The guilt pile teeters dangerously in my study, sometimes toppling of its own imbalance.
I have so many writer friends who write so many books that I cannot acknowledge all of them.
We writers are odd birds, as described by Roger Rosenblatt in last Sunday’s New York Times Book Review. We hunker in corners and rearrange words and offer them to a world addicted to flickering electronic images. But what else is a web site good for, if not to mention just a few books by friends that I recently read and enjoyed?
Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees From Before the Babe to After the Boss. By Marty Appel. New York: Bloomsbury, 2012.
This book is said to be “definitive,” and I would add “thoroughly enjoyable,” particularly when Marty unleashes his own memories, which by now are institutional. Marty started in 1968 as an assistant to Bob Fishel, the great Yankee publicity man, and he has grown into writer and man-about-baseball. He was not there in 1903, but Marty has surely done his homework, describing the arrival of a forlorn franchise from Baltimore, with Wee Willie Keeler playing right field on a makeshift wooden platform over a swampy area of right field in upper Manhattan. He brings us to the later years of Posada-Rivera-Jeter.
The parts I like best are the things Marty learned along the way from Yankee lifers. One of them is the mystery of who stole the ancient Mosler safe with individual drawers that once secured the valuables of Keeler, Griffith and Chesbro of the original Highlanders. The safe survived moves from Hilltop Park to the Polo Grounds and then to the first Yankee Stadium, but as the Yankees prepared to move to Shea Stadium during rebuilding in 1974-75, the safe vanished. I asked Marty to elaborate and he said the venerable clubhouse man, Pete Sheehy, just shrugged in his inscrutable Big Pete way. Marty doesn’t know that secret, but he surely knows the Yankees, particularly the Boss, whom he saw up close, with all his complexities.
The Longest Fight: In the Ring With Joe Gans, Boxing’s First African-American Champion. By William Gildea. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2012.
I vaguely knew the name Joe Gans, but Gildea introduces us to the man and the era, the early 20th Century. Gans was so good and so dignified that some white boxing fans of that time actually managed to get past their blatant prejudices and detect his humanity. Gildea has done masterful research and writing, recalling a gold-rush outpost in rural Nevada, where in 1906 Gans staged an epic fight-to-the-finish with Battling Nelson. The match itself is re-created excellently, but I liked even better the way Gildea presents the details of the time – what people ate, how they traveled, how whites and blacks interacted in daily life.
Driving Mr. Yogi: Yogi Berra, Ron Guidry, and Baseball’s Greatest Gift. By Harvey Araton. New York: Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt. 2012.
My colleague and friend Harvey Araton knows a good story when he hears it – how Guidry and Berra, Yankee greats of separate generations, spend time together every spring, as special eminences in Yankee camp. Guidry dispenses his Cajun frog legs and Berra dispenses his Hill wisdom. Berra is a national institution; fans will discover the humanity of Guidry.
Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball. By R.A. Dickey with Wayne Coffey. New York: Blue Rider Press. 2012.
Dickey discloses his turbulent childhood and his own imperfections as he seeks spiritual and intellectual growth, until he becomes a very late bloomer with the Mets. This book contains raw stuff – abuse, addiction around him, how Dickey took chances with his life by sleeping in empty houses and trying to swim the Missouri River. Far beyond the usual sports diary.
(Caveat: Long ago I formulated a so-called policy -- a stuffy word, to be sure -- that I do not give jacket blurbs. These are not reviews, and not identified with The New York Times in any way, but rather personal georgevecsey.com tributes to friends who got good books published, and more power to them.)
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.