Do not be deceived by its appearance. This is in no sense a "coffee table book" except that you will want to have it near at hand on prominent display. Credit Mark Vancil and Alfred Santasiere III with selecting and editing a wealth of information and photographs (most in vivid full-color) that create quite literally both a comprehensive biography and multi-dimensional portrait of Yankee Stadium. Various contributors provide individual retrospective analyses of these segments:
In "A Walk Through Time" (Pages 16-35), Santasiere allows the reader "to take a gander at the ballpark itself" " during an extensive tour (e.g. ushers, the press box, George Steinbrenner's office and its various collection of memorabilia, the stadium's "frieze," the playing field, the clubhouse, the manager's office, the dugout, and Monument Park. The quality of the photographs in this section comes about as close as photographs can to making the viewer feel as if she or he were actually roaming throughout the stadium in person. In this section and in all others, the crisp copy that accompanies the photos creates a context for each.
In "The Birth of a Ballpark" (Pages 36-75), Bob Klapich reviews the team's history since 1912 when its name was the Hilltoppers (the team's home field was Hilltop Park) and finished in last place. Renamed the Yankees, they later played their home games at the Polo Grounds (also home of the Giants), were also-rans from 1916-1920, acquired George Herman ("Babe") Ruth from the Boston Red Sox, and finally the franchise had a permanent home when Yankee Stadium was built. The opening day was April 18, 1923. Construction requirement included removal of 45,000 cubic yards of dirt, 800 tons of rebar, 2,300 tons of mechanical steel, 116,000 square feet of sod, 13,000 yards of topsoil, 950,000 three million board feet of lumber for the bleachers, and 284 days to complete. There are dozens of archival photos of various stages of construction. Also included in this section are "First Person" reminiscences such as those provided by Ray Robinson, Phil Rizzuto Mario Cuomo, and Ernie Acorsi, Regis Philbin, Michael Bloomberg, and Dan Quale.
In "Iconic Moments at the Stadium" (Pages 76-137), Klapich provides a retrospective commentary on Lou Gehrig's memorable farewell and then Babe Ruth's farewell eight years later, the 1928 game when Knute Rockne's Notre Dame team defeated favored Army 12-8 and won it "for the Gipper," Frank Gipp, Joe DiMaggio's record of getting a hit in 56 consecutive games (a record that still stands 67 years later), Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers (with a mini-commentary provided by Dick Young), arguably the greatest NFL game ever when the Baltimore Colts defeated the New York Giants in overtime for the league championship in 1958 (23-17), Joe Louis' defeat of Max Schmeling (1938) and Muhammad Ali's defeat of Ken Norton (1976), Roger Maris' 61st homerun in 1961 to break Babe Ruth's record of 60 in 1927 (with a mini-commentary provided by Phil Pepe), Pope Paul VI's visit in 1965, the Army-Notre Dame football game in 1946 (with a mini-commentary provided by Johnny Lujack), and Pope Paul II's visit in 1979 (with a mini-commentary provided by Edward Cardinal Egan). Once again, as elsewhere throughout the book, the photographs are stunning.
In "Yankee Stadium Baseball History" (Pages 138-185), Bill Madden reviews some of the greatest highlights of a history that is probably unsurpassed among Major League Baseball in terms of great players, great games, and memorable moments. The reader is briefed on "Home Run Factoids" accompanied by "First Person" observations by Hank Aaron, Al Kaline, Jerry Coleman, Lou Piniella, Chris Chambliss, Reggie Jackson, David Cone, George H. W. Bush (whose son threw out the first pitch - a strike - during the third game of the 2001 World Series following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon), Derek Jeter, Paul O'Neil, Tino Martinez, Scott Brosius, Brian Cashman, Joe Torre, Dave Winfield, Paul McCartney, Whitey Ford, and Jose Pasada. I identify these contributors because almost all of them were directly involved in some of the memorable moments while playing or managing some of the greatest Yankee teams. Again, the photographs are superb.
In Section Four, "America's Amphitheater" (Pages 186-230), Ira Berkow takes a somewhat different approach as he reviews impressions of first visits to Yankee Stadium and favorite memories of it that are shared in "First Person" reminiscences by Bobby Murcer, Rich Gossage, the Rev. Billy Graham, Don Mattingly, Bill Clinton, Joseph P. Kennedy III, Lance Armstrong, Steve Richardson, Charlie Weis, Frank Gifford, Jim Brown, Don Shula, Sam Huff, Roger Clemens, Bob Sheppard, Alex Ridriguez, Bert Randolph Sugar (who also lists what he considers to be the ten most memorable fights), Angelo Dundee, and Ron Guidry.
No commentary such as this could possibly do full justice to the scope and depth of the text, nor to the quality and diversity of the photographs that are seamlessly integrated with the narrative. Perhaps the best way to express my appreciation of this book is to say that if it were only a text without photographs, I would rate it Five Stars and wish there were a higher rating available. And if it were only a collection of photographs with brief captions, I would have the same opinion when rating it. Thank you, Mark Vancil, Alfred Santasiere III, and your associates.