Thursday, August 30, 2007

Has It Really Been a Yankee Century?


Media Contact:
Tony Viardo
Sourcebooks, Inc.
630-961-3900 ext 234
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Has It Really Been a Yankee Century?
New Book Chronicles One of Sport’s Most Storied Teams

"Yankee fans who can't learn enough about their favorite team will think they died and went to heaven with all that Frommer offers on each page."
—Publishers Weekly

In the world of politics, the term is “polarizing.” It’s used for people and organizations that evoke strong feelings, both positive and negative. If you looked up that word in a sports dictionary, however, you’d find a picture of The New York Yankees. No other team in Sport is more simultaneously loved and hated than the embattled Yanks. But by the same token, no other team is more storied, more celebrated, or more woven into the fabric of American culture than the Bronx Bombers.

As far as baseball is concerned, the last hundred years have truly been a Yankee Century. So claims Harvey Frommer, author of Yankee Century and Beyond: A Celebration of the First Hundred Plus Years of Baseball’s Greatest Team (ISBN: 978-1-4022-1002-0; November, 2007; $17.00 US / $22.00 CAN).

Yankee Century captures 106 years of Yankee life in reflections, stats, facts, and historic images. From their beginning as the New York Highlanders, playing in Manhattan's Hilltop Park in 1903, to reigning over Major League Baseball as it entered a new millennium—with World Series Championships in '96, '98, '99 and 2000—the Yankees represent a century-long legacy of triumphs and defeats, legends and lore, as an enduring symbol of America's favorite pastime.

More than just an atlas of statistics, Yankee Century contains reflections, quotes and profiles from individuals who are at the heart of the Yankee Mystique. Personalities include: Mel Allen, Yogi Berra, Chris Chambliss, Don Larsen, and Bob Sheppard. It also includes tributes to the greats: From Mickey Mantle to Don Mattingly, Vic Raschi to Allie Reynolds and Joltin' Joe DiMaggio to Derek Jeter.

Destined to become the defining chronicle of the Yankees’ first hundred years, Yankee Century and Beyond is a must-have collector’s volume not only for Yankee fans, but for anyone who appreciates the history and relevance of American Sport.


Harvey Frommer is a noted sports journalist and historian, the author of thirty-eight books on sports, including Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball and The New York Yankee Encyclopedia, as well as autobiographies of legends Nolan Ryan, Tony Dorsett and Red Holzman. He has also written, along with his wife, hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines and on the internet.

Frommer is a sought after public speaker, and a regular on radio and television sports shows. He is a professor at Dartmouth college and a long time Yankee fan who wrote for Yankees Magazine for sixteen years.

Friday, August 17, 2007


(Today's Rizzuto moment (courtesy of Phil Doherty) is from September 14, 1977 inthe midst of yet anotherheated pennant race with Boston. Here Phil's "Holy Cow" celebrates Reggiebeating Reggie-Jackson vs. Cleveland. WINS RadioClick here:

Back in the late 1980s I was working with Red Holzman on his autobiography "RED ON RED."and having a ball. He mentioned that during WW II he had become friends with Phil Rizzuto. They both were athletes, both originally from Brooklyn. Red and his wife Selma were invited to dinner with Phil and his wife Cora.

Red has his usual scotch or two to start things off. Then he asked for the menu and learned that it would be tomato juice, tomato soup, pasta with tomato sauce.

"And for dessert ­ tomato pie," Red smiled.
'No," Phil said, "huckleberry pie, you huckleberry!"

Under ordinary circumstances Red Holzman , lover of food that he was, might have left the room. But he dearly loved Phil Rizzuto. "That little guy," Red told me, "was one my favorite all time. Just a lovely and decent man."

Now with the passing of "the Scooter," it seems there are hundreds of thousands who shared the same feelings about him, including me.

I was at Yankee Stadium, hungry, with my tray of food in the press room restaurant, if one can call it that. Full house. Phil Rizzuto was there. He gestured that I come over and arranged for another chair at his table so that I could sit and eat. Kindness to a guy he barely knew.

Casey Stengel who rejected the 16-year-old Rizzuto at a Brooklyn Dodger tryout told him that he was too small, too skinny and that he should get a job shining shoes. Later Casey Stengel said: "He's the greatest shortstop I've ever seen. Honus Wagner was a better hitter, but I've seen this kid make plays Wagner never did."

The Dodgers turned him down. The Giants turned him down. But the Yankees did not. Ed Barrow said, "His signing cost me fifteen cents, ten cents for postage and five cents for a cup of coffee we gave him the day he worked out at the Stadium."

As a minor leaguer, the young Rizzuto was knocked down a couple of times by lightning, triggering some of his fears and superstitions like closing his eyes when passing a cemetery to insure getting a hit that day. He always stepped out of bed on the same side, always avoiding stepping on the baselines, was always on guard against insects who he feared. All through a Yankee 19-day winning streak, he kept a large wad of gum on the top of his cap. The smell got so bad, nobody would come near him on the field.

In 1941, Philip Francis Rizzuto replaced Frank Crosetti at shortstop for the Yankees and batted .307. "The Scooter," one of the littlest Yankees went on to be durable, driven, the glue on the Yankee teams he played on for 13 years that won nine pennants and seven World Series.

In what were the original "Subway Series" games for fans but bus rides for most players, the team bus of the Yankees in the 1952 World Series had a police escort to and from Yankee Stadium to Ebbets Field. At one moment a red sports car attached itself to the cavalcade going to the Stadium. A motorcycle cop pulled alongside the flashy auto set to shoo the driver away. It was Phil Rizzuto who had come along for the ride from his home in New Jersey.

Former Yankee batboy Joe Carrierri mused: "Phil Rizzuto was my favorite player. At one point I became his secretary. He would get hundreds of letters every day. He would ask me to answer them so I would take them home and send a postcard with his signature engraved on it just so the good will public relations kept going."

Down the home stretch of the 1956 season the Yankees picked up outfielder Enos Slaughter. They asked Rizzuto to go over the Post season roster with management at the Stadium to find the player to cut to make room for the ex-Cardinal. Each player the little shortstop suggested be cut, management gave reasons why that player should stay. On August 25, 1956, Rizzuto was given his release by the Yankees. The only expendable Yankee was the little shortstop.

Being released in Rizzuto's phrase "was like the end of the world" for him. But he picked himself up and began another career from 1957-1996 as a Yankee broadcaster. A natural at it, he spun the tales of Yankee baseball in a voice punctuated by Brooklynese. "He used to drive me crazy," his WPIX-TV director Don Carney said, his talking about people's birthdays, Italian food or some restaurant or who got married. Once he announced a funeral. He used to take off the 8th and 9th innings, saying he had to go to the bathroom. And that was it. Gone. One of the greatest turnarounds in the history of baseball was when Rizzuto returned around on the George Washington Bridge and came back to the Stadium to do extra innings. He was afraid of lightning. I used to record giant lightning flashes, and before a storm, I'd get out those tapes and scare him half to death.

One of his most famous calls was on WCBS radio, the Roger Maris 61st Home Run:
"They're standing, waiting to see if Maris is gonna hit Number Sixty-one. We've only got a handful of people sitting out in left field," Rizzuto continued but in right field, man, it's hogged out there. And they're standing up. Here's the windup, the pitch to Roger. Way outside, ball one...And the fans are starting to boo. Low, ball two. That one was in the dirt. And the boos get louder...Two balls, no strikes on Roger Maris. Here's the windup. Fastball, hit deep to right! This could be it!

"Way back there! Holy Cow, he did it! Sixty-one for Maris! And look at the fight for that ball out there! Holy cow, what a shot! Another standing ovation for Maris, and they're still fighting for that ball out there, climbing over each other's backs."

"I knew," the Scooter said, "every nook and cranny at Yankee Stadium, and we had the fans behind us. Being from New York, it meant a lot for me to play in my hometown."

It meant a lot for all of us to have Phil Rizzuto.

Thursday, August 02, 2007



The 1927 Yankees were an august presence throughout Major League Baseball as they began the eighth month of the year with a record of 73 wins just 23 losses and a gaudy .730 winning percentage.

Departing New York City on August 8th, Murderer's Row embarked on its most grueling stretch of the 1927 schedule: Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, St. Louis. Back in New York on the 31st for one game against the Red Sox. Then they would take leave of the Big Apple again for seven more games in Philadelphia and Boston. Talk about living out of suitcases.

Hod Lisenbee, a 28-year-old rookie Washington pitcher from Clarksville, Tennessee, was having a season against the vaunted Yanks. On August 11, the submariner pitched a beauty, defeating the team from the Bronx, 3-2 in 11 innings. It was his fifth consecutive triumph over New York. That 1927 season 22 different pitchers won games against the Yankees, but no one had the success Horace Milton Lisenbee had who finished in 1927 with an 18-9 record including four shutouts for the 3rd-place Senators. He never, however, had another winning season.

Wilcy Moore pushed his record to 12-5 on August 13 in Washington nipping the home team 6-3. A wonder of wonders on the Yankee pitching staff he was almost untouchable away from Yankee Stadium where he would post a 1.77 ERA limiting the opposition to a .217 batting average. With the magnificent Moore on the mound as starter/reliever, the Yankees had a 36-13-1 record in 1927.

He was called a lot of names including the "Ambulance Man" for all the emergency work he performed out of the Yankee bullpen. Dubbed "Doc" by sportswriters, one scribe said: "He specializes in treating ailing ball games and putting them back in a healthy condition."
The best rookie in the league, the best relief pitcher in baseball, Moore's strong suit was his coolness under pressure. And, of course, that deadly sinkerball. Inducing mostly ground balls, Moore would be touched up for just two home runs in 212 innings pitched in 1927, lowest in the majors. Overall, he would wind up 19-7, the third best winning percentage (.731) in the league. He also would have a 2.28 earned run average, while holding opponents to a league-low .234 batting average. He won 13 games in relief, leading the league, and saved another 13, tying for the league lead.

On August l5, Gehrig was ahead of the Babe, 38-36, in the home run derby. There were more and more claiming that he would out-homer George Herman in 1927.

But the Buster would manage just nine more home runs the rest of the season. His beloved mother was ill and in the hospital. Anguish over her health had him fretting during games, at the hospital after each home game. The reckless abandon he once had that allowed him to sometimes play baseball until darkness in the streets of his neighborhood with a bunch of kids was no longer something he could do. His non-baseball playing moments were totally reserved for thinking about and being with his mom.

Gehrig faltered. The Babe forged on.