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Perhaps more has been written about the New York Yankees than about any other sports team. And the magic that has played out on the field over the years has been rivaled only by baseball scribes' prowess on the page. Excellence breeds excellence, and for 100 years some of the best writers in America have chronicled the New York Yankees, taking a single swing or game and somehow making it singular. This brand-new anthology from the series editor of The Best American Sports Writing and author of Yankees Century ...
Perhaps more has been written about the New York Yankees than about any other sports team. And the magic that has played out on the field over the years has been rivaled only by baseball scribes' prowess on the page. Excellence breeds excellence, and for 100 years some of the best writers in America have chronicled the New York Yankees, taking a single swing or game and somehow making it singular. This brand-new anthology from the series editor of The Best American Sports Writing and author of Yankees Century collects the best writing about the Yankees over the course of their long history. Published to coincide with the team's centenary celebration, this is a must-have volume for fans the world over who claim the New York Yankees as their own.
INTRODUCTION Top of the Heap is not just a metaphor of excellence, but a literal description.
I don’t collect baseball cards or uniforms or autographs or other memorabilia, and quite frankly I don’t understand those who do. But I do collect the sentences and paragraphs that provide the language of this game; the words vibrate between my ears in a way nothing else does. Ever since I was a kid I’ve stashed away the newspapers and magazines that spoke to me, and I have the nightmare of a basement, contact lenses, an understanding spouse, and the occasional bad back to prove it.
Although I didn’t realize it then, my tendency to collect words was the beginning of the process that led me to become a writer. For most of the last twenty years I have spent my time writing and editing more than fifty books and hundreds of articles, a career that includes the stewardship of the Best American Sports Writing series as well as books on the Red Sox, the Yankees, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson, and a series of juvenile sports biographies. I’ve written about every major sport and many minor ones and about personalities both prominent and obscure, poring over indexes and microfilm and spending a fortune on copies and way too many hours online. For someone like me, the Internet, with all its indexes and databases, is the equivalent of an open line of credit for the inveterate gambler.
Somewhere along the line my collecting was done with an eye toward posterity. I just can’t throw away a written word that I like, one that I think I might one day have reason to return to, even if just for my own pleasure.
The Yankees, at first by accident and more recently by plan, have often been the subject of this passion. Several years ago I realized that this book already existed, that it lay buried somewhere in those piles of paper. To create Top of the Heap I culled through that collection, supplemented by suggestions and submissions from some trusted colleagues to make sure I hadn’t missed anything essential. While other anthologies of this type have tended to exhaust the same familiar material again and again or to favor book excerpts over work from other sources, I wanted this volume to be not only better but different. So with only a few exceptions, I have chosen not to reprint work too well known, instead giving prominence to writing from newspapers, magazines, and other sources.
Of course, this volume includes such heavy hitters as Red Smith, Ring Lardner, and Jimmy Cannon, as well as other recognizable names, but my open-minded approach also led me to some unexpected places. I remembered laughing till I cried when I heard Phil Rizzuto’s inimitable 1994 induction speech at the Hall of Fame, so I dug up a transcript and laughed and cried again while reading it. Yankee manager Joe McCarthy’s “Ten Commandments of Baseball” deserve revisiting for both their simplicity and their enduring wisdom; McCarthy, as much as any other man, recognized and nurtured a “Yankee tradition,” and one can find the genesis of that tradition in his brief edicts. Howard Bryant of the Bergen Record shared with me his orphaned account of game seven of the 2001 World Series, his running story in which Alfonso Soriano was the Series MVP and world championship banner number twenty-seven was poised to be raised. Of course, in the bottom of the ninth those facts became fiction, at which point Bryant and every other beat writer had to stop, turn, and write the opposite story.
The bulk of the writing in this collection is the work of a wonderful roster of writers—some famous and some forgotten—who have covered the Yankees over the past one hundred years. In a way, this book represents a source book for the history of the Yankees—the best game stories, columns, and features. All were selected without too much regard to the author or source, sometimes for their artistry and sometimes for their historicity, but always for their ability to transmit something essential about this team, to create a sense of what the Yankees are and why so many fans have been drawn to them.
And of all the many reasons that have been offered for why the New York Yankees are the most popular and successful franchise in pro sports, from the size of their market to the size of their pocketbook, from the House That Ruth Built to the Bambino himself, none adequately explains the most significant part of that phenomenon: Why do the Yankees resonate so loudly and clearly, not just in America, but throughout the baseball-aware world?
After compiling this book, I think I know. It’s the writing.
Ruth was magnificent, as were Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, and Maris, and Reggie and Mattingly and Jeter, but until reccent years, unless one lived near New York, fans had few and rare opportunities to actually see the Yankees, to experience the team that fooooor so long has had the word “dynasty” embroidered on its chest.
But one has never needed to live in or around New York to follow the Yankees, for the Yankees and their deeds were spread far and wide by writers whose talents at least equaled and often eclipsed those of their subject. For just as the Yankees assumed their place atop the American League standings year after year, many of the writers covering the team have held a similar place in the pantheon of American sports writing. John Kieran, Grantland Rice, Red Smith, and Dick Young are as distinguished as Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Mantle. Their skilled writing and reporting about the team, often syndicated nationwide, exalted the Yankees beyond their record. It was the writer who made Babe Ruth Babe Ruth, the writer who recognized the curious genius of Stengel and the grace of DiMaggio. It is the writer who sees within a single swing or game something singular and draws us back to it, again and again.
Despite what one might believe, I think the Yankees’ success has actually made it more difficult to write something lasting and memorable about the club. With victory so commonplace, one would expect the work of the writers covering the team to have become predictable. Yet the writers continue to put out work that is both lasting and memorable, creating their own kind of dynasty. Writing about the Yankees’ achievements has inspired a kind of verbal Darwinism among writers. In an earlier age, Ring Lardner and Damon Runyon and John Kieran and W. O.McGeehan all stood toe to toe in the press box and tried to outwrite each other, just as Bill Heinz, Red Smith, and Jimmy Cannon did a few years later, and Dick Young, Leonard Shecter, and their contemporaries, and Ira Berkow, Mike Lupica, and the writers who cover the team today. More than sixty years after DiMaggio first took the field, writers continue to try to pen his definitive portrayal. Sixty years from now they will still be trying to do the same for Derek Jeter.
Top of the Heap is the result of that competition. And page by page, byline by byline, we, the readers, are the ones who win.
Glenn Stout December 2002
Copyright © 2003 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Introduction copyright © 2003 by Glenn Stout. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.
Contents Part I: The View from the Heights 3 Am. Grounds on Washington Heights. 1903. Anonymous 7 Picturesque Spot. 1903. W. R. Rankin 10 All Gambling a Mystery to Frank Farrell. 1903. Anonymous 14 New Team Wins First Game—Beats Washington 6 to 2. 1903. Anonymous 18 Pitcher Chesbro Tells for First Time of His Famous “Spit Ball,” and Shows How It Is Thrown. 1905. Jack Chesbro and Frederic P. O’Connell 27 Building a Winning Club in New York. 1919. Anonymous 34 Johnson’s Belated Action Threatens New Ball War. 1919. W. O. McGeehan
Part II: Murderers’ Row 41 Ruth’s Presence Upsets Rivals in Last Inning. 1920. W. O. McGeehan 44 Yankees Finally Win; Landis Doubts Legality. 1923. Ring W. Lardner 47 New York Yankees 4, New York Giants 2. 1923. Heywood Broun 53 Yankees Win World’s Series, Taking 6th Game, 64, as Giant Pitchers Blow Up in 8th Inning. 1923. Grantland Rice 60 From “Sports of the Times.” 1927. John Kieran 64 Lardner Lost His Shirt Once; It Is On Pirates Now. 1927. Ring Lardner 67 Ruth Clouts Homer in N.Y. 43 Triumph. 1927. Damon Runyon 70 The Old Yankee. 1979. Dave Newhouse 76 Yankees Win Series, Taking Final, 7 to 3; Ruth Hits 3 Homers. 1928. James R. Harrison 86 Breath By Breath At the Polo Grounds. 1936. John Kieran
Part III: A Tale of Two Joes 91 No Ordinary Joe. 1995. Glenn Stout 100 Breaking Up the Yankees. 1939. John A. Cooper 104 Magic Numbers. 1941. Richards Vidmer 107 Joe McCarthy’s Ten Commandments for Success in Baseball. C. 1940. Joe McCarthy 108 Re: Piper Davis and Art Wilson of Birmingham. 1947. Anonymous Yankee Scout 110 Played Like Semi-Pros, Dodgers Agree; Dimaggio Alibis Reiser’s Error. 1947. Bob Cooke 113 Lavagetto Double in 9th Beats Bevens, Yanks 32. 1947. Dick Young 117 Hall of Fame Induction Speech. 1994. Phil Rizzuto 127 The Silent Season of a Hero. 1966. Gay Talese
Part IV: The Dynasty 151 Scout’s Honor. 1995. Tom Greenwade 153 Opening Day, Yankee Stadium. 1951. Red Smith 156 Farewell Joe, Hello Mickey. 1951. Jimmy Cannon 159 Martin’s Hit in 9th Wins Yanks 5th Series in Row. 1953. Red Smith 162 Million to One Shot Comes in. 1956. Shirley Povich 166 McDougald, Once a Quiet Yankee Star, Now Lives in Quiet World. 1994. Ira Berkow 173 Testimony Before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee 1958. Casey Stengel and Mickey Mantle 178 So Long to Stengelese. 1960. Leonard Shecter 181 Double M for Murder. 1960. Walter Bingham 186 Pilgrimage. 1961. Red Smith 189 With Roger Maris, Victory Dinner. 1961. Milton Gross 193 Taverns in the Town. 1963. Roger Angell 203 Young Ideas. 1964. Dick Young 206 Hall of Fame Induction Speech. 1974. Mickey Mantle
Part V: Yankee Elegies 213 Farewell Speech. 1939. Lou Gehrig 215 Down Memory Lane with The Babe. 1948. W. C. Heinz 219 Game Called. 1948. Grantland Rice 223 Face on the Scoreboard. 1979. Dave Anderson 227 The House That Thurman Munson Built. 1999. Michael Paterniti 249 A Career That Touched Us All in a Big Way. 1995. Mike Lupica
Part VI: The Bronx Zoo 255 Chambliss HR Ends 12-Year Drought. 1976. Phil Pepe 259 Reggie Jackson in No-Man’s-Land. 1977. Robert Ward 272 Goodby, and Good Riddance. 1978. Henry Hecht 275 The Last Yankee. 1990. Paul Solotaroff
Part VII: New York, New York 285 Dream Come True; Kalamazoo’s Jeter Takes Draft Spotlight. 1992. Mick McCabe 289 The Big Payback. 1993. Bill Madden 295 Boy Oh Boy Oh Boy. 1996. Tony Kornheiser 298 It’s Simply Great Day for Donnie. 1997. Tom Keegan 301 Torre Makes a Good Boss. 2001. David Halberstam 306 Probing Mr. Clemens. 2000. Jim Caple 308 The Hammer of God. 2001. Charles P. Pierce 316 Jeter Runs to Ball, Picks It Up & Flips to Place in History. 2001. Filip Bondy 319 Martinez and Jeter Rescue Yanks. 2001. Buster Olney 323 Running Story, Game Seven, 2002 World Series. 2001. Howard Bryant 325 Four-Get It. 2001. Howard Bryant 328 O’Neill Leaves Game with Hits and Class. 2001. Filip Bondy 331 Credits and Permissions 333 Index
Posted April 15, 2003
If you like to read about the Yankees instead of just flipping through pictures about them, this is the book for you. Wonderful material by Damon Runyon, Heywood Broun, Dick Young, Buster Olney - just about any Yankee writer you can think of. Even better are the surprises here, wonderful writing I never read before. This is a rich, meaty book that I already find myself returning to over and over. In a sense, this book tells the history of the franchise far better than most of the books that pretend to tell their story. Highly recommended.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 2, 2003
Everything you've ever read about the Yankees in newspapers, magazines or other collections that you've ever wanted to read again is in this book, plus a whole lot of great stuff that you probably haven't read before. It is particularly good with stories from the early years and the recent dynasty. Phil Rizzuto's Hall of Fame induction speech is worth the price of the whole book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.