Baseball Book Review: “The 50 Greatest Players in New York Yankees History” – By Robert W. Cohen

Sunday November 11th, 2012


The Scarecrow Press, Inc.:  2012


Jonathan Hacohen:  I’m going to start off this review with a little disclaimer. Despite the similarities of our last names, there is no relation between myself and author Robert W. Cohen. He is a Cohen, I am Ha-Cohen. Fortunately, our surnames is not the only thing that links myself to Robert. After reading his prized book “The 50 Greatest Players in New York Yankees History” (or as I shall call the “50 Greatest Yankees” for the rest of this review), we have a common admiration for the team in pinstripes. Truth be known, for a person loves baseball- they can’t help but respect and follow the Yankees. The history, traditions and of course, the superstars that have played in the Bronx over the years. Love ’em or hate ’em, you can’t stop talking about the Yankees when a baseball history conversation is in play. 

With the final pitch of the 2012 World Series having recently been thrown (and watched for a called third strike to end the game…and season), I found myself with the opportunity to complete the 50 Greatest Yankees. We were fortunate to have Robert W. Cohen appear on MLB reports back in July with a Guest MLB Blog to discuss the book. Now it was time for me to complete the book and discuss it with you, the readers. The timing couldn’t be better, considering that the Christmas holiday shopping season is around the corner. If you want to really impress the baseball fan in your life with a great gift, the 50 Greatest Yankees will certainly be a home run for you. A detailed history of the 50 greatest players to ever put on a Yankees uniform? This is a subject that every baseball fan will want to cover in great detail.

There were several items that deeply impressed me about this book. Firstly, Cohen approached the subject matter very fairly. This was not a book about the 50 greatest players who happened to wear a Yankees uniform. This was a recount of the 50 greatest players who PERFORMED in a Yankees uniform. A big warning before someone blows up at Reggie Jackson (25) or Mike Mussina (49). The nature of the game is that players tend to change addresses more than once in their careers. Some many times (Jackson) and some not as frequently (Jeter). Cohen further used very strong scales in evaluating players. I won’t give away all the secrets of his book, but the evaluation was not based on traditional statistics alone. Considering different eras and the nature of contributions that a player could have on his team, Cohen used a balanced scale to prepare his list. Let’s be fair- this was not a simple undertaking by the author. The merits of Yankee players throughout the years is one of the most debated baseball topics going. No matter what forms of evaluations are used to rank the players, it will be impossible to find a room full of baseball fans (let alone baseball fans that will disagree). When I heard about this book, I only had one comment: “Babe Ruth better be first”. Guess what? He was. 

With Babe Ruth listed as the top player in New York Yankees history, Cohen already had my respect. I know…I know…there have been countless of great Yankees players over the years. Joe DiMaggio, Mickey, Mantle, Yogi Berra, Derek Jeter, Lou Gehrig– we can list off the names all day. But Babe Ruth was special, a true one of a kind talent. Baseball had never seen before a larger than life personality like Ruth’s that changed the game so drastically. After his retirement, another Ruth has never appeared in the game since. I may not agree with Derek Jeter (6) or Bernie Williams (11). But that doesn’t bother me, as I can see a case can be making for/against those types of selections. It is Ruth that must be crowned the king, as he was properly endorsed by Cohen. A great quote was inserted by Cohen on the subject, “Sportswriter Tommy Holmes said on the day of Ruth’s funeral, “Some 20 years ago I stopped talking about the Babe for the simple reason that I realized that those who had never seen him didn’t believe me.”” Books such as the 50 Greatest Yankees keep baseball memories, like those of Babe Ruth, alive in the minds of baseball fans. They introduce great players of all generations to new fans. To love baseball is to appreciate its history, as much as it is about watching it in the present and projecting its future. Cohen clearly captured that idea in laying out this book. He started it off with a bang and continued strong from there.

A Stephen King novel this is not. The 50 Greatest Yankees does not have twist and turns out of nowhere. This is not a horror novel. It is a baseball book with many components. The way each player’s analysis is laid out is the foundation of the body of work. A summary on the career of the player, a summary of their career highlights- including best season and memorable moments/greatest performances, with a summary of notable career achievements. A small snippet on each player, learning who they are and what they accomplished. Keeping each chapter short with the ranked players listed in orders was Cohen’s best bet in getting- and keeping each reader’s attention. In this modern-day of iPads and technology gone wild, there is something timeless about sitting down with a book that just flows naturally.

You miss baseball. We all do. Until players start reporting to spring training, it is important to keep occupied and get your much-needed baseball-fix. Baseball books is an excellent place to begin this offseason. You can’t go wrong with the 50 Greatest Yankees. You will enjoy the stories and statistics. The book will make you think and love baseball. I guarantee that you will learn countless baseball facts that you never knew before. Given the tradition of the New York Yankees, it would be impossible to include their entire history in under 300 pages. 50+ great stories though, now that is feasible. A great job by Robert Cohen in adding another great volume to legacy of the New York Yankees. From Ruth to Righetti, and everyone in-between, The 50 Greatest Players in New York Yankees History is simply a must read. It’s not complicated. It’s just a great old fashioned baseball read. And that works for me just fine.

(*The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of*)

Jonathan Hacohen is the Founder & Lead Baseball Columnist for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

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About Jonathan Hacohen

I practice daily yoga. Most foods are organic. If you catch me in the supermarket, it will be in the produce aisle. Warrior 1 Yoga was born from my wish to help people be healthy and happy. I preach the 4 key's to life: nutrition, exercise, water and sleep. This is my journey - I am hope to meet you along the way to share a similar path!

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