The Yanks Go Yard Interview: Author Peter Golenbock
Editor’s Note: Peter Golenbock has worked with many famous Yankees. The list of players he’s worked with includes Billy Martin, Sparky Lyle, Graig Nettles, and Johnny Damon. He’s also authored books covering the history of the Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Dallas Cowboys, and the University of Florida. One of his most famous works, The Bronx Zoo, remains a baseball favorite almost three decades later. He was gracious enough to give Jacob Winters a recent interview.~BB
Jacob Winters: Your book, Dynasty: The New York Yankees 1949-64, chronicles one of the great eras in Yankees history. Would you say it was the greatest?
Peter Golenbock: I’d say it’s one of the greatest. The Yankees have had a wonderful history starting when they traded for Babe Ruth. They were great under Miller Huggins. They were great under Joe McCarthy. They were great under Casey Stangel and Ralph Houk. The Yankees also had one of their greatest runs in the late 1990’s with Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera. They have had a long history of excellence, so it’s really hard to say which era was the best.
JW: During that great span that lasted from 1949-1964, which players would you say were the most key to their success and why?
PG: If I had to choose, I’d say the trio of Mickey Mantle, Billy Martin, as they made it to the World Series every year he was with the team and didn’t when he was serving in the army in 1954, and Whitey Ford, who was one of the best big game pitchers in history. He almost always came through in big spots.
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JW: Which season during that span would you say was the best?
PG: It’s difficult to say which was the best when there were so many championships, but 1961 was certainly the most exciting because of the chase between Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle to break Babe Ruth’s home run record. It was definitely fun to watch.
JW: Which Yankee was the most fascinating to work with and be around and why?
PG: The person who fascinated me the most was Billy Martin. He was a brilliant man who had the misfortune of working with an incredibly sadistic owner in George Steinbrenner.
JW: Speaking of Billy Martin, what would you say was the best word to describe him and his run as the Yankees manager?
PG: Relentless. He was incredibly focused on winning everyday and managing the Yankees was more important to him than living.
JW: While working with him, was he at all similar to the ill-tempered person that people saw when he was managing the Yankees? Was he clearly the same person?
PG: You could see he was the same guy when he recalled the battles he fought, some winning and some losing. Billy was funny, intelligent, and had a great memory. He was always wonderful to me.
JW: What made his relationship with George Steinbrenner as difficult as it was? What made it so hectic?
PG: It was hectic because Steinbrenner was a narcissist and always critiqued which Billy hated, so he would fight back in the press, unlike Joe Torre who never had a public feud with Steinbrenner.
It’s conceivable that if he had left Billy alone to manage, he would have won three or four championships with the Yankees.
JW: Finally, what would you say the difference is between the current Yankees and great teams of the past?
PG: These current Yankees are without direction. They have let their veterans get too old without having serviceable replacements in their farm system.
They clearly have the money to sign James Shields, Jon Lester, or Max Scherzer. If they don’t sign two or three pitchers this offseason, they could be in serious trouble next year at this time.
All of us at Yanks Go Yard would like to thank Mr. Golenbock for his time.