This is a Donna Quixote story about a cynical Yankee fan who spends a season traveling the country going to ballgames and who in the end regains the joy, the magic, and the faith in her beloved team. Along the way Yankee fans will fall in love with “the Yankees’ number one fan,” Jane Heller. Peter Golenbock – Author of the New York Times bestsellers Dynasty and The Bronx Zoo
A book for those of us men who thought women didn’t get sports….A delightful, insightful ride on the Yankee Clipper. James Burrows – Emmy Award-winning director of “Cheers” and “Will & Grace”
Jane Heller knocks it out of the park with Confessions of a She-Fan. In 1978 I discovered the Yankees (mostly I discovered Ron Guidry). I was hooked and have been ever since. My one-year-old daughter is already in pinstriped onsies. I can understand perfectly the passion of a fellow “she-fan.” Kit Golden – Producer of the Academy Award-nominated “Chocolat”
Confessions of a She-Fan is a love story about baseball and a baseball story about love – one of the most unusual and delightful books about a true fan’s connection to the game I’ve ever read. It’s impossible to read without smiling out loud! David Fisher – Co-author with Terry Bradshaw of the New York Times bestseller It’s Only a Game
I was rooting for Jane Heller every step of the way. If I had a pennant, I would have waved it in the air. A.J. Jacobs – Author of the New York Times bestseller The Year of Living Biblically
October 1, 2009
By Rosa St. Claire
Jane Heller is the best writer on the planet when it comes to the romantic-comedy genre, but now the savvy author has added another notch to her belt with her hilarious version of baseball as seen through a female fan’s eyes….This book should be a mandatory read for every baseball fan in the world. Only a woman who truly loves the game could have energized herself into the strenuous traveling which ensues as she follows the team from game to game. The New York Yankees should name Jane Heller as an “honorary NY Yankee” for claiming so many fans back to the ecstasy of the game.
The Common Scold (Blog of Law Technology News)
By Monica Bay
A funny yet amazingly nuanced non-fiction book that reads like a juicy novel….I flat-out loved the book on so many levels. As a journalist, I resonated to (Heller’s) subtle revelations about how tough it is to cover the Yankees, and how guarded folks like Suzyn Waldman and John Sterling must be to cope with all the demands on them….Her light, respectful touch gave dignity to even some of the young naive women who don’t really understand the Jose Canseco perils of being too eager of a fan. And she gracefully explores how much going to even one game can mean to many folks who are facing astounding personal challenges.
Reprinted with permission of Incisive Media. All rights reserved.
The Voice of Yankees Universe (Yankees Blog)
May 16, 2009
By Lucy Albero
Not only is this book extremely entertaining and brilliantly written, but as another avid She-Fan, I related to the book in a very intimate way.
Traveling Baseball Babes
April 30, 2009
By Serena Ahne
Here is a woman that we could be proud to share the title of “she-fan” with. Jane demonstrates rather quickly not only that her love for the Yankees is genuine, but that she also is very knowledgeable about the sport. Her writing is honest, sharp, and very funny….You may not always agree with what she has to say, but at least her opinions are coming from an intelligent and knowledgeable place, unlike many other fans that seem to enjoy getting in our faces at bars and shouting, “Mets/Yankees suck!” In short, the book is a wonderful representation of female fans.
River Ave Blues (Yankees Blog)
April 29, 2009
By Benjamin Kabak
Throughout the book, Heller relates her emotional ride as the Yanks stumble out of the block, recover over the summer, make the playoffs and then lose when a bunch of bugs attack Joba Chamberlain on a hot October day in Cleveland. She talks as though a She-Fan is a distinct species of fan, but it’s not. In the end, Heller is just like the rest of us who live and die with the Yankees…..Heller weaves a fun tale of fandom, and it makes for some baseball reading to which the most dedicated and obsessed fan can easily relate.
The Voice of Yankees Universe (Yankees Blog)
April 26, 2009
By Jeff Fleishman
A few weeks ago, I mentioned four Yankee-centric books that I wanted to read this spring/summer. I recently finished the first, Confessions of a She-Fan by Jane Heller. This was one of the best Yankee books that I have read in a long time. Heller follows the Yankees throughout the second half of 2007 after “divorcing” them early on in the season. For a guy like me, this book was great, especially since 2007 had so many interesting moments. So go out and get yourself a copy. You won’t be sorry.
Blogging the Bombers (NY Daily News Blog)
March 31, 2009
By Mark Feinsand
Jane does a wonderful job chronicling what turned out to be Joe Torre’s final season in pinstripes, from the run at the wild card spot through the disappointing ALDS loss to the Indians, featuring the bug game. She takes the reader along for the ride, giving them the perspective of the fans, the media and, eventually, an actual Yankees player. (I won’t spoil the ending by telling you who it is.) This is not your typical baseball book, but it’s a great read for any fan.
Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf
March 13, 2009
By Ron Kaplan
It’s quite a leap from romance novels to baseball non-fiction, but Jane Heller has traversed the expanse surprisingly well….Confessions is a rollicking account of the 2007 season. The Yankees started on such a horrid note that Heller almost gave up on them. She put her dark thoughts into an essay and, on a whim, sent it to sports columnist Harvey Araton of The New York Times, who thought so much of the piece he had it published. The overwhelming response — both positive and negative — was the impetus for Confessions….The team’s rapid improvement and eventual Wild Card slot makes for an exciting ride and a dramatic read. In a way, this is a book about a book and how success in one genre doesn’t guarantee a similar outcome in another.
It Is High, It Is Far, It Is….caught. (Yankees Blog)
March 13, 2009
By Yankee Shamus
I for one trekked through a blizzard to buy the damn thing, and let me say as I sat in my car buried in snow off Rte. 1 in Camden, Maine, the first few chapters grabbed me and engulfed me so quickly that I didn’t even notice when the Wrecker had finally arrived to tow my wayward ass out of the ditch. Within ten hours I had finished the book and I am halfway through reading it again…..Heller provides the reader a bleacher seat next to her at the many ballparks she attends with her detailed and descriptive writing. Her fear of puddle-jumper propeller planes is cute, and her husband Michael’s stadium food anecdotes are hysterical. Her descriptions of a chance encounter with Alex Rodriguez at a Toronto restaurant are genuine and laugh out loud funny.
The Tampa Tribune (“Sports Bookie” Column)
March 4, 2009
By Bob D’Angelo
Many witty, outrageous and laugh-out-loud moments in Heller’s first nonfiction effort……What writing. Breezy, sarcastic and funny, Heller writes with a marvelous sense of timing and pace….You don’t have to like baseball to enjoy Jane Heller. And you don’t have to like romantic comedy, either. But what a combination. If her “chick lit” books are anything like Confessions of a She-Fan, I might have to start buying them.
Rants, Raves, and Random Thoughts (Phillies Blog)
February 27, 2009
By Sue Mudrick
I was laughing out loud, to the point that my husband or children were asking me what was so funny…..Suffice it to say that she-fans of any team will enjoy it…..My favorite parts of the story are like bookends — one at the beginning (in the prologue), when Jane sights A-Rod in a Toronto restaurant, and one near the end, when Jane ventures into enemy territory at Fenway Park. After having been told to be on her best behavior and not draw attention to herself as a Yankee fan, what Jane finally does at the end of the game is worthy of a You-Tube moment!
February 26, 2009
By Paul Lebowitz
Jane Heller has a rare combination of attributes that make her the perfect person to write a book like Confessions of a She-Fan: she’s a passionate Yankee fan; she actually knows the game; she has a sense of humor; and she can write. What results is a comic masterpiece which delves not only into the ups and downs of a hardcore fan, but how that adoration and obsessiveness affects their loved ones….The book isn’t just about being a fan or about trying to get close to one’s obsessions; but it’s about maintaining that loyalty no matter what. The Yankees front office is rude? So what? The stadium personnel are abusive? Big deal. The team isn’t completing their championship mandate? Whatever. The love of a team goes beyond what happens on the field.
Subway Squawkers (Yankees Blog)
February 20, 2009
By Lisa Swan
Confessions of a She-Fan is passionate, funny, smart, and sassy. It’s not just an accurate depiction of the highlights (A-Rod’s 500th homer) and low lights (the bug game!) of the 2007 season, but it’s a great look at what it is like to be a fan. While the book is from a female Yankee fan’s perspective, the observations will hit home, whether you’re male or female, and whether you’re a Yankee fan, Met fan or (shudder!) a Red Sox fan. Heller hits a homer with her first non-fiction effort.
Library Journal (Starred Review)
February 15, 2009
Enough with the books that write about sports with the assumption that women are outsiders even as fans! Popular chick-lit author Heller (Princess Charming) proves that she’s not just a hilarious writer, but a serious and highly informed fan of the Yankees, as she sets out to follow her team, literally, from game to game during the 2007 season. Her perspective lends the book its special character, seasoned with salty language and lots of authentic conversation. Guess which 2007 Yankee took the time to talk with her! For all public libraries.
This Purist Bleeds Pinstripes (Yankees Blog)
February 16, 2009
By Rebecca Glass
An honest portrayal of a fan’s relationship with a team….Confessions puts into perspective how amazing the 2007 season really was, even if October left us all a bit deflated.
A Diatribe from a Law Student (White Sox Blog)
February 14, 2009
By Jennifer Jezierski
If you haven’t purchased or read this yet, get on it! It’s a must-read for every she-fan, whether your fandom is brand new, five years old (me!), or lifelong. It’s also a must-read for every he-fan because you never know if you’ll find yourself with a she-fan in your life. This could potentially be a partial instruction manual on how to deal with a she-fan. Well done, Jane….I couldn’t stop laughing, even at the expense of my own White Sox.
Redbird Chatter (Cardinals Blog)
February 10, 2009
By Kathy Spillman
Laugh out loud funny, both in obvious and subtle ways. Reflective, smart and packed with all the emotions that go along with being the thing they call a baseball fan….Jane’s journey to prove her worth as a true fan takes her across the country where she and her husband visit ballparks and meet all kinds of fans: angry, crazy, drunk, life-long, first timers, die-hard, tenacious, sweet, courageous and hopeful….This book is a great read – a must read for she-fans and he-fans alike.
We’ve Got Heart (Nationals Blog)
February 5, 2009
By Kristen Hudak
In addition to entertaining us with her book-long quest to interview a Yankee, Jane really captured the essence and experience of the female baseball fan….Ladies, it’s a fabulous read, especially if, like us, you need to be inspired again and remember how to get past the loses. To the fellas, it would sure make a great Valentine’s Day present for the special “she-fan” in your life.
Baseball Hot Corner (Yankees Blog)
February 3, 2009
By Mark Serio
Yankee fans get a treat. Novelist and Yankees-lifer Jane Heller writes a chronicle of the Bombers’ 2007 season….Written in a humorous, conversational style, Confessions of a She-Fan is entertaining. Be prepared for perpetual smiling: “Molina comes out of the hotel, and everybody yells ‘Melky!'”….An enjoyable memoir that belongs on any Yankee fan’s bookshelf.
This Fan’s Life (Yankees Blog)
February 3, 2009
By Bernadette Pasley
Jane takes readers on a rollercoaster ride of emotions that the typical sports fan knows all too well: unconditional, unrequited love; painful betrayal; the sadness of a broken heart; anger and rejection; and the courage to love again….Go out and get the book and get ready to remember.
Respect Jeter’s Gangster (Yankees Blog)
February 2, 2009
By Fernando Alejandro
Fantastic! The story itself is funny and brings back to life the 2007 season with all its difficulties and eventual victories. The best part is that it is written from the perspective of the fan. It’s easy to relate to the emotions described in the book, from anger and sadness to absolute joy. It’s what a New York baseball season is all about.
Sox and Pinstripes (Yankees/Red Sox Blog)
February 2, 2009
By Vince Mercandetti
A masterpiece….This isn’t just a diary of box scores and mistakes to make us feel bad about the season that was not to be; it’s an actual tell-all of a loyal Yankees fan’s feelings game by game. It’s a retelling of how a Yankees fan is born, how a teenaged-girl obsessed with baseball players can get into trouble and how a lifetime of memories about the Yankees can be funny, scary and touching all at once….She holds nothing back, and it makes for both a hysteria level of humor and jogs your memory to the point where the scores no longer matter when you’re reading….Let Ms. Heller take you through the magical adventure that is a baseball season before the real one begins….You will be hooked in about two pages. By the end of the first section after over 60 pages, you will start to brighten up knowing the Yankees are about to turn a corner. By the time you get halfway through, you might want to marry Jane….When you finish, you’re going to be crying from happiness, sadness, sentiment and exuberance….The book comes out tomorrow, February 3rd, and the Yankees Universe is better off for it.
John Sterling, the “Voice of the Yankees”
Confessions of a She-Fan is stream-of-consciousness from someone who’s both a passionate Yankee fan and a terrific writer. It’s laugh-out-loud funny and it also moves you to tears.
February 1, 2009
By Billy Heller
Forget A-Rod. The one really suffering a “Single White Female” obsession with the Yankees is chick-lit author Jane Heller. She was so distraught with the losing ways of the 2007 Bombers, she vowed to “divorce the team on grounds of mental cruelty.” Instead, she wound up following the Yanks on the road, husband by her side, trying to get insight into her fandom and fans in general. Now, as Heller finds herself competing on the bookshelves with her team’s ex-manager, she gives us a couple of reasons why fans should select her book over his: “I didn’t hire someone to write my book for me” and “Torre’s book is deadly serious. Mine has jokes. In this economy, we fans need a laugh.”
January 28, 2009
By Kat O’Brien
Very entertaining. It’s not the typical type of sports book about a team with lots of player interviews and nitty-gritty on what goes on behind the scenes. It’s from a fan’s perspective, the same type of perspective one might see from some of the more dedicated fan bloggers. Given that Heller is a professional writer, though, it’s very well written….There are lots of entertaining anecdotes about she (sic) and her husband’s journey through the season, and in a reversal from the stereotype, her husband is the one exasperated at her Yankees obsession….If you’re looking for a new Yankees book other than “The Yankee Years,” I recommend this one.
Was Watching (Yankees Blog)
January 28, 2009
By Steve Lombardi
Jane does an excellent job of chronicling the Yankees’ 2007 season. But this is not just a dry reporting of game events and news, etc. What you hear when you read Heller’s words is the voice of a diehard fan sharing what they are experiencing, thinking, and feeling. And Jane mixes in enough ‘personal’ stuff to provide the reader with some background on her life….I could not put the book down — the highest compliment I can offer to a book. In fact, I went out of my way to find time to read it. If that’s not gripping, what is?….Being a “dude,” I was not sure if I would enjoy reading a book entitled “Confessions of a She-Fan.” However, I truly found it a great read….Expect yourself to become a fan of Jane Heller — just like I am now.
After writing 13 novels in as many years, I was feeling a little burned out on romantic comedies. I decided to try something a bit different — a series featuring four female friends who take annual trips together and solve mysteries. I was writing the first of the projected three books when the 2007 baseball season started. So much for my fiction writing.
As everyone knows by now, I’m a diehard Yankee fan, having been born and raised in the New York area, and even though I live in California now, I still watch every game.
The Yankees got off to a really slow start in ’07. I was shocked. I was used to seeing them win. I had taken their good fortune for granted. So when they kept losing and found themselves in last place, I got angry. I felt betrayed by my Yanks and heartbroken that they were playing so badly. They were my daily dose of escape and they were not providing it!
One night I stormed into my office, sat down at the computer and did what writers do: I wrote. I vented about how I was divorcing the Yankees on the grounds of mental cruelty. I was equating my passion for my team with that of a romantic relationship. I was expressing my frustration — in a tongue-in-cheek way, I thought.
After I finished the piece, I sat back in my chair and exhaled. Then I noticed the sports section of The New York Times on my desk. Staring at me was a column by Harvey Araton with his email address at the end. On a whim, I sent him my divorce tirade. Two days later I heard from the editor of the sports section saying he wanted to publish the article in the paper that Sunday.
I was thrilled! The Yankees were still losing, but I was getting a byline in The New York Times! I assumed my fellow Yankee fans would relate to my anguish and get a kick out of the article, maybe even check out my web site and take an interest in my novels.
Wrong. I had struck a chord, all right, but not in a good way. I was berated for being a “bandwagon fan.” Sure, there were some readers who got the joke and emailed to say how much they enjoyed my article. (Click on “Other Writing” for the link to the divorce essay.) But for the most part I was blasted as a traitor for deserting the Yankees when they were down.
The huge response to the article led me to question my fandom. Was I a bandwagon fan? Had I been spoiled by all the championships? And worst of all, had I been neglecting my husband and focusing too much of my love and attention on 25 men in pinstripes?
I decided to write my first nonfiction book to answer these and other questions — and as an excuse to hang around the Yankees for half a season. I’ve always enjoyed first person, diary-style confessionals, particularly if they’re humorous, so that’s the kind of book I set out to write. After I came back from nearly three months on the road, I discovered that writing nonfiction was a blast. I didn’t have to make anything up! I was my own protagonist! I had all the plot twists right there in my laptop! Still, it was quite a feat to craft 600+ pages of raw material into an entertaining tale with a beginning, middle and end.
Writing nonfiction, it turns out, is just another kind of storytelling. I hope readers of my fiction will give Confessions of a She-Fan a try.
Read the Excerpts
April 2, 2007
“The Yankees always start slow. Offense takes awhile to come around, especially ours. It’s cold out there. The ball doesn’t travel very well. You can’t really say that to the media, because it sounds like an excuse, but it’s true. This team will score a ton of runs, and by the end of the year we’ll be right where we need to be.”
— A Member of the 2007 Yankees
It is Monday, Opening Day. I am beyond excited that the baseball season is finally here, that the Yankees are finally here. They are the love of my life.
I missed them so much during the long, cold winter months. Okay, I live in Santa Barbara, California, so the winter months are not that cold. Still, I am always aching for news of them during the off-season, never mind actual video images of their pinstripes, and April can’t come soon enough. Opening Day is about Possibility and Hope and Maybe This Year. It is better than Christmas. Better than birthdays. Better than sex. I will get to my husband in a second.
And yet even as I can’t wait for the first pitch, I am dreading it, too. My Yankees have been picked by many sportswriters to win it all in 2007, but what if we don’t make it past the ALDS like last year? What if we don’t get to the postseason? What if we can’t even beat the pathetic Devil Rays today? Open your heart to a baseball team and you’re liable to get it broken.
Before you say I am working myself up for no good reason, I will give you a good reason: Joe Torre is sending Carl Pavano to the mound as our Opening Day starter. Carl Fucking Pavano. The same guy who has not pitched in 643 days following a string of injuries that included a sore butt. The same guy who cracked up his Porsche and his ribs, and neglected to tell anybody in the Yankees organization. The same guy who is so despised by his teammates that they papered his locker with the back covers of the New York tabloids that pictured him with the headline: “Crash Test Dummy.”
Apparently, there is no one else to send to the mound today. Pettitte and Moose are not lined up to pitch, and Wang is on the DL with a strained hamstring. The rotation is not just thin; it is anorexic.
And to add to my sense of foreboding on this otherwise joyous occasion, I will not be able to watch the game on TV. Major League Baseball made an exclusive deal with DirecTV for the Extra Innings package that broadcasts out-of-market games, and since I have cable, not a satellite dish, I am shut out.
“I should boycott the whole season,” I announce to my husband as he is eating his Rice Krispies at 9:45 a.m. He is piling the cereal so high in the bowl that little Krispies are bouncing all over the floor. It is one of the many things he does that drives me nuts.
“We could get a dish,” he says. His name is Michael Forester. He has a silvery-gray mustache and beard with wispy head-hair to match, although there is not much head-hair to speak of anymore. I honestly think he gets balder every time I look. He wears glasses and is six feet tall and has the craggy appearance of a sailor or a photographer, both of which he is. He also has a soft, whispery voice that reminds everyone of Clint Eastwood’s, and he is very quiet and even-tempered – the opposite of me. He once accused me of loving the Yankees more than I love him, and I scoffed at the notion. It is simply that he is the old ball and chain whose laundry I do, and the Yankees are, well, the Yankees.
“We can’t get a dish,” I remind him. We live way up in the hills. We get not only the big-time Santa Anas but also Sundowner winds that whip through the canyons at night, especially in the spring and summer. A dish would not have a chance up here.
I disappear into my office and follow the game on my computer. Who am I kidding? I could never boycott baseball. Most of my women friends think it is peculiar – freakish, even – that I am such a fan. They cannot fathom how I can get manicures and color my hair, but would much rather talk about Johnny Damon than Jimmy Choo. They are still amazed that I declined an invitation to a baby shower because the Yankees were playing the Red Sox and the game was on Fox. “Why can’t you just TiVo it?” my friend Renee suggested. There was no way to explain, except to say that I would never attend a baby shower during a Yankees-Red Sox game, not even if the baby in question was my own.
Why baseball and not football or basketball? I love that there is a slow pace; the games are so leisurely I can read a book or clean the house or check my e-mail and not miss much. I love that there is no time clock; a game lasts as long as it lasts. I love that there is a matchup between a pitcher and a batter; it is a contest within a contest. I love that I can see the players’ faces; they are not hidden behind protective equipment. I love that the game is multifaceted; there is hitting and pitching and running and fielding. I love that the athletes are such a mixed bag of characters; they are wily veterans and unripe kids and everything in between. And I love that I can understand it; I don’t have to be a math genius to figure out the rules. Come to think of it, there is nothing I don’t love about baseball, except that it ends every fall.
Today’s game starts at 10 a.m. here on the west coast. I am a writer of novels – 13 romantic comedies that have sold to Hollywood and provided me with a healthy income, but have yet to be made into movies. I am supposed to be working on a new novel, but instead I procrastinate. I sit in front of my computer and “watch” the game as well as post entries on a Yankees blog. I have a macho screen name on the blog – I am known as “Bronx Bad Ass” – because I noticed that women who call themselves things like “Yankee Princess” are either disparaged or dismissed. Everybody on the blog assumes I am a guy, and I get a kick out of it when they answer my posts with: “Listen, dude.” Today, we are all trying to outdo each other with our insulting remarks about Pavano, the general consensus being that he has “shit the bed.”
Carl only goes four-and-half innings, allowing five runs (four earned), but the Yanks beat the Devil Rays 9-5, thanks in part to A-Rod’s two-run homer.
I feel much better with our first victory under my belt. I allow myself to relax, to smile, to look forward to the rest of the day. When the Yankees win, I have a sense that all is right with the world. I have never been good at losing, although as a tennis player I was not very good at winning. I had a killer forehand, but was not a killer myself. I would make it to the finals of tournaments, only to fold. As a Yankee fan, I never fold.
The second game of the series against Tampa Bay on the 4th is rained out, but the third on the 5th results in a 7-6 loss in what is supposed to be Pettitte’s triumphant return to the Bronx. The Yankees commit three errors, three wild pitches, and a passed ball. I tell myself it takes a few days to iron out the kinks, and that there is no cause for concern. I am just glad I am able to watch the games on TV now. Major League Baseball and the cable companies made a deal, after all. I am not being shut out.
The Yankees open a weekend series against the Orioles, and it turns out that there may be cause for concern. Mussina is a dud in Friday night’s loss and Damon sits out the game with a strained right calf.
Igawa gives up seven runs in his major league debut on Saturday and Matsui goes on the DL with a strained hamstring. A pattern is emerging already – every starter will pitch badly and every position player will get injured – and I don’t like it. A-Rod hits two more homers, including a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth that wins the game. I can only hope his homer thing is a pattern, too.
He goes deep again in Sunday’s game, but our rookie starter, Darrell Rasner, is so shaky that Pettitte has to pitch in relief, and the Yankees lose the game and the series to the Orioles. The Orioles. Come on.
I know, I know. It is only the end of the first week of the season. But I am slightly uneasy, skittish. I am yelling derogatory things at the TV when Michael and I watch the games together, forcing him to withdraw into his sailing magazines. He used to get a kick out of how “spirited” a fan I was. Now he looks at me with bewilderment.
“I thought you couldn’t wait for the season to start,” he says as the O’s congratulate each other on the field.
“I couldn’t,” I say, giving Kevin Millar the finger.
“Then why do you seem so miserable?”
I suppose this is where I should just flat-out admit that the quality of my days and nights is significantly influenced by whether the Yankees win or lose. Which is another way of saying that I can’t bear it when they lose. Which is another way of saying that I want them to win every game – and not in tight pitchers’ duels; I prefer blowouts.
But I didn’t always have such nutty expectations. I used to view baseball as a simple, innocent pleasure. My father died of a brain tumor when I was six, so our house was not a cheery place for a child – except when my two grandpas came over on Sunday afternoons to pick up the paternal slack. They would settle into their chairs in the den, light up their La Primadora cigars, watch Yankee games on our black-and-white Zenith TV, and teach my older sister Susan and me how to keep score with our pencils and pads. Mickey Mantle would hit a home run and everybody would clap, and suddenly the atmosphere was festive instead of funereal. For those few hours I could forget that I was the only kid in first grade whose daddy was absent on Parents’ Day. For those few hours I could block out all the grownups’ scary, mysterious whispers about hospitals and seizures and cancer. For those few hours I could parrot the funny words I heard on TV – “bunt” and “chin music,” and “safety squeeze” – and be pals with Grandpa Lou and Grandpa Max. Who cared that I had absolutely no idea what the words meant? Baseball made me happy. The Yankees made me happy. They were something to hang on to, to believe in.
I know people hate the “Evil Empire” because they always win and always spend money and always grab headlines. To me they are not evil; they are royalty. They continue to provide a kind of No-Sadness Zone where the skies are bluer and the grass is greener – an escape – but the pinstripes also symbolize excellence and achievement and brilliance. When the Yankees win, I have this notion that their brilliance somehow rubs off on me.
July 16, 2007
“How do I handle all the crazy things people scream at me from the stands? Mostly I try to play with the fans. A guy yells, ‘You suck!’ and I go, ‘No shit! Tell me something I don’t know. But you paid your hard-earned money to come watch my sorry ass play, so who’s the idiot? You or me?’ They die laughing and I turn them from hating my guts to loving me.”
On Monday the Yankees are home for the first of four games against the Blue Jays. We win the opener 6-4 and A-Rod hits his 496th homer. It will be beyond exciting if I get the book deal and am right there when he hits the big 500.
Game two is a fantastic matchup of Pettitte versus Halladay. The score is deadlocked until Joe brings in Farnsworth in the eighth. Kyle gives up a leadoff single to the Big Hurt, then tries this lame pickoff move to first, allowing the go-ahead run to cross the plate. What a loser. I switch over to HBO, where Gary Sheffield is essentially calling Torre a racist on Real Sports. He is wearing matching diamond earrings and looks like a transvestite. The Yankees win 3-2 in the bottom of the tenth.
The Yanks and Jays split the final two games. Clemens has a good outing on Wednesday night and gets run support. Wang has a good outing on Thursday night and does not.
On Friday Ellen calls with the news that the book is a done deal! I am definitely going on the road to write about the Yankees! That is the good news. The bad news is that I need to figure out how to pull the trip together in about a week. I am talking about flights and hotels and all the details that go with being away from home from the end of July to – I am not sure when the trip will end. If the Yankees make the postseason, I could be gone until the end of October. That is a long time not to sleep in my own bed. But I am not complaining! I am getting paid to watch baseball games! Well, the publisher’s advance will not be on my doorstep right away, so I will have to lay out my own traveling expenses. Lay out our traveling expenses. Michael and I decide to embark on this journey together.
We acknowledge that we have coexisted in parallel universes lately, and our marriage is stale. A trip is exactly the way to rejuvenate us, to put the spark back. Thanks to all the movie options on my novels, we have enough in the bank for him to take the time off from his freelance work – if we budget correctly. The only hitch is that it poses a health risk for him to come along; he has no immune system and is prone to infection if he so much as catches a cold. Stadium crowds and airplane passengers could be perilous, and I am nervous that he will get sick while we are in some strange city. But he is unfazed.
“Going to all the games with you is an adventure I’m not passing up.”
“You have serious medical problems.” I am always the one who worries and he is always the one who waves me off.
“Remember the broken ankle when I was thirteen? I didn’t let that stop me from watching Maris hit number sixty.”
“You have Crohn’s, not a broken ankle.”
“I’ll pack a lot of Imodium.”
I give up. He is coming with me, and that is that. The truth is, I am thrilled that he wants to come. This trip is the solution to everything. I can prove what a true fan I am and have a second honeymoon with my husband. What could be better?
I print out the Yankees’ schedule and mull it over. Michael and I will join the team in Baltimore on July 27th. But that is all we agree on, because I am suddenly paralyzed by the logistics of this trip. Which do I arrange first: the flights or the hotels? And how the hell do I get access to the Yankees, to the clubhouse, to the games? I told my publisher that access was a no-brainer, that I would meet the players and persuade them to spill their guts, but I have no clue how to make any of that happen.
I call my friend Marty Bell, who is a successful Broadway theater producer who used to be an editor of Sport magazine back in the ’70s. He is my go-to person when I have crises large and small. He tells me I must contact the Yankees’ media relations director and ask for a press pass to all the games. I hop on the Yankees Web site and find the name of the media guy. It is Jason Zillo. I e-mail him right away, introducing myself as the author of 13 published novels so he gets that I am not some kid writing for my high school paper. I tell him I have a contract for a nonfiction book about being a Yankee fan and would like press passes. I also mention the divorce article that ran in the Times and make sure to explain it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. I get a quick reply.
“Thanks for your inquiry,” Jason writes. “Unfortunately we receive scores of similar requests throughout the season, and because of the overwhelming demand of media coverage, this is simply not something we can pursue.”
Oh, God. He is blowing me off. Now what? If I don’t get access, my publisher will dump the book – and me. I call Marty again.
“You can find a way around this Zillo guy,” he says. “Just go to Baltimore and the other cities, buy tickets for the first week of games, start hanging out at the hotels where the team is staying, in the bar and the lobby, wherever they are. You’ll find a player who will talk to you. There’s always one. You are beautiful and charming and funny. You will pull this off.”
Now you know why Marty is my go-to person. He not only says flattering, reassuring things, but he reminds me not to take “no” for an answer. He adds that I should reach out to any other contacts I can think of – people with a relationship to the Yankees or Major League Baseball who may be able to help with access to the players and the games. He also gives me the contact information for his friend Lisa, who gets discounted hotel room rates for the actors traveling with his touring productions.
I e-mail Lisa. Within 24 hours she has Michael and me booked at all the hotels at very reasonable prices. One crisis resolved.
I compile a list of everybody I know who might conceivably have a connection to the Yankees. The list comes to a staggering three people.
The first person is Jane Heller. No, that is not a misprint. Michael and I refer to her as “The Other Jane Heller.” In the spring of 2000, I wrote a novel called Name Dropping about two women with the same name whose identities get mixed up. The Other Jane Heller e-mailed my Web site to tell me that she had my same name. She said she was the largest private banker in the country and that her clients included Martha Stewart as well as George Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees. She invited me to a Yankee game if I was ever in New York and added that she had the best seats in the house. Fast-forward to the fall of 2000 as the Yankees and Mets were about to begin the Subway Series. I took her up on her offer. Michael and I flew to New York and joined The Other Jane Heller and her husband for game two. She did, indeed, have the best seats in the house – in the first row next to the Yankee dugout – and watching the Yankees win was the greatest night ever. I e-mail her now, hoping she will help me bypass Jason Zillo and gain access to the Yankees’ inner sanctum.
Next is Sandy McCartney, the Santa Barbara woman who wrote to me after the divorce essay was published in the Times – the one whose husband is the best friend of John Sterling. I tell her my problem and ask if she thinks John might be willing to open doors for me.
I e-mail Larry Brooks, the much-respected sports columnist for the New York Post. Over 30 years ago Larry and I were counselors at a day camp in Mamaroneck. We have stayed in touch sporadically ever since. I ask if he knows Jason Zillo and could offer any advice about how to infiltrate the Yankees.
I e-mail my mother. She lives in Westchester. I ask if Michael and I can stay with her during the Yankees’ first home stand. She is 90, but you would never guess it. She walks five miles a day on her treadmill and drives around in her little Subaru with the spoiler and leads a monthly book group whose selections are by authors like Proust and Balzac. She has a boyfriend named Cy. He is in his 80s. They watch Yankees games together.
I make progress on the travel front. Dorothy Darr, my friend and neighbor, is an artist and filmmaker who is also the wife of Charles Lloyd, the jazz legend. She is experienced at setting up complicated itineraries since Charles performs with his group all over the world. She suggests I call Charles de L’Arbre of Santa Barbara Travel Bureau and let him solve the puzzle.
So. Flights are booked. Hotel rooms are reserved. All that remains is for me to get press passes from the Yankees.
I hear back from Sandy McCartney, who gives me John Sterling’s phone numbers and tells me he is happy to speak to me. I thank her profusely and call John. When he answers in his deep baritone that is as familiar to me as a family member’s, given all my years of listening to him on the radio, I half expect him to launch into his trademark “Theeeeee Yankees win!”
“How can I be of help?” he asks.
“Jason Zillo won’t give me access to the press box,” I say.
“Of course you should be in the press box,” he booms. “I’ll put in a good word for you.”
“That would be great.” What a nice guy!
“While you’re waiting for Jason,” he adds, “I would contact the media relations directors at all the teams the Yankees will be playing. It may be easier to go through them.”
He also says I should stay at the hotels where he and the Yankees stay in each city and gives me the names. I gulp when I see that there are Ritz Carltons and similarly upscale spots on the list. The Yankees and I don’t have the same budget.
I hear back from Larry Brooks, who says he is excited for me about the book, but warns that the Yankees are harder to deal with than any other organization in any other sport. He says he wishes he could help me with Zillo, but doesn’t know how.
I hear back from my mother, who is delighted that Michael and I are coming to stay with her and assures me we will not cramp her style.
I hear nothing from The Other Jane Heller.
I research the names of Jason Zillo’s counterparts at some of the other teams. I fire off e-mails to Jay Stenhouse of the Blue Jays, Brian Britten of the Tigers, Bill Stetka of the Orioles, Jeff Sibel of the Indians, Nancy Mazmanian of the Angels, and John Blake of the Red Sox.
Here are their responses.
Jay Stenhouse of the Blue Jays writes, “As your interest is specifically regarding the Yankees I would ask that you run your request through them first.”
Brian Britten of the Tigers writes, “After consulting with the Yankees Media Relations department, we will not be in a position to credential you for the games at Comerica Park against the Yankees this season.”
Bill Stetka of the Orioles writes, “The Yankees have informed us that they are not cooperating on the book, and therefore I will not be able to provide a credential for you.”
Jeff Sibel of the Indians writes, “After speaking with Jason Zillo of the Yankeees, we will not be able to credential you.”
Jennifer Hoyer in the Angels’ media relations department writes, “We received your request for credentials for the Angels/Yankees series in August. However, this series is one of the busiest series of the year and unfortunately we only have space to accommodate our regular media who attend throughout the season. So we are not able to provide a press pass for you for any of the Angels/Yankees games. Sorry about that and best of luck in your endeavors.”
As for John Blake of the Red Sox, he does not have the decency to reply at all.
I am about to call Marty and report that the Yankees are blackballing me when my phone rings.
“Jane Heller, please,” says a male voice.
“This is she,” I say.
“Hi, Jane. It’s Jason Zillo.”
He has changed his mind! John Sterling must have spoken to him! I am getting access to the Yankees after all!
“I’ve been hearing from the other media relations directors,” he says. “I need to let you know that nobody will be granting you a press pass.”
My shoulders sag. “Why not?”
“It’s nothing personal. I recognize that you’ve written all those novels, but we don’t credential authors of books about the Yankees unless they’re authorized biographies of one of the players. John Feinstein is writing a book about Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina, so he has access to Mike. But that’s it. So good luck.”
I don’t sit around feeling sorry for myself. I e-mail Matt Silverman, the president of the Devil Rays. I tell him about the book and ask if he would be willing to comp me for tickets to both the series against the Rays at Yankee Stadium and the games at the Trop. He writes back that he would be glad to and will put me in touch with his director of VIP relations. The Rays are worthy of affection, because look at how well they treat people. To them I am not an undesirable to be kept out at all costs. I am a VIP.
Speaking of the Devil Rays, the Yankees open a three-game series against them this weekend at the Stadium. It is weird to think that I will soon be in the Bronx, watching the Yankees from a hard wooden seat, instead of sitting in Santa Barbara, watching them from my comfy green chair. As excited as I am about the trip –
Oh my God. I will have to fly to New York and Tampa Bay and everywhere else, and I don’t do flying. Well, not without a lot of alcohol and not on scary little commuter planes. Somehow, the reality of my actually getting to all these cities never occurred to me, not even when Charles at Santa Barbara Travel was charging the flights on my American Express card. What was I thinking? I am the Yankees’ number one fan, but I am not prepared to die for them.
Mussina is pitching atrociously in tonight’s first game. Joe comes out to get him with the score at 5-0 in the fifth. Edwar Ramirez takes over and walks the bases loaded, then finally throws a strike to Navarro – for a grand slam. He looks despondent as he trudges to the dugout, where the camera finds Jeter consoling him as he is doubled over sobbing. There is subsequent discussion by Michael Kay on YES about whether there should be crying in baseball. As far as I am concerned, all the Yankees should be crying. We lose to the Devil Rays 14-4. The only bright spot is the first major league hit by our latest call-up, Shelley Duncan.
The Yankees defeat the Devil Rays in game one of Saturday’s doubleheader 7-3. Shelley Duncan hits a homer – the first of his big league career – and he takes an exuberant curtain call. He is a big, tall blond kid with so much enthusiasm that he practically tears the arms off the other players when he high-fives them.
The nightcap is a 17-5 laugher for the Yanks. Matt DeSalvo, still no relation to the Boston Strangler, is back from the minors for the start. Michael Kay and Al Leiter, today’s YES duo, discuss the fact that in his spare time DeSalvo reads books. They say this as if reading books is akin to eating raccoon intestines. The score is 10-5 in the sixth when A-Rod comes up. The crowd is chanting “MVP!” and it is only July. He responds by hitting his 33rd home run. He is now just three away from 500. In the bottom of the seventh, Will Nieves doubles and it is his last hit as a Yankee. Michael Kay announces that he has been designated for assignment, and that the Yankees are replacing him with Jose Molina, the Angels’ veteran catcher. Nieves is out. Molina is in. Baseball is a cruel business.
In the finale, the Yankees beat the Devil Rays 21-4. Shelley Duncan caps a 10-run fourth inning with a home run and then adds another homer in the sixth – his third in two games. Is he the new Shane Spencer, who was the new Kevin Maas – the rookie who comes to the big club late in the season and reels off a streak of homers, never to be heard from again? Or will this kid have staying power? A-Rod also homers and is now two shy of 500.
After the game I e-mail friends of friends who have recently come forward to say they have connections to baseball. The Yankees may be barring the door, but the “regular people” who find out I am writing the book are only too happy to put me in touch with someone they know who might help with access. One friend knows someone with the White Sox. Another knows a guy with the Indians. And so on. I contact all the names I am given, because you never know – and because I am completely desperate.
Baseball gets a chick lit spin in this saga of Jane’s turbulent on-again, off-again love affair with the New York Yankees – an entertaining journey into the land of pinstripes. Two months into the 2007 baseball season, novelist Jane Heller, an obsessed Yankee fan heartsick over their poor play, announced her intention to divorce the team, on grounds of mental cruelty, in the pages of The New York Times. Her words inflamed the passions of sports lovers across the country, and her piece quickly became the newspaper’s most e-mailed and talked-about article in the week it ran.The intense reaction of fans forced Heller to look inward, and to re-examine her feelings about wining and losing. Was she a “bandwagon” fan, as some branded her? A traitor? In this witty, observant, and decidedly female look at the nature of the bond between fan and team, Jane Heller goes in search of answers. With her husband as her travelling partner, she literally follows the Bronx Bombers through the rest of their challenging 2007 season, hoping to score interviews with the players, watch every game in every city, and inject some excitement into her marriage.
Through interactions with other fans, as well as members of the media covering the Yankees, plus game-by-game analyses, Heller learns personal life lessons about competition, loyalty, and acceptance — and about why baseball, like any truly romantic relationship, requires commitment, patience, and a deep, abiding love.