During the coronavirus shutdown, each day we will bring you a recommendation from The Post’s Peter Botte for a sports movie, TV show or book that perhaps was before your time or somehow slipped between the cracks of your viewing/reading history.
The Boys of Summer
By Roger Kahn, 1972 (Harper & Row)
It might be considered too sentimental for today’s TMZ audiences, but this eloquent recounting of the Dodgers’ long-awaited “Wait ’Til Next Year” coronation in the 1955 World Series — and the borough of Brooklyn’s unbreakable love affair with Dem Bums — ranks as one of the finest works ever written about our national pastime.
My father grew up in Brooklyn in the 1940s and adored the Dodgers, even if he also revered Joe DiMaggio, as many first- and second-generation Italian-Americans did in various neighborhoods across New York.
My dad, a Navy veteran and former NYPD lieutenant who passed away in 2018, had me read this book when I was roughly 12 years old, to explain part of his childhood experience and why we were raised as a National League household on Long Island despite his lifelong Joe D. fixation.
Kahn, who died in February, attended Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn and NYU and served as Dodgers beat writer for the old New York Herald Tribune before moving on to editing jobs at Newsweek and the Saturday Evening Post. He authored more than a dozen other books about baseball and other topics, including biographies of Jack Dempsey and Pete Rose and book on DiMaggio’s relationship with Marilyn Monroe.
With a title gleaned from a Dylan Thomas poem, Kahn’s prose magically takes us through the summer of ’55 at Ebbets Field, and there’s plenty about his relationship with Jackie Robinson, who we highlighted earlier this week following the anniversary of his historic breaking of the color barrier in 1947.
Kahn also follows up in detail with Jackie — as well as teammates Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella, Carl Erskine, Preacher Roe, Duke Snider and Carl Furillo — and describes their lives after the Dodgers bolted Brooklyn for Los Angeles and into their retirements.
In 2002, Sports Illustrated ranked “The Boys of Summer” second on its list of the Top 100 Sports Books of All Time — behind only A.J. Liebling’s boxing masterpiece “The Sweet Science” — calling Kahn’s artistry “a novelistic tale of conflict and change, a tribute, a civic history, a piece of nostalgia and, finally, a tragedy.”
Quote of Note: “By applauding [Jackie] Robinson, a man did not feel that he was taking a stand on school integration, or on open housing. But for an instant he had accepted Robinson simply as a hometown ball player.” Roger Kahn in “The Boys of Summer.”
Botte Blows: 4.6 of 5