The Boys of Summer

The Boys of Summer

3.8 18
by Roger Kahn
     
 

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The personal story of the remarkable Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1950s--including Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella and Leo Durocher—carried to the present. "This isn't a book; it's a love affair between a man, his team, and an era."--Christian Science Monitor See more details below

Overview

The personal story of the remarkable Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1950s--including Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella and Leo Durocher—carried to the present. "This isn't a book; it's a love affair between a man, his team, and an era."--Christian Science Monitor

Editorial Reviews

Grace Lichtenstein
A very stylish piece of 50s nostalgia that puts us back in touch with our heroes. -- NY Times Book Review
Christian Science Monitor
To writer Roger Kahn, the old Brooklyn Dodgers National League baseball team is a forever a priceless violin and he is the bow which must play upon it. This isn't a book; it's a love affair between a man, his team, and an era.
Bill Veeck
Roger Kahn has achieved the near impossible in his The Boys of Summer by writing two splendid books in one, neither of which, strangely enough, is a sports book although baseball is the central theme of both. To Mr. Kahn, 'people' is the name of the game, and it's a game he plays with brilliance, insight and thoughtfulness. To say that I 'enjoyed' the book is to say that winning a World Championship is 'interesting', owing a derby winner 'nice', and starring in the Super Bowl 'fun'.
Gay Talese
Kahn's book is marvelous...a splendid historical work. It is about youthful dreams in small American towns and big cities decades ago, and how some of these dreams where fulfilled, and about what happened to those dreamers after reality and old age arrived. It is also a book about ourselves, those of us who shared and identified with the dreams and glories of our heroes.
Ring Lardner
What most people look for in a book is a good story. Roger Kahn gives us about fifteen of them woven into one coherent narrative that is moving and funny and sentimental (about people and things that merit sentiment and cynical (about those that don't.
Paul Hogan
The Boys of Summer is a book of life . . . beautifully and above all . . . respectfully observed.
New York Times
The best team the majors ever saw, a team so extraordinary that Marianne Moore wrote poems to it—the Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1950s...A moving elegy!
Peter Prescott
Not just another book about baseball or a boy growing up to like baseball, but a book about pain and defeat and endurance, about how men anywhere must live. —Newsweek
Library Journal
Kahn's (Joe & Marilyn: A Memory of Love) account of the Brooklyn Dodgers of the early 1950s, first published in 1972, is often cited as the best baseball book ever written. While that point is debatable, there's no denying that the book offers a distinctive blend of history, nostalgia, social criticism, and sadness (Kahn's telling of the death of Jackie Robinson Jr. is especially moving). Though mispronouncing several names, Phil Gigante gives a lively reading of this colorful narrative and provides an excellent imitation of sportscaster Red Barber. For all listeners, especially those interested in African American, Jewish American, baseball, and journalism history. ["There may be no greater sports book," read the review of the McGraw-Hill hc reprint (Baseball Roundup, LJ 2/1/05).—Ed.]—Michael Adams, CUNY Graduate Ctr. Lib.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780072434255
Publisher:
McGraw-Hill Higher Education
Publication date:
07/01/2000

Read an Excerpt

The Trolley Car That Ran By Ebbets Field

I

That morning began with wind and hairy clouds. It was late March and day rose brisk and uncertain, with gusts suggesting January and flashes of sun promising June. In every way, a season of change had come.

With a new portable typewriter in one hand and a jammed, disordered suitcase in another, I was making my way from the main terminal at La Guardia Airport to Eastern Airlines Hangar Number 4. There had been time neither to pack nor to sort thoughts. Quite suddenly, after twenty-four sheltered, aimless, wounding, dreamy, heedless years, spent in the Borough of Brooklyn, I was going forth to cover the Dodgers. Nick Adams ranging northern Michigan, Stephen Dedalus storming citadeled Europe anticipated no richer mead of life.

"Mr. Thompson?"

A stocky man, with quick eyes and white hair, said, "Yes. I'm Fresco Thompson. You must be the new man from the Herald Tribune." Fresco Thompson, vice president and director of minor league personnel, stood at the entrance, beside a twin engined airplane, all silvery except for an inscription stenciled above the cabin door. In the same blue script that appeared on home uniform blouses, the Palmer-method lettering read "Dodgers."

"How do you like roller coasters?" Fresco Thompson said. "On a day with this much wind, the DC-3 will be all over the sky. Perfectly safe, but we're taking down prospects for the minor league camp and a lot have never flown." He gestured toward a swarm of sturdy athletes, standing nervously at one side of the hangar, slouching and shifting weight from foot to foot. "We may call on you to benursemaid," Thompson said. "Some ball players are babies. Let's go on board. The co-pilot will see about your luggage. We'll sit up front. Might as well keep the airsickness behind us."

Thompson smiled, showing even teeth, and put a strong, square hand on my back. "Come on, fellers," he shouted over a shoulder, and the rookie athletes formed a ragged line. Looking at them, eighteen-year-olds chattering and giggling with excitement, one recognized that they were still boys. The only men in the planeload, Thompson indicated by his manner, were the two of us. We had flown and earned a living and acquired substance. We were big league. Entering the DC-3 under the royal-blue inscription I felt with certitude, with absolute, manic, ingenuous, joyous certitude, that the nickname "Dodgers" applied to me. Beyond undertaking a newspaper assignment, I believed I was joining a team. At twenty-four, I was becoming a Dodger. The fantasy ("He performs in Ebbets Field as though he built it; this kid can play") embraces multitudes and generations ("Haven't seen a ball player with this much potential since Pistol Pete Reiser back in 1940, or maybe even before that; maybe way before"). I strode onto the plane, monarch of my dream, walking up the steep incline with the suggestion of a swagger and dropping casually into seat B2. "What the hell!" Something had stung me in a buttock. I bounced up. A spring had burst through the green upholstery. A naked end of metal lay exposed. "What the hell," I said again.

"Nothing to worry about," Fresco Thompson said. "The people who maintain the springs are not the same people who maintain the engines." He paused and raised white brows. "Or so Walter O'Malley tells me."

"Seat belts," the plot announced. Fresco turned and counted heads. "Eighteen," he said, "and eighteen there's supposed to be." The little plane bumped forward toward a concrete runway and the seabound clouds of the busy March sky.

In the end, I would find, as others since Ring Lardner and before, that Pullman nights and press box days, double-headers dragging through August heat and a daily newspaper demanding three thousand words a day, every day, day after blunting day, dulled sense and sensibilities. When you see too many major league baseball games, you tend to observe less and less of each. You begin to lose your sense of detail and even recall. Who won yesterday? Ah, yesterday. That was Pittsburgh, 5 to 3. No, that was Tuesday. Yesterday was St. Louis, 6 to 2. Too many games, and the loneliness, the emphatic, crowded loneliness of the itinerant, ravage fantasy. Nothing on earth, Lardner said, is more depressing than an old baseball writer. It was my fortune to cover baseball when I was very young.

From brief perspective, the year 1952 casts a disturbing, well remembered shadow. It was then that the American electorate disdained the troubling eloquence of Adlai Stevenson for Dwight Eisenhower and what Stevenson called the green fairways of indifference. That very baseball season Eisenhower outran Robert A. Taft for the Republican nomination and, hands clasped above the bald, broad dome, mounted his irresistible campaign for the Presidency. Senator Joseph R. McCarthy rose in Washington and King Farouk fell in Egypt. Although the Korean War killed 120 Americans a week, times were comfortable at home.A four-door Packard with Thunderbolt-8 engine sold for $2,613 and, according to advertisements, more than 53 percent of all Packards manufactured since 1899 still ran.Kodak was rising from $43 a share and RCA was moving up from $26.The New York theatrical season shone.One could see Audrey Hepburn as Gigi, Laurence Olivier and Vivian Leigh as Ceaser and Cleopatra, Rex Harrison and Lilli Palmer in Venus Observed, Julie Harris in I Am a Camera and John Garfield, who would not live out the year, bearing his special fire to Joey Bonaparte in a revival of Odets' Golden Boy.It was a time of transition, which few recognized, and glutting national self-satisfaction.Students and scholars were silent.Only a few people distinguished the tidal discontent beginning to sweep into black America.

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What People are saying about this

Gay Talese
"Kahn's book is marvelous...a splendid historical work. It is about youthful dreams in small American towns and big cities decades ago, and how some of these dreams where fulfilled, and about what happened to those dreamers after reality and old age arrived. It is also a book about ourselves, those of us who shared and identified with the dreams and glories of our heroes."
Bill Veeck
"Roger Kahn has achieved the near impossible in his The Boys of Summer by writing two splendid books in one, neither of which, strangely enough, is a sports book although baseball is the central theme of both. To Mr. Kahn, 'people' is the name of the game, and it's a game he plays with brilliance, insight and thoughtfulness. To say that I 'enjoyed' the book is to say that winning a World Championship is 'interesting', owing a derby winner 'nice', and starring in the Super Bowl 'fun'."
Ring Lardner
"What most people look for in a book is a good story. Roger Kahn gives us about fifteen of them woven into one coherent narrative that is moving and funny and sentimental (about people and things that merit sentiment) and cynical (about those that don't)."
James Michener
"A work of high purpose and poetic accomplishment. The finest American book on sports. I commend it without qualification."

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