One piece of good news that came out over the last week was that Luke Voit had a children’s book written about his journey to the major leagues.
While Voit’s career exploits have yet to put him alongside the all-time Yankees greats, he does join Yankees legends such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and Casey Stengel who have had outstanding children’s books written about their lives and careers. Since we have a lull in the sports world, these books provide a chance for some of the younger Yankees fans to learn about some of the most notable figures in Yankees history.
Ruth is the greatest baseball player of all time, and his personality outsized his performance on the field. There have been millions of words written about Ruth and his career, but in Babe Ruth Saves Baseball!, author Frank Murphy and illustrator Richard Walz introduce children to the most legendary Yankee of them all. The book is written for children in grades 1-3 who are learning to read on their own.
Murphy takes a look at Babe’s career starting with the Red Sox, and his early exploits as one of the best pitchers in the game. The book then briefly mentions the infamous Black Sox scandal and how numerous people were down on baseball after the incident. Luckily for the game, the scandal coincided with Ruth’s arrival in New York, and the offensive explosion that followed captivated the nation.
To accommodate larger crowds, the team built Yankees Stadium and began its legendary run of championships. The final narrative of the book is the story of the first game in Yankee Stadium and Ruth’s quest to hit the first home run in the building.
For all the flamboyance and oversize personality that was Babe Ruth, sitting in the same dugout for much of the time was a man with near equal ability, but none of the flair. Lou Gehrig: The Luckiest Man by David A. Adler and illustrated by Terry Widener, covers Gehrig’s life from his humble beginnings to tragic end.
The story begins with several stories about Gehrig’s mother discouraging her son from sports to his eventual decision to leave Columbia University in order to sign a contract with the Yankees. That led to two MVP awards, and of course his legendary consecutive games streak.
The book finishes with the unavoidable part of Gehrig’s career and life that ended way too early. After describing the struggles he started facing on the field, Adler talks about Lou’s speech at Lou Gehrig Day, and how the Iron Horse spent his final days after leaving baseball.
Two more Yankees legends had books based on them, both written by Jonah Winter. In Mickey Mantle: The Commerce Comet, Winter teams with illustrator C.F. Payne to tell the story of one of the most beloved Yankees of all time.
Early in life, Mantle’s father and grandfather introduced him to the sport, and gave him ample time to practice as they pitched and played with him. Despite having these men in his life to practice with, Mantle was far from a sure bet to be one of the greatest athletes of all time. There was a lot of hard work that took the raw product of Mantle and turned him into the eye-opening prospect signed by scout Tom Greenwade.
The book is a testament to the hard work and dedication that Mantle put in just to be on the field every day after his injury in the 1951 World Series. Mantle’s amazing ability is put on display in the book, as descriptions of his speed and power are tied to stories. The reader is also left with the same “what could have been” question that Mantle had at the end of his career, if he had been able to play on two healthy legs.
Winter’s second book covering a Yankees legend is You Never Heard of Casey Stengel?!, where he teams with illustrator Barry Blitt to provide some insight into the up-and-down career of Stengel.
He does not take much time talking about Stengel’s playing career, as he was an average player who just happened to have a few notable moments. The book quickly gets into what he is known for best, and that is Stengel the manager.
Asked to manage bad teams in his early career, the reaction to Stengel’s hiring by the Yankees may have been even harsher that what Joe Torre received prior to the 1996 season. After mentioning his poor record prior to joining the Bombers, the bulk of the story is about his many successes with the franchise and how his mind helped him stay a step ahead.
Baseball and sports are on hiatus, and it is proving to be a major adjustment for all types of fans. With schools and teams out of action, it may be a good time to sit and read a few books on Yankees history with a son, daughter, niece, nephew, or grandchild. These are just four of many books geared towards younger fans, but that can be shared as part of a family experience.