Books: Summer of ’49
I’m not a huge baseball fan. I grew up in Dallas and dealing with the Texas Rangers in the Billy Martin / Jeff Burroughs / Ferguson Jenkins / Jim Sundberg era was a tough gig. Plus, by that time the Dallas Cowboys were America’s team and Roger Staubach was every kids hero (at least in Dallas.)
By the time I moved to Boston in 1983, I was ruined on baseball. I go to a couple of games a year – mostly just to generate stories that people can tell their grandkids. Amy is a big fan, but since the scores at the Rockies games are really football scores (I’m always surprised when the winning team doesn’t score at least double digits), it’s mostly just a good time to hang out and get a sunburn.
When David Halberstam died a few months ago, I decided to read all of his books (similar to what I’m doing with Vonnegut.) I had a copy of Summer of ’49 (<— note the SmartLink – play with it) on my shelf of infinite books to read so I grabbed it and consumed it over the last few days. It seemed fitting to finish it up on the 4th of July.
I thought of my dad 5,417 times while I read this book. These were his and my uncle Charlies’ Yankees. My dad was 11 that summer and it must have been an awesome time for him and Charlie. The Yankee / Red Sox rivalry was at one of its apexes, DiMaggio was the man, Yogi Berra was behind the plate, and the great Yankee run under Casey Stengel had just begun.
The age of radio was at its peak and the dawn of the TV age was beginning. Mel Allen was the great Yankee radio announcer. Halberstam captures the relationships between everyone well – including Allen and the writers – and his descriptions of the games helped me understand the difference between radio baseball and TV baseball.
Overall, Summer of ’49 is a beautiful book. You don’t have to be a baseball fan to love it, but you do have to be interested in understanding the summertime in a different era. Members of the Red Sox Nation will also love this book, even though it is heartbreaking at times, since that’s something all card carrying Red Sox Nation members understand.
Next up – The Design of Everyday Things – a book at least 11 people have recommended I read.