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Book Report: Works for baseball fans, fans of mothers this week

The Minnesota Twins have a new ballpark and player who now makes $157,00 per game and also a new book by a reporter well-qualified to tell the story of how the Washington Senators came to Minneapolis and became the Twins.

"We're Gonna Win Twins!" (University of Minnesota Press, $25.95) is by Doug Grow, longtime sports reporter and later general columnist for the Minneapolis Star and Tribune.

As that newspaper grows smaller and smaller, it is bittersweet to read the work of one of the journalists who wrote in that fine newspaper's heyday. Grow covered the Twins for eight years and brings to bear his memories on the ups and the downs of the team.

Grow takes an interesting tack as he approaches the team from its beginnings in Minneapolis in 1961 until the present. Before he gets into telling tales about players, management and fans, including the antics of the inimitable Halsey Hall, Grow begins each chapter with a "that was the year that was" approach, telling the reader what was going on in the larger world.

As a fairly recent arrival to Minneapolis, I found it helpful to place myself and the outside world as the Twins went about their business. For instance when I was living in Ohio in 1961 and following the Toledo Mudhens, the Twins arrived in Minneapolis, the Israelis were trying Adolf Eichmann in a glass box, astronaut Yuri Gagarin was up there in space, "Moon River" was Grammy Song of the Year, John F. Kennedy was our nation's first Roman Catholic to achieve the presidency and "Gunsmoke" was the top rated show on TV.

Chapter after chapter, those facts helped me get my mind around this new ball club out in Flyover Territory. The book is speckled throughout with photos from the Star Tribune, Twins' and historical society archives.

It's no secret that there are a lot of spoiled kids out there. With parents asking their offspring's kindergarten teacher if little Jason will be able to get into Harvard?

No kidding.

I knew a kindergarten teacher who got asked that question 30 years ago. It's probably worse now. When I was a kid in the Middle Ages, my parents pretty much ignored me unless I got in trouble, which usually meant a paddling.

Maybe I'm jealous of the young folks these days driving off to college in their new 4 by 4s (state colleges) and Porsches (Ivy League colleges), but I think things have gone too far.

That's why I jumped into a slender tome called "Didn't I Feed You Yesterday?" by Laura Bennett (Ballantine, $24).

Bennett lives in New York City, has six kids, an elderly husband. She was inspired to write the book by an airline stewardess who advised the passengers to take care of themselves first in the event of a crash and then look to their children.

So she occasionally forgets to feed her kids, and when she does feeds them junk food, she doesn't get worried when they bring home bad report cards, doesn't lay awake at night when her youngest turns out to have a lisp.

No fancy clothes either. Dressing them inexpensively, she says, means more fancy shoes for her. She says she has a predisposition for laissez-faire parenting, even though it's kind of embarrassing when she forgets to pick them up after school.

I was really having fun with this book and just now am feeling the hackles rising in the motherhood sectors of Wisconsin and Minnesota where this column appears. But I'll lean on what Patricia Heaton, the long suffering mother on "Everybody Loves Raymond" and an author in her own right says about "Didn't I Feed You...?:"

"Charming, sophisticated and hilarious. The only thing wrong with this book is that I did not write it."

Of course no book is perfect. I was really rooting for Bennett with all those kids and saving for her fancy shoes and all until I get halfway through the book when she reveals that she's married to a very wealthy guy, that she has two maids and her kids, if they want to, go to finishing schools. That sort of took the proletarian veneer off the whole operation.

Nevertheless, Bennett makes some very good points and makes them stylishly, like her shoes.

Poor David's Almanac: In 1926 on this day, Minnesota-born author Sinclair Lewis declined the Pulitzer Prize, declaring that all such prizes tend to make writers "safe, polite, obedient and sterile."

However four years later he accepted the Nobel Prize for literature, the first American to be so honored.

Dave Wood is a past vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle and former book review editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Phone him at 426-9554.