Book Review: The Yankee Years

author: Joe Torre and Tom Verducci   published: 2010 / pages: 528

book summary: Four-time World Series Champion Joe Torre recounts the highs and lows of his 11 years as Manager of the New York Yankees.  

I’ve been a Yankees since I was 14 years old. I remember the night the Yankees won the 1996 World Series that launched a destiny that would win three more championships in the next four years. I remember the final out being caught by Charlie Hayes, and the celebration that ensued made me an instant fan.

Joe Torre was the manager of those Yankees and would go on to manage the club until 2007 when his contract wasn’t renewed. As a new fan and still expanding my knowledge of the game, he was the only manager I knew at the time. I didn’t follow the game as intensely as I do now, so I never really knew why he left. After reading this book I finally found why. I know all the gory details of a relationship turned sour and a fall out between an owner and a manager.

The Yankee Years gave me an in-depth look behind the curtain of the New York Yankees and the day to day operations of the club. Whether it was winning or losing, whether the times were good or bad, Torre gave a very detailed description of what it was like to run the most successful baseball in major league history.

I knew I was going to love the book right from the beginning. The opening is all about Torre’s road to the Yankees, providing us with a look back on his career which included a National League MVP (which I never knew). This guy, despite his success never played in the World Series. After learning about his playing career the book goes right into the 1996 season and the stuff that happened in the dressing room. I loved the quotes and talks that occurred because Torre didn’t even hide the swear words. He told it like it was.

Managing the Yankees had highs and lows despite the constant pressure to win the World Series or be considered a failure. Players come and go, but while they were in pinstripes, their egos can make or break a room. I loved the drama that surrounded star pitcher Roger Clemens and superstar third baseman Alex Rodriguez. Torre didn’t have time for their circus acts and did his best to manage them and the regular players on the team. Sometimes it was like a ticking bomb ready to go off, yet year after year the Yankees always contended for the Division Title and the World Series.

Personally, I was dying to learn more about the epic collapse of the 2004 American League Championship Series and got more than I bargained for. You could tell by this time the cracks in the destiny were very well known and it just about broke when the Yankees lost four straight to become the first team in MLB history to blow a 3-0 series lead. The detailed conversations with pitcher Kevin Brown paint a troubling picture of the state of the organization at that particular time. As a fan who only followed on TV and didn’t read much of the newspapers, it was really an eye-opener to see what really happened that led to such a terrible downfall.

After 2004 it was pretty much all downhill for Torre and it is truly amazing to look back at the time and realize that big money for big names didn’t lead to any success. Like one animal lining up behind the other at the slaughterhouse, the 2004-07 Yankees were just a train wreck and the owner blamed the manager for their lack of success. It all came crashing down over the lack of trust in the ownership group and their iconic manager. Things ended so badly that I finally understood why Torre disappeared from the New York spotlight and only made amends recently when his number was retired in 2014.

The Yankee Years is a MUST read for New York Yankees fans. I know I have only begun to dig into the deep library of biographies of the team, but I guarantee it will be one of the best. Even if you love baseball this is an entertaining and gripping tale of one of the greatest managing careers. It doesn’t hide any secrets and lays everything out on the table for you to sit back and enjoy the chaos that can be the New York Yankees. 10/10

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