Many baseball fans think it was Babe Ruth who elevated the fledgling (and flagging) New York Yankees team. In this authoritative new work, Steinberg and Spatz (1921: The Yankees, the Giants, and the Battle for Baseball Supremacy in New York, 2010) shine a light on the indispensable contributions of two behind-the-scenes magicians.
Surely the Sultan of Swat has secured his place in the record books, but less is known about the owner and manager of those teams: Col. Jacob Ruppert Jr. and Miller Huggins, known colloquially as the “Colonel” and “Hug.” Ruppert inherited his father’s successful brewery and increased its profitability to become one of New York City’s wealthiest men, and in 1915, he bought the Yankees with partner Til Huston. Huggins was a diminutive ballplayer-turned-manager tasked with the impossible job of managing the heavy-hitting egotism of the 1920s Yankees, led by Ruth. Despite leading his loaded team to unprecedented success, Huggins suffered through naysayers, negative press, temperamental players, and a nervous breakdown. Regardless, Ruppert regarded the hiring of Huggins as “the first and most important step we took toward making the Yankees champions.” This relationship between owner and manager is what shines throughout the narrative. Though they were from two different worlds, they combined their efforts to change the game of baseball. Every anecdote contributes to a better understanding of these two men and their importance to sports history. The book is not only a thorough dual biography; it is also a lucid, well-written reminder of why we love baseball. “Baseball never operates in a vacuum,” write the authors, and they assemble a well-researched treasure of a book that not only chronicles the two men behind the game’s most iconic team, but the nation they helped shape as well.
A top-notch sports biography.