Out of Left Field

By acquiring Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox in the ’20s, the Yankees began what has become a time-honored tradition of buying their way to success. Back then, the survival of a ball club depended on the one-dimensional business of putting butts in seats. Fans turned out in droves to watch the player who could change games in the space of a single swing. But like A-Rod and strippers or Giambi and steroids, the Babe apparently had some skeletons — perhaps one even big enough to kill for. Such is the premise of J. Anderson Cross’ upcoming novel, The Bambino Secret, which blends conspiracy theory and all-out fictional adventure à la The Da Vinci Code. The book chases an Overland Park lawyer’s investigation into the mysterious death of a Negro Leagues ball player who had stumbled upon evidence that Ruth was actually African-American. Anderson claims he discovered his own evidence of Ruth’s racial heritage amid 19th-century marriage records in Virginia. He’ll be available for pundits to heckle or praise at a series of book signings this week, kicking off at 7 tonight at the Barnes & Noble on the Plaza (400 West 47th Street, 816-753-1313). Whether his theory is bulletproof doesn’t really matter; timing the book release with the demolition of Yankees Stadium is a marketing maneuver even George Steinbrenner would be proud of.

Thu., Aug. 28, 7 p.m., 2008