New book: “The New York Yankees in Popular Culture”

Originally posted 2019-05-31 12:18:14. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

My old friend, writer, sometimes lawyer, historian and sports enthusiast David Krell, has published a collection of essays called, The New York Yankees in Popular Culture. And I helped!

But first, about the book and the editor (really, David was the book’s creator, not merely an “editor”) from this piece in an alumni magazine;

The latest book project by David Krell 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.

Yes, David is a Mets fan — and you know what I think about that:

But he is a good writer and a good editor, and this is a great subject for a book. And how did I help? I wrote part of a chapter on the Yankee Brand called “The Brand of Champions.” Here’s an excerpt, which follows a point in the chapter where I explain that the team, originally called the “Highlanders,” was not called the Yankees until 1913:

Because the Yankees name is younger than the team, it should not be surprising that the oldest trademark now associated with the Yankees goes back further than 1913. The famous interlocking “NY” emblem traces it origins to 1903, well before the team’s brand equity began to build when Babe Ruth joined the team in 1920. That original Yankees’ mark is the “N Y” where both letters are separate, not interlocking . . . . As essentially a geographical description of the team’s home city, this configuration of letters and space was probably not a trademark — at least at the time.

On the other hand, this pioneering configuration of Yankee branding was emblazoned on the Highlanders’ jerseys long before anyone dreamed of protecting team insignia through trademark registration anyway. When, in 1992, the Yankees finally applied to register the “N Y” with the USPTO, it had been generations since the Yankees stopped using it on the field. Presumably, they wanted the right to maintain control of the design for sale on licensed “vintage” reproductions or novelty merchandise. The team had to convince the Trademark Office examiners that the configuration had achieved trademark status, or “acquired distinctiveness,” by virtue of long use, notwithstanding that it did not seem to have gotten much use at all since the Roaring Twenties. After a period of back-and-forth between the team and the USPTO, the registration issued in 1995.

Not the kind of prose that gets you into the sportswriting Hall of Fame, or even onto a Yankee Stadium monument, but there’s room on every roster for a solid journeyman.

I also write about the Yankees “top hat” emblem and the curious litigation that arose over it:

[Yankees co-owner Lee] MacPhail believed a corporate logo, separate and apart from insignia used on uniforms, was called for [in the postwar era], and commissioned designer Henry Alonzo Keller to make one. Incorporating the colors of the American flag, a baseball, a bat, a distinctive Yankee “script” that would later achieve its own trademark status, and an Uncle Sam top hat, the new logo was a home run, becomes what the New York Times would call, over a half century later, “perhaps the most famous logo in sports.” . . .

So say the Yankees. The official account was challenged in a 2011 lawsuit by the heirs of Tanit Buday, a Yonkers woman who claimed to have succeeded to “common-law copyright” held by the logo’s real designer, her uncle Kenneth Timur, who was deceased. The claim was dismissed on multiple grounds, not least the extreme passage of time as well as its utter implausibility and many legal deficiencies. But the publicity surrounding the dispute also brought to light the claim of family members of the late Sam Friedman. They asserted in a 2013 interview with the New York Times that that Friedman drew the logo on a bar napkin at the famous 21 Club while tippling with Yankees co-owner Dan Topping. . . .

The family’s belief that success in the litigation would lead to a huge payday . . . was based on an incorrect understanding of how logo designers are compensated . . .

As stirring as “. . . and the Home of the Brave”? Or more like “Sweet Caroline”?

Part of the reason I agreed to work on this project is that, unlike David, I was, back when these kinds of things mattered to me, a very big Yankees fan.

As my youthful enthusiasm for professional sports waned, my interest in brands increased. And as a New Yorker, I was always fascinated by the development of the Yankees brand, especially because I once had a partner who had been general counsel to the team; we discussed some of the issues and I’ve blogged about the Yankees’ gorilla-like brand power here in the past.

Even if you’re not all that interested in sports — even if you don’t like the Yankees — this is really a very interesting book from the point of modern-day American culture history, as should be clear from the excerpt about the book at the beginning of this post.

Let’s play two!

You should buy it so then you’ll have it! Oh, also baseball metaphors.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.