PLYMOUTH - When Mark Simon noticed online that the copy of his book which he had presented to the Terryville Public Library had been checked out for the first time, he was so excited he took a photo of the computer screen.
“I think it said it was overdue - which was even better,” he said.
“The Yankees Index: Every Number Tells a Story (Numbers Don’t Lie),” published June 1 by Triumph Books, is Simon’s first book. It tells the stories behind the most memorable moments and achievements in New York Yankees’ history.
It’s the third in a series by Triumph Books, with the first two covering the Detroit Tigers and the New York Mets. The Plymouth resident is a writer and researcher for ESPN, helping to oversee the ESPN Stats and Information blog and social media presence. He gave a talk at the library recently.
“The Yankees Index” is different from the dozens of other Yankees books around because each chapter is introduced by a number that serves as a springboard for telling a story, he said.
For instance, the number 60 is for the recording-setting 60 home runs in a season set by Babe Ruth, “baseball’s greatest immortal,” he explained. The number 2,130 stands for Lou Gehrig and “giving it your all every single day, playing 2,130 consecutive games until he had nothing left to give.”
Joe DiMaggio is represented by his 56 game hitting streak, still the longest in Major League Baseball history. Three thousand stands for Derek Jeter getting his 3,000th career hit in 2011 –”on a picture perfect day, it was a picture perfect accomplishment, he is a picture perfect star,” as Simon described it.
He read aloud two short chapters from the book. The first was on Mariano Rivera and his 42 post-season saves. It covered Rivera’s life from growing up in Panama with thoughts of being a fisherman to his final game in September 2013, when Yankees manager Joe Girardi sent Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte to the pitcher’s mound to tell him it was time to go.
As Rivera hugged his teammates and walked off, Simon wrote, “the crowd cheered just as if it was October.”
He also read the chapter on Judd Bruce “Slow Joe” Doyle, a pitcher for the team from 1906 to 1910, back when they were known as the New York Highlanders. The nickname came from his pitching style, in which he would kick dirt from his cleats and walk around, procrastinating to throw a batter’s timing off.
Doyle is the only pitcher in franchise history to start his career by throwing two consecutive shutouts, and one of only eight pitchers to do so in the history of the major leagues, Simon said.
His other claim to fame was he appeared in the T206 baseball card set that included the famed Honus Wagner card, possibly the rarest and most expensive baseball card of all, he said.
Doyle’s card from that set mistakenly lists him as a National League player, confusing him with Larry Doyle, Simon said. “Only a handful of those cards exist. If you have one, it’s worth $100,000.”
Simon answered questions from the audience about the Yankees, the Baseball Hall of Fame, ESPN, and baseball in general. He admitted that growing up in Manhattan, he was a Mets fan.
He said his favorite all-time Yankees player is Neil Allen, who started out pitching for the Mets in the late 1970s and early ‘80s. Simon said when he was a kid, he wore a T-shirt his father made with Allen’s rookie card on it when he went to a baseball card show where Allen was signing autographs.
“Neil Allen was in the middle of a really bad slump, so every autograph he signed he was looking down, just handing it over to people,” Simon recalled. “My dad says ‘Neil, look at the shirt!’ So he looks up and his whole face completely changed. He was like ‘I can’t believe this, someone’s rooting for me!’”
“He signed the shirt and said ‘I’ll try and win more games for you,’” Simon said. “I was like ‘wow, unbelievable!’ Then two weeks later he got traded [to the Cardinals] for Keith Hernandez, but I decided to stay loyal.”
When playing for the Yankees, Allen later did something “incredibly rare,” he was brought in as a relief pitcher for Al Leiter and proceeded to pitch a nine-inning shut-out, Simon said.
Researching the book through player interviews and newspaper clippings, he said it took him about nine months to write, working two hours a day while holding a full-time job.
Now going out to speak in front of audiences about it and just talk with people about baseball is the fun part, he said. “I’m amazed that people come out to hear me speak.”
“I don’t have anything planned, but if I write another book, it will almost surely be a Mets book,” he said, but it’s “100 percent certain” it would be about baseball.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.