cover image Chumps to Champs: How the Worst Teams in Yankees History Led to the ’90s Dynasty

Chumps to Champs: How the Worst Teams in Yankees History Led to the ’90s Dynasty

Bill Pennington. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-1-328-84985-4

New York Times sportswriter Pennington (Billy Martin; The Heisman) draws on his decades of reporting to offer a fast-paced, insider history of the 1990s New York Yankees. Pennington charts the steady resurgence of the Yankees from a “cloak of doom” in the 1980s to a powerhouse that dominated the sport in the decade following. Pennington shows how manager Buck Showalter built the new team by strengthening the farm system, and explains how the famously mercurial owner George Steinbrenner recovered from a 1990 ban he received from commissioner Fay Vincent (for paying someone to smear right fielder Dave Winfield), returning to the organization in 1993 calmer and more willing to let others, like GM Gene Michael, run the team. Along the way Pennington introduces the rookies who rose up from the Yankees minor league system: shortstop Derek Jeter, pitcher Andy Pettitte, catcher Jorge Posada, and reliever Mariano Rivera (“we didn’t know what we had with Mariano,” recalls Showalter). Excitement builds as Pennington takes the narrative through the 1995 season, to the moment when veteran first baseman Don Mattingly shed tears after clinching a wild card playoff berth—the team’s first since 1981. Pennington’s work is a must for Yankees fans, but also an exciting history for any baseball aficionados. (May)