THE NEW YORK TIMES STORY OF THE YANKEES: 382 Articles, Profiles and Essays from 1903 to the Present. Edited by Dave Anderson. Black Dog & Leventhal. 544 pages. $29.95.
In 1915, shortly after buying the New York Yankees, the new owners attempted to pry star player and South Carolina native “Shoeless Joe” Jackson from the Cleveland Indians.
If they had succeeded, it would have certainly changed baseball history. Joe Jackson would not have been banned from baseball and lost what most likely would have been a place in the Hall of Fame. Nor would we have the apocryphal, “Say it ain’t so, Joe.”
This gem of a story is one of numerous pieces that will inform and entertain baseball fans in Dave Anderson’s compilation of articles “The New York Times Story of the Yankees.”
The book contains articles from the Yankees’ (originally known as the Highlanders) inaugural season of 1903 through the 2011 campaign. The articles and essays are divided into eras, Those from “The Early Years” are especially of interest, not only because this is less-known territory for most baseball fans, but also because the writing style of journalists from the 1900s into the 1920s was substantially different from today, more prosaic and colorful.
What sets this book apart from most other baseball histories is that reading articles that were written at the time of each event gives a freshness that any retrospective history would lack.
Much of the book takes the reader on a journey through standard Yankee lore. However, rather than a historical, and perhaps somewhat mythical retelling, the reader experiences contemporary accounts such as with Babe Ruth’s famous “called shot” in the 1932 World Series.
Having played approximately 17,000 games and with articles in the offseason or during spring training added to the regular season and playoffs, the number and breadth of articles have been enormous.
It is this thought that makes one ponder Anderson’s choices. While he covers most of the major events in Yankee history, there certainly must have been much in the way of lesser-known historical tidbits to titillate the enthusiast of arcane baseball trivia.
Still, Anderson’s book is an informative and entertaining jaunt through the eventful history of America’s most storied sports franchise.
Reviewer Michael Nelson, a writer and editor based in Charleston