Summer is upon us and time for some good reads. I tend to not review the many new book releases but two have come to my attention:
New York Yankees Firsts authored by esteemed colleague and NY Sportsday columnist Howie Karpin. Publisher: Lyons Press with 31 illustrations, 31 photos. Available Paperback.
RingMaster Vince McMahon And The Unmaking of America authored by Abraham Riesman Publisher: Atria Books. Hardcover. Definitive biography of the pro wrestling kingpin.
I have known Howie Karpin as a friend and colleague for 42 years. He is a reputed sports journalist, accredited official scorer in New York for Major League Baseball, and on-air update anchor for Sirius XM Sports. He has authored or co-authored 12 books.
Though, without expressing my partiality here, I have to admit “New York Yankees Firsts” was well researched. Karpin has authored some outstanding books the past few years. This one, though, may have outdone all the others.
Yankees fan or not, this is a first with facts and information a baseball fan will appreciate. I, for one, will tell you sitting in the press box with Karpin at Yankee Stadium or at Citi Field becomes a baseball lesson. He knows the facts, inside and outs of the game, and what the late Bert Sugar was to boxing, Karpin is that with baseball and the New York Yankees.
There are stories behind the firsts in Yankees’ history in question and answer format, not to be confused with a trivia book. His prevailing collection includes informative answers to the question of “Who was first…? There are a variety of topics.
“Went into the annals and discovered firsts about the Yankees I never knew,” said Karpin, a Bronx resident and longtime fan of the Yankees and Mets. Of course, the Yankees, the historic franchise aptly known and referred also as “The Bronx Bombers.”
The players, moments, and records that were first in team history.:
Robinson Cano, Russell Martin, and Curtis Granderson became the first trio in major league history to hit grand slam home runs in the same game, August 25, 2011 the Yankees hosted the Oakland Athletics.
May 12,1944, pitcher Bill Bevens made his major-league debut against the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium and became the first Yankee rookie pitcher to give up a home run to the first batter he faced.
Glenallen Hill, remember him? Acquired in a trade with the Chicago Cubs on July 21, 2000, was the first Yankee designated hitter to win the American League Player of the Month award.
So many more Yankees firsts. As Karpin says, “One thing we know for sure. A first of something can only happen once. In baseball, for the players, a first game, first hit, or first home run will be forever etched in their memories. For a pitcher, a first team, first batter faced, first strikeout, first win, or first save will be a memorable experience.”
The experience, though, reading “New York Yankees Firsts.”
RingMaster: We know Vince McMahon, the wrestling promoter who became a billionaire with his conglomerate known as World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) once known as the WWF and because of copyright restrictions the name was changed.
I thought I knew McMahon, once having worked in the pro wrestling industry, but “RingMaster” enlightened me to know more about the man who is considered evil, but changed the entire complexion of what is now referred to as sports entertainment.
He developed characters that embraced wrestling fans. You know the names: Hulk Hogan, Andre The Giant, “The Iron Sheik,” Bret “The Hitman” Hart, John Cena, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. All associated in the modern era years after acquiring a once small company from his father.
It’s been four decades of domination, competition, scandal, and entertainment, and McMahon, a close friend of former President Donald Trump is documented. Earlier this year, McMahon retired as CEO because of a sexual misconduct scandal. A few months later, McMahon returned to the saddle, though leaving most of the creative control to his son-in-law, former champion known as “Triple H.”
Published before the pending billion dollar sale to Endeavor and partnership with UFC, Reisman details Vince McMahon’s life with much research and first hand accounts. There is an extensive bibliography citation list to detail the validity of each chapter. In other words, journalism at its best with accurate accounts that describe the business of Vince McMahon that became an empire.
The WWE’s first female referee, Rita Chatterton’s alleged sexual assault and subsequent coverup by McMahon, she then disappeared for 30 years, until Riesman tracked her down for the book.
The evolution of McMahon’s genuine friendship with Donald Trump over the course of 30 plus years. Specifically how Trump uses Vince’s playbook to blur the lines between reality and fantasy, fact and fiction.
The alleged sexual abuse McMahon himself suffered as a young boy at the hands of his mother, growing up in a trailer park in North Carolina.
The sexual assault, misconduct suffered by ring boy Tom Cole, who killed himself in 2021, just after he made his brother, Lee, vow to take the McMahons down. An extensive interview Riesman conducted with Lee.
Bret Hart and Jake “The Snake” Roberts as potential interviews, too, alluding to the general mistreatment of his employees.
How McMahon consolidated power, taking a disparate group of regional promotions, including one owned by his own father, and merging them into one national wrestling outfit.
The subtle science of “kayfabe” wrestling’s strict code of words, which is a crucial framework of understanding the rise of modern fascism in America. Basically what determines who gets to be the fan favorite, who goes down, and the storyline or script of pro wrestling.
It is the good, the bad, and the ugly. A novice of pro wrestling gets a birds eye view of the industry, though the perspective about Vince McMahon is very compelling. As they say, a must read.
Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso