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Book Nook: The Pride of the Yankees by Richard Sandomir


If you are a regular reader of the New York Times you have surely read the writing of Richard Sandomir. He has been with that newspaper for many years. I have always wanted to interview him and I finally got the opportunity with the publication of the paperback edition of his book "The Pride of the Yankees - Lou Gehrig, Gary Cooper, and the Making of a Classic."

Lou Gehrig was one of the great stars of those New York Yankees baseball teams of the late 1920's and early 1930's. Lou's stamina and strength became apparent when he set a record for playing in consecutive games, a record that seemed to be unbreakable until Cal Ripken finally shattered it many years later. Gehrig's endurance earned him the moniker of "the Iron Horse."

Gehrig quietly labored in the shadow of his teammate, the larger than life man know as "the Bambino" and "the Sultan of Swat," the legendary Babe Ruth. Gehrig quietly put up offensive numbers that remain impressive even in these recent decades of swollen home run totals.

Then at what should have been the middle of his sterling career Gehrig became ill and died soon thereafter of ALS, a disease that became closely associated with this fallen star. Gehrig gave a memorable speech at Yankee Stadium to say farewell to his fans. A couple of years after his death, during the early years of WWII, Hollywood adapted the story of Lou Gehrig into what became a classic film starring Gary Cooper in the role of the doomed slugger.

In his book "The Pride of the Yankees - Lou Gehrig, Gary Cooper, and the Making of a Classic" Richard Sandomir recounts how this film project came about. There was lots of off screen drama as Lou's widow Eleanor negotiated with Sam Goldwyn, the Hollywood mogul who was bankrolling the production. She was determined to make certain that Cooper's depiction of her husband's life was tasteful and she wanted to make sure that the man who had cast a long shadow over Lou in life, Babe Ruth, did not do the same thing in the movie as the Babe depicted himself in the film. It is quite a story.

On a side note, right before we began to record this interview with Richard I was chatting with him on the phone and he began talking to me about the novels of Philip Kerr who died this past spring. I was surprised that he was mentioning Philip. Then I realized that Richard had been perusing our Book Nook archive of podcasts in preparation for our interview. I suppose he wanted to familiarize himself with my work. Which should not have come as a surprise. Richard Sandomir is a brilliant writer who always does meticulous research.

As we chatted prior to the interview he mentioned that he was currently reading Philip Kerr's books in order and he asked me which one of Phil's books was my favorite? I told him that I feel that "Prussian Blue" is the best novel in his Bernie Gunther series. That's when Richard said that he had written Philip Kerr's obituary for the New York Times. His current assignment is the obituary desk for the newspaper. I had simply forgotten that Richard had written that remembrance of Philip! I'm still in shock about Philip Kerr's passing.

Richard Sandomir always does his research.

The Book Nook on WYSO is presented by the Greene County Public Library with additional support from Washington-Centerville Public Library,  Clark County Public LibraryDayton Metro Library, and Wright Memorial Public Library.

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Vick Mickunas introduced the Book Nook author interview program for WYSO in 1994. Over the years he has produced more than 1500 interviews with writers, musicians, poets, politicians, and celebrities. Listen to the Book Nook with Vick Mickunas for intimate conversations about books with the writers who create them. Vick Mickunas reviews books for the Dayton Daily News and the Springfield News Sun.