Book Review: "Pinstripes by the Tale" by Marty Appel
From the Reading Nook: A Book Review-
by Tim Kabel
June 28, 2023
I was a History major in college, and I used to teach History in high school. We are all familiar with History as a subject and histories as a category of book. The books are usually considered to be rather dry and academic for the most part. Some are more interesting than others. They are not considered to be page-turners.
When you consider the history of histories, they started out as stories told around a campfire, usually by elders. They were frequently stories of the exploits of famous people who had done extraordinary things. They were not lectures. They were entertaining as well as informative.
Marty Appel's excellent new book, Pinstripes by the Tale- Half a Century In and Around Yankees Baseball is reminiscent of those long-ago stories told around campfires in the evening. Marty Appel began working for the New York Yankees in 1968 as a 19-year-old mail clerk, answering Mickey Mantle's fan letters. He spent the next 50-plus years working as the team's PR director, television producer, and in various other capacities in and around New York Yankees baseball. He has led somewhat of a Forrest Gump-like existence, in that his life has been interwoven in the history of the Yankees since the 1960s.
As depicted in the book, he became friends with Thurman Munson while employed by the Yankees as the public relations director. He was employed by George Steinbrenner during that time. Fascinatingly, he was working for Bowie Kuhn in the MLB offices on August 2nd, 1979, and happened to be the one who answered the call from George Steinbrenner who was calling to report Thurman Munson's death.
Mr. Appel has written 25 books, including two Casey award winners for baseball book of the year for his biographies of King Kelly and Casey Stengel. He also co-wrote Thurman Munson's autobiography in 1978, and subsequently wrote Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain in 2009, both of which I have read and enjoyed thoroughly.
The title says it all with Pinstripes by the Tale. It is a loose confederation of anecdotes and reminiscences that flows freely and joyfully through its 250-plus pages. The book is broken into 10 chapters, playfully called innings, with the last one entitled "Extra Innings".
Reading this book is comparable to sitting in your backyard on a warm summer afternoon, sipping lemonade and eating a hot dog, listening to your beloved uncle regale you with stories from his life spent around and with your Yankee heroes and others. To his great credit, Mr. Appel does not attempt to present himself as one of those heroes. He is one of us. We can easily imagine ourselves being in the positions he had, rubbing elbows with Mickey Mantle, Thurman Munson, Billie Jean King, and even Howard Cosell. He was actually Phil Rizzuto's boss. As I suspected, that must have been like herding cats across the plains.
This is not a tightly structured book that moves forward in a linear manner. Much as that afternoon with your uncle in the backyard, it bounces from topic to topic in an entertaining and fascinating manner. His descriptions of people we all are familiar with does provide new insight and things we may not have known. For example, the descriptions of his encounter with Willie Randolph as a rookie in 1976 showed Willie to be much grittier and feistier than I ever imagined. His description of Thurman Munson marching up to George Steinbrenner's office after batting practice on a regular basis and putting his clay-caked spikes on Steinbrenner's desk, allowing the clay to fall off and create a mess is vivid. It truly made me smile as did the fact that Munson delighted in making the veins in Steinbrenner's neck flare by doing so.
There are innumerable stories and references throughout the book. It is a delightful read that seems as if it was equally enjoyable to write. So, pour yourself a glass of lemonade, get a bowl full of snacks, sit down and read Pinstripes by the Tale. Soon, in your mind, you will be sitting in that backyard, listening as your beloved uncle regales you with one story after another. It will be a time you long remember, and time well-spent.