The best books about the early years of the New York Yankees

W. Nikola-Lisa Author Of The Men Who Made the Yankees: The Odyssey of the World's Greatest Baseball Team from Baltimore to the Bronx
By W. Nikola-Lisa

Who am I?

I grew up a Yankee fan during the Mickey Mantle era, traveling to the Bronx in my uncle’s canary-yellow Chrysler Imperial. Those early experiences set me on a trajectory to want to play baseball every chance I got, starting with Little League and ending up on my high school’s varsity squad. Fortunately, my high school was in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, where my family had moved in 1962, the same year that the Yankees began playing their pre-season games in the city, which meant when I wasn’t playing baseball at school, I was hanging around Ft. Lauderdale Stadium watching the Yankees. Yes, the Pinstripe Nation was in my blood. 


I wrote...

The Men Who Made the Yankees: The Odyssey of the World's Greatest Baseball Team from Baltimore to the Bronx

By W. Nikola-Lisa,

Book cover of The Men Who Made the Yankees: The Odyssey of the World's Greatest Baseball Team from Baltimore to the Bronx

What is my book about?

The Men Who Made the Yankees traces the rise of the New York Yankees from the origin of the American League to the Yankees’ first world championship title in 1923. The Men Who Made the Yankees focuses on a handful of club owners and the political and financial pressures that dramatically shaped the arrival of an American League franchise in New York City. 

A baseball enthusiast from a young age, Mr. Nikola-Lisa is also the author of Dear Frank: Babe Ruth, the Red Sox, and the Great War, a work of historical fiction set in Boston during the waning days of the first world war, and the forthcoming The Things He Could Have Been, or The Almost True Story of Babe Ruth.

The books I picked & why

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A Franchise on the Rise: The First Twenty Years of the New York Yankees

By Dom Amore,

Book cover of A Franchise on the Rise: The First Twenty Years of the New York Yankees

Why this book?

If you want a close-up look at the players who made up the early Yankee teams, this is the book for you. In Amore’s book you’ll learn about some key Yankees’ players: Wee Willie Keeler, Frank Chance (of Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance fame), Hal Chase, Roger Peckinpaugh, Frank “Home Run” Baker, and, of course, George Herman “Babe” Ruth, among many others who populated the early New York Yankee teams. 


New York Yankees: The First 25 Years

By Vincent Luisi,

Book cover of New York Yankees: The First 25 Years

Why this book?

Although Luisi’s history of the New York Yankees' first 25 years retraces some of the ground that I do in my book, Luisi’s pictorial history is a must-read for those interested in the Yankees early days. What distinguishes Luisi’s book from mine is that where Luisi begins the Yankee journey upon their arrival in upper Manhattan in 1903, two years after the founding of the American League, I go further back in time, connecting the origin of the Yankees with the formation of Ban Johnson’s upstart American League, which announced itself a major league contender in time for the 1901 season. 


The 1923 New York Yankees: A History of Their First World Championship Season

By Ronald A. Mayer,

Book cover of The 1923 New York Yankees: A History of Their First World Championship Season

Why this book?

After the Yankees emerged from their dismal days as the Hilltop Highlanders, officially becoming the New York Yankees in 1913, ten years after coming to the Washington Heights area in upper Manhattan, they made a run for the American League pennant, and, as such, for major league baseball’s largest prize—World Series Champs. But they had a very steep hill to climb: they had to claw their way over their arch-rival, the National League’s New York Giants, who defeated the Yankees in post-season play in 1921 and 1922 to claim major league baseball’s ultimate prize. Mayer tells the story of the Yankees’ third try in 1923 when they finally overcame their nemesis to stand atop the baseball world.


The Arrival of the American League: Ban Johnson and the 1901 Challenge to National League Monopoly

By Warren N. Wilbert,

Book cover of The Arrival of the American League: Ban Johnson and the 1901 Challenge to National League Monopoly

Why this book?

Bancroft “Ban” Johnson, the founder and first president of the American League, set his sights early on challenging the domination of the National Leauge, which came to power in the 1870s. Wilbert’s book adequately depicts Johnson’s rise to power and his subsequent challenge to National League teams, culminating in the AL’s first official season as a major league in 1901, two years before the strong-willed Johnson was able to muscle a team into Manhattan to challenge the NL’s dominant franchise, the New York Giants.


Miracle Moments in New York Yankees History: The Turning Points, the Memorable Games, the Incredible Records

By David Fischer,

Book cover of Miracle Moments in New York Yankees History: The Turning Points, the Memorable Games, the Incredible Records

Why this book?

Fischer’s Miracle Moments in New York Yankees History is aptly divided into five parts, the first of which—“Birth of a Dynasty”—is the most relevant for the current topic. It covers the “Hilltop Highlander” years (1903-1913), the Yankees’ decade at the Polo Grounds as tenants of their arch-rival, the National League’s New York Giants (1913-1922), the sale of the Yankees to Ruppert and Huston (1914-1915), the acquisition of Babe Ruth (1919-1920), and their move to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and their first World Series title (1923). But Fischer’s Miracle Moments has much more to offer than these early days as it provides a panoramic view of the entire Yankees’ franchise from 1903 to the present. 


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