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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Looking at the Yankees, New York Times style
Posted May 21, 2012 by Bob D'Angelo
Updated May 21, 2012 at 10:42 PM
he New York Times represents the kind of writing that college English professors love — formal, exacting, grammatically perfect. Did I say formal? Sometimes, written a little too earnestly. Oh yeah, and formal.
Critics have said the Times is not lively enough and sometimes a bit too ponderous when it comes to sports writing, but it’s hard to argue against the awards the paper and its writers have earned. Six Times sportswriters have won the J.G. Taylor Spink Award and have their names among baseball’s greats at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Three columnists — Arthur Daley (1956), Red Smith (1976) and Dave Anderson (1981) — have won Pulitzer Prizes.
The Times has covered the New York Yankees since the team transferred from Baltimore and entered the American League in 1903 as the Highlanders. Anderson has now edited a compilation of some of the biggest stories about the Yankees, as seen through the eyes of the New York Times sports staff. “The New York Times Story of the Yankees: 382 Articles, Profiles & Essays from 1902 to the Present” (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, $29.95, hardback, 544 pages), is a sturdy chronicle of major-league baseball’s signature franchise.
And it’s not only a formal reading of the previous day’s events. There are some good, snappy lines to be found.
“Yesterday St. Louis was a dangerous menace; this morning it is merely a city on the Mississippi River,” the Times reported on Oct. 1, 1922, when the Yankees edged the St. Louis Browns to win their second AL pennant. Many of the news articles did not carry bylines before the 1930s, and only the columnists were awarded that privilege. Later, beat writers like Murray Chass, John Drebinger, Leonard Koppett and Joe Durso were awarded similar status.
But even the anonymous stories are fun to read. “The Babe attached his signature to the contract without a struggle and Colonel Jake Ruppert added his without seeming to be in any agony,” the Times reported on March 5, 1927, when Babe Ruth signed a three-year contract at $70,000 per season.
Ten years later, Ruth would be quoted about salaries, and every current major-leaguer should smile after reading it.
“I don’t think salaries will ever get to the $80,000 stage again,” Ruth said in a story published on Jan. 27, 1937.
It was Drebinger’s Oct. 1, 1932, account of Game 3 of the World Series that helped immortalize Ruth’s “called shot.”
“A single lemon rolled out to the plate as Ruth came up in the fifth and in no mistaken motions the Babe notified the crowd that the nature of his retaliation would be a wallop right out the confines of the park.”
While the New York Daily News and New York Post capitalized on the sensational to sell newspapers, the Times took a more traditional approach. Chass’ article on the Fritz Peterson-Mike Kekich wife swap in 1973 handled a sensitive subject with dignity and class, and even the headline “family exchange” was a masterstroke.
Chass also bounces one of the better lines in the book., in his July 25, 1983, report about the “pine tar” game between the Yankees and Kansas City Royals.
“Baseball games often end with home runs, but until yesterday the team that hit the home run won the game,” Chass writes. “At Yankee Stadium yesterday, the team that hit the home run lost.
“If that unusual development produced a sticky situation, blame it on pine tar.” – Murray Chass, July 25, 1983.
If you are a Yankees fan, this book will give you a balanced history of the team. The book covers some of the biggest events in the team’s history — Don Larsen’s perfect game in the World Series, Reggie Jackson’s three homers in the 1977 World Series, Roger Maris’ 61st home run, the perfect games of David Wells and David Cone, and Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak.
It’s fun — and it’s formal.