Book Birthdays celebrate one year of a book’s life in tweets, reviews, and more. This month we’re saying Happy First Birthday to Almost Yankees: The Summer of ’81 and the Greatest Baseball Team You’ve Never Heard Of by J. David Herman (Nebraska, 2019).
About the Book
Almost Yankees is a poignant and nostalgic narrative of the lives and travails of Minor League Baseball, focusing on the 1981 championship season of the New York Yankees’ Triple-A farm club, the Columbus Clippers. That year was especially notable in the annals of baseball history as the year Major League Baseball went on strike in midseason. When that happened, the Clippers were suddenly the best team in baseball and found themselves the focus of national media attention. Many of these Minor Leaguers sensed this was their last, best chance to make an impression and fulfill their dreams to one day reach the majors.
The Clippers’ raw recruits, prospects, and Minor League veterans responded to this opportunity by playing the greatest baseball of their lives on the greatest team most of them would ever belong to. Then the strike ended, leaving them to return to their ordinary aspirational lives and to be just as quickly forgotten.
Almost Yankees is the previously untold baseball story of a team and its players performing in the shadow of one of the sport’s most famous teams and infamous owners. Featuring interviews with more than thirty former players (including Steve Balboni, Dave Righetti, Buck Showalter, and Pat Tabler) and dozens of other baseball and media figures, this season’s narrative chronicles success, failure, resilience, and redemption as told by a special group of players with hopes and dreams of big-league glory. J. David Herman, who worshipped the team as an eleven-year-old, tracked down his old heroes to learn their stories—and to better understand his own. The season proved to be a launching pad for some, a final chance for others, and the end of the dream for many others.
“J. David Herman provides meticulously detailed insight into this previously unmined chapter of Yankees history.”—Yankees Magazine
“Herman . . . recalls the magical season in this part memoir, mostly baseball history destined to become a baseball classic. . . . Using interviews, books, newspapers, and a range of other primary sources, Herman weaves a fascinating saga filled with humorous and tragic events of the era and is at his best recalling off the field stories. . . . A lively grand slam that will win over all sports fans, and anyone interested in a story well told.”—Boyd Childress, Library Journal
“Almost Yankees is Herman’s look back at a team that was lost to him, and to many outside of its Columbus rooters. Now, both for him and especially for fans of that Yankees dynasty but really for anyone who likes stories of minor league ball in a bygone era, it’s found again.”—Jerry Milani, Gotham Baseball
“Kudos for SABR member Herman and this fine volume about the 1981 Columbus Clippers.”—John Vorperian, SABR Lajoie Chapter newsletter
“Almost Yankees is one of the best books ever written about minor league baseball.”—Mike Shannon, Minor Trips Digest
On the Blog
A Word from the Author
Holy Home Runs, did “Almost Yankees” really launch a year ago?
I’ll be ever grateful to University of Nebraska Press for picking up my book, a labor of love about my first favorite baseball team—the 1981 Columbus Clippers. Promoting it this past year has been an amazing experience. Among my favorite moments: A spot on the San Francisco Giants radio pregame show on KNBR, a favorite radio station from my youth. Numerous other radio appearances. Being featured on “Baseball by the Book” and other awesome podcasts. Speaking engagements in Ohio, New York and my current hometown, Seattle. Strong reviews. Throwing out a first pitch at Huntington Park in Columbus, amidst a reunion of members from that 1981 team. Having childhood heroes approach me and say things like, “Thanks for doing this. Thanks for bringing us all back together.”
April 2020 finds me in a very different place, as I’m sure is true for you, too. Best wishes to everyone and their families for health and safety in these uncertain times. And to my fellow authors who’ve had to postpone book tours and other promotions—especially if it’s your first time—keep your rally caps handy. May your events happen soon and your books find their audiences.