A former Yankees’ PR director and sports commentator charts the vicissitudes of the beloved/hated team once known as the Highlanders.
Appel (Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain, 2009, etc.) is no disinterested observer. He is a Yankees insider, and he has enviable contacts with the high and the low in Yankee history and occasionally slips easily into the first person. But he’s also unable to be critical when circumstance calls for it. His account, for example, of the slow desegregation of the Yankees is brief, dry and emotionless. Of greatest interest are Appel’s descriptions of the early years of the team—their first park, the great stars of Murderers’ Row (Ruth, Gehrig and company), the building—and later remodeling—of the original Yankee Stadium and its emotional razing eight decades later. The author also offers the odd detail (Yogi Berra used a woman’s falsie to pad his catcher’s mitt), close looks at the great and not-so-great Yankee managers (Huggins, Stengel, Houk and Torre among the former) and a careful chronicle of the bizarre hire-and-fire-and-rehire history of Billy Martin and the irascible George Steinbrenner. Appel also notes the contributions of PA announcers, National Anthem singers, groundskeepers and others. But the author rushes through the most recent decades, trying to do justice to Reggie Jackson, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and so many others—an effort highlighting the near impossibility of his task: cramming between the covers of a single book the complicated history of a most complicated franchise.
Torrents of information (good portions of which are genuinely interesting) cascade over readers, who will feel at times as if they’re trying to fill a water glass beneath Niagara Falls.