Monday, July 25, 2016

Review of "56"

While this book was published five years ago, it is still very relevant and appropriate to read this year, the 75th anniversary of one of the most remarkable records set in all of sports. Here is my review of "56."

“56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports” by Kostya Kennedy

Baseball, professional, history, Yankees, biography

Publish date:
March 8, 2011

368 pages

5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

56 is one of those numbers in which baseball fans immediately know the record or achievement to which it denotes, along with 714, .406, or 511.  In the case of 56, that is the number of consecutive games in which Yankee outfielder Joe DiMaggio got at least one base hit in 1941.  It is considered to be a record that may never be broken, and DiMaggio’s journey on the way to achieving this remarkable feat is chronicled in this excellent book by author Kostya Kennedy.

The book is much more than simply a game-by-game recap of the streak and how DiMaggio got the hits. In fact, there are several games in which there is barely a mention of the hits themselves.  Instead the reader follows DiMaggio and how he is handling the streak from both a professional and personal aspect.  The reader will learn about his wife in 1941, Dorothy and her anxiety about her Joe while she was pregnant with the couple’s first child. The mood of the entire nation, on the precipice of war, is captured eloquently in several passages.  DiMaggio’s family life in San Diego, and his interactions with brother Dom, who was a good player in his own right with the Boston Red Sox, also are told here with the same quality as the rest of the book.

The baseball writing is superb, not only for the actual game recaps and hits, but also from the locker room, the nightlife of a ball player and also the banter during the game with teammates and opponents alike.  Some of these stories, especially those told from Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium at the apex of the streak, let the reader feel like he or she is actually in the dugout cheering Joe on or trying desperately to be the one to end the streak.

While the book was written to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the streak in 2011, it is just as relevant and as good a read five years later during the 75th anniversary of this remarkable achievement.  Add some extra chapters about players who have had long hitting streaks that have not come close to matching this one, the chances of the streak being broken, and also questions on whether Joe got some “help” from official scorers, this book is one that should definitely be on the shelf of every baseball fan. 

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