Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Even before George Steinbrenner died I was interested in reading his biography "The Last Lion of Baseball" by sportswriter Bill Madden. Steinbrenner was a fascinating individual and the book was an excellent read. It goes into detail about the early years of his Yankee ownership thanks to detailed notes and recordings by early general manager Gabe Paul. The anecdotes about Steinbrenner are priceless. You see how he treats those who worked for and even to the people who liked him, It's humorously appalling.
I would have loved it more if I had not spotted some factual errors throughout the book. The first one I spotted was when Madden mentioned that Rich "Goose" Gossage signed a contract worth 25 million dollars over 5 years with the San Diego Padres in 1984. I thought that that money was way too high for a post peak closer signing for a medium market baseball team back then. 5 million a year would be more than double the highest paid player of the era. So I checked and sure enough, It turns out he signed a 5 million dollar contract over five years.
The second mistake I spotted is my nitpicking on history. Madden writes that The Yankees had beaten out the California Angels by one game for the Al wild card in 1995. In actual fact it was a one game playoff between the Mariners and the California Angels that knocked the Angels out of the running. Nitpicking to be sure, But I like the idea of giving the Mariners their due.
A third mistake was more problematic. Madden points out that the 2000 New York Mets had "...crept into the postseason as a wild card, had beaten both the NL West champion Arizona Diamondbacks in the Division Series and the NL East champion Atlanta Braves in the NLCS to advantage as the Yankees' opponent in World Series."
Okay, a few things were wrong with that. First of all the Mets played the Diamondbacks and the Braves in the playoffs in 1999, And second of all the Mets LOST to the Braves that year in the playoffs. The teams the Mets beat in the playoffs in 2000 were the Giants and the Cardinals.
The fourth mistake was a typo maybe but I think Madden just had the year wrong. He mentions the gathering of the Yankee executives in what to do with Joe Torre after his last season managing the Yankees. Madden says the contentious meeting which would lead to Joe Torre rejecting the Yankees contract offer as happening on October 17, 2008. That was a year off, At that point both Joe Giaradi and Joe Torre had finished managing their first seasons of the Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers respectively.
There may have been other mistakes I missed and I look forward to the book being published in paperback to see if the mistakes were corrected and a chapter dealing with Steinbrenner's passing.
I recommend this book for both Yankee fans and Yankee haters. It's also a fascinating biography of a volatile but savvy businessmen.