In Boston last fall during the World Series the most popular souvenir was an outsize plastic button bearing in red the legend: YAZ, SIR, THAT'S MY BABY. It was, of course, a salute to Carl Yastrzemski, the Red Sox hero (page 53). It was also, very likely, the last commercial use of his now-famous nickname that Carl did not get cut in on. For after his fabulous Triple Crown, Most Valuable Player season and his superb performance in the World Series, Yastrzemski signed a contract with the Licensing Corp. of America, the firm that also merchandises such lesser folk heroes as Batman (never captured a batting title), Superman (never won a pennant singlehanded) and James Bond (never had to face the impossible situations that Yaz and the Red Sox did all year long). Now Yastrzemski endorses Big Yaz bread loaf, Big Yaz cookies, Big Yaz hot-dog rolls, the hot dogs to put in the rolls, mayonnaise, ice cream, sleeping bags, slacks, rainwear, T shirts, school supplies, hair tonic, shaving cream and children's toys and games.
Yastrzemski has also written a book called—what else?—YAZ. Writing a book is standard operating procedure for an athletic hero, and when Viking Press approached him with the idea Carl was all for it. He has had some experience with the mysteries of sports journalism but doing a book was something new. For one thing, the demands made on his time after the World Series made it impossible for him and Coauthor Al Hirshberg to work effectively in Boston. So, when Yaz had to fly to Miami for a speaking engagement, Hirshberg came along. "We registered under assumed names at the Americana Hotel," Yaz says, "and we worked for three solid days—8 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. I found out that Al knew a lot more about me and my career than I did myself. He had dug into all the clips, and he had visited my home town—Bridgehampton, on Long Island—and talked to my folks and my friends. Originally the book was supposed to be divided into three simple parts: the 1967 season, the World Series and my own background. But as we talked, it was obvious that there was a lot more. Now there are only, one or two chapters exclusively about baseball."
Working from tapes, Hirshberg put the book together, phoning Yaz whenever there was a point to be clarified. The calls reached him in Seattle, Puerto Rico, Rochester, Los Angeles and even, once or twice, at home in Lynn-field, Mass. When Carl read through the final version, he says, "I'd be reading about myself as a kid in Bridgehampton, where we never had $10,000 in one year. And, I'd think, now we're turning down deals for $70,000 and $80,000 as though it was nothing. It was 'scary."
Perhaps. But not quite as scary, say, as pitching to the man who endorses Big Yaz hot-dog rolls.