November 12 2016

“Baseball’s Most Baffling MVP Ballots” with Jeremy Lehrman

 

"I just won the Nobel Prize of baseball."  -Elston Howard, American League MVP, 1963

 Snubs.  Grudges.  Conspiracies.  Incompetence.

 All in a day's work for some of those who vote on Baseball's Most Valuable Player Award.

 From its colorful and scandalous beginnings more than a century ago, the MVP has evolved into the most prestigious -- and contentious -- individual honor in the sport.  No award means more to the players, the media, or the fans -- and no other award can claim a voting history so rich in controversy.

 "Baseball's Most Baffling MVP Ballots" looks at the past, present and future of the MVP Award through the most controversial ballots of all time.  Which of the so-called "worst MVPs" can hold up to contemporary statistical analysis?  Who cast the single worst vote in MVP history?  Does racial bias influence the MVP vote?  Who really deserved the award in a given year?

 On a November evening, we attempted to answer these questions, right some wrongs, unravel some threads, and looked at some very familiar faces in unfamiliar ways.  A fascinating Clubhouse conversation with Jeremy Lehrman.  Listen in...

 

 

 

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November 5 2016

“The Eighth Wonder of the World” with Robert Trumpbour and Kenneth Womack


“This is a tough park for a hitter when the air conditioning is blowing in.”
  -Bob Boone

When it opened in 1965, the Houston Astrodome -- nicknamed the Eighth Wonder of the World -- captured the attention of a nation, bringing pride to the city and enhancing its reputation across the country.

It was a Texas-sized vision of the future, an unthinkable feat of engineering with premium luxury suites, theater-style seating, and the first animated scoreboard.  Yet there were memorable problems such as outfielders’ inability to see fly balls and failed attempts to grow natural grass -- which ultimately led to the development of Astroturf.  The Astrodome nonetheless changed the way people viewed sports, putting casual fans at the forefront of a user-experience approach that soon became the standard in all American sports.

On the day after the completion of this year's wonderful World Series, authors Robert Trumpbour and Kenneth Womack tore back the Astrodome's facade while discussing the building’s pivotal fifty years in existence and the ongoing debate about its preservation.  Listen in to our intimate Clubhouse conversation...

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October 1 2016

“The Last Innocents” with Michael Leahy


White, black, Jewish, Christian, wealthy, working class, conservative, liberal -- the Los Angeles Dodgers of the 1960s embodied the disparate cultural forces at play in an America riven by race and war.

In “The Last Innocents,” award-winning writer Michael Leahy tells the story of this mesmerizing time and extraordinary team through seven players -- Maury Wills, Sandy Koufax, Wes Parker, Jeff Torborg, Tommy Davis, Dick Tracewski, and Lou Johnson.

It is a story about what it was like to be a major leaguer when the country was turned upside down by the tumult of the civil rights movement, a series of wrenching political assassinations, and the shock waves of the Vietnam War.  Outside the public eye, these seven Dodgers -- friends, mentors, and confidants -- struggled to understand their place in society and in a sport controlled by owners whose wishes were fiat.  Even as they starred in games watched by millions, they coped with anxieties and indignities their fans knew nothing about -- some of their wounds deeply personal, others more common to the times.  In their dissatisfaction, they helped plant the seeds of a rebellion that would change their sport.

Michael Leahy is the author of “Hard Lessons” and “When Nothing Else Matters: Michael Jordan’s Last Comeback.”  His award-winning career has included thirteen years as a writer for the “Washington Post” and the “Washington Post Magazine.”  Leahy’s 2005 “Washington Post Magazine” story about a California sperm donor won the Society of Professional Journalists Award for best magazine story of the year.  His stories have been selected four times for the annual Best American Sports Writing anthologies.

On the final Thursday of the regular season, Michael Leahy led an enthralling Clubhouse conversation about his great -- yes, great -- book.  One hour, three minutes, fourteen seconds.  Listen in...

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September 24 2016

“The Baseball Whisperer” with Michael Tackett


“For all who care about baseball, character, and leadership, Michael Tackett has brought us the inspiring and unforgettable story of a phenomenal coach and his legacy.”  -Michael Beschloss, historian and political commentator

Clarinda, Iowa, population 5,000, sits two hours from anything.  There, between the corn fields and hog yards, is a ball field with a bronze bust of a man named Merl Eberly, a baseball whisperer who specialized in second chances and lost causes.  The statue was a gift from one of Merl’s original long-shot projects, a skinny kid from the ghetto in Los Angeles: Ozzie Smith.

The Baseball Whisperer” traces the remarkable story of Merl Eberly and his Clarinda A’s baseball team, which he tended over the course of five decades, transforming it from a town team to a collegiate summer league powerhouse.  Along with Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, future manager Bud Black, and star player Von Hayes, Merl developed scores of major leaguers -- six of which are currently playing.

More than a book about ballplayers who landed in the nation’s agricultural heartland, “The Baseball Whisperer” is the story of a coach who put character and dedication first, and reminds us of the best, purest form of baseball excellence.

Michael Tackett is an editor in the Washington bureau of “The New York Times.”  Previously, he was a managing editor for “Bloomberg,” the Washington bureau chief of the “Chicago Tribune,” and a national editor at “U.S. News & World Report.” 

On an autumn evening, Michael Tackett led our Clubhouse conversation about a small-town coach who shaped big league dreams.  Listen in...

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July 18 2016

“Down On The Korner” with Mark Rosenman


“Ralph Kiner was a jewel.  He loved the game of baseball.  He loved to talk baseball.”  -Tom Seaver

One of the staples of the long and storied history of baseball on television is the postgame show, and none was more beloved than “Kiner’s Korner.”  From the early 1960s into the 1990s, Hall of Famer and iconic broadcaster Ralph Kiner hosted the show that brought players into the homes of fans across the nation.

Down on the Korner -- from the host, to the set, to the guests, to the stories amassed over more than thirty-two years on the air. 

On a July evening in the Clubhouse, author Mark Rosenman took us behind the scenes.  Listen in...

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June 17 2016

“Terror in the City of Champions” with Tom Stanton


“The Freedom of Information Act is a critical and sometimes underappreciated tool that allows all of us access to the records of our government.  It was through the act that I obtained copies of more than nine hundred pages of FBI documents related to the Black Legion.  These proved vital.”  -Tom Stanton

In the mid-1930s, Detroit reigned as the City of Champions.  Within a six-month span, the Tigers, Lions, and Red Wings won a World Series, NFL title, and Stanley Cup -- a major-sports trifecta achieved by no other American city before or since -- and it happened as undefeated local boxer Joe Louis was becoming a national sensation.  As the successes mounted, the national media made heroes of the city’s sports stars, and Detroit grew almost delirious, the string of victories providing a sweet diversion from the Great Depression.

But beneath the jubilance, a nefarious plague was spreading unchecked.  A wave of mysterious crimes had police baffled: bodies dumped along roadsides, suspicious suicides, bombings of homes and halls, flogging victims who refused to speak, assassination plots.  All were the work of the Black Legion, a secret terrorist organization that flourished in Detroit until the summer of 1936.

On a summer's evening in 2016 New York, award-winning author Tom Stanton took a teeming Clubhouse through a stunning tale of history, crime, and baseball in 1930s America.  Listen in...

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June 13 2016

“Jackie Robinson In Quotes” with Danny Peary


“When he was eight, Dad got into a name-calling fight with the little white girl who lived across the street.  The children’s verbal battle was interrupted when the girl’s father came outside and started throwing rocks at my father.”  -Sharon Robinson, Jackie’s daughter

"Jackie Robinson In Quotes: The Remarkable Life of Baseball's Most Significant Player"

Danny Peary has skillfully curated the best quotes to shed new light on the man behind number 42.  Featured are quotes by Jackie Robinson, his widow Rachel, other family members, friends, teammates, coaches, members of the media, and many more.

A behind-the-headlines narrative about the making and life of a hero.  A first-hand account of Jackie Robinson’s baseball stardom, his friendships and rivalries, the people he loved and who loved him, the issues that troubled him, and how he took on all challenges to change the face of America’s favorite pastime, the country itself, and, thus, history forever.

Danny Peary is an acclaimed baseball historian.  He is the author/editor of “Baseball Immortal Derek Jeter: A Career in Quotes.”  Peary collaborated on the biographies “Roger Maris” and “Gil Hodges,” Ralph Kiner’s autobiography “Baseball Forever,” and Tim McCarver’s “Baseball for Brain Surgeons and Other Fans.”

In his fourth Clubhouse appearance, Danny Peary led a fascinating discussion about Jackie Robinson.  Listen in...

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June 6 2016

“Nine Innings To Success” with Hall of Famer Jim Palmer


In 1966, Jim Palmer was just 20 years old when he became the youngest pitcher to throw a World Series shutout, helping lead the Baltimore Orioles to their first-ever championship.  Two years later, Palmer's budding career almost ended due to arm problems.  Yet, he mounted an inspiring comeback and reached the pinnacle of his profession, becoming the winningest pitcher of the 1970s and the only hurler to win a World Series game in three different decades.

A Hall of Famer... with three World Series rings, three Cy Young Awards, six All-Star selections, an exemplary record as a model spokesperson for charities and corporations, and a long tenure as a TV baseball analyst.

Nine Innings To Success: A Hall of Famer's Approach To Achieving Excellence.  An hour discussion Jim Palmer.  A Hall of Fame evening in the Clubhouse.  Listen in and enjoy...

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May 28 2016

“Cuba’s Baseball Defectors” with author Peter Bjarkman


“All things considered there are only two kinds of men in the world -- those that stay at home and those that do not.  The second are the most interesting.”  -Rudyard Kipling

The stellar play and fascinating backstories of exiled Cuban ballplayers in Major League Baseball has become one of the biggest headlines in America's national pastime.  On-field exploits by Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig, Jose Abreu, Aroldis Chapman, and a handful of others have been further enhanced by feel-good tales of desperate Cuban superstars risking their lives to escape Castro’s communist realm and chase a celebrated American Dream of financial and athletic success.  But a truly ugly underbelly to this story has also slowly emerged, one that involves human smuggling operations financed by Miami crime syndicates, operated by Mexican drug cartels, and conveniently ignored by big league ball clubs endlessly searching for fresh waves of international talent.

In Cuba’s Baseball Defectors: The Inside Story, Cuban baseball expert Peter Bjarkman reveals the truth behind the wave of Cuban big league talent coming to Major League Baseball.  Given rare access to Cuba and its ballplayers, Bjarkman has spent over twenty years traveling to all corners of the island getting to know the top Cuban stars and witnessing their baseball struggles and triumphs.  Bjarkman places recent events -- including the apparent thaw in US-Cuba relations -- in the context of Cuban baseball history and tradition before delving into the stories of the major Cuban stars who have left the island.

Peter Bjarkman is the recognized authority on Cuba’s post-1961 revolutionary-era baseball.  He has witnessed domestic-league Cuban baseball firsthand on more than fifty visits to the communist country since 1997 and has also followed the Cuban national team to international events since 1999.  Bjarkman is a regular consultant on Cuban baseball for the North American media.

On a May evening, Peter Bjarkman led a packed Clubhouse in a master's class on Cuba's Baseball Defectors.  Listen in...


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May 13 2016

“The Only Rule Is It Has To Work” with Ben Lindbergh


What would happen if two statistics-minded outsiders were allowed to run a professional baseball team?

It’s the ultimate in fantasy baseball: You get to pick the roster, set the lineup, and decide on strategies -- with real players, in a real ballpark, in a real playoff race.

That’s what baseball analysts Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller got to do when an independent minor-league team in California, the Sonoma Stompers, offered them the chance to run its baseball operations according to the most advanced statistics.

Lindbergh and Miller applied their number-crunching insights to all aspects of assembling and running a team, following one cardinal rule for judging each innovation they tried: It Has To Work.

Ben Lindbergh is a staff writer for “FiveThirtyEight” and, with Sam Miller, the cohost of “Effectively Wild,” the daily “Baseball Prospectus” podcast. He is a former staff writer for “Grantland” and a former editor in chief of “Baseball Prospectus.”

It was standing-room-only in the Bergino Baseball Clubhouse for our discussion with Ben Lindbergh and "The Only Rule Is It Has To Work."  Have a seat and listen in...

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May 7 2016

“The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty” with Hal Bock


“The Cubs became a metaphor for the underdog, the loser, lovable or not, that we as a species can’t help but instinctively pull for.”  -Joe Mantegna, actor

"The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty: Before The Curse" by Hal Bock

The last time the Chicago Cubs played in the World Series, World War II had just ended.  The last time they won a World Series, World War I had not yet begun.  But from 1906 - 1910 the Cubs not only played in the World Series four of the five years, they won two World Championships, as well.  It was a time when the Cubs ruled baseball, and no one could have imagined the roller coaster adventures that were ahead for this grand old franchise.

Distinguished writer Hal Bock returned to the Bergino Baseball Clubhouse on a May evening and told the story of this legendary team, the characters who were central to its success, and the misfortunes which have plagued the team ever since.  During our Q&A, we had a wide-ranging baseball discussion.  Listen in and enjoy...

Hal Bock was a sportswriter and columnist with the Associated Press for over 40 years.  During that time he covered 30 World Series, none of them including the Cubs.

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April 23 2016

“God Almighty Hisself: The Life and Legacy of Dick Allen” with author Mitchell Nathanson


“I believe God Almighty hisself would have trouble handling Richie Allen.”  -George Myatt, Philadelphia Phillies’ interim manager, 1969

When the Philadelphia Phillies signed Dick Allen in 1960, fans of the franchise envisioned bearing witness to feats never before accomplished by a Phillies player.   A half-century later, they’re still trying to make sense of what they saw.

Carrying to the plate baseball’s heaviest and loudest bat as well as the burden of being the club’s first African American superstar, Allen found both hits and controversy with regularity as he established himself as the premier individualist in a game that prided itself on conformity.  Mitchell Nathanson unveils the strange and maddening career of a man who somehow managed to fulfill and frustrate expectations all at once.

Mitchell Nathanson is Professor of Law at Villanova University School of Law.  He is author of “A People's History of Baseball” and coauthor of “Understanding Baseball: A Textbook.”

An April evening in the Clubhouse and God Almighty Hisself: The Life and Legacy of Dick Allen.  Listen in...


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April 7 2016

“Kings of Queens: Life Beyond Baseball with the ‘86 Mets” with author Erik Sherman


“I’m so proud of what we accomplished in that magical 1986 season and the brotherhood that we still have for one another all these years later.  Enjoy this personal portrayal of one of baseball history’s greatest and most charismatic teams.”  -Davey Johnson

In 1986, the bad guys of baseball won the World Series.

“What if I actually went out and visited the players where they are today -- in their homes, in the dugouts they currently coach or manage in, or in the bars they might frequent?  I would interview the men who’d made up this magical team, find out what happened to them after their glory days were behind them, and explore the impact they as individuals and as a team had on the fans and the organization -- then and now.”  -Erik Sherman

During the first week of the 2016 season, Erik Sherman offered his unique perspective in a Clubhouse conversation about the "Kings of Queens: Life Beyond Baseball with the '86 Mets."  Listen in...

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March 28 2016

“Greatness in the Shadows” with author Douglas Branson


“Larry Doby’s trials, and the triumphs that earned him a place in Cooperstown, are a stirring story wonderfully told by Douglas Branson.”  -George F. Will

Just eleven weeks after Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, Larry Doby became the first black player to integrate the American League, signing with the Cleveland Indians in July 1947.  Doby went on to become a seven-time All-Star who led the Indians to two pennants.  In many respects, Robinson and Doby were equals in their baseball talent and experiences and had remarkably similar playing careers.

Well into the 1950s, Doby was the only African American All-Star in the American League during a period in which fifteen black players became National League All-Stars.  Why is Doby largely forgotten as a central figure in baseball’s integration?  Why has he not been accorded his rightful place in baseball history?  Greatness in the Shadows: Larry Doby and the Integration of the American League attempts to answer these questions, bringing Doby’s story to life and sharing his achievements and firsts with a new generation.

Douglas M. Branson is the W. Edward Sell Chair in Business Law at the University of Pittsburgh.  He is the author of nineteen books, including No Seat at the Table; The Last Male Bastion; and Three Tastes of Nuoc Mam.

Listen in to Douglas Branson and Greatness in the Shadows, live in the Clubhouse...

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March 19 2016

“Amazin’ Again” with author Greg Prince


“The Mets are gonna be amazing.”  -Casey Stengel, circa 1975

They were coming off a seemingly endless string of losing records.  They were considered years away from legitimate contention.  They were derided and disregarded as a matter of course.  But in 2015, the New York Mets changed their course and changed their story.  The result was the best kind of amazin’.  They proceeded to capture a division title, raise a pennant, and lay claim to the heart of their city.

Author Greg Prince -- cocreator of Faith and Fear in Flushing -- traces the trajectory of this championship season and recreates the emotions of a year that culminated in the Mets making New York their kind of town once again in Amazin' Again: How the 2015 New York Mets Brought the Magic Back to Queens.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was six, during the magical summer of 1969.  He is the cocreator of the blog Faith and Fear in Flushing, the daily destination for “Mets fans who like to read.”  Prince has written about baseball for The New York Times, Huffington Post, Yahoo! Sports, and ESPN.com; served as a consultant to the film The Last Play at Shea; and helped organize the New York Mets 50th Anniversary conference at Hofstra University.

On an amazin' March evening, Greg brought the magic back to the Clubhouse.  Listen in.  Enjoy...


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March 8 2016

“The Cardinals Way” with Howard Megdal


How one team embraced tradition and Moneyball at the same time...

The St. Louis Cardinals have experienced the kind of success that is rare in baseball.  They not only win, but do so with an apparently bottomless pool of talent, one that is mostly homegrown.

“The Cardinal Way” -- a term that has come to represent many things to fans, media, and other organizations, from an ironclad code of conduct to the team’s cutting-edge use of statistics and analytics, and a farm system that has transformed baseball.

In the spirit of “Moneyball,” baseball journalist Howard Megdal takes fans behind the scenes and off the field.  Megdal reveals how the players are assessed and groomed using an unrivaled player development system.  He tells an in-depth, fascinating story about a consistently good franchise, the business of sports in the 21st century, and a team that has learned how to level the playing field, turning in season after successful season.

Howard Megdal has written for “Capital New York,” “Sports Illustrated,” “The New York Times,” and “USA Today,” among others.  His prior books include “The Baseball Talmud” and “Wilpon’s Folly.”

On the first Thursday in March, Howard Megdal led a packed Clubhouse in our captivating conversation about “The Cardinals Way.”  Listen in...

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February 26 2016

“Black Baseball, Black Business” with Roberta Newman and Joel Nathan Rosen


“Desegregation in baseball was hard on everybody.”  -Monte Irvin, Hall of Famer

An extraordinary history of the Negro Leagues and the economic disruptions of desegregating a sport

Roberta Newman and Joel Nathan Rosen examine how the relationship between black baseball and black businesses functioned, particularly in urban areas with significant African American populations.  Inextricably bound together by circumstance, these sports and business alliances faced destruction and upheaval.

Once Jackie Robinson and a select handful of black baseball’s elite gained acceptance in Major League Baseball and financial stability in the mainstream economy, shock waves traveled throughout the black business world.  Though the economic impact on Negro League baseball is perhaps obvious due to its demise, the impact on other black-owned businesses and on segregated neighborhoods is often undervalued if not outright ignored in current accounts.  We know about the great individual players who played in the Negro Leagues and integrated the Major Leagues.  But what happens when a community has its economic footing undermined while simultaneously being called upon to celebrate a larger social progress?

On a February evening in front of a standing-room-only crowd in the Clubhouse, Roberta Newman and Joel Nathan Rosen took us through Black Baseball, Black Business.  Pull up a chair and listen in...

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February 5 2016

“The Golden Era of Major League Baseball” with Bryan Soderholm-Difatte


A former CIA analyst walked through the Clubhouse door...

In The Golden Era of Major League Baseball: A Time of Transition and Integration, Bryan Soderholm-Difatte explores the significant events and momentous changes that took place in baseball from 1947 to 1960.

Beginning with Jackie Robinson’s rookie season in 1947, Soderholm-Difatte provides a careful and thorough examination of baseball’s integration, including the struggles of black players who were not able to break into the starting lineups.  In addition, the author looks at the dying practice of player-managers, the increasing use of relief pitchers and platooning, the iconic 1951 pennant race between the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers, and more.  Soderholm-Difatte also tells the stories of three central characters to this era, whose innovations, strategies, and vision changed the game -- Branch Rickey, Casey Stengel, and Leo Durocher.

Bryan Soderholm-Difatte is a former senior analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Counterterrorism Center.  He is a regular contributor to The Baseball Research Journal.

Listen in to a fascinating “deep dive” discussion on a February evening in the Clubhouse with Bryan Soderholm-Difatte...

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January 25 2016

“Fun City: John Lindsay, Joe Namath, and How Sports Saved New York in the 1960s” with Sean Deveney


“Coming events cast their shadows before.”  -Thomas Campbell, Scottish poet

On January 1, 1966, New York came to a standstill as the city’s transit workers went on strike.  This was the first day on the job for Mayor John Lindsay.  He would approach the transit shutdown with the sort of dynamic problem solving that would be his hallmark.  He ignored the cold and walked four miles, famously declaring, “I still think it is a fun city.”

As Lindsay juggled his city’s repeated crises, the sporting scene saw tremendous upheaval.  On one hand, the venerable Yankees -- who had won 15 pennants in an 18-year span before 1965 -- and the NFL’s powerhouse Giants suddenly went into a level of decline neither had known for generations.  But on the other, the fall of the city’s sports behemoths was accompanied by the rise of anti-establishment outsiders -- there were Joe Namath and the Jets, as well as the shocking triumph of the Amazin’ Mets, who won the 1969 World Series after spending the franchise’s first seven seasons losing 737 ballgames.

The overlap of these two worlds in the 1960s -- Lindsay’s politics and the reemerging sports landscape -- serves as the backbone of “Fun City.”  It is a story of a thrilling time in New York sports, set against the backdrop of a remarkable and often difficult time for the city, culturally and socially.

Listen in to our fascinating discussion with Sean Deveney on a “Fun City” winter evening in the Clubhouse...

(This podcast is dedicated to the memory of David Garth, a truly great New Yorker.)

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December 17 2015

“Baseball Immortal: Derek Jeter” with Danny Peary

“Passion is the genesis of genius.”  -Galileo

Baseball Immortal: Derek Jeter takes you on a remarkable forty-year journey, letting you step inside the great Yankee shortstop’s life and career through his own words and those of the people who have known him best personally and in the sports community.  The result is an incredible, insightful look at what made him not only an amazing ballplayer, but also an intriguing and complex personality.

The book is packed with quotes by Jeter’s parents, friends, teachers and mentors, coaches, scouts, teammates, opposing players, his fans and critics, celebrities, elite athletes like Michael Jordan, writers and broadcasters, managers, George Steinbrenner and even two presidents. The big surprise comes from the revealing quotes from Derek Jeter himself, who, during his career, constantly frustrated journalists by keeping his thoughts to himself.

Danny Peary is a sports and film historian who has published 24 books.  He collaborated on the biographies of Roger Maris and Gil Hodges, the autobiographies of Ralph Kiner and Shannon Miller, and three books with Tim McCarver.  Peary is the writer-researcher of The Tim McCarver Show.

Listen in to our conversation with Danny Peary on a warm December evening in the Bergino Baseball Clubhouse...

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