Book: The Yankee Years | Author: Joe Torre | Started: 2/18/14 | Finished: 2/22/14 | Rating: 4 stars
Synopsis: Twelve straight playoff appearances. Six American League pennants. Four World Series titles. This is the definitive story of a dynasty: the Yankee years
When Joe Torre took over as manager of the New York Yankees in 1996, the most storied franchise in sports had not won a World Series title in eighteen years. The famously tough and mercurial owner, George Steinbrenner, had fired seventeen managers during that span. Torre’s appointment was greeted with Bronx cheers from the notoriously brutal New York media, who cited his record as the player and manager who had been in the most Major League games without appearing in a World Series
Twelve tumultuous and triumphant years later, Torre left the team as the most beloved and successful manager in the game. In an era of multimillionaire free agents, fractured clubhouses, revenue-sharing, and off-the-field scandals, Torre forged a team ethos that united his players and made the Yankees, once again, the greatest team in sports. He won over the media with his honesty and class, and was beloved by the fans.
My review: Every baseball fan knows about the late 90s- the seemingly never ending run of Yankees World Series championships. The team that just “doesn’t die.” Every baseball fan also knows that this was the time of the steroids. We’ve all heard about Roger Clemens, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte, and Barry Bonds. We all have our opinions on it even though we weren’t there in the clubhouse with the players. This book made me feel like I had access to the lives and minds of the coaches and players of that time through the good, the bad, and the steroid using ugly.
Joe Torre made me feel like I was back in the late 90s with him, celebrating the 125 wins in 1998 (playoffs included). I felt that I was in the clubhouse celebrating the championship wins with the team. I got to know players in ways that I thought I’d never be able to. There were things that happened behind doors that the normal fan wouldn’t hear about, but this book knocks down those walls and talks about it all.
There were some things that I really liked about this book and some things that I didn’t like about this book.
First, the things that I did like. I liked that Torre didn’t sugarcoat the steroid issue. I’d have a huge problem with the book if he didn’t mention them at all, because it was a huge problem back then, yes, even for the Yankees. I also like that he was very truthful about what was happening. I imagine there are some players, and Steinbrenner, that aren’t too thrilled that their dirty laundry is aired out, but it wouldn’t be about “The Yankee years” if he didn’t mention the struggles as well. Another thing I like about this book: it’s funny. There are quotes from players, coaches, managers, and other people that were very hilarious. There is also a chapter focused only on the first few years of A-Rod’s start in pinstripes which is a must-read.
Now the things I didn’t like. I wasn’t thrilled with how he formatted it at times. He would mention that they won the World Series (yes we already knew that) and then after talking about the World Series or the postseason in general, he’d go back in time and talk about the regular season and how they got there. I understand that some people probably read this book to hear about the World Series wins and how elated he felt when they finally won in 1996 and again 1998-2000, but part of the excitement of the World Series is knowing how they got there and the obstacles they faced. When he talked about the postseason and then went back to the regular season it just felt like “yeah we won the World Series!! Oh wait, I should probably talk about the other five months of the season.” Another thing I didn’t like was that this was a memoir written in third person. You know those people that go through phases where they talk in third person all the time? That’s how this book is written.
Things I was just kinda meh about: It took a while to get used to some of the things talked about in the book. When I started reading it, I thought it was going to be only about when he managed the Yankees. I didn’t expect to get a whole chapter about how the rest of baseball took their time catching up to “the evil Empire.” I didn’t think I would hear a whole lot about the Red Sox and Marlins other than when the book mentioned 2003 and 2004. Once I got used to this though, I realized that it was a good touch to mention baseball as a whole during that time instead of just the Yankees. There was a lot going on in baseball at that time and it’s important to mention all of it.
Other than that, I thought it was a great book. The writing is good besides the format in some places. If I can enjoy this book when I hate the Yankees, I think it says a lot about my respect for Torre and for the history of the game. I highly recommend this book to not only Yankee fans but baseball fans and fans of the history of baseball.
Memorable/favourite quote: “The [Yankees and Red Sox] rivalry was about to take a turn of legendary proportions”
Things I took away from this book: Joe Torre is an excellent story teller. A reminder that the late 90s Yankees were as close to unbeatable as a team is going to get. Lastly, the fall of the early 2000s is as fun to read about as it was to watch it (or rewatch it now.)