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Chris Russo's best Christmas gift is from Mike Francesa

(Credit: Watchdog)

There are some classic Chris Russo-isms in this snapshot of his life inside and outside his home in New Canaan, Conn. (With pictures!)

One of the revelations is that Chris' "favorite recent gift" is a "framed, signed Jimmy Stewart memorabilia piece with photos from scenes in two movies." The giver? Mike Francesa, last Christmas.

Hmm. What did you guys give each other this year?

My personal favorite was one of the items that appeared in print in the New York Times Magazine but not in the on-line version above:

"Treasured possession: A letter from President George W. Bush. When I wrote my second book, 'Mad Dog Hall of Fame,' the president sent me a letter telling me how much he enjoyed it."

So, even if you don't count politics - which we don't, as an apolitical blog - President Bush and I don't always see things quite the same way.

Click below for my June 16, 2006, review of the book.By page 9, you get a sense of the level of wit in Chris Russo's new book, "The Mad Dog Hall of Fame."

"His nickname was Mr. Clutch," Russo writes of Jerry West, "and it wasn't because he hated automatic transmissions."

It is not until page 106, though, that the larger lesson is driven home. The subject is Casey Stengel, but it might as well be the author himself:

"Stengel was smarter than he looked. A lot of that babbling idiot stuff was just an act."

"Smart" is an understatement for an amiable, somewhat goofy, fellow who has parlayed a local sports talk show into a national brand.

How else to explain Russo's pre-Father's Day promotional coup yesterday? He capped a frenzied week of flogging by sitting down with Matt Lauer on "Today." Say it ain't so, Katie Couric.

Lauer proposed the book as a late gift idea for Dad, which sprung SportsWatch into action. Warning: Dad deserves better than this.

The first hint of trouble is the lone blurb on the jacket, a forum usually reserved for glowing reviews of the book itself or of the author's other work. It is attributed to Bob Costas and reads:

"Opining about sports in a spirited fashion is Chris Russo's specialty."

True enough, as factual, noncommittal statements go. Much like, "Opining about politics in a spirited fashion is Ann Coulter's specialty."

Or, "Opining about wascally wabbits in a spirited fashion is Elmer Fudd's specialty."

Trouble is, Russo's often entertaining on-air opining does not translate well to the printed page, a place suited to more depth and insight than is radio hot air.

A trivial example that illustrates a sloppy style, including several factual errors: On radio, you can say the Yankees outscored the Pirates by "a billion runs" in the 1960 World Series; in a book, exact numbers are customary.

Russo and co-author Allen St. John offer Top Ten rankings in various historical categories, such as best baseball players, sports moments and sports venues.

You could argue with the lists, but why bother? Any fan with an Internet connection could have done the necessary research for items full of stale, mostly unattributed anecdotes.

Did you know Joe Montana once calmed jittery teammates in a Super Bowl huddle by pointing to John Candy in the stands!

The book could appeal to young fans for whom the oft-told stories might seem fresh. But their dads will realize something is amiss when Russo details the route by which he takes visiting friends to see Yankee Stadium:

"Up the FDR Drive, to the Deegan, down to the GW, and down the West Side Highway."

So for $23.95, you can be both bored and lost.

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