“Being a Yankee meant something and still does,” Yogi Berra states in Marty Appel’s new book Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees from before the Babe to after the Boss. Unlike most Yankee biographies that have been published, Appel’s book is a narrative history of the famous team with insights from some of baseball’s greatest legends.
“Baseball was my game, and I was always a Yankee fan,” Appel said. After going to the 1955 World Series and witnessing the Brooklyn Dodgers beat the New York Yankees, Appel felt bad that they lost and from then on followed the Bronx Bombers.
Appel, an Upper West Side resident, was promoted by Steinbrenner in the early 1970s and became the youngest public relations director in Major League Baseball. Working behind the scenes with the team, he witnessed history and became close with many former and current players.
“It was remarkable, like baseball cards coming to life,” Appel said.
His first job with the Yankees was answering Mickey Mantle’s fan mail during the late 1960s. He said at first he was shocked that Mantle even knew his name, but as his work for the team continued, the awe of being surrounded by stars faded and it became his profession.
Appel heard many stories from the players about World War II. “Some people may not know it, but Yogi Berra was the only MLB player to be at D-Day, and he described it like fireworks on the Fourth of July,” Appel noted.
During the war, he also learned, when fans attended games they were given instructions on where to take cover if they came under attack. “The directions were, ‘in the event of an air raid, the game is official if five innings have been played, and whichever team is leading is declared the winner,’” Appel said.
The famous and controversial George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees when he was 42 years old, and Appel worked for The Boss in his earliest days with the team.
“When he came to the Yankees, he was young, vibrant and at the top of his game. There were some days that would be frustrating because he was not quick to compliment, but history shows he was a winner and made the franchise what it is today.”
Appel said that even the most avid Yankee fan could learn something new from the book. “Many people do not know how important Jacob Ruppert was to the Yankees. He owned the team from 1915-1938 and developed the dynasty. Ruppert built the stadium and purchased Babe Ruth, but his importance is largely forgotten,” Appel explained.
Asked to pick his Yankee dream team, Appel dug deep from the rich history of the team, including Yogi Berra as catcher, Lou Gehrig at first base, Robinson Cano at second, Derek Jeter as short stop, Alex Rodriguez at third base as well as Joe DiMaggio, Whitey Ford, Joe Torre as the manager and Mariano Rivera as the closer.
The Upper West Side is part of Yankee history too. Appel explained that Babe Ruth spent much of his life here, residing at various addresses in the area, including an apartment on the seventh floor of 345 W. 88th St.
Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees from before the Babe to after the Boss is now available in bookstores.
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