Remembering Yankee Stadium, Harvey Frommer’s illustrated and oral history of the House that Ruth Built, starts on a high note and keeps getting better. Bob Sheppard, the Yankee PA announcer, out all of this season as he convalesced from a serious illness, offers up his introduction to the impressive tome.
“From the old days when Bronx cheers bounced off the Stadium’s copper facade to recent times when the Stadium’s visage is DiamondVision and the sounds of ‘We Will Rock You’ are part of the scene, Yankee Stadium has been the citadel of the sport,” Sheppard writes — and it’s hard not read the words in his booming voice. “Where in one place could so many baseball icons display their rare talents with such regularity? Where else could I have viewed the transformation of Yankee fans from the jacket-and-tie cognoscenti of the 1950s to today’s bleacher creatures?”
Nowhere else, of course. Beginning with photos of Yankee Stadiums’ construction in the early 1920s and continuing on through the groundbreaking at the new stadium and the dismissal of Joe Torre last winter, Frommer’s book offers Yankee fans the opportunity to take that same ride Sheppard has taken.
Frommer has crafted a great mix as he honors Yankee Stadium, and presenting a building that has stood the test of New York time for so many decades is no easy task. The interviewees run the gamut from Sparky Anderson to Bob Wolff and touch upon everyone in between. Jim Bouton? Check. Mario Cuomo? Check. Whitey Ford, Don Larsen and Bill Virdon? Yes, yes, and yes. Who could leave out Rudy Giuliani? Even Red Sox — Dwight Evans — and Red Sox fans — Michael Dukakis — chime in while Phil Rizzuto, from beyond the grave, lends his voice as well.
To tell the tale of the Yankees as told through the stadium, Frommer mixes his own chronological narrative with uninterrupted snippets of interviews he conducted. Bobby Richardson and Johnny Blanchard talk about playing for the Yanks in the 1950s. Jon Miller talks about the sterile Yankee Stadium that emerged from the renovations in the 1970s , and Jim Boutin discusses the way the players felt about the stadium-altering changes made.
But beyond the words, the pictures tell the story too. The two-page photos at the front are among the most iconic of Yankee imagery. There’s Lou Gehrig in tears, Don Larsen wrapping up his perfect game, and of course, Mariano Rivera following through on a pitch. Inside, the pages are alive with photos. From the Babe to Yogi and Elston Howard to Reggie Jackson’s famous swing to a two-page montage of Derek Jeter throws and, yes, even to A-Rod’s infamous move in 2004, the stadium comes alive in the full-color pages. The overhead shots of Yankee Stadium over the years are stunning as well.
In a few months, we’ll head up to the Bronx to see a new Yankee Stadium. It will bear the same name as the old park with none of the history. Frommer’s book is the perfect way to learn, enjoy and appreciate that rich history. With the holidays fast approaching, this $45 book from Stewart, Tabori & Change would make a great gift for any fan of the game.
As Bob wrote, “This grand cathedral of baseball has given me treasured memories, not the least of which is seeing several generations of Yankee fans.” Through these interviews and images, several generations of Yankees are immortalized for all to see.
Amazon has Harvey Frommer’s Remembering the Yankees on sale for the low, low price of $29.70. But I should urge you to support local book stores if you’re so inclined. I’d hate to see those go the way of the House that Ruth Built.