100 Reasons I’m a ‘Card-Carrying’ Yankees Fan

Bob Woods  | June 12, 2012 6:57 AM
Author: Bob Woods
Publisher: Stewart, Tabori & Chang
Publication Date: June 2012

I moved to New York’s Upper West Side shortly after graduating from Syracuse University in 1975, eager to put my journalism degree to work. I had grown up in Syracuse as a diehard Yankees fan, and like lots of boys during the 1950s and ’60s, collected Topps baseball cards, stacking them neatly in shoeboxes and clothes-pinning doubles to the spokes of my hand-me-down bicycle’s wheels. (And, yes, my mom later threw out my cards, too!)

My fandom had faded in high school and college — not entirely because those cards were long gone and the Yanks stank then — but my arrival in New York coincided with the team’s resurgence, so I was primed for a rekindling. Ignition came the night of Oct. 14, 1976, when Chris Chambliss blasted the walkoff homer against the Royals that propelled the Yankees back to the World Series for the first time since 1964. In fact, Games 3 and 4 of that Fall Classic were the first major league games I ever attended — in the newly refurbished “House that Ruth Built” (and George Steinbrenner rebuilt), no less. Even though Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine swept the Yanks, getting to see Chambliss, Thurman Munson, Lou Piniella, Willie Randolph, Mickey Rivers, Sparky Lyle, Ed Figueroa and the rest of the new breed of pinstriped heroes up close and personal cemented my rebirth.

Click below to browse a selection of classic cards from Bob Woods’ book:

While those Bombers surged to world championships the following two seasons and remained competitive for several more, keeping my fan fires burning brightly, my career as a magazine editor and writer wouldn’t converge for another decade, by which time the Yankees were mired in another prolonged slump. In 1989, now a full-time freelancer, I teamed up with a former colleague working for The Topps Company, to create a quarterly baseball magazine tied into the then-booming card-collecting craze. Topps Magazine rode that wave until it crested in the mid-90s, and provided me with the wonderful opportunity not only to venture into sports writing but also to recapture the fun of ripping open packs of baseball cards and hunting for yet another generation of Yankees stars. (Alas, Topps dispensed with the familiar slabs of bubble gum in 1992, denying me that sweet nostalgia.)

Bob Woods with his daughter Grace, now 17. Woods said that in the fall of 1996 he stayed home from work and let his children skip school in order to attend the Yankees' ticker tape parade after they won the World Series that year. Photo courtesy of Bob Woods.

This time my card collecting took on a personal generational character. For the other happy confluence then was the rise of a new Yankees dynasty, right at the time my wife and I were sharing our mutual love of the team with our young son and two daughters. Thanks to my continued association with Topps, despite the magazine’s demise, our kids had amassed sizeable card collections. So when Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and our other Yankees luminaries won four World Series in five years, a familial circle of fan life was opportunely complete. (We still laugh about the older two playing hooky so we could go to the parade in Manhattan after the glorious 1996 run!)

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, specifically June 1, the day “Yankee Greats” was published. Aside from my byline on the cover, the book marks the latest point in my evolution as a Yanks fan. Our older daughter now lives in Brooklyn, and though she left her Bernie Williams poster and personally autographed Topps card at home, she still roots for Derek, Andy and Mo, and thinks Robinson Cano is cute. Her sister, a high schooler for another year, stills includes the Yankees among her BFFs and occasionally joins my wife and me on the couch to watch a game.

Our son, however, has broken the chain, much to our dismay. Our eldest went off to college in Florida and, following his childhood dream, got into the boat business in Ft. Lauderdale. All good by us… until he unexpectedly traded in the interlocking “NY” for the ever-changing and hardly classic Marlins insignia. Heresy, the four of us keep telling him, even as he feigns a continued affection for his former team.

But that’s just to appease me, I think, especially after he seemed thrilled (okay, he was sincere) when I told him last year that I’d signed a deal to write a book that uses Topps baseball cards — some from his abandoned collection — to illustrate blurbs about 100 Yankee superstars. Although the assignment proved to truly be a labor of lifelong love for the team I grew up adoring and have been fortunate enough to merge into both my professional and family realms, as another Father’s Day comes and goes, I have to admit a tinge of sadness that one of our own has switched franchises. While his new allegiance reminds me of old New York stories of family feuds fueled when the Yankees, Dodgers and Giants all called the city home, I have one very grateful consolation. At least our son isn’t a Red Sox fan!

Bob Woods, a freelance writer, is the author of “Yankee Greats: 100 Classic Baseball Cards.” Growing up in upstate New York during the 1950s and 1960s, Woods collected Topps baseball cards. He later moved to New York City and teamed up with Topps to create Topps Magazine.

From the Ground Up: A Poet’s Ode to the City by Foot

Rowan Ricardo Phillips  | June 7, 2012 4:00 AM
Author: Rowan Ricardo Phillips
Publisher: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux
Publication Date: June 2012

My favorite subway line is the 11-Train. There’s always one waiting. It goes everywhere. It’s slow, but completely reliable. It runs the same on weekends and weekdays, rush hour and off-peak.

The 11-Train is also known as my own two legs. I walk just about everywhere. No distance is safe from my gait. I would walk from the West Village to the Marais district in Paris if I could, and without stepping foot on the back of a single dolphin or whale, unless one absolutely insisted, of course.

In fact, the two things that keep me from walking to and from everywhere all of the time are that I absolutely detest being late, and I absolutely detest having to rush. My distaste for rushing — I grew up in one of those “hurry-up-but-don’t-rush” households — reminds me of a common misconception about New Yorkers: that we tend to be rushing off from one place to another constantly, transmogrifying the city into an endless crossing and ramble of impersonal forms like grounded flocks of still-swerving starlings, clumps scuttling off to a somewhere rendered pyrrhic by the observer of it all who, by his or her interest in New York, is always more interested in the mass, the crowd, the throng, the rush, the hustle, the seeming chaos, the “New York” of it all. A flashed setting in a film or a television show offers up this New York, often an aerial New York, a constantly cavernous New York, in impossible scale, and underemployed white people in laughably large apartments where the same high school dramas became the same college dramas became the same adult dramas.

New York loves the novel. But poetry? Their relationship is as strange to explain as explaining to the rose that the thorn, too, is the rose. So I walk it off.
The deeper we commit to that New York and its marketable two dimensions, the further from us New York escapes. Of course we rush. But who wants to be defined by their haste? Perhaps in part I walk in defiance of this definition of New York. As every poem I write seems to push back toward a better definition of why exactly I’m here and what it is I was born to do, so too do I walk, I absorb, I remember, I forget, I stare, I ignore, I bristle when the nostalgia comes because I’m ever skeptical of nostalgia.

I was born in New York, raised in New York, met the love of my life in New York, welcomed my daughter into the world in New York — and yet, New York still struggles to feel real to me. And this is a good thing. Reality shouldn’t be a bill with your name on it or someone’s spite; rather, it should be a search for something true, a centering vision that steadies the self to see and do good. Somewhere in me, as I walk and walk this grid, between my blissful detachment and antagonizing familiarity, something twists, it torques like a departing cork, something real and recoverable that is in and of itself and costly to describe.

New York loves the novel. But poetry? Their relationship is as strange to explain as explaining to the rose that the thorn, too, is the rose. So I walk it off. And as I walk, as the neighborhoods fade in and out — the bodegas turning into boutiques and back to bodegas again and then back to boutiques — I recall the firemen coming by on a blistering summer day to open a hydrant so the kids could play in the street; the Delicioso Coco Helado carts marking the far-off horizon like snowcaps. This is not nostalgia. It has all always been nature. Even as the 11-train strides through the scene.

Rowan Ricardo Phillips is a poet, critic and translator. He teaches at Stony Brook University’s Department of English and splits his time between New York City and Barcelona. The poems in “The Ground” are inspired by observations of New York City post-9/11 landscapes.

Picket Line at the Strand and Evolving Labor Tactics

John Farley  | May 3, 2012 4:00 AM

On May 1, unionized workers at the Strand Bookstore formed a picket line in front of their workplace, and were joined by participants from Occupy Wall Street. The Strand's unionized employees' contract expired last September, and they say they're preparing to authorize a strike vote in coming weeks. Photo courtesy of Samantha Grace Lewis

On May Day, the workers holiday that falls on May 1, Occupy Wall Street’s call for a general strike merged with the activities of labor unions and immigrant activists — the holiday’s traditional celebrants. In the midst of diverse political and artistic actions throughout New York City, members of the 150 or so unionized employees at the Strand Bookstore picketed their workplace over the ongoing dispute over contract negotiations, their action accompanied by the brass sounds of a ragtag marching band.

In the coming weeks, the Strand’s unionized employees say they plan to vote whether to authorize a strike. To get to this point, Strand workers say they had to become self-organized, since until recently, as many of them claim, the local branch of the United Auto Workers that represents them was too understaffed to offer them the support they had hoped for.

In many ways, the Strand employees’ situation represent the convergence of the various issues surrounding May Day. Those issues  include an effort to use new models and techniques to reinvigorate the labor movement  – often without the help of unions — for traditionally unorganized sectors of the economy, as union membership rates continue to decline nationally.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2011, only 5.4 percent of retail employees were union members. And union membership overall has declined considerably since the 1970s, particularly in the private sector. In 2011, 6.9 percent of private sector workers belonged to a union, compared to 35 percent during WWII.

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Q&A with Novelist Gary Shteyngart

Perry Santanachote for NYC-ARTS  | May 1, 2012 11:25 AM

Author Gary Shteyngart. Photo by Brigitte Lacombe

Best-selling author Gary Shteyngart brings his wit to the PEN World Voices Festival in the form of a pop culture Q&A he has designed for the literature festival’s founder, Salman Rushdie (author “The Satanic Verses: A Novel”).

The festival (April 30 — May 6) convenes writers from around the world to discuss matters both literary and political at public events across the city. At the annual closing event, the Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture,  Sir Rushdie will examine the many faces of censorship in contemporary society and the role of the author within a climate of forced silence and intolerance. The post talk “game” requires Rushdie to ad lib responses to whatever the satirical Shteyngart brings to the table, where nothing is taboo.

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Writer and Critic Luc Sante. Outsider and PEN World Voices Panelist

Perry Santanchote for NYC-ARTS  | May 1, 2012 4:00 AM

Luc Sante. Photo by Evan Sung.

Although Luc Sante grew up in New Jersey and New York City, the Belgium-born author and PEN World Voices Festival panelist says he has never stopped feeling like an outsider. “While this has sometimes made me unhappy in my life, it has nevertheless helped equip me as a writer,” he says.

Sante is perhaps most well known for his historic documentation of New York City’s underbelly in “Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York” (1991).

He revealed the personal history of his his youth, immigration, Belgium and his family in “The Factory of Facts” (1998). “It had a big impact in my hometown, Verviers, which hasn’t often been written about,” he says.  “It holds up a mirror to the Belgians, but it’s also about the U.S., of course.” (more…)

Q&A with Lila Azam Zanganeh, Enchanted by New York and Nabokov

Perry Santanachote for NYC-ARTS  | April 30, 2012 4:00 AM

Lila Azam Zanganeh. Photo by Hank Gans.

Parisian Lila Azam Zanganeh claims she would never have become a writer if she hadn’t moved to New York City. Little more than 10 years after she arrived here,  New York City’s Center for Fiction awarded her book “The Enchanter: Nabokov and Happiness” (2011) the Roger Shattuck Prize for Criticism. This Wednesday, writer Lila Azam Zaganeh meets with Proust scholar Eugène Nicole for a lunchtime literary discussion at New York University, a free event of the PEN World Voices Festival, which marks the PEN American Center’s 90th anniversary. (more…)

Q&A: New York, Italicized

Daniel T. Allen  | April 26, 2012 4:00 AM
Author: Maurizio Molinari
Publisher: Laterza
Publication Date: Oct. 2011

Maurizio Molinari is the author of “Gli Italiani di New York,” an Italian-language book that takes a look at the New Yorkers of Italian descent who have helped shape the city we know today. The book will be available in English from New Academia Publishing in Aug. 2012.

Molinari is also the U.S. correspondent for La Stampa, an Italian daily newspaper, and has written over a dozen non-fiction books.

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Free Books for Schools and Libraries in Honor of Woman Who Died in 9/11

Georgia Kral  | April 24, 2012 4:00 AM

The Brooke Jackman Foundation hosts a read-a-thon at the Winter Garden Atrium in the World Financial Center in Lower Manhattan every year. Photo by John Munson/MunsonVisuals.com

Twenty schools in the New York metropolitan region will soon be stocked with 100 more books. At a time when budget cuts threaten after school programs and library services, the “Books 4 Our School” challenge aims to make reading more accessible to children.

Which schools will get the books is partly determined by a virtual show of hands.

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New York at War

Steven H. Jaffe  | April 10, 2012 4:00 AM
Author: Steven H. Jaffe
Publisher: Basic Books/The Perseus Books Group
Publication Date: April 2012

After the attacks of September 11, historian Steven H. Jaffe, then a curator at the South Street Seaport Museum, began researching his book, “New York at War.” This edited excerpt of the book’s introduction includes his observations of war-related history near Ground Zero.

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NYC’s Arab Spring: A Literary Revolution That Took Place 100 Years Ago

Todd Fine  | March 28, 2012 4:00 AM
Author: Ameen Rihani with illustrations by Kahlil Gibran
Publisher: Melville House
Publication Date: April 2012

Several neighborhoods in New York City have sheltered important literary communities and movements: Greenwich Village was the stomping ground of the Beat Writers and the so-called “Lost Generation,” Brooklyn Heights claimed Richard Wright, W.H. Auden, and Truman Capote, and today’s vibrant contemporary literary scene stretches from Brooklyn Heights to Fort Greene.

However, in terms of global impact, the “Little Syria” neighborhood of Lower Manhattan, along the lower part of Washington Street, produced one of the most significant New York literary movements of all.  Concentrated on Washington Street, from Battery Park up through Rector Street, and as high as Chambers Street, Little Syria was famous throughout the Arab world. A sizeable cohort of writers that worked in this neighborhood and formed an organization called the “Pen League” is still widely read in Arabic-speaking countries. They launched an aggressive campaign of innovation in the style and form of Arabic literature, explicitly importing Western and American ideas. The work of one of its participants, Kahlil Gibran’s singular English-language phenomenon The Prophet (1923), thrives as one of the best-selling books in world history, with estimates ranging from eleven to one hundred million copies sold.

(more…)

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