Bob Marshall is a fellow after my own heart. He and I have never met, but I've learned that we share an abiding passion: both of us despise, revile, detest, abhor, abominate and loathe the New York Yankees.
I picked up this information from a charming little paperback book Marshall has written by way of testimony to his obsession. He calls it Diary of a Yankee-Hater (Franklin Watts, $7.95), and he leaves no doubt that he had a dandy time writing it. Certainly I had a dandy time reading it.
The book is a journal of the 1980 season, in which the Yankees won the American League East but were gratifyingly brushed aside in the playoffs by Kansas City. Marshall explains the book's purpose as follows:
"Other teams may have more fanatical devotees, but no team arouses the negative passions the Yankees do. There are millions of fans who would rather have their home team beat the Yankees than anyone else in the league. And there are others who root not so much for some other team, but, simply and continually, against the Yankees. It is this combined legion of Yankee-haters that I am part of. And it is for these Yankee-haters, whoever and wherever they may be, that I set out to document the New York Yankees' 1980 season." He does so with a distinct advantage: he lives in New York.
For the true Yankee-hater, this is as close to Nirvana as one can hope to get. Think of the possibilities in 81 home games a season, more than 100 on the tube, nightly reports on at least 10 TV news shows, breathless blow-by-blow stories about Yankee games and feuds in three daily newspapers. The Yankee-hater in the Big Apple can easily turn a minor quirk into an obsession.
Which seems to be what Bob Marshall, an attorney for Time Inc., has done. He follows the Yankees with a fierce and all-consuming intensity: chortling over each Yankee loss, grieving over each Yankee win—of which, alas, there were 103 in the 1980 season.
Save for Reggie Jackson, whom he dismisses as "an immature, attention-seeking prima donna," Marshall bears no special animus against any of the Yankees. His eyes, quite properly, are on the big picture: "In my view, Yankee hatred is like anti-Americanism in the Arab world or a Communist country in that it is directed at the team itself, not at the individual players or citizens. It would even be possible, I suppose, to individually like all 25 players on the Yankee roster and still want the team to lose."
One person connected with the Yanks whom Marshall definitely likes, in a sharp-eyed and humorous way, is the shortstop-turned-broadcaster Phil Rizzuto, whose "kidlike enthusiasm for the game" is indeed an endearing quality. In a different way, so too is Rizzuto's treatment of the English language. Marshall has studied Rizzutoese closely and has come forth with what may well be the definitive paragraph on the subject:
"...Rizzuto has a way with words that doesn't quite rise to the level of malapropism, but isn't the right way, either. Seeing a fan's sign that proclaimed Piniella the real Italian stallion, Rizzuto pointed out that 'Lou's descendants are actually from Spain.' Piniella and Murcer are valuable players down the stretch because of their 'veteran wiseness.' Today's game was delayed at the top of the eighth inning because 'a couple of mullions' ran out to give Bucky Dent a hug. The inning before, Dent made a good play 'on the second-base side of shortstop.' Bits of folk wisdom, like today's sudden shower, come out of the blue: 'They say rain makes you grow.' After a Rodriguez error, he began to moralize, 'Now there's a point in case.' "
When new Seattle manager Maury Wills brought the Mariners to town and drilled them in fundamentals, Rizzuto said he should save it for next spring: "The seed is planted in spring training, then nine months later fruition pays off.... Emily Dickinson is the one who told me about that."
Asides such as the above are really more interesting than Marshall's recapitulations of and comments on the games of the '80 season. He noted in April, for example, that the American League schedule meant that "for the last seven weeks of the 1980 season, it is possible that there could be two pennant races going in the East—one in Baltimore, one in New York—and the two principals would never meet," which is just what happened. He complains about the "modern" scoreboards that don't give up-to-the-minute out-of-town scores. And he has harsh words for those fans who "celebrate" wins by ripping up the turf and attacking ballplayers who are trying to leave the field:
"The 'spontaneous exuberance' of the fans is usually plotted well in advance and is fortified by three hours of beer drinking. It is no more a part of the game than having your tires slashed while your car is in the stadium parking lot."
As all of that suggests, Marshall is a traditionalist. He has come reluctantly to terms with the designated hitter, but he staunchly resists all other efforts to tamper with the basic structure of the Grand Old Game. In that respect he is similar to another notable baseball diarist, Art Hill, with whose two books Diary of a Yankee-Hater deserves favorable comparison. Marshall's keen wit is as appealing as his anti-Yankee bias.