May 26, 2006
Birth of a Dynasty: Behind the Pinstripes with the 1996 Yankees
I've been a Yankees fan since 1973.
Naturally, the 1976 Yankees were the first "special" team for me. And, I'm sure that squad was special for many fans - as it was the first Yankees team to win a pennant in a dozen years. (The Chambliss homer to win it helped make it even more special.) But, the 1976 Yankees, in terms of their place in history and fan memories, take a ding as a result of their poor showing in the World Series.
The 1977 Yankees were exciting. But, perhaps because they followed the 1976 team, their ring season, while impressive, is not a year where I look back to and say "Wow, that 1977 team, it was a season for the ages."
This brings us to the 1978 Yankees. Now, there's a story, huh? And, this is the team that I would always refer to as "My favorite Yankees team of all-time." And, for the 18 years that followed, I had no reason to change this opinion.
Then came the 1996 Yankees. Looking at the big picture, I think many Yankees fans today look at the 1998 Yankees for their dominance and the 2000 Yankees because they beat the Mets, and they lose sight of the magic that happened in 1996. (Related, the 1999 Yankees really fall into the shadows for some as well - which is sad, because they were an excellent team too.)
As I look back at it all today, I'm inclined to say that the 1996 Yankees are now probably my favorite squad of all-time, even over the 1978 Yankees. Sure, the 1978 team had the great comeback and the Dent homer. But, when you factor in the 18-year ring drought prior to 1996, the horror of the post-season in 1995 for New York, and the magic that happened in the ALDS, ALCS, and the World Series in 1996 for the Yankees, it's a tough thing for any championship squad to match-up with all that.
And, now, we have Joel Sherman's new book, Birth of a Dynasty, that serves as the chronicle of that 1996 Yankees season.
I've just finished reading Birth of a Dynasty and can share that this is a must-read for every Yankees fan.
In terms of the essential library for the modern-Yankees fan, I place Birth of a Dynasty right up there with Steinbrenner's Yankees, Pinstriped Summers, Damned Yankees, The Bronx Zoo, Bombers, I'd Rather Be A Yankee, and The Last Night Of The Yankees Dynasty.
What really sells Birth of a Dynasty for me is all the insider-behind-the-scenes stuff that this book provides.
How many people know the important role that Lou Piniella played in the Yankees obtaining both Paul O'Neill and Tino Martinez? How many people know the oral act that Buck Showalter promised to perform on Gene Michael if he would trade Tim Leary? How many people know that Joe Torre called Michael Kay on the carpet, in front of the entire team, when he thought Kay was trying to sabotage his relationship with O'Neill?
If they had read Birth of a Dynasty, they would know. Sherman's book has more dirt on the 1996 (and, as well, actually, the 1995) Yankees than a fat man has in his belly-button. It's really good dish.
And, along with the items that you have never heard before, Birth of a Dynasty does an excellent job of documenting the story of the 1996 season. Nothing is missed.
In summary, I highly recommend Birth of a Dynasty. If it's not the best Yankees-related book published in the last decade, it's in the top-five for sure.
Posted by Steve Lombardi at May 26, 2006 09:52 AM
I'll definitely get it, though I don't know how much a selling point it is to hear about Buck Showalter promising oral acts.
It was a very funny story - and one that I never expected to hear.
Posted by: Steve Lombardi at May 26, 2006 01:07 PM
I wonder if Leary inspired his other managers to make similar promises? ;) He really wasn't a very good pitcher at the end.
Damn, I had to run out and buy this today. The 1996 team is definitely my favorite team--I even have a soft spot for Mike Aldrete, and I can't remember a single thing he did besides pitch in a blowout. Cecil Fielder is really an overlooked contributor to that team, he was huge that season (no, I don't mean weight-wise) and especially in the playoffs. He had the only RBI in that 1-0 game Pettitte pitched in the Series for starters.
Jeremy, it's worth the run. Enjoy.
Posted by: Steve Lombardi at May 27, 2006 02:39 PM