THE PINSTRIPE EMPIRE SUPPLEMENT Thoughts on Marty Appel and questions left on the editor's floor.
When you watch the well-produced Baseball documentaries and “Top 10” list shows, after awhile you recognize a pattern of the stable of Baseball experts/historians: Bob Costas, George Will, Tom Lasorda, Roger Kahn, to name a few. Kahn’s great work, “The Boys of Summer”, ranks among the top books from the genre. Costas’ affection for the game is well-documented. Will, primarily a political pundit/columnist, has allowed his familiarity with Baseball to become something of shtick ; Lasorda, through media staying power and basic ubiquity, has become an ambassador of the sport to some degree. There’s another person to add on this list, the proverbial “That Guy” of Baseball docs. His name is Marty Appel.
You can find on him nearly every “Yankeeography.” During the outstanding “Baseball Seasons” historical series on the MLB Network, Appel makes a cameo with a talking-head or two. He was the go-to expert for color and background on Baseball subjects for ESPN’s great “SportsCentury” series. Where there’s a fine HBO doc that features Yankee-related content, chances are Marty is there, too. He has become the virtual Chaucer for the pilgrims of Bronx Bomber history, and PINSTRIPE EMPIRE is his Canterbury Tales.
Appel ‘s previous work shaped the narratives for memoirs of classic baseball personalities; his “Yogi Berra” and “Joe DiMaggio” bios aimed at young adult readers; “Working The Plate: The Eric Gregg Story,” brought us the voice from someone we often hear only bark balls & strikes, a former major-league umpire; “My 9 Innings,” from Lee MacPhail, Yankees owner and baseball iconoclast from the Greatest Generation; “Hardball,” the story from former Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn; the MUNSON books, an autobiography as well as a highly-praised bio from 2009. Appel’s own memoir from 2001, “Now Pitching For The Yankees,” goes in depth into the ballclub’s “Horace Clarke Years” from 1968 through George Steinbrenner’s purchase of the team in ‘73, the years they spent playing at Shea Stadium while their home stadium went under renovation, into the re-emergence and formation of a championship organization (here’s my review of the book and interview with Appel from last year
) If you needed any evidence that Appel could competently walk you through the early New York Highlander years from the turn of the century, you only need to pick up his 2005 work, “Slide, Kelly, Slide,” a chronicle of King Kelly, one of baseball’s first superstars, selected as one of the “10 Best Ballplayer Books” of all time by the New York Daily News. It’s an impressive laundry list, to be sure and none of it compares to what Appel accomplishes in Pinstripe Empire, his master work.
The book, an intimidating 600+ pages long, reads as smooth and leisurely as viewing a Ken Burns documentary. Taking us through the initial move of the early Baltimore Orioles (their beloved Colts weren’t the first franchise to be taken from the town) to the Bronx and the purchase of the team by the Ruppert family, the lean years where the ballclub was the virtual doormat of the American league, the Ruth purchase, Gehrig, Joltin’ Joe, Scooter to Yogi, Mickey, Whitey, everyone gets their moment to be remembered in this book. Appel even spends a good amount of space on Pete Sheehy, the lovable, loyal Yankees equipment manager who spanned from the Babe Ruth years to Don Mattingly.
Much like “Now Pitching,” Appel escorts you through House that Ruth (and Ruppert) built, walking you about like a prideful guide who adores his job, every so often taking each of you aside, speaking softly as if sharing a secret tidbit about the place that not everyone gets to hear on the other tours.
Pinstripe Empire has already hit #1 on Amazon’s current list of Baseball Books. You can find a slew of reviews on the web, almost unanimously positive. As much as Appel compiled in this tome, there were still nuggets, facts and stories that didn’t make the final cut. Through Instream’s fine-tooth comb review of the book and Marty’s additional anecdotes, here’s our conversation which could serve as sort of the “Deleted Scenes” for Appel’s book. The numbers found at the end of each question correspond with the chapters which inspired the thoughts:
INSTREAM: DO YOU SEE ANY SIMILARITIES IN JACOB RUPPERT & GEORGE STEINBRENNER? (CH.5)
More than you would expect. Both emerged from family businesses, and were following in footsteps, which Steinbrenner called "a German thing to do." Both put their money back into the Yankees and kept improving the brand. Ruppert did it despite Prohibition and Great Depression, and Steinbrenner despite the failing of his shipbuilding business.
INSTREAM: WAS KRICHELL'S SCOUTING STAFF THE LARGEST IN BASEBALL AT THE TIME AND DID THIS ENHANCE THE TEAMS' ABILITY? (CH.8)
The St. Louis Cardinals may have been bigger but the most important thing was that the Yankees were the team of Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio, and that's where America's youth wanted to be. A terrific bargaining chip for the Yanks whenever there was competition for a hot prospect. So the purchase of Ruth meant a lot more than just box office and pennants in his time.
INSTREAM: THERE SEEMS TO BE A VERY COZY RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BOSTON & NY FRONT OFFICES IN THE 1920'S, ALMOST SIMILAR TO THE YANKEES & KANSAS CITY A'S IN THE 50'S. (CH. 10)
Harry Frazee actually lived and worked in New York despite owning the Sox, frequently dined with Ruppert at the finest private clubs in Manhattan. So yes, there was a closeness there, and it did lead to so many Red Sox players winding up in New York.
INSTREAM: THE 1927 SALARIES, YANKEES MANAGER MILLER HUGGINS MADE MORE THAN THE PLAYERS (OUTSIDE OF RUTH). WHEN DID YOU THINK THAT BEGAN TO REALLY CHANGE? (CH.12)
Until free agency in the '70s, managers typically made more than almost every player. In fact, there was no reason to jump managing salaries into the millions - no legislation required it. But it did become a challenge for a million-dollar player to adhere to the rules of a $400,000 manager. Not the way Americans were used to the order of things.
INSTREAM: WAS THERE ANY RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN RUTH & JOE D.? WHAT ABOUT JOE D & GEHRIG FOR THAT MATTER? (CH.15)
Not much between Ruth and DiMaggio as they were never teammates and Ruth did not come to Yankee games very often. DiMaggio and Gehrig on the other hand, along with McCarthy and Dickey, established "the Yankee way" when it came to how one presented oneself to the public, and the professionalism of their work. They were teammates for 4 years, although Lou was ill for most of '39 and not present every day.
INSTREAM: HOW WAS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CASEY & RIZZUTO? (CH.17)
Rizzuto, DiMaggio, Henrich and others who played for both McCarthy and Stengel didn't like Casey much as a manager; he suffered in comparison. No animosity, just a growing respect for McCarthy. Otherwise, the relationship was fine. After all, those five straight world championships helped a lot.
INSTREAM: AROUND WHAT TIME PERIOD PHIL RIZZUTO EVOLVE FROM A HARD-NOSED BROADCASTER INTO THE COLORFUL, ICONIC COLOR MAN? (CH.24)
Around the time Mel Allen and Red Barber departed, Phil began to at last enjoy his seniority and felt more free to be playful in the booth. When Fran Healy arrived in the booth in the late '70s, that really set up his style that younger fans remember - the birthdays, the last name only, the canolis, the leaving early, but he was the consummate pro - could read commercial copy and station promos in one take.
INSTREAM: WHEN DID THE, FOR LACK OF A BETTER TERM, “COZY” RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PLAYERS & WRITERS BEGIN TO CHANGE? (CH.24)
When players became millionaires, with that went a certain standoffishness that compromised the cozy relationship. Before the mid-'70s, players would often dine with the writers (hoping writers would pay). Today, they never mix socially, and seldom even travel together on flights or buses.
INSTREAM: IS IT POSSIBLE FOR A BALLCLUB IN 2012 TO BE BELOVED FOR BEING SO BRUTALLY AWFUL? IS IT POSSIBLE TO BECOME LOVABLE LOSERS LIKE CASEY’S METS IN TODAY’S SPORTS WORLD? (CH.26)
I'm sure many expansion clubs in all leagues have studied the Mets success and tried to emulate it - without success. It came down to Casey, and what he did there remains a remarkable business model that is hard to duplicate.
INSTREAM: FROM 1968 UNTIL TODAY – WHAT WAS YOUR MOST EXCITING SEASON AS PART OF THE ORGANIZATION?
1976. It was the end of a 12 year exile from October baseball, the end of a long period wandering in the desert. It all came easy - winning the division - but the Chris Chambliss homer to win the playoffs marked the end of a very dark time. And for many on the team, the end of a long, long wait.
INSTREAM: DID BILLY MARTIN RECONCILE WITH CASEY BEFORE STENGEL’S PASSING IN 1975? (CH.31)
A little. After not speaking for years after Martin's 1957 trade, one day years later they just had a conversation without discussing the sale. They were good after that, and Billy was the Yankees representative at Casey's funeral - even slept in his bed that night.
INSTREAM: IN BETWEEN GEHRIG & THURMAN MUNSON, WERE THERE ANY YANKEES YOU FEEL POSSESSED THE LEADERSHIP QUALITIES WORTHY OF "CAPTAIN?" (CH.32)
Bill Dickey was the most likely, but McCarthy had "retired" the title after Gehrig died. It would have been Yogi during the Stengel era, and maybe Mantle in the '60s.
INSTREAM: DID THE YANKEES EVER CONSIDER OFFERING PLAYERS TO CHARLIE FINLEY TO GET THE VIDA BLUE DEAL DONE IN 1976? WOULD THIS HAVE ALTERED THE ORIOLES TRADE TO ACQUIRE KEN HOLTZMAN? (CH.32)
Finley only wanted money. Players were never discussed. He said he would use the money to buy free agents, but he didn't. He only wanted cash.
INSTREAM: THE CHATTER OF TRADING MUNSON TO CLEVELAND? LOOKING THROUGH THE INDIANS 1979-1980 40-MAN ROSTERS, WAS THERE EVEN A NATURAL FIT BETWEEN BOTH BALLCLUBS TO MAKE THIS DEAL WORTH IT FOR THE YANKEES? (CH. 34)
Munson told Steinbrenner he would become a free agent, and the Yankees ought to trade him to Cleveland while they could get some players back for him. I think eventually he would have managed the Indians, not necessarily played for them. In his heart he was a Yankee, and no team was going to pay more if he had become a free agent. But managing the Indians would have let him stay home in Canton, managed his real estate interests, been with his family. It would have made sense.
INSTREAM: WAS THERE AN OLD-TIMERS DAY DURING THE SHEA YEARS? (CH.29)
Yes, they never missed a year starting in 1947.
INSTREAM: WE HAD DISCUSSED ONCE HOW YOU FELT THE YANKEES WERE READY TO BE CHAMPIONS UPON TRADING FOR ED FIGUEROA, MICKEY RIVERS, DOCK ELLIS & WILLIE RANDOLPH (AMONG OTHERS). WHEN DID YOU FEEL THAT MOMENT OCCURRED IN THE 1990’S?
It's always a matter of the building blocks. In the '90s, it was retaining Bernie Williams (who became better than expected), trading for Paul O'Neill, signing David Cone and Jimmy Key, and then of course, letting the farm club bring forth Pettitte, Rivera, Posada and Jeter. Wade Boggs was a terrific addition too.