Few have come close to what Harvey Frommer has achieved as writer, particularly as a nuts-and-bolts historian of the Yankees. Marty Appel, Lyle Spatz and Steve Steinberg have carved out their own niches as Yankee historians and are excellent writers, too. But Frommer wrote for Yankees Magazine for nearly 18 years, and in The Ultimate Yankee Book (Page Street Publishing Company; hardback; $35; 287 pages) he brings the same attention to detail, love of statistics and ability to tell a good story in this fast-paced reference book.
Granted, this book is geared to a specific audience. There won’t be a rush to buy this book in Boston, for example. But those who do purchase The Ultimate Yankee Book will enjoy how the stats and stories are bite-sized, so the reader can skip to different parts of the book without becoming lost. The first chapter is a history lesson about the team’s owners and the ballparks that were used before Yankee Stadium opened in 1923. In addition to Frommer’s prose, the book is embellished with some great vintage photos.
Other chapters include legends, leaders and stars, along with epic moments. The mini-biographies are great reference pieces, and Frommer adds some nice surprises with profiles of public relations guru Bob Fishel, longtime clubhouse guy Pete Sheehy and public address announcer Bob Sheppard. There are oral histories that shed light on the team’s tradition and success, too.
Frommer devotes a chapter to player nicknames; a favorite is the one for Johnny Sain — “man of a thousand curves.” A “by the numbers” chapter is a fun ride from numerals ranging from 0 (the number of roster moves by the 1927 Yankees) to 3.4 billion (what Forbes magazine listed as the Yankees’ worth in 2016). And an oddities chapter lists some off-the-wall subjects such as the advertising billboards through the years at Yankee Stadium.
The Ultimate Quiz is 150 questions loaded with brain teasers that could stump even the most passionate Yankees fan, and a year-by-year chronology gives readers an easy guide to follow team history.
The Ultimate Yankee Book is a nice addition to a baseball fan’s reference shelf. It’s informative, interesting and fast-paced. And ultimately, that’s what a Yankees fan wants.