This week in our Summer Reading Series we hear from Artie Sparrow, Blair’s office manager, about the benefits of a beach house’s borrowed library.
One of the things I like most about renting houses at the beach is that they come with personal libraries. The owners leave behind books for guests to enjoy when they’ve had their fill of the sun. I always try to find something I wouldn’t ordinarily read. When I’m on vacation, I like to get away mentally as well as physically.
In the summer of 2008, my wife and I rented a cottage in Duck, N.C. It had a paperback copy of The Bronx Zoo, Sparky Lyle’s diary of the 1978 New York Yankees’ season. I’m not much of a baseball fan. I’m biased against it because the sport requires hand-eye coordination I don’t have. It also conflicts with my short attention span. My fandom is limited to hating the Yankees, since my parents met when they were both living in Boston. But I did think the Yankees of that era were interesting, mostly because of the famously contentious relationship between owner George Steinbrenner and manager Billy Martin. (For more on that see this classic Miller Lite commercial.)
The Bronx Zoo is a perfect summer read. It’s thought provoking and well written, but it doesn’t strain the brain. Lyle’s 1978 season was tumultuous. In 1977, he won the Cy Young Award for being the best pitcher in the American League and the Yankees won the World Series. Steinbrenner went out and signed Goose Gossage, another relief pitcher, to compete with Lyle. It was the sort of thing Steinbrenner did that made him beloved by some Yankee fans and despised by everyone else. Instead of rewarding a player for a good season, he signed someone else to take his job. His players put up with it because he paid more than any other owner.
Mixed in with the musings about money and job security are entertaining tales of what it was like to be a major-league baseball player in the 1970s. The book didn’t turn me into a Yankees fan, but at least it humanized the team’s players. They weren’t all storm troopers. Some were decent guys just trying to get through life with as little physical and mental damage as possible.
Thirty-five years ago this week, the Yankees were about 12 games behind the Red Sox in the standings. Thanks to that beach cottage in Duck, I now know how they came back. I also no longer use Bucky Dent’s unofficial middle name, on the rare occasions when I think about him.
One more thing I like about beach cottage libraries: most of the ones in North Carolina have one or more of the Judge Whedbee ghost-story books.
I’m not a big fan of ghost stories, but his are highly entertaining. Really.
Check in next week for another post in our Summer Reading Series from Blair staffers.