I am a Yankee fan. Growing up, I had listened to countless games on the radio in my dad's car, and watched the games on TV every weekend at my grandmother's house in Belleville, New Jersey. I went to my first Yankee game when I was 18 years old, with a bunch of friends, and we sat in the bleachers eating peanuts and Cracker Jacks, just how the song goes. It was a day game and the stands were fairly empty. The Yankees won that game, and I was hooked. It wasn't until I was fresh out of college in '96 with my first job, that I had the money to go and sit in the good seats -- about 14 rows up behind third base. My favorite date with my then-boyfriend/future husband, was a Friday night Yankee game. It was him, me, a cold beer, and my Yanks. I got to escape for nine innings. I will never forget that 1996 season...where The Yankee Years begin for Joe Torre, and for me.
It's no wonder why I loved this book, and why it took me so long to drink in the pages. The "mystique and aura" of New York, and Yankee Stadium, that other teams learned to fear, showed itself in the 12 years of Joe Torre's career as the Yankees Manager. Those early years, especially. This book gives fans such a clear memory of New York, the fans, the Red Sox Rivalry, and the greatest team ever to play in baseball. Joe Torre and Tom Verducci takes us through each of some of the greatest moments in baseball: Jeter's catch and throw behind his back to home plate; Wells' perfect game in '96; Cone's perfect game in '98 with Don Larson and Yogi Berra watching from the stands; the boy's glove catching the ball over the right outfield wall during the Playoffs (I was there for that one!); and more rallies from behind and walk-off home runs that the post-season had ever seen before, like Aaron Boone's in the bottom of the 11th Inning, Game 7 of 2003.
Baseball in New York was not all hearts and flowers, though, and The Yankee Years address each ugly factor of being a Yankee. The "Evil Empire" had as many enemies as it did fans. The Boston rivalry created especially tense moments, like when Pedro Martinez and Jorge Posada had words, before Martinez threw Don Zimmer to the ground. Torre and Verducci address the issues of steroids and HGH in the Mitchell report, and their players that were named. The media added to the tension of playing in New York, as displayed by Alex Rodriguez. The authors also talk at length of aging pitchers, "pitching is an act of violence," without whom they could not win. The enormous profits generated by the Yankees sparked the creation of some of the highest salaries ever known to major league baseball.
I am a huge fan, yes, but The Yankee Years can be a little erratic, since they chose to organize the book into themed chapters, instead of writing in chronological order. So, it did seem a little all over the place and, at times, a bit repetitive.
If you're a guy, and like to read pages of baseball stats, this book is right up your ally. The stats were not overdone, though, in my opinion. I found the relationship between Joe Torre and Derek Jeter to dominate this book, but again, not in a way that was overdone. Instead, I want my sons to read this book so they learn what makes a great player, a great teammate, and a great sportsman.
All in all, The Yankee Years is a great read for any baseball fan, but especially to anyone who wants to relive those magical games of Joe Torre's early Yankee years. I found myself smiling, remembering those moments.
"...never forget, there is a hearbeat in this game." -- Joe Torre
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