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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‘Yankee Greats’ showcases pinstripe legends on Topps cards
Posted May 2, 2012 by Bob D'Angelo
Updated May 2, 2012 at 11:49 PM
This seems to be the year for books about the New York Yankees. One history of the team will be released this month, written by former Yankees public relations director Marty Appel; a compendium of New York Times articles relating to the Bronx Bombers, edited by the venerable Dave Anderson, also will hit the shelves this month. A biography of Lefty Gomez written by his daughter is set for a mid-May release. There’s also a book about Joe Girardi coming out soon.
Already published this year: Harvey Araton’s book about the warm friendship between Yogi Berra and Ron Guidry, and a collection of articles written about the Yankees by 24 storied writers (“Damn Yankees”).
What subject hasn’t been covered?
Glad you asked. How about a book that features the front and back images of 100 different Topps baseball cards depicting members of the Yankees, with stories about each player?
That is what freelance writer Bob Woods has done in “Yankee Greats: 100 Classic Baseball Cards” (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $19.95, hardback, 224 pages). The front cover has the classic 1952 Topps rookie card of Mickey Mantle, while the back cover shows part of a wrapper from the ’52 Topps set.
Woods, an unabashed Yankees fan who helped create Topps Magazine, said writing this book helped him achieve “personal and professional nirvana.” He divides the book by decades and there are some great front-and-back photos of Yankees as they have appeared in Topps cards from 1952 through 2011. Interestingly, the even-numbered pages in the book shows the backs of the cards, while the front sides of the cards are shown on the odd-numbered pages. I would have thought it would have been the other way around.
There are some glitches, or, at least one major one I found. In the chapter devoted to the 1960s, a 1959 card of Clete Boyer (No. 251) is misidentified as a 1964 card, for example. Interestingly enough, the real No. 251 from the 1964 was from a New York team — Choo Choo Coleman, the Mets’ catcher.
I do like Woods’ choices, particularly during the 1960s. I must confess, though, I was sorry not to see any cards depicted from the sets from 1966 through 1969, but naturally this is a subjective work. I do like the 1963 Jim Bouton and 1965 Mel Stottlemyre cards, though.
A nice touch from the 1970s chapter is the 1977 card showing Chris Chambliss hitting the walk-off homer in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. That’s card No. 276. Red Sox fans will enjoy card No. 335 from the 1978 set — Bucky Dent. On second thought, maybe they won’t.
Chapter 7 is devoted to great moments, managers and rising stars. There’s Don Larsen’s 1957 card back (No. 175) that naturally leads off by recapping his perfect game in the 1956 World Series.
There is a treat for card collectors in this book, too. Attached to the inside back cover is a special four-card set designed to look like the 2012 Topps set. The players are Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Reggie Jackson and Paul O’Neill, and the cards were designed by Topps.
Obviously, this book is geared to a certain niche audience. I’m guessing this book won’t sell well in Boston, for example. But if you love the Yankees and love the design of Topps cards over the last 60 years, then you will enjoy this effort.