the hanger around to reveal the tableau on the front of the T. It is an illustration of a bang-bang play at second base, circa 1910. The shirt's lettering, from the same era, reads BASEBALL FOREVER.
"I love to read and hear about the old-time players," says Leyland in the manager's office across the clubhouse, "but guys today couldn't give a damn about who Babe Ruth was."