The New York Yankees: An Informal History

The New York Yankees: An Informal History

The New York Yankees: An Informal History

The New York Yankees: An Informal History

Synopsis

,p>In January of 1903, American League president Ban Johnson, "his pince-nez riding precariously on the bridge of his nose," raised a glass to toast his young baseball league, which had just received permission to purchase the Baltimore organization and establish a team in New York City. That marked the genesis of the fabulous Yankee franchise (known in 1903 as the Highlanders) as well as the opening chapter of Frank Graham's The New York Yankees: An Informal History. One of fifteen team histories commissioned by G. P. Putnam's Sons in the 1940s and 1950s, The New York Yankees traces the most successful team in either league from the beginning through their 1943 World Series victory over the Cardinals, ending with a quick synopsis of the 1944 season.

In Yankee (and baseball) history, of course, Babe Ruth stands above all the rest, but he is flanked by such legends as Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig. Wee Willie Keeler is there, too, joined by fellow Hall of Famers Charlie "Red" Ruffing, Herb Pennock, and Bill Dickey. The Hall of Fame lineup also includes Miller Huggins, Lefty Gomez, Ed Barrow, Joe McCarthy, Tony Lazzeri, Waite Hoyt, and Earle Combs.

In his foreword, Leonard Koppett writes that Graham's " New York Sun columns called Overheard in the Dugout'delighted me as I was growing up; but what I learned later, when I got to work alongside him, was that they were as good and as reliable as court transcripts. He didn't take a lot of notes. He just absorbed what was being said- and what it meant in the right context- and reproduced it in graceful prose and natural speech. It is this style of narration through dialogue that makes his books come so alive."

Twenty-four black-and-white Yankee photographs enliven Graham's informal history.

Excerpt

When Frank Graham wrote this book in 1943, the name “Yankees” had unprecedented and unmatchable prestige in America’s sports world. Since 1921, during the overlapping careers of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Joe DiMaggio in a stretch of twenty-two seasons, the Yankees had won thirteen American League pennants and nine World Series. Because baseball was uniquely dominant as a “major league” sport at that time, no football, basketball, or hockey team could have similar impact.

In the period between the two world wars, only a handful of individuals attained long-range legendary status in sports. We had Bobby Jones in golf, Bill Tilden in tennis, and Jack Dempsey in boxing (to whom the new heavyweight champion, Joe Louis, was being compared). Knute Rockne had glamorized Notre Dame football on a national scale, but that was college when 90 percent of the population had no college affiliation. Jesse Owens, after his heroic victories in the Nazi Olympics of 1936, was being quickly forgotten.

So Graham was dealing with the cream of the cream in a culture that could go beyond daily journalism only through books. There was no television. Radio delivered play-by-play details but little comment or perspective. Magazines were unavoidably episodic.

What he produced was not only the first version of the full Yankee story but the most readable club history anyone had ever done.

He was a working sports columnist in a city that had twelve or more daily papers, and he had some exceptional qualities. His ear for dialogue was incomparable. His ability to earn the trust of the people he dealt with allowed him to know what was really going on. His grasp of the games, the people, and the lives he covered was . . .

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