Wait Till Next Year: Summer Afternoons with My Father and Baseball

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Wait Till Next Year is the story of a young girl growing up in the suburbs of New York in the 1950s, when owning a single-family home on a tree-lined street meant the realization of dreams, when everyone knew everyone else on the block, and the children gathered in the streets to play from sunup to sundown. The neighborhood was equally divided among Dodger, Giant, and Yankee fans, and the corner stores were the scenes of fierce and affectionate rivalries. We meet the people who influenced Goodwin's early life: ...
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Overview

Wait Till Next Year is the story of a young girl growing up in the suburbs of New York in the 1950s, when owning a single-family home on a tree-lined street meant the realization of dreams, when everyone knew everyone else on the block, and the children gathered in the streets to play from sunup to sundown. The neighborhood was equally divided among Dodger, Giant, and Yankee fans, and the corner stores were the scenes of fierce and affectionate rivalries. We meet the people who influenced Goodwin's early life: her father, who emerged from a traumatic childhood without a trace of self-pity or rancor and who taught his daughter early on that she should say whatever she thought and should bring her voice into any conversation at any time; her mother, whose heart problems left her with the arteries of a 70-year-old when she was only in her 30s and whose love of books allowed her to break the boundaries of the narrow world to which she was confined by her chronic illness; her two older sisters; her friends on the block; the local storekeepers; her school friends and teachers. This is also the story of a girlhood in which the great religious festivals of the Catholic church and the seasonal imperatives of baseball combined to produce a passionate love of history, ceremony, and ritual. It is the story of growing up in what seemed on the surface a more innocent era until one recalls the terror of polio, the paranoia of McCarthyism reflected even in the children's games, the obsession with A-bomb drills in school, and the ugly face of racial prejudice. It was a time whose relative tranquility contained the seeds of the turbulent decade of the 60s. Shortly after the Dodgers left, Goodwin's mother died, and the family moved from the old neighborhood to an apartment on the other side of town. This move coincided with the move of several other families on the block and with the decline of the corner store as the supermarket began to take over. It was the end.

An endearing memoir of a young girl growing up loving her father and baseball.

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Editorial Reviews

Ann Hulbert
For self-esteem-building role models, for baseball lore, and inning-by-inning action, and for a lively trip into the recent American past, you can hardly do better. -- New York Times Book Review
Boston Globe
A fine writer's conscious mastery of her difficult craft.
Chicago Sun-Times
Absolutely endearing....A book you will pass on to your best friend with a "You've just got to read this."
Jim Abbott
In an era when memoirs are often characterized by salacious confessions...Doris Kearns Goodwin restores a refreshing element of innocence to the genre....Such stability rarely exists anymore, in baseball or in life. Wait Till Next Year is a chance to savor it again. -- The Orlando Sentinel
Jodi Daynard
Lively, tender, and....hilarious....[Goodwin's] memoir is uplifting evidence that the American dream still exists -- not so much in the content of the dream as in the tireless, daunting dreaming. -- The Boston Globe
Peter Delacorte
A poignant memoir...marvelous...Goodwin shifts gracefully between a child's recollection and an adult's overview. -- San Francisco Chronicle Book Review
Tom Cooper
Readable as history, as a baseball story, or simply as the tale of a remarkable girl destined to become a remarkable woman, Wait Till Next Year is everything a literary memoir should be. -- St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This memoir by the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian (No Ordinary Time) is a moving ode to her father and to their shared love of baseball. The word "recollections" in the subtitle rather than "reflections," say, is an apt designation of the book's content, which is charming and endearing, though does not allow access into the author's inner life. The baseball games of Goodwin's New York City youth are dramatically and beautifully narratedit is refreshing to read about a girl's passion for the sport; her childhood love of the game and the three teams that played in the city in the 1950s is evident in every paragraph. But when Goodwin focuses on herself and her family apart from baseballher mother was chronically ill and dies in the final pages of the bookshe seems content to skim the surface of the story, with emotion held too deeply in check for what ought to have been the book's climax. Yet in the pages giving her childhood perspective on such things as race and the Army-McCarthy hearings, we behold the deep roots of this historian's success in her art.
Library Journal
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author on how baseball brought her close to her father.
The Boston Globe
A fine writer's conscious mastery of her difficult craft.
Kirkus Reviews
Pulitzer Prizewinning historian Goodwin turns her gaze inward, looking back on a childhood enlivened by books and baseball. In many ways Goodwin had a typical '50s girlhood. She grew up on suburban Long Island at a time when many families were relocating to such communities. Her father worked, her mother was a homemaker. Perhaps the biggest difference between Goodwin and other girls growing up in this era was her deep and abiding enthusiasm for baseball. When she was six, she recalls, her father gave her a score book and taught her how to use it, a gift that 'opened [her] heart to baseball.' Retelling games for her father's benefit after he came home from work was her 'first lesson . . . in narrative art.' One can easily see how recreating these games from the score book taught her to harness her imagination to quotidian details to re-create history. If baseball bonded her more deeply to her father, books served the same purpose in her relationship with her mother, a sickly woman with severe angina and numerous other problems. Goodwin also offers a child's-eye view of the Cold War, from the lunacy of bomb shelters and 'duck and cover' drills to a particularly disturbing memory of reenacting the McCarthy hearings with other neighborhood children. Gradually we see her neighborhood unraveling under economic pressures, the Dodgers and Giants moving to the West Coast, and finally, her mother dying of an apparent heart attack at 51. Regrettably, Goodwin recounts all this in unimaginative prose, offering surprisingly few original insights into either baseball or the sociopolitical currents of the time. Except for the final chapter about her mother's death and her father's subsequent depressionand drinking problems, the book falls far short of her compelling historical narratives.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781568955414
  • Publisher: Cengage Gale
  • Publication date: 5/1/1998
  • Series: Wheeler Large Print Bks.
  • Pages: 276
  • Product dimensions: 6.33 (w) x 9.32 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Read an Excerpt

From Chapter One

When I was six, my father gave me a bright red scorebook that opened my heart to the game of baseball. After dinner on long summer nights, he would sit beside me in our small enclosed porch to hear my account of that day's Brooklyn Dodger game. Night after night he taught me the odd collection of symbols, numbers, and letters that enable a baseball lover to record every action of the game. Our score sheets had blank boxes in which we could draw our own slanted lines in the form of a diamond as we followed players around the bases. Wherever the baserunner's progress stopped, the line stopped. He instructed me to fill in the unused boxes at the end of each inning with an elaborate checkerboard design which made it absolutely clear who had been the last to bat and who would lead off the next inning. By the time I had mastered the art of scorekeeping, a lasting bond had

All through the summer of 1949, my first summer as a fan, I spent my afternoons sitting cross-legged before the squat Philco radio which stood as a permanent fixture on our porch in Rockville Centre, on the South Shore of Long Island, New York. With my scorebook spread before me, I attended Dodger games through the courtly voice of Dodger announcer Red Barber. As he announced the lineup, I carefully printed each player's name in a column on the left side of my sheet. Then, using the standard system my father had taught me, which assigned a number to each position in the field, starting with a "1" for the pitcher and ending with a "9" for the right fielder, I recorded every play. I found it difficult at times to sit still. As the Dodgers came to bat, I would walk around the room, talking to the players as if they were standing in front of me. At critical junctures, I tried to make a bargain, whispering and cajoling while Pee Wee Reese or Duke Snider stepped into the batter's box. "Please, please, get a hit. If you get a hit now, I'll make my bed every day for a week." Sometimes, when the score was close and the opposing team at bat with men on base, I was too agitated to listen. Asking my mother to keep notes, I left the house for a walk around the block, hoping that when I returned the enemy threat would be over, and once again we'd be up at bat. Mostly, however, I stayed at my post, diligently recording each inning so that, when my father returned from his job as bank examiner for the State of New York, I could re-create for him the game he had missed.

When my father came home from the city, he would change from his three-piece suit into long pants and a short-sleeved sport shirt, and come downstairs for the ritual Manhattan cocktail with my mother. Then my parents would summon me for dinner from my play on the street outside our house. All through dinner I had to restrain myself from telling him about the day's game, waiting for the special time to come when we would sit together on the couch, my scorebook on my lap.

"Well, did anything interesting happen today?" he would begin. And even before the daily question was completed I had eagerly launched into my narrative of every play, and almost every pitch, of that afternoon's contest. It never crossed my mind to wonder if, at the close of a day's work, he might find my lengthy account the least bit tedious. For there was mastery as well as pleasure in our nightly ritual. Through my knowledge, I commanded my father's undivided attention, the sign of his love. It would instill in me an early awareness of the power of narrative, which would introduce a lifetime of storytelling, fueled by the naive confidence that others would find me as entertaining as my father did.

Michael Francis Aloysius Kearns, my father, was a short man who appeared much larger on account of his erect bearing, broad chest, and thick neck. He had a ruddy Irish complexion, and his green eyes flashed with humor and vitality. When he smiled his entire face was transformed, radiating enthusiasm and friendliness. He called me "Bubbles," a pet name he had chosen, he told me, because I seemed to enjoy so many things. Anxious to confirm his description, I refused to let my enthusiasm wane, even when I grew tired or grumpy. Thus excitement about things became a habit, a part of my personality, and the expectation that I should enjoy new experiences often engendered the enjoyment itself.

These nightly recountings of the Dodgers' progress provided my first lessons in the narrative art. From the scorebook, with its tight squares of neatly arranged symbols, I could unfold the tale of an entire game and tell a story that seemed to last almost as long as the game itself. At first, I was unable to resist the temptation to skip ahead to an important play in later innings. At times, I grew so excited about a Dodger victory that I blurted out the final score before I had hardly begun. But as I became more experienced in my storytelling, I learned to build a dramatic story with a beginning, middle, and end. Slowly, I learned that if I could recount the game, one batter at a time, inning by inning, without divulging the outcome, I could keep the suspense and my father's interest alive until the very last pitch. Sometimes I pretended that I was the great Red Barber himself, allowing my voice to swell when reporting a home run, quieting to a whisper when the action grew tense, injecting tidbits about the players into my reports. At critical moments, I would jump from the couch to illustrate a ball that turned foul at the last moment or a dropped fly that was scored as an error.

"How many hits did Roy Campanella get?" my dad would ask. Tracing my finger across the horizontal line that represented Campanella's at bats that day, I would count. "One, two, three. Three hits, a single, a double, and another single." "How many strikeouts for Don Newcombe?" It was easy. I would count the Ks. "One, two . . . eight. He had eight strikeouts." Then he'd ask me more subtle questions about different plays -- whether a strikeout was called or swinging, whether the double play was around the horn, whether the single that won the game was hit to left or right. If I had scored carefully, using the elaborate system he had taught me, I would know the answers. My father pointed to the second inning, where Jackie Robinson had hit a single and then stolen second. There was excitement in his voice. "See, it's all here. While Robinson was dancing off second, he rattled the pitcher so badly that the next two guys walked to load the bases. That's the impact Robinson makes, game after game. Isn't he something?" His smile at such moments inspired me to take my responsibility seriously.

Sometimes, a particular play would trigger in my father a memory of a similar situation in a game when he was young, and he would tell me stories about the Dodgers when he was a boy growing up in Brooklyn. His vivid tales featured strange heroes such as Casey Stengel, Zack Wheat, and Jimmy Johnston. Though it was hard at first to imagine that the Casey Stengel I knew, the manager of the Yankees, with his colorful language and hilarious antics, was the same man as the Dodger outfielder who hit an inside-the-park home run at the first game ever played at Ebbets Field, my father so skillfully stitched together the past and the present that I felt as if I were living in different time zones. If I closed my eyes, I imagined I was at Ebbets Field in the 1920s for that celebrated game when Dodger right fielder Babe Herman hit a double with the bases loaded, and through a series of mishaps on the base paths, three Dodgers ended up at third base at the same time. And I was sitting by my father's side, five years before I was born, when the lights were turned on for the first time at Ebbets Field, the crowd gasping and then cheering as the summer night was transformed into startling day.

Copyright ©1997 by Blithedale Productions, Inc.

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