When you talk about giving a definitive history of any sports franchise, you’re talking about a tall task. When that franchise happens to be the New York Yankees, you’d better buckle up for a thrilling ride. As the most storied franchise in sports, with roots beginning in 1903, New York Yankees’ history is as vast and varied as that of some countries, complete with battles, bloodshed and domination.
Yet, SCD columnist Marty Appel has accomplished the feat in his latest book, Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees from Before the Babe to After the Boss (which debuted as the No. 1 baseball book on Amazon). Appel, a former public relations director for the team, takes a chronological look at the franchise from the beginning, providing new insight throughout on a team that has been heavily followed by fans and scribes alike.
It’s as simple as this: Pinstripe Empire is not just for Yankees fans, but for all baseball fans. The interwoven stories of players, managers, owners and more play out splendidly in these pages.
Appel’s book is the first narrative history on the N.Y. Yankees since Frank Graham’s 1943 book, The New York Yankees: An Informal History. And what makes this book so much fun is that reading about the glory teams from the 1950s is just as entertaining as the trying years of the late 1960s and 1980s. The little details are brought out among some of the more memorable acts in the organization, such as trades of future All-Stars like Willie McGee and Fred McGriff, and how Yogi Berra managed his son Dale in 1984 — the first time that happened in the major leagues since Connie Mack and his son Earle in 1914.
While the chapters about the 1980s to the present are nice, I saw a lot of that played out on TV and in newspapers. What I truly enjoyed was the stories and information relayed about the team from its inception through the 1970s. When you can weave in tales of J. Edgar Hoover and how some of the early Yankees documents were spared from the landfill thanks to an intrepid maintenance worker, you know you have a good book.
It’s not a Who’s Who book in the sense it’s not all about Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, Munson, Jackson and Jeter. Rather, it’s a Who’s Who book that includes players of all levels of success with the franchise. On top of that, Appel weaves in events around Major League Baseball while covering the Yankee years, which typically involved the Yankees in some fashion.
For someone who didn’t see or hear this history played out, Appel offers a fascinating look at the Bronx Bombers. Here’s another little tidbit I enjoyed: Some players had weekend Army Reserve duty during wartime, meaning many Triple A players were called up and never saw action. Appel tabbed them “Phantom Yankees,” and among them was pitcher Robin Roberts.
If you think you know everything about the Yankees, Appel will challenge that claim and probably prove you don’t (or didn’t until you read the book).