Last night at the Oradell Library, Bill Madden, Oradell native and NY Times best-selling author of Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball, spoke to a packed crowd about his book and the stories contained within it.
“I told my editor that the biggest problem with this book is getting people to believe it’s non-fiction,” he quipped. “Everything in this book is true, there is no exaggeration.”
Madden interviewed about 150 people over 3 years for the book. It is one of the first of its kind, since Steinbrenner never allowed anyone to write a biography about him while alive and he didn’t write anything down himself.
“I had no idea how I was going to tell Steinbrenner’s story. The more people I talked to the more it was like a Slinky going down the stairs.” He noted that Harper Collins, his publisher, capped him at 500 pages, and he still has no idea how he pulled it off within that.
Madden spoke only for a few minutes before taking questions from the crowd. Many people asked questions that were intently vague, like “Tell us about the coin flip incident,” and “Can you talk about the famous elevator fight?”, as if all they wanted was to hear the story they already knew.
And Madden delivered. He told the story from 1978 when Steinbrenner sent Al Rosen, then president of the Yanks, to call a coin toss that would decide between Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park for a playoff game against the Red Sox. Rosen called heads and the coin landed tails. Upon delivering the news, Steinbrenner became furious and said, “How could you lose a coin toss? How could you pick heads when everyone knows it’s tails 70% of the time!”
Stories like this were not uncommon. Madden said Steinbrenner was “part lunatic, part genius, part bully, and part nice guy.”
Oradell resident Peter Murphy came out with his father-in-law to see Madden speak.
“I’m a huge fan of baseball,” he said, “and I knew Madden was from Oradell.” Murphy asked several questions and said he had many more, particularly about what Steinbrenner was like during the years that the Mets ruled New York.
“I’m a Mets fan,” Murphy said with a smile.
Madden is a former American sportswriter and current columnist for the New York Daily News. A member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, he has served on the Historical Overview Committee of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was a sportwriter with UPI for nine years before he joined the Daily News in 1978, and covered the New York Yankees before becoming a columnist in 1989