Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Buck On Pete: “I’m amazed at how tough he is mentally and emotionally”

Pete Alonso getting ready to hit against Texas' Dane Dunning in the third inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

One month ago, the Mets declared it was all about the future, as they traded veterans, including their co-aces Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. Now, the focus is on whether first baseman Pete Alonso will be part of that future.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Books: "Terrace Story" By Hilary Leichter


Terrace Story

By Hilary Leichter

Ecco; hardcover, 240 pages; $27.99; available today, Tuesday, August 29th

Hilary Leichter is the author of Temporary, was was honored as a finalist for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and the NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award, and was long-listed for the PEN/Hemingway Award. She teaches at Columbia University and lives in Brooklyn. Her writing has been featured in Harper's Magazine, the New Yorker, and the New York Times.

Terrace Story is an outgrowth of a story Leichter wrote for Harper's that won a National Magazine Award, and it asks how we nurture love when death is looming at every moment. While it meditates on loss, it is a map for where to go next.

Annie, Edward, and their young daughter, Rose, live in a cramped apartment, and one night, without warning, they encounter a beautiful terrace hidden in their closet. It wasn't there before, but seems to only appear when their friend Stephanie visits. The terrace looks as if it was out of a catalog, as there was a table and four chairs, a grill, and an umbrella that looked rather expensive, as if they were just purchased or even invented.

This is a city-dweller's dream come true, but every bit of space has a hidden cost to it, and the terrace sets in motion a seismic chain of events. They forever change the shape of their tine home, and the shape of the world around them.

The richly-detailed story follows the family of three that suffers the repercussions, as their future is now deeply uncertain, as well as those who orbit their fragile universe. The distance and love these characters have for each other expands without limits, across generations.

This provokes questions such as how far the mind can travel when it's looking for something that is gone and where do we put our loneliness, longing, and desire. There also are thoughts of where do people put the emotions that seem to stretch beyond the body, beyond the boundaries of life and death.

In this excerpt, Annie and Edward discover their new home: "The old window gave a grand view of Yellow Tree, trunk to branch. They called it Yellow Tree even though the gingko was yellow for only about a week each year, its fan-shaped leaves rushing to the ground at the first suggestion of a breeze. Annie and Edward held the baby to the window and said, 'See? Yellow!' But she was too small to say 'yellow' in response. She just looked and watched and touched the glass. They wiped her fingerprints from the window and kissed the fingers that made the prints. Then the leaves fell, and the scenery changed. Some views show less than half of what needs seeing.

When the rent became unpayable, they went in search of a more affordable living situation. What's your living situation? Annie turned the phrase over in her mind, the situation of their life. They had not saved nearly enough for a broker's fee, let alone a security deposit.

'It looks smaller than it really is,' Edward said, leading Annie around the new apartment. A dimly lit lopsided square. 'Give it some time, it might grow on you!'

'You mean it might literally grow?' Annie asked.

At the new apartment, there were no views of Yellow Tree. The introverted  windows were gated and clasped and huddled around a central shaft that Edward dubbed Pigeon Tunnel. Edward and Annie liked inventing proper nouns for their world. Yellow Tree, Pigeon Tunnel, Closet Mystery. Closet Mystery was Annie's term for the mystery of their single, overstuffed closet. Upon opening, what would catapult forth? It was a bona fide enigma. Edward and Annie picked a proper noun for their baby too. Her noun was Rose.

Annie strapped Rose to her chest while she unpacked, stuffing diapers and deconstructed boxes into Closet Mystery, keeping an arm around her, holding tight, in case the fabric of the sling happened to unfurl like a scarf in a gust of wind, loosing the baby onto the ground.

'Careful,' she said to no one but herself.

Someday, Edward said, they would have a bit of outdoors all their own. A square of glass for playtime, a pot for planting herbs. They had said that at their last apartment too, and at the apartment before that, and they continued to say it even still, though perhaps with less conviction. They were cramped, Edward said, but in a way that felt familiar and warm, no? Yes, Annie agreed. Secretly, she felt that their lack of space probably signaled her lack of promise, a final judgment on her poor priorities and half-hewn choices. But it was a judgment that, in her deepest heart, had grown commonplace and comfortable, only jabbing its elbow of discontent at moments that found her particularly low. They were lucky in so many ways. They were healthy and happy and fine. They had spent every penny saved on moving in and moving out, even the coins from under the sink. Now there was a new sink, and an empty jar for fresh, shiny coins."

Mets Memo: Max Returns To Citi, & Diaz, Marte Injury Updates

Tylor Megill pitching to Robbie Grossman in the second inning. The summary of the Mets' game against Texas is at the end of this column. Photo by Jason Schott.

On Monday night, the Mets began a three-game series at Citi Field against the Texas Rangers, which meant that future Hall of Fame pitcher Max Scherzer would be back in the building. There also were updates on the returns of Mets closer Edwin Diaz and outfielder Starling Marte.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Angels Take Series From Mets

The Los Angeles Angels followed up Friday night's 3-1 win over the Mets at Citi Field with a 5-3 win on  Saturday night, followed by the Mets taking the finale 3-2 in walk-off fashion on Sunday afternoon. The Mets are now 60-71, and their nine-game homestand continues on Monday night when they open a three-game set with the Texas Rangers.

Books: "Outrage Machine" By Tobias Rose-Stockwell

Outrage Machine: How Tech Amplifies Discontent, Disrupts Democracy - And What We Can Do About It

By Tobias Rose-Stockwell; introduction by Jonathan Haidt

Legacy Lit; hardcover, 416 pages; $29.00

Tobias Rose-Stockwell is a writer, designer, and media researcher who has written for The Atlantic, Wired, NPR, the BCC, and CNN. The research he has performed has been cited in adopting key interventions to reduce toxicity and polarization within leading tech platforms. Prior to that, he led humanitarian projects in Southeast Asia focused on civil war reconstruction efforts, and he was honored with an award from the 14th Dalai Lama.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Ohtani Makes Citi Field Debut, Battles Fellow Japanese Star Senga

Kodai Senga pitching to Shohei Ohtani in the third inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Mets began a three-game series with the Los Angeles Angels on Friday night at Citi Field, and there was no doubt who the marquee attraction was: Shohei Ohtani.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Mets To Retire Darryl & Doc's Numbers In 2024



The Mets announced on Thursday something that fans have been waiting a long time for, an event that will be much-anticipated next summer.

Books On Two Of Baseball's Landmark Franchises, the Red Sox & Cardinals


Boston Red Sox Firsts: The Players, Moments and Records That Were First in Team History

By Bill Nowlin

Lyons Press; paperback; $19.95

Bill Nowlin is the author of nearly 100 books, with a lot of them on the Boston Red Sox, including Don't Let Us Win Tonight: An Oral History of the 2004 Boston Red Sox Impossible Playoff Run, written with Allan Wood. Nowlin also co-founded Rounder Records, America's most independent record label specializing in roots music.

The Red Sox are one of the most compelling teams in baseball history, as they were the most successful team in the 1910s, and then after Babe Ruth was sold to the Yankees, they endured an 86-year "Curse of the Bambino" before they have won four championships in the last 20 years.

Along the way over their 122-year history, Red Sox fans have been treated to countless firsts. That starts with Jimmy Collins, who was the first manager of the Sawx; then Tris Speaker, who was the first American League Most Valuable Player (MVP) to play for the Sox; Bill Dineen, the first 20-game winner; Ted Williams, the first to hit 500 home runs; and Roger Clemens, the first Sox pitcher to win the Cy Young Award.

As you can see from just those names, there are many well-known names, like Clemens and Williams, and others that will deepen your understanding of their rich history. Nowlin, the veteran Red Sox historian, presents the stories behind the firsts in Red Sox history in a question-and-answer format.

This is more than a trivia book, as Nowlin gives substantive answers to the question of "who was the first...?" on many topics, most of which will surprise even their biggest fans.

The Red Sox have played at iconic Fenway Park since 1912, so the history of where they played before that, including in the early years when they were the Boston Americans, the original name when the team was founded in 1901, is especially interesting.

Some of the questions include, "Who was the first (and only) Red Sox player to have been on four World Series-winning Red Sox teams?" and "Who was the first Red Sox player to drive in four runs in successive clinching games that won both a League Championship Series and a World Series?," as well as a chapter on foreign-born Red Sox, such as the first players from Cuba, Japan, and the Dominican Republic.

Nowlin writes of what fans can expect to find in this excerpt: " The very first team to win the very first World Series was the team we now know as the Boston Red Sox. They were also, arguably, the first dynasty when it came to World Series wins. Come the current century, are they at it again? In the first 21 years of the twenty-first century, the Red Sox have won four more championships, more than any other club.

Baseball is often described as a game in which numbers are of utmost importance - not just which team wins the most games. Baseball fans have always tended to enjoy looking at numbers. Trivia has always been prized by baseball aficionados, but many of the numbers are of real significance - which players hit the most home runs? Hit for the highest batting average? Which player won 20 games in a season? Did a player set a team record for stolen bases? How many games in a row did a given team win? Does a player have a streak of some sort going?

Sometimes it's not just the aggregate numbers that matter, but there has always been a fascination with what comes comes first? What did a rookie do in his first at-bat? Who was the first player to hit a walk-off home run?...

It's another way of looking at a team's history, another way to appreciate the highlights (and a few lowlights) over the course of time.

The park the Red Sox plays in - Fenway Park - is the oldest park in major-league baseball. We'll look at some Fenway firsts, too.

Let's start with World Series play since that's the ultimate goal for any team. Then we can step back and look at the founding of the franchise, which started play in 1901. There's always an essential historical element to any look at 'firsts,' and this book will be no exception. The team has a rich history, and much of it will be explored here, moving forward through time to look at firsts in the categories of hitting, pitching, fielding, baserunning, and other elements of play on the field, as well as a number of things off the field as well."

The Ultimate St. Louis Cardinals Time Machine Book

By Martin Gitlin

Lyons Press; paperback; $19.95

Martin Gitlin is a veteran author and sportswriter who has written around 150 books published since 2006, including A Celebration of Animation: The 100 Greatest Cartoon Characters in Television History (Lyons Press, 2018), with Joe Wos, and Powerful Moments in Sports: The Most Significant Sporting Events in American History, which earned critical acclaim. Gitlin won more than 45 awards as a sports journalist from 1991 to 2002, including first place for general excellence from the Associated Press for his coverage of the Indians-Braves 1995 World Series.

The Ultimate St. Louis Cardinals Time Machine Book is Gitlin's newest, and it presents the history of the Red Birds in a timeline format that not only includes their greatest moments, such as that that helped them win 11 World Championships, but also notable achievements.

The Cardinals have many of those, including Rogers Hornsby's two batting triple crowns, Dizzy Dean's 30-win season in 1934, Stan Musial's 17 Major League Baseball and 29 National League records, Bob Gibson's 1.12 ERA (earned run average) in 1968, and the 2011 championship team's unprecedented comebacks. 

Cardinals players have won 20 National League MVP awards, four batting Triple Crowns, and three Cy Young Awards. St. Louis has been one of the most consistently well-performing teams, which has only made this season's underwhelming play more shocking. They have won 105 or more games four times, and won 100 or more nine times. 

Gitlin writes, "Their periods of superiority have been pronounced. The champions of the late 1920s. The Gashouse Gang featuring Dizzy Dean that followed. The war-year World Series winners of Enos 'Country' Slaughter and Stan Musial. The perennial 1960s title-holders led by such legends as Lou Brock, Orlando Cepeda and Gibson. The stolen-base kings of the 1980s driven by Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee that snagged crowns without power. And the seemingly annual playoff participants throughout the twenty-first century guided by Tony LaRussa and Mike Matheny, the latest into 2018 of a long line of St. Louis managers whose extended stays resulted in stability and success.

"That sustained brilliance offers welcome challenges to any chronicler of franchise history. One cannot focus solely on the clubs that earned titles for the Cardinals have hoisted eleven World Series championship banners and played in nineteen Fall Classics. That provided this author an opportunity to not only write about those kings of baseball, but also the personalities and motivations of the men who graced their uniforms or worked behind the scenes to make it all happen, including owners Sam Breadon, who purchased the team for a measly $2,000 in 1917 and sold it for $3 million thirty years later, and the legendary beer baron Gussie Busch, who cycled through one general manager after another but maintained continuity in the manager's office and on the field to rule over six pennant and three World Series winners." 

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Books: "The Decisive Decade" By Jonathan D.T. Ward


The Decisive Decade: American Grand Strategy for Triumph Over China

By Jonathan D.T. Ward

Diversion Books; hardcover, 304 pages; $28.99

Jonathan D.T. Ward is the founder of the Atlas Organization, a consultancy focused on US-China global competition. He earned his PhD at the University of Oxford, where he specialized in China-India relations after he was initially admitted to Oxford for a doctorate in Russia-China relations during the Cold War. Dr. Ward spent his undergraduate years in Russian and Chinese language at Columbia University, and he has studied Russia, China, and India for the nearly twenty years since then. He is the author of China's Vision of Victory, a guide to the global grand strategy of the Chinese government, which has been read widely in the United States government and national security services. Dr. Ward has been an advisor to the US Department of Defense on Chinese long-term strategy and has briefed numerous US government audiences, including at US Strategic Command, US Indo-Pacific Command, and the US Department of Commerce.

In the new book The Decisive Decade, Dr. Ward, the foremost expert on US-China global competition, focuses on the economic battlefront and in-depth analysis of the diplomatic, military, and ideological arenas to deliver a strategic call to action and playbook to outcompete the long-term strategies of China and its Communist Party.

International security and American supremacy are at stake, and Dr. Ward's comprehensive framework shows how the United States can and must defeat China on the world stage economically, diplomatically, militarily, and ideologically. 

China's global power and influence grows every day, driven by a deep sense of national identity. The Chinese Communist Party is leading its country toward what it deems "the great rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation," and is executing a long-term Grand Strategy to topple over its chief adversary, the United States. China is also becoming increasingly repressive domestically and aggressive overseas as it attempts to do this.

Dr. Ward provides novel and practical strategies that our government, as well as business and citizens, can utilize to undermine our adversary. There must be exhaustive campaigns in the economic, diplomatic, military, and ideological arenas to achieve victory.

There are three things the U.S. should do from the beginning, Dr. Ward contends. This current decade, the 2020s, is the decisive one in the competition with China, and if the U.S. organizes and executes a grand strategy now, then the long-term challenge from China can be managed.  This contest will ultimately be won or lost through economic power, as our private companies are essential, and the government must do more to tilt the economic balance of power permanently in our favor. The United States must also understand the fundamentals of this battle, the ambitions of the adversary and the nature of the competition, in the mold of the successful containment strategy in he Cold War, which was the brainchild of America's leading Sovietologist, George F. Kennan.

In this excerpt, Dr. Ward writes: "There will come a time when we in the United States of America will fully recognize the challenge that we face from the People's Republic of China and its ruling Chinese Communist Party. There will arrive a moment when we realize the depth and nature of the conflict that we have with the most potent challenger that we have faced in decades, the most capable challenger since the Soviet Union or even since the Axis Powers of the Second World War. When that time comes, whether through deadly manifestations of China's military ambition - which is rising in the Pacific - or through the gradual consensus-building that has begun to take shape among governments across the world, we will need to understand how we can win.

That day may come soon. Before Pearl Harbor, before September 11, there were many who could have told us about the threats we faced from overseas. But only when America is ready - not only as a government, but also as a people, as a nation - can we engage and overcome our most important challenges.

Let us imagine, for a moment, that we have reached that point, the point where it is clear that we face monumental dangers, in our country and around the world. Perhaps it arrived when Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping spoke in unison about their 'unlimited' partnership at the Beijing Olympics in 2022, carried out on the world stage in the midst of a genocide taking place in China and announced just weeks ahead of Putin's invasion of Ukraine. Perhaps it arrived with the Chinese Communist Party's military antagonism by sea, air, and land against its neighbors in Asia from India to Japan to Taiwan, or the threats of 'possible nuclear attacks in the future' against our ally Australia. Perhaps it coincided with the threat by official Chinese Communist Party media to curtail medical equipment exports to the United States at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and so that America would be 'plunged into the mighty sea of coronavirus.' Perhaps it has taken all these together to awaken us. Or, it may be that we shall only awaken through events yet to come. But America, together with our friends and Allies across the world, is today in a process of awakening to the enormous scope, scale, and maleficence of the challenge posed by China. When our awakening is complete, when it comes time that we are ready, we will need to understand what to do and how to win."

Saturday, August 19, 2023

With Final Forty To Go, Boone Says Yanks "Haven’t put ourselves in any position, or given a thought, why we would get back into it"


Gerrit Cole pitching to Boston's Pablo Reyes in the second inning on Saturday afternoon. Photo by Jason Schott.

Saturday marked the start of the final forty games of the Yankees’ season, and they entered this benchmark with an underwhelming record of 60-62, seven games out of the final Wild Card spot.

Friday, August 18, 2023

Books: "Goodbye Earl: A Revenge Novel" By Leesa Cross-Smith

Goodbye Earl: A Revenge Novel

By Leesa Cross-Smith

Grand Central Publishing; hardcover, 400 pages; $29.00

Leesa Cross-Smith is a homemaker living in Kentucky with her husband and two teenagers. She is the author of Every Kiss A War, Whiskey & Ribbons, So We Can Glow, This Close to Okay, and Half-Blown Rose.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Yankees To Hold Old Timers' Day On Sept. 9, With Celebration of '98 Team


Yankee Stadium. Photo by Jason Schott

The Yankees recently announced the roster of former Yankees who will be on hand for the 75th Old Timers' Day on Saturday, September 9, which will include a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the 1998 team, with 29 players from that 125-win team will be on hand.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Mets Take Series From Pirates As Bats Erupt In Finale


Francisco Lindor lacing a two-run single in the second inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Mets cruised to an 8-3 win over the Pirates on Wednesday afternoon at Citi Field, as Pete Alonso made some history, DJ Stewart hit a pair of home runs, and Francisco Lindor had two RBI.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Books: "Althea" On One Of Tennis' Greatest Champions, By Sally H. Jacobs


ALTHEA: The Life of Tennis Champion Althea Gibson

By Sally H. Jacobs

St. Martin's Press; hardcover, 464 pages; $32.00; available today, Tuesday, August 15th

Sally H. Jacobs is a former reporter for the Boston Globe, and a winner of the George Polk Award and the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting with the Globe newsroom, and is the author of The Other Barack, a biography of former President Barack Obama's father.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Mets Take Out Frustrations On Braves In Series Finale


Mark Vientos sliding home on Rafael Ortega's two-run single in the fifth inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Mets took out their frustrations on the Atlanta Braves on Sunday night, as they roared back from an early deficit to win, 7-6, after they dropped the first three game of this series and avoided a sweep.

Kodai Senga got the win to improve to 9-6 with a 3.30 ERA (earned run average), as he went six innings, and allowed three runs (all earned) on four hits and two walks, with seven strikeouts.

Atlanta scored all three of their runs off him in the first inning on a Marcell Ozuna double. 

Matt Olson about to come in to score and make it 3-0 Atlanta in the first inning, as Kodai Senga (left of the plate) looks on. Photo by Jason Schott.

Senga then retired the next two hitters to get out of further trouble, and that began a stretch in which he retired 13 straight Braves, up until Ronald Acuna, Jr., beat out an infield hit with two outs in the fifth inning.

Kodai Senga firing one in to Sean Murphy in the fourth inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

Senga's streak allowed the Mets' offense to get back into it against Atlanta starting pitcher Robinson Chirinos, who entered this one with a 5-4 record and a 4.83 ERA.

In the third inning, Rafael Ortega led off with a single and came in to score on a single by Jeff McNeil. That was the first run in the series the Mets scored against an Atlanta starting pitcher, as Charlie Morton kept them off the board for five innings Friday night, and Allan Winans and Spencer Strider each threw seven shutout innings in the Braves' pair of victories in Saturday's doubleheader.

After Chirinos retired the Mets in order in the fourth, another single from Ortega opened the fifth. 

Brandon Nimmo then followed with a single, and after Francisco Lindor bounced into a force out, which brought home Ortega to make it 3-2 Atlanta. McNeil then singled, his third of the night, and that was followed by Pete Alonso reaching on a force out.

Then, Chirinos lost the strike zone, as he walked Daniel Vogelbach to load the bases, and Omar Narvaez then drew a walk to force in a run and tie the game.

That was all for Chirinos, and in came Collin McHugh. Mark Vientos drew another bases-loaded walk to bring in Alonso and put the Mets up, 4-3. D.J. Stewart was up next, and Atlanta catcher Sean Murphy's glove got in the way of his swing and that's enough for catcher's interference, which gave Stewart first base and forced in another run to make it 5-3 Mets.

Ortega then laced one to right field to bring in Narvaez and a sliding Vientos, and that sent Citi Field into a frenzy, and the Mets were up, 7-3.

They would make each and every one of those runs stand up, as Atlanta came back. Murphy hit a solo shot in the seventh, his 20th of the season, off Grant Hartwig, and then Matt Olson blasted a two-run shot to right-center field that made it 7-6 Mets. That was Olson's league-leading 43rd home run of the season, and he now has 107 RBI on the season, as well.

Adam Ottavino came on for the Mets in the ninth, and he retired Atlanta in order to earn his seventh save of the season.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Braves Sweep Mets In Doubleheader

Allan Winans pitching to Pete Alonso in the first inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Mets suffered the latest in a series of tough days in their 2023 season on Saturday at Citi Field, as they were swept by the Atlanta Braves in a doubleheader, losing the opener, 21-3, before being shutout in the nightcap, 6-0.

Friday, August 11, 2023

Megill Returns To Citi, Mets Offense Can't Take Advantage Of Many Chances As Braves Roll


Charlie Morton pitching to Pete Alonso in the third inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Atlanta Braves, led by escape artist Charlie Morton, shutout the Mets, 7-0, on Friday night at Citi Field, as they improved their Major League-best record to 73-41. The Mets, who began their ten-game homestand by taking two of three from the Chicago Cubs, fell to 52-63.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Battle Of The Badges At Citi Field Now August 17th


The Mets will be hosting the second annual Battle of the Badges, the charity softball game between the New York City Police Department and Fire Department, will now on Thursday, August 17 at 7:10 p.m. at Citi Field. It has been postponed from tonight, Thursday, August 10, due to inclement weather.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Alonso Hits #35, Ready To Move Up Mets All-Time Lists


Pete Alonso steps into the box against Chicago's Kyle Hendricks on Wednesday night. Photo by Jason Schott.

Pete Alonso blasted another home run on Wednesday night, his 35th of the season, and helped lead the Mets to a 4-3 victory, as they took two of three from the Chicago Cubs at Citi Field.

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Mets Get Good News On Marte; Cubs Come Back On Them After Pete Hits #34

Cody Bellinger connecting on his third inning home run. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Mets received a good report on Starling Marte after he met with his doctor on his right groin strain, and then they went on to fall to the Chicago Cubs, 3-2, in the middle game of their three-game set on Tuesday night at Citi Field.

Monday, August 7, 2023

Manic Monday For Mets As They Make Moves On Marte & Baty, Then Crush Cubs

Kodai Senga firing one in against the Cubs' Cody Bellinger in the second inning on Monday night. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Mets returned to Citi Field on Monday night, and they rolled to an 11-2 won over the Chicago Cubs to open a three-game series, backed by a great outing from Kodai Senga and two home runs from Pete Alonso. 

This broke a six-game losing streak for the Mets, who improved to 51-61 on the season, and came against a red-hot Cubs team that was 18-8 since the last time they came to New York and took two of three from the Yankees from July 7-9. Chicago is now 58-55, 2 1/2 games behind Milwaukee (61-53) in the National League Central race.

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Books: "You Are Looking Live!" By Rich Podolsky On The Legacy Of "The NFL Today"

You Are Looking Live! How The NFL Today Revolutionized Sports Broadcasting

By Rich Podolsky

Lyons Press; 240 pages; paperback, $19.95, available this August; hardcover, $29.95; eBook, $19.00

Rich Podolsky has been a reporter since the 1970s, covering the Miami Dolphins and writing for The NFL Today. He has also written for CBS Sports, The Philadelphia Daily News, The Palm Beach Post, The Wilmington News-Journal, TV Guide, and ESPN. He has written about the business of television sports for years and is a columnist for David Halberstam's Sports Business Journal. He also has a passion for music of the 1960s and '70s, and is the author of Don Kirshner: The Man With the Golden Ear (foreword by Tony Orlando), and Neil Sedaka, Rock 'n' Roll Survivor (foreword by Elton John).

Saturday, August 5, 2023

Books: "A Patriot's Promise" By Israel "DT" Del Toro, U.S. Air Force, Senior Master Sergeant (Ret.)


A Patriot's Promise: Protecting My Brothers, Fighting for My Life, and Keeping My word

By Israel "DT" Del Toro, U.S. Air Force, Senior Master Sergeant (Ret.)

St. Martin's Press; 288 pages, includes one 16-page color insert; hardcover, $28.99; EBook, $14.99

"You bravely answered the call to defend our country in the United States Air Force. You showed us that a warrior's heart transcends even the worst of wounds. You're incredible. You didn't let it change you. We've seen it again and again: you bring joy, you bring hope, you bring inspiration to everyone you meet." - President Joe Biden

"He found a way not just to survive against the odds, but to thrive. He is a study in strength, tenacity, bravery, and service. He is a damn miracle." - Jon Stewart, former host of "The Daily Show." and current host of Apple TV+'s "The Problem with Jon Stewart."

"DT has an amazing story of courage and perseverance. He is truly inspiring, and he clearly never gives up. A true inspiration." - Jay Glazer, FOX Sports, NFL Insider for "FOX NFL Sunday."

"Del Toro is a man of uncommon courage, and a patriot of the highest order...When I painted you a few years ago, I tried to capture your hopeful, joyful, unconquerable soul on the canvass. You're an inspiration to us all, and I was honored to serve as your Commander in Chief." - President George W. Bush

These are just a few of the tributes to Israel Del Toro, Jr., who served as a Senior Master Sergeant of the Air Force. In Afghanistan, he was a Special Ops paratrooper, and he was injured in action in 2005 in a mission targeting a high-value target in the southeast corner of the country, neat a valley ticked into the mountains of Zabul. His long recovery included adaptive sports as well as advocacy for his fellow wounded warriors. Del Toro was instrumental in the creation of the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program. 

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Books: "A Bakery In Paris" By Aimie K. Runyan

A Bakery in Paris

By Aimie K. Runyan

William Morrow Paperbacks; paperback, 368 pages; $18.99

Aimie K. Runyan is the author of The School for German Brides, and she writes fiction that celebrates history's unsung heroes. She is also active in the writing community as a speaker and educator, as an Adjunct Instructor for the Drexel University MFA in Creative Writing program.

A Bakery in Paris is Runyan's new captivating historical novel set in nineteenth-century and post-World War II Paris that follows two fierce women of the same family, generations apart, who find that their future is in the four walls of a simple bakery in a tiny corner of Montmartre. 

In 1870, the Prussians are at the city gates, intent to starve Paris into submission. Lisette Vigneau is headstrong, full of spirit and determination, but often ignored by her parents. She awaits the outcome of the war from her parents' grand home in the Place Royale in the very heart of the city.

An excursion sends Lisette into the path of a revolutionary National Guardsman, Theodore Fournier, and her destiny is forever altered. She gives up her life of luxury and joins in the fight for a Paris of the People. In the hopes of helping the impoverished neighborhood in its hour of need, she opens a small bakery. The city eventually falls into famine, and then rebellion, and that tests her resolve to give up the comforts of her past life.

In 1946, nineteen-year-old Micheline Chartier is coping with the loss of her father and the disappearance of her mother during the war. In their absence, it is up to her to raise her two younger sisters, and with the help of a well-meaning neighbor, she is enrolled in a prestigious baking academy with her entire life mapped out for her.

Micheline feels trapped and desperately unequal to the task of raising two young girls, and she becomes obsessed with finding her mother. Her academy classmate, Laurent Tanet, may be the only one capable of helping Micheline move on from the past and begin creating a future for herself.

A Bakery in Paris is full of rich historical detail, as well as enticing descriptions of French confections, and is told in a captivating style with alternating chapters on Lisette and Micheline to deepen the richness of the narrative.

In this excerpt, Runyan writes of what Micheline's life is like: "FEBRUARY 25, 1946 - I sat straight upright in bed, the nightgown that had once been Maman's now doused in sweat. It was a solid minute before I realized the air-raid sirens had been in my dreams and that I didn't have to drag Noemie and Sylvie down to the cellars of our little two-story building to wait out the bombing. The war had been over for months, but the nightmares made it feel as though it never ceased.

I looked over at little Noemie who had crawled into my bed at some point in the night. Her red ringlets framed a face that was better suited for a gallery in the Louvre than our apartment above a bistro with peeling dark-green paint in the far reaches of Paris. She took deep even breaths and looked as though the war was the furthest thing from her mind. A long-forgotten ghost of a memory that would only come back as a twinge of sadness, rather than a tidal wave of grief. I couldn't take solace in much, but Noemie's innocence was my safe haven. I would have given my very life to protect it.

'Nightmares again?' Sylvie asked from her bed on the opposite side of the room.

'Yes, go back to sleep, darling,' I bade gently. I'd hoped that it was just before dawn, but my bedside clock told me it was still the middle of the night.

'We'd all sleep better if you'd move into Maman's room, you know,' Sylvie said, covering her head with her pillow. 'I've half a mind to take it for myself if you won't.' Her voice was muffled by the pillow, but even the thick puff of goose down didn't dampen her vitriol. She was twelve, soon would be thirteen, and grew more challenging with each passing day. I sighed and tried to take some solace in that too. I was just her age when the war broke out and hadn't had the luxury of being a difficult teenager. Noemie, at the tender age of eight, was more restful company.

Part of me should have been grateful Sylvie had the chance at a proper adolescence, but the raising of her was left to me, and she seemed determined to make up for my lost opportunity, even if it meant driving me insane in the process.

'You will not,' I said, summoning the authority of a sister seven years her elder. 'It is Maman's room and will remain so until she comes home.'

Sylvie shot me daggers. Twelve-year-olds really were a pestilence. She'd done the hard work of coming to grips with Maman's disappearance, where I was not yet able. It had been different with Papa. His death records were conclusive. Killed in action near Sedan. We'd all accepted the news of his death with grief, but without the burden of uncertainty. It was a rare family in Paris that hadn't lost a father, brother, husband, or son to the war. Others had waited for years for their loved ones to be released from prisoner-of-war camps in hopes something would be left of the man they'd sent off to war. If a family had only been called to sacrifice one, they were counted among the lucky.

Maman's story was harder to accept. We hadn't the means to leave Paris early in the war, and soon it was too late to escape, even if we'd had the money. She'd been scrupulous about keeping us safe. Religiously checking the oilcloth that covered the windows for any gaps that might let out a glimmer of light. Never letting us leave the apartment alone under any circumstances. Always choosing the routs to the market with the least chance of meeting a German patrol. She was vigilance personified.

But one day, almost two years ago, when she went to trade her ration coupons for groceries, she never returned.

There had been no air raid while she was gone. There had been no exceptional upheaval in the streets that day. But she disappeared all the same, and we were left behind to make sense.

The woman who always left us, cloistered for our safety, with the words, 'Stay here safe and sound for me, my darlings, so I may run my errands with an easy heart and come home all the sooner,' left just after the midday meal on a reasonably calm Tuesday in June and never came home. The city had just been liberated from German control and we'd begun to breathe a bit more freely. We didn't realize what a mistake that was."

Books: "The Lagoon" By James Michael Dorsey, On The Whales Of San Ignacio

The Lagoon: Encounters with the Whales of San Ignacio

By James Michael Dorsey

Diversion Books; hardcover, 288 pages; $28.99

James Michael Dorsey is a certified crustacean naturalist with expertise in whales, dolphins, porpoises, sea lions, and seals. He has worked for twenty-five years as an on-board naturalist on whale boats from several Southern California Harbors, and he currently works for a whale watching company in Moss Landing, California.

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Pitino Finishes Off Restoration Of St. John's With Brooklyn Native


St. John's Head Coach Rick Pitino at a recent practice. @StJohnsBBall.

St. John's Head Coach Rick Pitino has done a masterful job this offseason remaking the Red Storm's roster into one of the best teams in the country. He finished it off by adding Chris Ledlum, a Brooklyn native who's a graduate transfer from Harvard, the school made official on Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Verlander Heads Back To Houston In Stunning Finish To Mets Fire Sale

Justin Verlander pitching against the San Francisco Giants on July 1. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Mets completed their fire sale ahead of the trade deadline on Tuesday evening, as they sent ace pitcher Justin Verlander back to the Houston Astros.

Yankees Get Pair Of Pitchers Ahead Of The Trade Deadline

Yankee Stadium's trademark facade. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Yankees made a pair of moves ahead of the trade deadline on Tuesday evening, as they acquired a pair of pitchers, Kenyan Middleton and Spencer Howard. They also transferred catcher Jose Trevino to the 60-day injured list.

Books: New Fiction From Sabine Durrant & Gillian McAllister


Sun Damage

By Sabine Durrant

Harper Paperbacks/HarperCollins Publishers; paperback, 368 pages; $18.99; available today, Tuesday, August 1st

Sabine Durrant is a former assistant editor of The Guardian and a former literary editor of the Sunday Times, and her feature writing has appeared in many British national newspapers and magazines, including writing profiles for the Sunday Telegraph. She is the author of a variety of books, including Under Your Skin, Lie With Me, and Finders, Keepers.

The latest novel from Durrant is a physchological thriller that follows nine guests as they arrive at a luxury vacation home, Domaine du Colombier, in a tiny village in Provence, France. Each guest brings designer luggage and devastating secrets, with nowhere to hide.

All the guests know each other well, except for Lulu, the young woman hired to cater their holiday. Lulu had a bit of drama of her own while on vacation, the fallout of which is just beginning to be understood. It's clear that the woman in the kitchen isn't exactly  the woman the group thought they hired. 

In this excerpt, Durrant introduces Lulu: "It was the English voice that caught our attention - the sub schoolgirl French, grappling with an order for a demi-carafe. We were close to the bar as usual: you tend to pick up most there. She was at a table in full sun - rookie mistake, one of her shoulders already going red. Fresh off the plane, always a bonus. A British Airways tag hung from the leather straps of her powder blue Longchamp bag (genuine logo, I'd checked), and the paperback in front of her, spine unbroken, was part of a three-for-two airport deal.

What other tells? New mani-pedi - the neon pink all the posh Brits were wearing that year - and on the sand next to her, a brand-new sarong, still furled in its store-packaged ribbon. Also present: signs of the mild agitation people display on the first day of a holiday, an eagerness coupled with a daunting sense of vacancy, of a big hole waiting to be filled. When Sean went to the bathroom, I kept her in my line of vision as she scrolled through her phone, then held it up, small lips pursed, for a selfie.

'Debit card: L. Fletcher Davies,' Sean murmured, his chair sinking a little into the sand as he slipped back into his seat. 'Address on luggage: 11a Stanley Terrace, W11.'

'Lulu,' I countered. I couldn't help myself. The four letters were strung in gold on a chain around her neck.

He smiled, pleased with me, then jerked his chin at my phone, saying time to get trawling.

I looked at him: Really?

I wish I could say it was conscience that initially held me back, or at the very least foreboding. But I'd be lying. We shouldn't even have been there. The 'Picasso' napkin ploy had gone to plan, and Sainte-Cecile-sur-Mer would have been two days behind us. Except I'd gotten ill - some kind of virus that left me wasted and bedridden in the hotel. It was searingly hot. Music, a soft jazz, swam against the murmur and shuffle of waves. San slid silkily between my bare toes. I wrinkled my nose, one shoulder raised in a reluctant shrug. But I'd gotten the mood wrong. His smile had gone. 'Ali,' he said, and I could feel the cold of him like steel across my cheek.

It wasn't the money. There was enough in the hotel safe to get us to where we wanted, even - a new, dangerous thought - go our separate ways. No, my hesitation was the problem; he'd taken it personally. He liked us to be in sync. Two parts of the same smoothly functioning machine.

And, maybe, he was right. She was the perfect mark. Tourists usually are. The south of France may not be India, where eighty rupees pass through a person's fingers as easily as eight, and where you could say I'd become who I was. But a fish out of water is a fish out of water whatever water it's out of. Isolation makes mugs of us all. We all make our worst decisions when we have a lot on our mind."

Just Another Missing Person

By Gillian McAllister

William Morrow; hardcover, 384 pages; $30.00; available today, Tuesday, August 1st

Gillian McAllister is the New York Times bestselling author of Reese's Book Club Pick Wrong Place Wrong Time, Everything by the Truth, The Choice, The Good Sister, The Evidence Against You, How to Disappear, and the Richard & Judy Book Club selection That Night. She is the creator and co-host of the popular Honest Authors podcast. She graduated with an English degree before working as a lawyer, and now lives and writes full-time in Birmingham, England. 

Just Another Missing Person is the new twisty thriller from McAllister, and it is about Julia, a detective in Portishead, England, who has a dark secret. 

A year ago, Julia risked the morality of her job to protect her beloved daughter, Genevieve. It was a selfless yet selfish act she's been trying to move on and hide from ever since. 

Julia receives a call that a young woman named Olivia Johnson has gone missing, and she immediately gets started on the case, calling family and housemates, tracking last known whereabouts, and analyzing surveillance tapes - and that's assuming it's a normal missing person's case. 

The last footage of Olivia shows her walking into a no-outlet alleyway, and never coming out. How could someone just vanish into thin air? 

Julia is puzzled and in need of a fresh headspace, and she heads home. While driving, it's apparent that she isn't alone. Through her rearview mirror, her eyes meet another set of eyes piercing out from a balaclava. 

The man in Julia's backseat pulls out the mostly damning weapon of all, that he knows her secret. Julia is told that she must frame the disappearance and murder of Olivia Johnson on a man named Mathew James or else she'll be exposed by him.

Julia is put in an impossible moral dilemma, having to choose between framing a possibly innocent man or risk her daughter's well-being. With this inescapable threat weighing over her, how far is she willing to be pushed?

McAllister writes in this excerpt: "Julia has always been too soft to be a police officer. She is thinking this is as she hurries into the station, ready to brief the team, but stopping to stare at an old informant of hers, Price, who Julia has always been too fond of. He is sitting on one of the benches, his features arranged in a surprised expression, paused as if someone's stopped the universe for just a second.

She is about to ask him what he's doing here. She can't help it; it's shot through her, no matter how many other tasks she has on. Cut Julia, and she bleeds curiosity for those she cares about, which is everyone.

Price has his legs crossed at the ankles, an arm slung across the backs of the metal chairs, ostensibly at home here, but Julia knows he will be afraid. Of course he is: he trades on information - the most dangerous of commodities.

He has auburn hair that he gels so thickly it darkens the red to inconspicuous brown. Freckles. Skin that burns and blushes easily. He's Scottish, originally from Glasgow, never lost the accent, despite moving down here twenty years ago, when he was seventeen.

'What're you in for?' she asks him, standing opposite him in the empty foyer.  It smells of industrial cleaning wax and the stale dinners they serve the accused; many contain meat that somehow doesn't need to be refrigerated and has a use-by date of several years' time.

Most of the lights have popped off. Julia finds the station during those down times impossibly romantic, like it's an out-of-hours museum only she has access to, a still from a movie that she may wander around, just her.

'This and that,' he says. He's smart, Price, strategic; he won't be telling her for a reason.

'Meaning?' she asks. Price is hardly ever interviewed: he informs only to her. Quick, slippery, and funny, too, but never under arrest. Almost all of Julia's dealings with him have been in the outside world.

The custody sergeant arrives with a single cup of station coffee. Julia flicks her gaze to it. 'Just made one for you, then?' she says. The sergeant ignores her.

She looks back at Price, then sighs again as she walks toward the back office, stopping at the kitchen. She makes a tea, three sugars, loads of milk, partially to cool it down to make it less of a risk - steaming-hot tea is not allowed in custody, because it is a weapon. The cup warms her fingers. She's tempted to down it, has had one drink all day, in Nando's, but she doesn't. She has too much to do. She has to find out what's going on with Price. She wants to follow up on the murderer in the restaurant. And then, the main thing: it looks like she has to find a missing woman.

Price's hand is already extended out to her as she arrives back with it. 'Ohhh, miss,' he says to her, delighted. He sips it. 'The sugars as well. I owe you a tip. What's ten percent of nothing?' He barks a laugh out. He's acerbic, but one thing is for sure: if their roles were reversed, he, too, would get her tea.

She smiles and avoids the gaze of the custody sergeant. Better to be judged by a colleague for over-familiarity than to lie awake tonight thinking about Price and whether he's had a hot drink yet that day, that week. There is nothing Julia does better than obsess in the middle of the night. And, in fact, in the middle of the day, too.

'Good luck, okay?' she says to him. He raises the cup to her in a silent toast.

As she gets back to her office, before briefing the team, she checks on the murderer's file. It was John, John Gibbons. She gets a security guard to verify that he's still inside, HMP Bristol. It must have been somebody else. Julia cups her face in her hands, two jobs down, one to go, at pushing eight o'clock at night, and thinks about working in a supermarket. But, the thing is, she wouldn't love anything else. Not like she loves this. And nobody can have a balanced relationship with something they love."