From 1923 to 1962, the New York Yankees won an incredible 20 championships. That works out to just about one ring every two years. While the Bombers were undoubtedly dominant in the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s, it is safe to say that they peaked during the 1950s. The Yankees of the ’50s represent the pinnacle of a forty year dynasty that cemented the organization’s place at the top of the sporting world.
In his 2019 book, The New York Yankees of the 1950s, David Fischer gives readers an exceptional overview of the greatest decade in team history. Fischer’s book tells the most exciting stories from this most exciting period. He transports us back to a time when baseball was the talk of the town, and the Yanks were the undisputed kings of New York. Put simply, this is a book about the Yankees’ glory days.
Throughout The New York Yankees of the 1950s, Fischer expertly shines a spotlight on the organization’s most important players. Unsurprisingly, Mickey Mantle looms large throughout the narrative. Fischer gives us a breakdown of the Mick’s incredible 1956 season. In his sixth campaign, Mantle won the Triple Crown while leading New York to its fifth championship of the decade. Fischer details Mantle’s injury woes as well, providing deeper insights into Mickey’s unrivaled toughness.
Other Yankee legends like Whitey Ford are also given great coverage. After serving in the military during the ’51 and ’52 seasons, Ford returned to the Yankees and dominated the American League. Whitey quickly earned a reputation for performing in the clutch. During the 1950s, he would make twelve starts in the World Series. Amazingly, Ford pitched seven or more innings in nine of those 12 games.
Championship contributions from Phil Rizzuto and Yogi Berra also litter the pages of Fischer’s book. Rizzuto brought a youthful attitude to the Bombers in addition to strong play at shortstop. Berra’s impact on the Yankees of the 1950s was unmatched. Yogi won AL MVP awards in ’51, ’54, and ’55. Besides being an incredible defensive catcher, Berra crushed opposing pitching. Fischer frequently points out Yogi’s impressive numbers at the plate, and records his many clutch hits in the Fall Classic.
Lesser known players get their time in the sun too. Fischer gives credit to the great Yankees who are often overlooked by modern fans. Reading The New York Yankees of the 1950s gave me a new appreciation for a whole host of players. I learned so much about Allie Reynolds, Bill Skowron, and Hank Bauer. Reynolds was a bona fide ace for the Yanks as they won the first four championships of the decade. Skowron and Bauer were irreplaceable bats in the middle of a formidable lineup that ruled the mid ’50s. All three would earn multiple all-star selections during their time in pinstripes.
Casey Stengel’s managerial exploits are also lauded throughout Fischer’s book. Though he may have looked like an old timer, Stengel was a tremendous innovator. Fischer credits Stengel with popularizing the platoon strategy, which allowed Casey to utilize his entire roster. He also notes Stengel’s willingness to go to the bullpen early in crucial World Series games. How long starters should stay in the game is still a matter of debate today, and was a controversial topic during the Yankees’ 2019 playoff run. It was interesting to see how Stengel dealt with the same issue sixty years ago.
Besides covering the pivotal Yankees games of the 1950s, Fischer also looks at the ways that the world and baseball changed during the decade. He discusses the growing popularity of cars and television, the tensions of the Cold War, and the evolution of pop culture. The result is quite enjoyable for anybody with a general interest in the time period.
Some of the most interesting changes, however, came on the baseball diamond. The 1950s saw baseball become more integrated as players from the Negro leagues signed contracts with Major League teams. Fischer devotes time to players such as Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Elston Howard. He explores their journeys to the big leagues and explains how they helped change American sports.
Another major change for the Major Leagues that occurred during the 1950s was the advent of west coast baseball. Fischer notes that when the decade began, there was not a single MLB team playing in a city west of the Mississippi River. However, the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants relocated to California prior to the 1958 season. Milwaukee also got a team when the Boston Braves left Beantown in 1953. In a very real sense, baseball was finally becoming a national past time. Fischer’s book allowed me to better understand this crucial period in MLB history.
The New York Yankees of the 1950s is absolutely a home run. It’s an outstanding book that brings a great era in Yankees history to life. If you love the team and have an interest in this particular period of Yankee dominance, then this is a must-read. As mentioned above, Fischer does a great job of treating baseball history in general as well. So, if you want to know more about baseball’s glory days, this is a book you won’t regret reading. I’m very glad that I picked up The New York Yankees of the 1950s during the holidays. You’ll be happy that you picked it up too.
The New York Yankees of the 1950s:Mantle, Stengel, Berra, and a Decade of Dominance is available in print, digital, and audible formats.
Our book review series continues in a couple of weeks with Gator: My Life in Pinstripes by Ron Guidry and Andrew Beaton.