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Book Reviews: Yankees by the Numbers & Yankee Classics

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Yankees by the Numbers, by Bill Gutman

This is an excellent book to have nearby when watching a ball game. Want to know the Yankees who wore No. 13 before A-Rod? Look it up and you'll find such 'luminaries' as Antonio Osuna (2003), Michael Coleman (2001) and Cliff Mapes (1948). Gutman concentrates on the most famous of the number wearers in each group, all the way from one to 99, giving biographies, career accomplishments, stats and anecdotes. He occasionally opines on some of the more controversial players (A-Rod, Piniella, Billy Martin) but mainly keeps to the facts/stats.

Like I said, if you're watching a game and want to learn about the team's history, just open to any page and you'll probably learn something you didn't know. That is it's best asset. Gutman doesn't go into a lot of detail on any individual players, but he gives solid summaries of their careers and occasional anecdotes. It's quantity over quality, which is not necessarily bad since it serves the purpose of the book: giving a rundown of every Yankee to wear every number.

Also included are nearly 100 photos of baseball cards, which give a nice feel for the time period of the given player, often better than words can do. Yankees by the Numbers is a book that's meant to be read; it's not a coffee-table book for skimming. It has more 'meat' than most other let's-tell-you-how-great-the-Yankees-are books. While it works best for casual fans, even the hardcore among us will find a lot to like.

Yankee Classics, by Les Krantz

This is more of a traditional coffee-table style book with big, glossy pages that include a foreword by Whitey Ford and a DVD narrated by Reggie Jackson. It focuses exclusively on the Yankees' World Series appearances from 1921 to 2009, complete with reprinted ticket stubs, programs, pennants and photos.

It goes over most of the stuff you've seen before in these books, only it includes the '09 World Series: Ruth's Called Shot, Larsen's Perfect Game, Reggie's three homers, Leyritz' game-tying bomb and Matsui's 6-RBI in Game 6 to name a few.

The DVD features World Series highlights from 1921 to 1964. Jackson recounts the past feats of Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Berra, Mantle and Ford in October baseball. They rush through the Steinbrenner Yankees using only still photos, probably due to copyright laws. But the vintage footage is better than most I've seen. I love when runners back then would slide into a base and create a dust explosion. I don't know how the umpire could see anything. They also slid much closer to the bag than nowadays due to the bag's giving nature (as opposed to today's base which can break fingers and wrists if a runner isn't careful).

Anyway, it's a fine coffee-table book to gift or buy for yourself.