In The Yankees Baseball Reader, editors Adam Brunner and Josh Leventhal have compiled what Leventhal calls “the quintessential writings that define Yankee history,” with pieces by legends like Grantland Rice and Damon Runyon, as well as the work of contemporary scribes such as Joe Posnanski and Tom Verducci. We asked Leventhal to submit the editors’ picks for the five best pieces of Yankees writing of all time. “It’s always a little tricky to choose the five ‘best’ writings about the Yankees,” explains Leventhal, “since this rich tradition encompasses works that are great for their literary merit, those that are great in illuminating the team’s history, and those that are great for the impact they had, either on the game itself or on baseball literature. Our choices include a bit of each.” Those choices — all of which are excerpted in the anthology, out now — appear below, beginning with the best of the best.
1. “In Summer of ‘49, David Halberstam does a wonderful job of capturing the drama, passion, and excitement of that year’s pennant race between the Yankees and their bitter rivals, the Red Sox. He offers intimate depictions of some of baseball’s most iconic heroes — Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Ted Williams, and others — combining solid journalism with great storytelling. Even non-baseball fans would enjoy this one, thanks to Halberstam’s skills.”
2. “So much has been written about Babe Ruth over the years, but few baseball biographies rival Robert W. Creamer’s Babe: The Legend Comes to Life. This comprehensive portrait sorts through the mythology surrounding the larger-than-life figure to reveal the man behind the legend. Creamer resists an overly laudatory portrayal, and you’re sure to learn something new about Ruth and baseball history. (Jane Leavy’s recent work on Mickey Mantle, The Last Boy, is not to be ignored among the great baseball bios, either.)”
3. “Jim Bouton’s Ball Four was a groundbreaking book when it was first published in 1970, exposing some of baseball’s dirty secrets and naming names in the process. For all the controversy this tell-all memoir generated at the time, it might seem tame by today’s standards, but Bouton’s humor and unique personality make for an endlessly entertaining read.”
4. “I’ll admit to some nostalgic bias here, since this book deals with the era when I was a kid in New York and going to my first Yankee games, but Jonathan Mahler’s Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning effectively captures the mayhem of the “Bronx Zoo” years while exploring the mayhem going on in the city at large. The antics of Billy Martin, George Steinbrenner, Reggie Jackson, and the rest are a fascinating sideshow to the serial killer, blackouts, financial crisis, and political intrigue of New York City in the mid to late seventies.”
5. “Spot-reporting is such an integral part of baseball’s literary tradition, and many of the game’s great scribes have written memorable pieces about specific moments in Yankee history. The opening line to Heywood Broun’s article on the 1923 World Series — “The Ruth is mighty and shall prevail” — is a true gem, but the one that stands out to us among all the rest is Shirley Povich’s piece on Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 series. In fewer than 1,500 words, Povich captures the magnitude of this extraordinary accomplishment, offering both historical context and the drama of the moment.”