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2017 New York Yankees Official Yearbook

We’re already well into baseball season (should I have capitalized that?) -so I thought for this month we’d honor the National Pastime with a book about baseball. The problem? I don’t read books about baseball! So this month’s column is by guest reviewer and baseball fan, John J. Sposato. John, you’re up.

What’s this? A book review of an annual sport’s yearbook?  Yes!

Why?  Because it’s great reading for the thousands of Yankee fans here in Central New York.

This is not just a yearbook, but the history it represents, the memories it brings back and the optimism it creates for the current season.

It’s not just a yearbook, but the history it represents, the memories it brings back and the optimism it creates for the current season.

Did you know that the Yankee logo is the second most recognized trademark in the world, next to Coca Cola?

Actually, I don’t know why anyone from this area would be a fan of any other major league baseball team. The Mets maybe, even Washington, but certainly not the Boston Red Sox. Sound a bit prejudiced? Perhaps. Well, yes! (Keep reading, anyway, Boston fans!)

First: you must understand that I am not so much a sports fan as I am a team fan. It’s the team that holds my interest and the team I follow (also the Giants —a former Yankee Stadium resident— in the NFL). And let’s face it, nay-sayers: this team has won 40 American League pennants and 27 World Series –more than any other team in either league and more championships than any other sports franchise in history, so I have no problem giving them praise and their just due.   

Let me tell you how it all started.

As was the case for many baseball fans, I was only 6 years old when I “fell in love.” We would visit my grandparents every Sunday, like all good families of Italian descent. My father’s father always had the Yankee game on the radio and we would listen to Mel Allen, Red Barber and a few years later, my favorite –Phil Rizzuto.

As it happens, that year —1956— was one of the greatest years in Yankee history. They were coming off a defeat from the previous World Series to The Brooklyn Dodgers. OK, I guess it was the Dodgers turn to win one, but now last year was over.

In ‘56, Mickey Mantle won the Triple Crown, leading the American League in home runs, runs batted in and batting average, and became MICKEY MANTLE. He was also awarded The Hitchcock Belt for being the most outstanding athlete of the year. And, it was the year that Don Larson pitched his perfect game in the World Series. Becoming a Yankee fan was easy: there was no competition. A few years later, the other two New York teams (the Dodgers & the Giants) vacated The City for the west coast, and there was no Syracuse Chiefs at the time. So as the years went on, my interest grew and when cable came to Syracuse in the 1970’s it was like a dream come true! One could watch just about all the games on WPIX, and not just a Saturday Game of the Week with Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese.

It was in 1960 that I purchased my first Yankee Yearbook on my first visit to Cooperstown. I think it cost $.75 and was only about 30 pages long –more like a “sketch” book or an expanded program. I continued to collect them through the decades, maybe missing one or two here and there. It seems I was always in search of back issues that preceded my first purchase; I had very little success.

An unfortunate incident made matters worse: over the years I misplaced about a dozen issues of my collection. What to do now? eBay! I soon was able to find and obtain every yearbook since its inception in 1950, and can now boast of having a complete collection (I also have a complete collection of all their World Series programs).

As in recent years, the 2017 edition is more of a tome than a yearbook. It’s a 265 page publication full of advertisements, but it has a lot more to offer than that. It contains the basic information about the organization, the hierarchy, the stadium and of course the players and other feature articles. Bios and stats on the players, the manager and coaches are available to read and study. It also discusses the off-season acquisitions and how the club will be better this season and maybe even be capable of winning a World Championship, if not this year then the near future.

For a true fan, it’s not just going through the current edition that is enjoyable, but perusing the past issues, as well. Doing so brings back great memories of championships and great players.

What can we learn from perusing the pages of the 2017 edition?

The future with the maturing of their homegrown prospects becoming stars with the hope that the Yankees can regain their past glory.

The excitement, especially with Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, Starlin Castro, and Greg Bird, just to name a few of the team’s rising stars.

The team’s seasoned veterans leading the way and providing stability. Players like Brett Gardner, Chase Headley, Aaron Hicks, Matt Holiday and Jacoby Ellsbury.

The starting rotation can be formidable when they are on –with Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda and Luis Severino.

And this bullpen appears to be one of the most balanced ones that I have seen in years, anchored by Delin Betances and Aroldis Chapman.

I am not saying that it is going to be easy, but Manager Joe Girardi and his coaches should find things to be less stressful in 2017. If you watched them in recent years you know how frustrating it has been to be a loyal fan, and not get angry. If they fell behind 1-0 the game was over.

So in the latter half of last season they revamped the roster and brought up a host of young players to see what they could do. Everyone was astounded with their debuts: hope for 2017.

Don’t you find it telling that no matter what city the Yankees travel, to either league, that they draw the largest crowds of any visiting club and have many of their fans in the stands?

Many years, the edition is a dedication to a great Yankee that has passed away since the last edition, like the 2016 tribute to Yogi Berra, or to an anniversary of a great event or team, or to a recently retired player (Mariano Riviera, Derek Jeter). If there is no honoree, then there is an article of remembrance. This year, the Yankee team of 1927 is featured: “STILL THE STANDARD,” a team against which all great teams are compared, and have yet to surpass.

For a true fan, it’s not just going through the current edition that is enjoyable, but perusing the past issues, as well. Doing so brings back great memories of championships and great players. One also remembers the dismal years of recent generations, from 1965-1976 and 1982-1995.

And it amazes me just how many players there were and how many that I have forgotten about, or never knew about at all.

The history and tradition can entertain for hours.

Not a Yankee fan?

Don’t take my enthusiasm as boasting (well, maybe a little!). But it’s all meant in good fun –as sports are meant to be. Fans all over the country support their city or regional team, as they should. By all means, seek out your favorite team’s yearbooks, and start a collection of your own!

But … don’t you find it telling that no matter what city the Yankees travel, to either league, that they draw the largest crowds of any visiting club and have many of their fans in the stands?

It must mean something.

Nancy Roberts
Writer, voice over artist, information achitect, very curious person.