The New York Yankees are the team fans love to hate, unless they’re the team that fans love to love. Editor Rob Fleder explores that dichotomy in his new book, Damn Yankees: Twenty-four Major League Writers on the World’s Most Loved (and Hated) Team. Bill Littlefield spoke with Fleder and contributor Will Leitch about the project.
Bill’s thoughts on Damn Yankees
William Nack’s “Day of the Locust” presents a chilling account of the reception the 1977 Yankees received when their plane returned to New York after the Yanks had won the American League Championship Series. The crowd at the airport was loud, drunk, and physical. The wives travelling with the Yankee players were genuinely frightened. So were the Yankees. In what Nack calls “an eerie replay of that final scene in Hitchcock’s The Birds, the ballplayers tried to make their way through the throng of dangerous idiots without inciting any of them to further mayhem. It’s a powerful and chilling scene, and it may change forever the way you think about fans.
Even better is Pete Dexter’s “The Errors of Our Ways,” in which the celebrated novelist discusses the unraveling of Chuck Knoblauch, the Yankee second baseman who mysteriously lost the ability to throw the ball to first base. With patience and precision, Dexter explores what is tragic and what is funny in this bizarre occurrence. Then he finds in Knoblauch’s twisted career similarities to his own mixed and mysterious circumstances, and he invites us to find ourselves within it as well. It’s as good and funny and ambitious as any short essay I’ve read, and worth the price of Damn Yankees.