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Out of the Park

Alum’s New Book Traces the Yankees' Role in Popular Culture

By Annie Krakower

Yankee Stadium

Photo by PhotoQuest/Getty Images; cover art courtesy of David Krell/McFarland

The New York Yankees play the Chicago White Sox at Yankee Stadium in 1951.

The latest book project by David Krell ’89 included gathering historical photos from libraries, scouring microfilm, visiting museums—and watching “Seinfeld” episodes.

That mishmash of research comes together in “The New York Yankees in Popular Culture,” published this week. The collection of essays from experts covers everything from Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle to George Costanza in a fresh exploration of one of sports’ most dominant franchises.

“You have to tie things together,” said Krell, the book’s editor, who contributed the essay “Of Calzones and Costanza,” about the Yankees’ impact on the popular sitcom. “Anyone could go list episodes. It’s my job to give context.”

Krell, a Mets fan at heart, found it impossible to avoid the Yankees while growing up in New Jersey. They’ve been to the World Series 40 times, winning the title a whopping 27—well more than any other club. He flipped through John M. Rosenburg’s “The Story of Baseball,” reading short biographies on greats like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, and listening to Phil Rizzuto call the games.

"The New York Yankees in Popular Culture" book cover“There was a richness of the history that I understood,” Krell said. “They dominated the headlines, for better or worse.”

While the love of baseball came naturally to Krell, the communications major credits UMD for piquing his interest in media and popular culture. Two freshman classes—an intro to mass communications course taught by Associate Professor Sheri Parks and a contemporary American music course taught by well-known collector Hugo Keesing—stuck with him. He remembers one assignment, to track every time he consumed media—what it was, how much time he spent on it, who he was with, how it made him feel.

“They helped you put media in context,” Krell said. “Popular culture is culture. It’s not something to be looked down on.”

After attending law school at Villanova University, he entered the entertainment world as a legal researcher at Broadway Video Entertainment. From there, he made stops as a Nielsen ratings analyst and as a writer/producer at FOX News and MSNBC before getting back to baseball with his first book, “Our Bums: The Brooklyn Dodgers in History, Memory and Popular Culture.”

Krell got the idea for that book after writing an article about a legal case involving a bar called “The Brooklyn Dodger.” He began compiling other nuggets that fans might not know about, a task that felt manageable, since the team ceased to exist in Brooklyn after 1957. To cover a team whose history spans more than a century, though, Krell needed to reach out for help.

“I didn’t have all the expertise,” he said. “I needed to get some folks that really had that desire and knowledge base.”

He contacted professors, lawyers, baseball experts and others, resulting in essays about “The Pride of the Yankees” film, the “Core Four" of Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera, that Yankees cap that seems to be everywhere, and the iconic Yankee Stadium.

Because many aren’t fans of the Bronx Bombers—even deeming them the “evil empire”—Krell is applying the same research methods to upcoming books on the Mets, the year 1962 and even Christmas movies. He stresses that any topic aspiring writers are curious about is worth exploring.

“Don’t look at (writing) as a chore, look at it as an opportunity,” Krell said. “See things that you can’t find on Wikipedia.”



Schools & Departments:

College of Arts and Humanities

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