The New York Yankees are the most collected team in the hobby. From all-time greats like Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio to present-day stars like Derek Jeter, the franchise has a storied history among collectors. Their close proximity to the Topps headquarters probably doesn't hurt either.
The team and the hobby collide in Yankee Greats: 100 Classic Baseball Cards, a fascinating book by Bob Woods. The small hardcover pairs short player bios with a classic Topps card showing them in their Yankee threads. Organized into seven sections (1950s & Earlier, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and Great Moments, Rising Stars & Managers), it has a nice flow that's easy to pick up and put down. Reads get what amounts to a double-sized card back of information that discusses the player's time with the team.
These bios are paired on a two-page spread with a Topps card from the same period. The card fronts and backs are shown, giving a feel for how Topps baseball card designs have evolved. By showing the card back, it also helps justify the player's inclusion. A small caption explains the card choice.
Although subset cards are fair game, all 100 cards in the book come from the flagship Topps set. That meas no Bowman, Finest, Stadium Club or any of the other brands under the company's umbrella.
Woods is very familiar with the subject matter. In his introduction he explains how he grew up a fan of the team and card collector. He would later go on to help launch Topps Magazine in 1990.
Yankee Greats provides an excellent bridge connecting baseball and the hobby. It covers a lot of ground in a short amount of time, especially when you realize it's capturing the history of a legendary baseball team and a beloved pastime, both at the same time.
The book, which is published by Abrams, comes with four exclusive cards. They are all done in the flagship 2012 Topps Baseball design. The checklist includes Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Reggie Jackson and Paul O'Neill.
Whether you're a Yankees fan or a baseball card collector, Yankee Greats is a nice little read. It also opens up the possibility of like books for other franchises.