Friday, September 05, 2008

Remembering Yankee Stadium: An Oral and Narrative History of "The House That Ruth Built"

A Review By Phil Speranza

Well it was the book that took 86 years in the making but Harvey Frommer’s Remembering Yankee Stadium: An Oral and Narrative History of "The House That Ruth Built" has finally hit the shelves. While most of the Yankee Stadium tributes hit shelves in the spring, it was only fitting that RYS waited until now to become a Fall Classic. Yes Bomber Buddies it was well worth the wait. My initial reaction was that the official release had better photos than this fantastic release but after closer review RYS beats any Yankee Book out there hands down. You go deeper than the aerial view of a packed stadium or the cars lined up in the once vacant Bronx on Opening Day 1923. Every picture in this book triggers off a string of memories. You get up close and dirty with everything from Derek Jeter diving head first into the stands to the ground breaking at the new stadium himself. The 9-11 photos can make you tear up all over again. Mickey Mantle, his swing never looked so sweet.

Who better to write and compile a tribute to an icon such as Yankee Stadium than renowned baseball/Yankee author Harvey Frommer? Frommer makes great use of every Yankee and baseball player he either wrote about or met over his illustrious career. Who else can have a forward written by the Voice of Yankee Stadium, Bob Sheppard? If I have to explain who he is you are reading the wrong book, but Harvey explains who he is as well as his son Paul (Sheppard).
The body of the book like any good Yankee History book is the life of Yankee Stadium from 1923 through today. What makes RYS different is that the glue holding or bridging these stories together is made up of what Harvey Frommer refers to as the voices. The voices are players, celebrities, broadcasters, writers or fans just like you and me. He has documented the people’s memories and used them to personalize the history. By doing this it brought out memories in my mind that I haven’t thought about in years. As a matter a fact is proud to have four of us fans who had their voices heard (and sent forth). Sharing their Yankee memories from BTB were Dan “Knuckles” McCourt, Gary “Lefteroo” Lefkowitz, Sue Tucker and myself. It was an honor being interview for such a strong tribute to “the cathedral in Da Bronx”.

There is also a section what he calls Stadiumology, where he gives stats like all time Yankee attendance, Plaques in Monument Park and when they were dedicated, the all time Yankee Broadcasters, Stadium Firsts and much, much more.

This is all topped off by one of my favorite, yet minor sections of the book is where the author takes a number and associates it with a player or record or some sort of stat. For example he mentions the 1½ is for the number on the late opera singer Robert Merrill. Who version of the Star Spangled Banner was played at the stadium for as long as I can remember and often sung live by the singer/fan himself. Even for the number 28 which he associates to Thurman Munson’s rookie number.

This book was truly a labor of love, both on the parts of every fan or player he interviewed and especially of Mr. Frommer himself. Will there ever be another stadium that will demand the documentation that Yankee Stadium has gained respect for? Probably not, with Remembering Yankee Stadium on your bookshelf, Yankee Stadium will live on for decades to come. This book is so good I could have filled it with clichés. My Yankee Cap is tipped to Harvey Frommer who has outdone himself once again.

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