“Summer of ‘49” by David Halberstam
Baseball, history, Yankees, Red Sox
December 28, 2012 (electronic version – original publication date May 1989)
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)
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.