Bob is a longtime member of the Florida sports media, having served as a reporter and copy editor for more than 30 years. His true sports passion, however, is the history of the various games, exhibited by his in-depth book reviews and hobby of collecting cards and other sports memorabilia. He blogs for TBO.com on both subjects, transferring his work for the Tampa Tribune to the realm of cyberspace.
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Appel gets to core of Yankees history
Posted May 31, 2012 by Bob D'Angelo
Updated May 31, 2012 at 05:52 PM
When Marty Appel saw his first game at Yankee Stadium in 1956, he sat with his father in the right-field bleachers. The right fielder was Hank Bauer.
Fifty-two years later, he sat with his son in the right-field mezzanine for the final game at the old ballpark, which was being abandoned for a new facility across the street. The right fielder that day was Bobby Abreu.
Scramble the letters in “Abreu” and you get “Bauer,” Appel told his son.
“It’s Yankee Stadium. Everything connects,” he said.
Appel knows how to connect. His years as public relations director, first for the New York Yankees and later for the Topps Co., have proven that.
He also knows how to write. Appel puts his experience from his Yankee days to good use, adding to it with newspaper articles, books, historic documents and player anecdotes. The result is a well-crafted, fast-paced history of the Yankees that touches every base.
“Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees From Before the Babe to After the Boss” (Bloomsbury; $28, hardback, 622 pages), benefits from Appel’s roaming the halls and basements at Yankee Stadium, his conversations with peripheral members of the Yankees and his encyclopedic knowledge of the franchise.
This is a massive book, with 47 chapters, but it doesn’t read that way. Appel treats every era of the Yankees equally, from the franchise’s beginnings as the Highlanders in 1903 to its dynastic glory years (40 pennants and 27 World Series titles since 1921). Where appropriate, he throws in his own observations (Appel to longtime clubhouse man Pete Sheehy: “‘Pete, tell me about the Babe.’ He was silent for a few moments, and then said, ‘He never flushed the toilet.’ ”).
Appel’s perspective is witty and at times painfully on the mark. He writes about Yankees co-partner Mike Burke, who led the franchise during its dry patch era from the late 1960s until the early 1970s. “I attended his memorial service (in 1987) at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and found myself sitting next to author Kurt Vonnegut,” Appel writes. “Maybe that was all you needed to know about Michael Burke; he could attract Vonnegut but never did find second baseman to replace (Horace) Clarke.”
Ah, Horace Clarke. To many, the second baseman from the Virgin Islands was the epitome of Yankees futility for a decade beginning in 1965. And it would have been easy for Appel to use his knowledge of that era (he began working for the Yankees in 1968 and became the youngest public relations director in major-league history when he was promoted in 1973-74 at age 24) and skew the book toward the modern era. But he avoids that temptation and instead gives a smooth, balanced look at the Yankees through every era. He covers the stars, but also includes mini-portraits of men like public address announcer Bob Sheppard, Yankees owners Frank “The Pool Room King” Farrell and Big Bill Devery, announcers Mel Allen and Red Barber, and even concessionaire Harry M. Stevens.
He even manages to get a Yogi Berra-ism in the book. Hoping to get some rich details about a dinner date Berra had with Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe, Appel wants the lowdown.
“When I asked (Berra) to tell me every detail, he said, ‘You know how they usually give you just five shrimp in a shrimp cocktail? That night they gave us eight!’ ” Appel writes.
“He didn’t remember anything else about the evening,” Appel writes, in a way in which you could almost see him shrugging helplessly as if to say, “well, that’s Yogi.”
For all of the well-written prose, there are a few mistakes. Some are just spelling, as scout Paul Krichell’s name is spelled as “Kritchell” on page 50 and pitcher George Mogridge’s name is spelled as “Moridge” on page 456. There was one glaring error of fact: On page 120 Appel writes that “shortly after the Brooklyn Robins won the 1920 World Series,” when in fact, the Cleveland Indians beat Brooklyn in the World Series that season.
However, the quality of writing and the wealth of information Appel has dug up far outweighs the glitches. Yankees fans will find “Pinstripe Empire” as a must-have part of their baseball book library. Baseball historians will enjoy the historical timeline that is written in less than reverent tones. Appel knows when to be a fan in this book, and when to step back and let the event guide the reader.
I am not sure if Red Sox fans will enjoy this book. But if you love baseball history, this is a must-have for your shelf.