Cecil Harris, an African American sportswriter, grew up in Brooklyn, New York, in the 1960s. His father and brother rooted for the Mets, more by default than out of any real fealty, because they felt that the Yankees (and the Red Sox, for that matter) were racist clubs that held out until the very end to draft black players. Harris, a stubborn child who danced to his own drummer, chose to root for the Yankees. His loyalty was tested often; the Sixties and much of the Seventies were barren times for the estimable club which often finished several games out of the pennant. In this narrative, which promises much but unfortunately loses its way toward the middle and never finds its center even at the end, Harris describes his love affair with the club both as a sportswriter covering the team and as a fan.
Harris has a unique perspective to offer in the book. As an African American sportswriter, he is one of a small group covering professional athletes, the vast majority of whom are black. Unfortunately though, except in a couple of well-narrated incidents, Harris does not make use of his singular position. He spends much of the book in his description of Yankee heroes such as Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams. In doing that, he does not have much to offer other than the banal recycling of events already chronicled in newspapers.
When Harris chooses to speak about black ballplayers, he often hits the mother lode. The high-strung slugger Albert Belle had a number of run-ins with the press. When he saw Harris approach him for an interview, he wrongly assumed that Harris would support him no matter what. When Harris failed to be anything other than an objective reporter, like a spurned lover Belle let Harris take the full force of his wrath. Rickey Henderson, the base stealer extraordinaire, was a high-maintenance player who very often felt unappreciated. When he was no longer the highest-paid player on his team, he expected to use Harris as his personal publicist to make his displeasure public. Much to his surprise, Harris took the high road.
What starts out as an African American reporter and fan’s observations of his favorite team – a perspective that is both unique and refreshing – meanders from this singular premise and once derailed does not get back on its tracks. It is a pity, because Harris is a genuine talent and in several instances in the book, shows his potential.