Summer of '49
  • Summer of '49
  • Summer of '49

Summer of '49

3.9 21
by David Halberstam

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With incredible skill, passion, and insight, Pulitzer Prize–winningauthor David Halberstam returns us to a glorious time when the dreams of a now almost forgotten America rested on the crack of a bat.

The year was 1949, and a war-weary nation turned from the battlefields to the ball fields in search of new

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With incredible skill, passion, and insight, Pulitzer Prize–winningauthor David Halberstam returns us to a glorious time when the dreams of a now almost forgotten America rested on the crack of a bat.

The year was 1949, and a war-weary nation turned from the battlefields to the ball fields in search of new heroes. It was a summer that marked the beginning of a sports rivalry unequaled in the annals of athletic competition. The awesome New York Yankees and the indomitable Boston Red Sox were fighting for supremacy of baseball's American League, and an aging Joe DiMaggio and a brash, headstrong hitting phenomenon named Ted Williams led their respective teams in a classic pennant duel of almost mythic proportions—one that would be decided in an explosive head-to-head confrontation on the last day of the season.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This book is ostensibly about the pennant race between the Yankees and Red Sox that year and the ``rivalry'' between Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams. But, as he did in Breaks of the Game (LJ 11/15/81) and The Amateurs (LJ 7/85), Halberstam focuses on a season and studies an era. Baseball came of age in the summer of 1949. Postwar America looked to baseball for a sense of normalcy in its life; television began to have an impact on the sport; Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. Summer of '49 is more than a collection of anecdotes. It is a study of all the elements and personalities that influenced baseball that year and beyond. Halberstam brings them together in such an enjoyable, interesting, and informative manner that a reader needn't be a baseball fan to appreciate the book.-- Martin J. Hudacs, Towanda H.S., Pa.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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P. S. Series
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5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.86(d)

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Chapter One

In the years immediately following World War II, professional baseball mesmerized the American people as it never had before and never would again. Baseball, more than almost anything else, seemed to symbolize normalcy and a return to life in America as it had been before Pearl Harbor. The nation clearly hungered for that. When Bob Feller returned from the navy to pitch in late August 1945, a Cleveland paper headlined the event: THIS IS WHAT WE'VE BEEN WAITING FOR.

All the prewar stars were returning to action--DiMaggio, Williams, Feller, and Stan Musial--and their very names seemed to indicate that America could pick up right where it had left off. They were replacing wartime players of lesser quality. Indeed, a player named George (Cat) Metkovich spoke for many of the wartime players when he told his Boston teammates at the end of the 1945 season, "Well, boys, better take a good took around you, because most of us won't be here next year."

The crowds were extraordinary-large, enthusiastic, and, compared with those that were soon to follow, well behaved. In the prewar years the Yankees, whose teams had included Ruth, Gehrig, and DiMaggio, claimed that they drew I million fans at home each season. In fact, they had not drawn that well. The real home attendance was more likely to have been around 800,000. After the war the crowds literally doubled. In 1941, the last year of prewar baseball, the National League drew 4.7 million fans; by 1947 the figure had grown to 10.4 million. In the postwar years the Yankees alone drew more than 2 million fans per season at home.

Nor was it just numbers. There was a special intensity to the crowdsin those days. When the Red Sox played the Yankees in the Stadium, they traveled to New York by train, passing through Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. Everyone seemed to know the schedule of their train, and as it passed through endless small towns along the route, there would be large crowds gathered at the stations to cheer the players, many of the people holding up signs exhorting their heroes to destroy the hated Yankees. The conductor would deliberately slow the train down and many of the players, on their way to do battle with the sworn enemy, would come out on the observation decks to wave to the crowds.

Near the end of the 1946 season, a young Red Sox pitcher named Dave Ferriss went into Yankee Stadium to pitch and was stunned by the size of the crowd: 63,000 people, according to the newspapers, even though at the time the Red Sox held a sizable lead over the Yankees. Ferriss had only recently left a tiny town in the Mississippi Delta. That day he was so awed by the noise and tumult that in the middle of the game he decided to commit the scene to memory and take it with him for the rest of his life. He stepped off the mound, turned slowly to the stands, and inhaled the crowd. Ferriss thought to himself. How magnificent it all is. This is the Red Sox and this is the Yankees. I am twenty-four, and I am pitching in Yankee Stadium, and every seat is taken.

With the exception of the rare heavyweight fight or college football game that attracted national attention, baseball dominated American sports entertainment. Professional football, soon to become a major sport because its faster action so well suited the television camera, was still a minorleague ticket; golf and tennis were for the few who played those sports.

Rich businessmen, thinking about becoming owners of sports teams, did not yet talk about the entertainment dollar, for America was a Calvinistic nation, not much given to entertaining itself. In the world of baseball, the sport itself was vastly more important than such ancillary commercial sources of revenue as broadcasting, endorsements, concessions, and parking.

There were only sixteen teams in the big leagues, and in an America defined by the railroad instead of the airplane, St. Louis was a far-west team and Washington a Southern one. California might as well have been in another country. The pace of life in America had not yet accelerated as it was soon to do from the combination of endless technological breakthroughs and undreamed--of affluence in ordinary homes. The use of drugs seemed very distant. The prevailing addiction of more than a few players (and managers, coaches, sportswriters, and indeed owners) was alcohol, apparently a more acceptable and less jarring form of selfdestruction. It was, thought Curt Gowdy, a young sportscaster who had just joined the Yankees, the last moment of innocence in American life.

Baseball was rooted not just in the past but in the culture of the country; it was celebrated in the nation's literature and songs. When a poor American boy dreamed of escaping his grim life, his fantasy probably involved becoming a professional baseball player. It was not so much the national sport as the binding national myth.

It was also the embodiment of the melting-pot theory, or at least the white melting pot theory, of America. One of its preeminent players, Joe DiMaggio, was the son of a humble immigrant fisherman, and the fact that three of the fisherman's sons had made the major leagues proved to many the openness and fairness of American society. America cheered the DiMaggio family, and by so doing, proudly cheered itself When DiMaggio played in his first World Series, his mother traveled by train to watch him play. She was a modest woman, but open and candid, and she became something of a celebrity herself by telling reporters (in Italian) that the trip was hard for her because there was so little to do in New York--she wished there was some cleaning, or at least some dishes to wash and dry.

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Summer Of '49 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
StaceyKane More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book; but, the title is misleading. I think that it should be called The Players of the Sjummer of 49 because it consists of thumbnail sketches of some of these people; rather than a day by day chronicle of the race for the American League Pennant in 1949.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mr. Halberstam has brought that amazing summer of 1949 to vivid, three- dimensional life, with an account of the Yankee-Red Sox pennant race. Mind you, this is fifteen years before I was even born, and I was still enthralled, as will any baseball fan. Even people who only slightly like baseball. Maybe even people who don't give a hoot. The writing is that good. DiMaggio, Ted Williams, and the various players emerge as skillfully drawn portraits. The cities themselves become actual characters. The sign of a good historical book, I believe, is how it feeds a desire to learn more about its' topic. This book goes one more, as I have gone out and found titles by the author as well. As reknowned as David Halberstam is, I'm embarrassed to say this is my first experience with him. I now have two more of his on baseball, the other on war...sitting on my shelf ready to go. That should be considered the highest praise from a bibliophile.
SlapShot62 More than 1 year ago
Always wanted to read it because it had received such good reviews....hate to say, just not at all as good as I'd expected. Nice retelling of the season, the teams, the players and even the media - just seemed to plod along a little. Good, not great.
Cowboys78 More than 1 year ago
Maybe I just wasn't in a good mood reading this for four days, or I've come to expect to much in a baseball book from past readings I have had (i.e., Game Six, The Bad Guys Won, etc). Either way, this just wasn't good and left me wondering where the author was going with all of this. If this was one of the most intense pennant races in history, Halberstam missed capturing it in the book. To much player profile and little side notes all over the place kept me thinking "how much more of this do I have to endure". Get some of the recommended readings or take a date to a movie instead.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great look at the intense rivirary that is the Yankees vs Red Sox.
MinTwinsNY More than 1 year ago
Stars:   5 of 5 stars (outstanding) Review:  In 1949, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox engaged in a memorable pennant race that was not decided until the final day of the season.  Because this was in the time before divisions in Major League Baseball, the winner of this race went to the World Series while the loser would have to dwell on falling just short for the winter.  This fascinating season is retold from many different viewpoints in this terrific book by the late David Halberstam. Originally published in 1989, the title of this book may be a bit misleading to a baseball historian as only the two top teams of the American League that season are discussed.  But HOW they are portrayed is a wonderful read that is engaging, entertaining and sure to bring a smile or two while being read.  Stories on players from both teams are told, mostly about the stars but with some little known-information as well.  Of course, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams get the most publicity here, but other such as Ellis Kinder and Joe McCarthy for the Red Sox and Allie Reynolds and Eddie Lopat for the Yankees are discussed. The crowning achievement of the book for me, however, is that while reading it, I felt like I was back in 1949 even though I had not been born yet.  To get baseball information, I had to read the papers.  The players traveled by train and seemed to be bound together more tightly than teammates of today.  Their personal lives, while still published to a degree, did not seem splashed all over like in today’s social media.  I felt I was transported back to a different time in the history of the game.  Halberstam was well-respected for this type of writing and it is what makes it one of the more enjoyable baseball books I have read on that era of the game.  Pace of the book: Like other books by Halberstam that I have read, both baseball and other topics, the book grabs your attention and will not let go.  I read this in about four hours on train rides to and from a baseball game. Do I recommend? Baseball history aficionados as well as fans of both the sport and Halberstam will enjoy this book.  It simply is another winner by the late author. 
NewsieQ More than 1 year ago
It’s baseball season. David Halberstam is one of my favorite non-fiction authors. Putting those two facts together, I decided to read Summer of ’49, which is about the pennant race between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. Both had great seasons in 1949. Both had aging superstar sluggers, Ted Williams for Boston and Joe Dimaggio for New York. Both teams had crusty managers, Casey Stengel for the Yankees, Joe McCarthy for the Red Sox. Although I enjoyed reading about the individual players, their superstitions, their peccadilloes, their lifestyles, their peculiar habits -- I found the play by plays of the games booooring. I mean, who knew that conventional wisdom in those days was that hydrating when temps soared during a long doubleheader was bad for a player? Or that needing a sugar fix during a game was un-manly? I skimmed through the boring parts and devoured all the little factoids that David Halberstem dredged up. An OK book I’m glad I read.
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Loved this book
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This is a must-read for not only baseball fans but every American. Those who remember will love it and those that are too young will wish they could remember it. It's a trip back in time when your Team was "your" team!!!!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the colorful anecdotes that brought back the era for me, I was an avid baseball fan at the time. But the cover depicts Dimaggio as a lefty hitter and Tebbetts as a lefthanded cather (?)!It's a mirror image copy of the Dinnerstein painting causing a little loss of credibility and questions the authenticity of the accounts and incidents reported!! A shame that such a blatant mistake escaped editors and publishers!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Read this book.