Those Damn Yankees
It was the perfect season. In 1998, baseball’s fans thrilled to Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire’s home run slugfest and the Yankees won more games in a season than any team in Major League history. Baseball boomed across the US but the biggest bang was in New York where millions celebrated at a victory motorcade along the Avenue of Heroes. It takes courage, and perhaps a little perversity, to decline an invitation to such a party, but Dean Chadwin was otherwise engaged. In a savvy, discursive look at the Yankees’ 1998 season Chadwin questions whether the foundation of the team’s victory, unmatched television revenues being used to buy the best players, might not spell the end of competition and declining public interest in the national game. Records tumbled, Chadwin contends, less because of unprecedented excellence than as a result of grotesquely unequal competition between the haves and have-nots of the Major League, an imbalance which shows every sign of getting worse. Chadwin’s irreverent journey is taken on rarely traveled byways through the Yankee legend: a century of fan misbehavior, the roots of statistical obsessions, the corrupt ties between the game and the media, and fraught attitudes toward race and sexuality which continue to haunt the franchise today. Readers are seated on the bleachers to hear the Creature’s fifth inning anthem ‘YMCA’, sung to the words ‘Why are you gay?’, and are escorted to the office of the Boss as he shafts Darryl Strawberry, sues his partners, and tells Mayor Rudy Giuliani that, if he is good, he’ll be allowed to donate hundreds of millions of public money toward a new stadium. Those Damn Yankees sounds a warning on the future of baseball as it abandons the spellbinding tension of closely fought games for one sided charades dressed up as tv spectacles. Such a shift will likely sustain the Yankee’s winning streak and will certainly ensure even bigger profits for the top sides’ owners, but it will sadly leave many of the game’s truest fans outside the gate.