The untold story of Babe Ruth's Yankees, John McGraw's Giants, and the extraordinary baseball season of 1923
Before the 27 World Series titles--before Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Derek Jeter-the Yankees were New York's shadow franchise. They hadn't won a championship, and they didn't even have their own field, renting the Polo Grounds from their cross-town rivals the New York Giants. In 1921 and 1922, they lost to the Giants when it mattered most: in October.
But in 1923, the Yankees played their first season on their own field, the newly-built, state of the art baseball palace in the Bronx called "the Yankee Stadium." The stadium was a gamble, erected in relative outerborough obscurity, and Babe Ruth was coming off the most disappointing season of his career, a season that saw his struggles on and off the field threaten his standing as a bona fide superstar.
It only took Ruth two at-bats to signal a new era. He stepped up to the plate in the 1923 season opener and cracked a home run to deep right field, the first homer in his park, and a sign of what lay ahead. It was the initial blow in a season that saw the new stadium christened "The House That Ruth Built," signaled the triumph of the power game, and established the Yankees as New York's-and the sport's-team to beat.
From that first home run of 1923 to the storybook World Series matchup that pitted the Yankees against their nemesis from across the Harlem River-one so acrimonious that John McGraw forced his Giants to get to the Bronx in uniform rather than suit up at the Stadium-Robert Weintraub vividly illuminates the singular year that built a classic stadium, catalyzed a franchise, cemented Ruth's legend, and forever changed the sport of baseball.
In his first book, Slate sports columnist Weintraub examines the 1923 New York Yankees, the team that opened Yankee Stadium and won the first of the Bronx Bombers' record 27 World Series titles. The center of this work is the clash between the Yankees' star, Babe Ruth, with his new "bashing" style of playing the game, and the classic "scientific baseball" epitomized by manager John McGraw and his New York Giants. While the Giants got the best of the Yanks in the '22 fall classic, Ruth and the Yankees' 1923 World Series victory over their crosstown rivals would change the face of baseball and New York City forever. Weintraub nicely infuses modern references like "imagine Ruth as Rocky Balboa preparing to wreak vengeance on Ivan Drago" into his 1920s descriptions. The book is comprehensive, and Weintraub details everything from the construction of the stadium and the careers of Ruth and McGraw to a detailed season overview and deconstruction of the 1923 World Series. The stories about Ruth and McGraw hold the narrative together, but it is the asides of forgotten personalities like Mose "The Rabbi of Swat" Solomon, Russ "Pep" Youngs, and Yankees co-owner Cap Huston that create a much-needed undercurrent of character and humor.