As Captain Renault famously said in Casablanca: “Round up the usual suspects!”
Well, the part of Renault was recently played by Rep. Henry Waxman (D.-Calif.) as he called pitcher Roger Clemens and Clemens’s trainer Brian McNamee before his House Oversight Committee. The committee also took sworn depositions from Andy Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch, members of the Yankee championship teams of the late 1990s and 2000.
What emerged was what Yogi Berra famously called “déjà vu all over again,” as the public was drawn back to the congressional hearings of March 2005 when Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Curt Schilling and Jose Canseco testified before Congress. What happened then was, indeed, shocking. McGwire didn’t want to talk about the past; Sosa suddenly couldn’t understand English, Palmeiro announced his purity, which would turn out to be a canard later in the summer; and Schilling, it seemed, was the only clean one in the bunch. The name that caught all the attention was Jose Canseco, whose book, Juiced, had focused the initial attention on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. Canseco, an admitted steroid user, took heat, but a lot of what he said turned out to be right
Three years later, Canseco is back with his sequel, Vindicated, which Simon Spotlight will publish on April 1. This title is embargoed, and Simon Spotlight is not giving out information until Canseco appears on Nightline on Friday, March 28. Like Canseco’s career and reputation, the book has taken a beating on its way to publication. It was shopped extensively before finally being picked up by Penguin/Berkley in late December 2007. Shortly thereafter, former SI sportswriter Don Yaeger, who had been hired to co-write the book, dropped out of the project, saying, “There’s no meat on the bones.” He was referring specifically, he says, to the allegations about steroid use by Yankee Alex Rodriguez. “I don’t think there’s a book there,” Yaeger told the New York Daily News. “I don’t think he’s got what he claims to have, certainly doesn’t have what he claims to have on A-Rod.”
Less than a month later, Berkley dropped the project, and it was picked up by Simon Spotlight. PW asked Jen Bergstrom, v-p/publisher of Simon Spotlight Entertainment, why she decided to publish Vindicated. “The same reason I decide to publish any book,” she says. “I started reading it, and I couldn’t put it down. I devoured it in one sitting.” Asked if she was troubled that Berkley had dropped the project so quickly, Bergstrom says, “Not at all. They’re a fantastic publisher. Obviously, I wasn’t privy to their reasons for not wanting to move forward, but publishing is a very subjective business.” Yaeger’s comment about there being “no meat on the bones” didn’t bother her either. “Don Yaeger didn’t read what I read,” Bergstrom says.
PW was able to secure a copy of the proposal that was sent around for Vindicated. It seems pretty tame stuff except for the ending, which promises “revelations about Alex Rodriguez,... Mike Piazza and other members of the New York Yankees.” The new ghostwriter, Pablo Fenjves, who wrote If I Did It with O.J. Simpson, recently told Time that Vindicated is “full of rich anecdotes,” adding, “I don’t think anybody is going to be disappointed.”
Simon Spotlight is planning a 250,000-copy first printing and plans to kick off the publicity with the Nightline appearance. Canseco will also be hitting such shows as Letterman, Howard Stern and Hannity & Colmes along with a coast-to-coast six-city tour.
Canseco and McGwire, teammates on the Oakland A’s in the 1990s, are the focus of Bash Brothers: A Legacy Subpoenaed by Dale Tafoya, which Potomac Books is rushing out to stores in May. Kevin Cuddihy, acquisitions editor for Potomac, tell PW, “As a fan, the most startling revelation to me is the amount of acceptance that seemed to come from many of the people that Dale interviewed. 'Yeah, we knew it was going on’ seemed to be a common response.”
“McGwire’s little brother was in the A’s clubhouse regularly,” continues Cuddihy, “and talked openly about steroids. How did this not raise red flags?”
Potomac plans to pay special attention to signings and publicity in the Bay Area, plus Miami and St. Louis. Potomac estimates a first printing of 5,000—10,000-copies.
If there was ever an appropriately named book, it’s Steroid Nation by Shaun Assael, published last October. “The book has been selling very well since December 13,” says Chris Ramond of ESPN Books, “the day Sen. George Mitchell released his report on steroid use in baseball. Hours before Mitchell stepped to the podium, Assael broke the story that Roger Clemens would be named in the report. He spent the whole day on ESPN, Fox and CNN discussing that news.
“The book has lots of juicy stuff—pun intended—about Lyle Alzado and Dan Duchaine, author of the Underground Steroid Handbook, and each maddening setback for the people fighting to stop steroid abuse. It’s a fascinating detective story, really. You discover links to Capitol Hill [read: industry friendly Sen. Orrin Hatch], to Wall Street, to Madison Avenue, to the governor’s mansion in California [read: Arnold Schwarzenegger]. We have this infatuation with youth in this country, and it’s that infatuation that fuels the performance-enhancing drug industry. If you look at the steroid problem in that way, it’s terrifying. Because our kids do what we do, not what we say.”
Getting an artificial edge is nothing new. As Roger I. Abrams points out in The Dark Side of the Diamond (Rounder Books), athletes in ancient Greece would “pulverize the testes of bulls, dogs and sheep and brew a tea.” In the late 19th century, a French-American physiologist, Charles Brown-Sequard, gathered the testicles of a guinea pig and dog and made an elixir that he tried on himself. The results drew such positive publicity that a base-ballist named James “Pud” Galvin (pictured), according to the Washington Post of August 14, 1889, tried the potion, and the sterling game he pitched “is the best proof yet furnished of the value of the discovery.” Galvin went on to become baseball’s first 300-game winner and was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
It took another century for the art of doping to deeply infect the game. Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter was leaving baseball just as the steroid craze began in the early 1990s. In his new autobiography from Triumph Books, Still a Kid at Heart (Apr.), Carter takes a look at baseball’s recent home run production and comments, “In baseball’s first 125 years, the 50 home run mark had been reached only 17 times, four of them by the incomparable Babe Ruth. Since 1995, the 50-homer plateau has been reached 23 times.” What Carter doesn’t say is that in those 17 times, besides Ruth, you had such immortals as Jimmy Foxx, Ralph Kiner, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, all of whom reached the 50 homer plateau twice each. Some of the names who have reached it in the last 12 years include the likes of Brady Anderson, Greg Vaughn and Luis Gonzales—none of whom will ever gain Hall of Fame recognition.
The secret to being a great hitter is bat speed, says Carter, and “there is definitely a correlation between the use of steroids and bat speed.” He quotes a recent study by a Tufts University physicist published in the American Journal of Physics that says steroids could help batters hit 50% more home runs by boosting their muscle mass by just 10%.
Carter goes on to say, “[T]here’s no doubt in my mind, if I had taken steroids I could have extended my career by three or four years.” He also states unequivocally: “The bottom line is that the use of steroids is not only illegal, it’s cheating.”
For 85 years it’s been known as “The House That Ruth Built”; “The Big Ballpark,” as Red Barber used to call it; or simply, to most New Yorkers, “The Stadium.” After this season the home of the New York Yankees will be torn down, replaced by a new Yankee Stadium being built right next to it for Opening Day 2009. But the Stadium’s final year promises to be exciting, as the 2008 major league All-Star Game will take place there and, already, fans are fighting over seats for the season finale with Baltimore on September 21. And will there be a postseason in that old ballyard in the Bronx?
Publishers are ready to cash in on all the nostalgia that promises to take place over the long summer. Pocket has teamed with the Yankees and Major League Baseball to produce Yankee Stadium: The Official Retrospective by Mark Vancil and Alfred Santasiere III (Mar.). “Our book is supported by and in cooperation with the New York Yankees, who have already been instrumental in promoting our book on the YES Network,” says Louise Burke, Pocket’s executive v-p/publisher, “and they will continue to drive fans to the book throughout this year and next year when the new stadium is unveiled.” Pocket is printing 175,000 copies of the oversized $50 book. The Retrospective will feature plenty of nonbaseball highlights that are part of the stadium’s history, including its part in major events in the NFL, boxing and college football, not to mention as venue to everyone from the pope to Bill Joel.
Another book with its unique twist is Yankee Stadium: A Tribute by Les Krantz (Mar.). “Getting testimonials from Yankee greats to enhance the greatest stories in the stadium’s history was one thing,” says Mauro DiPreta, v-p/editorial director of Harper Entertainment. “Another was being price conscious and providing real value, and at $29.95, this book does that. Especially when you consider that we’ve also created a DVD that looks back at the golden years of the ballpark. Getting a Hall of Famer and Mr. October—Reggie Jackson himself—to narrate the DVD was a real coup. This clearly makes it stand apart from all the other competition out there.” Harper plans a 50,000 first printing backed by major publicity and a 20-city national radio satellite tour.
“A Yankee Stadium Scrapbook by David Fischer,” says Greg Jones, editorial director of Running Press, “is presented as a personal-looking scrapbook that any Yankee fan may have kept over the years. It’s accessible to Yankees fans of all ages as it’s chock-full of awesome photos and entertaining text that brings to life all the greatest moments in the history of the Yankees franchise as well as the stadium itself.” A first printing of 50,000 copies is being backed by heavy New York City print and broadcast media.
According to Triumph’s Mitch Rogatz, Memories of Yankee Stadium by Scott Pitoniak (Mar.) “is a hold-in-the-palm-of-your-hand little treasure that softly and warmly transports fans of any age and era back to their own, personal Yankee Stadium experience.” Rogatz is talking with one of the major radio networks about nationwide commercials to coincide with media coverage of the All-Star Game. The first printing will be 22,000 copies.
A more cynical look at Yankee Stadium over the years is The Diamond in the Bronx: Yankee Stadium and the Politics of New York by Neil J. Sullivan. Originally published in 2001, Oxford University Press added an epilogue to this January 2008 reissue that covers things right up to the opening of the new Yankee Stadium next year—one has to wonder if it includes hosting a World Series.
Over the years, much has been made of the role of the great radio voices in baseball, but never a book like this. New York—based conceptual artist Kenneth Goldsmith has transcribed every word—play-by-play, on-air promos and conversational banter—uttered by two New York Yankees announcers throughout the course of a five-hour radio broadcast from Fenway Park in August 2006. The book begins with an ad for “1 800 LAW CASH” and ends with “the Yankees win! The Yankees win!,” but along the way every precious detail and numbing non-sequitur imaginable passes by in the 40,000-word stream that narrates the contest. For Yankee aficionados, who either love or hate the team’s radio voices—John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman—this is a delicious fastball right down the middle, as Ma and Pa Pinstripe become punchy during the long, drawn-out second game of a doubleheader: “We’re in the top of the seventh, one out, no one on, the Yankees are trailing 10-7 in the nightcap, which is what I need.” “Twenty after eleven in the seventh inning, I don’t think so.” Yankee fans will know who is saying what in that exchange. For non-Yankee fans and students of the game, Sports (the third in a trilogy, following Goldsmith’s Traffic and Weather) is exhibit A in how advertising has deeply insinuated itself into the game itself—“Hideki Matsui may be out but you don’t have to miss out. There’s always a great show at Benihana.” Goldsmith, a professor at Penn and editor of I’ll Be Your Mirror: The Selected Andy Warhol Interviews, has, in an offhand, irreverent fashion, atomized the spirit of today’s game better than any boxscore or lyrical paean. Published by Ara Shirinyan’s Make Now Press in Los Angeles.