REVIEW: Pinstripe Empire by Marty Appel is a great read

If you consider reading a book about the New York Yankees to be sacrilegious…then change your religion.

Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees from Before the Babe to After the Boss by Marty Appel is more than a history of the Yankees, it’s simply a great baseball read.

This is a book you can read cover-to-cover or, like I do, open the book to any page and read a great story or anecdote. It has also become a great reference book to help me add context to some of the stories I share with you each day. One suggestion however for the paperback edition, which I imagine would come out next season, while the book’s index is excellent, the table of contents is a waste of trees. The book would be vastly improved by chapter headings that reflect the time period or subject matter covered in the text as opposed to the current titles (“Chapter Thirty-Five”) which tell us nothing. But that is a minor criticism for a major league book.

For better or worse, the Yankees have been the central story for the last seventy-five years or so in baseball. If they weren’t making the news, the question would always be how will the Yankees respond to the news. The names in this book are the mythical figures that have made baseball great, but you will find fascinating stories about the supporting cast as well.

But it is the stars that will capture your imagination. Appel, who worked for years as the Yankees’ public relations director, had access to material and personnel to bring this book together. As a result, you’ll read stories you never heard before. He recounts that Yogi Berra remembers going to dinner with Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe during spring training and Appel asked Yogi to tell him every detail. Yogi responded, “You know how they usually give you just five shrimp in a shrimp cocktail? That night they gave us eight!” Appel adds, “He didn’t remember anything else about the evening.”

The book is filled with the personal moments that you couldn’t read anywhere else like the story of opening day in 1978 when the Yankees raised their championship flag from the 1977 season. On that day, Roger Maris accepted George Steinbrenner‘s personal invitation to join Mickey Mantle and be a part of the festivities. Maris received a prolonged and thunderous ovation for this unannounced moment. This was his first appearance after 12 years self-imposed exile for Maris who had turned down numerous invitations from Appel responding, “Why should I come back to be booed?”

While I love the personal anecdotes, this is first and foremost a history book and you will learn a lot.  The Yanks were at Fenway on September 25, 1929 (or Chapter Thirteen) when their manager Miller Huggins died at 3:16 P.M. at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York.  The Red Sox alerted the groundskeeper and the flag was lowered to half-staff in the 3rd inning, but no announcement was made to the fans or the crowd. In the 5th inning, the Yankees were called together in the dugout and told the news. Before the start of the 6th inning, the players of both teams were summoned to home plate where they gathered with the umpires and removed their caps. The Red Sox public address announcer lifted his megaphone and asked for a moment of silence. It took awhile for the word to spread around the ballpark before there was silence. The game was then finished. Two days later later, the funeral was held and all the games in the majors were cancelled.

This is a great book for baseball fans. A wonderful book for the summer recounting tales of summers past. And if you are so inclined to go to the church, temple, or mosque of your choice and you bring the book, I guarantee you won’t spontaneously burst  into flames.