Sunday, March 1, 2009

Wait Till Next Year, by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Book 8 - 2009

My mother could not believe that I was reading, "a baseball book". But Doris Kearns Goodwin writes good American history, so I figured her memoir, Wait Till Next Year, had to be worth something. And it was.

In her introduction, she says that she had been interviewed by Ken Burns for his documentary on baseball. Apparently she was one of the few chicks in the country that could speak about baseball as both an historian and a fan. She said that after the documentary aired, people would come up to her after a speaking engagement or whatever, and they didn't want to talk about Kennedys or Johnsons or Roosevelts, but the Brooklyn Dodgers.

So she started writing about baseball and it turned into a whole thing about the 1950s and the first TV on the block and the making of a generation blahblahblah. So she had to do real research and real interviews.

Goodwin lived on Long Island, so in her neighborhood, any given family could be rooting for one of the three New York teams. Her best friend/next door neighbor was a Giants fan, for example. She had some good material there.

I liked that she related the art of recording the game stats to telling a story. She tagged that early experience - giving her father the play-by-play when he came home from work - to pursuing a career in history. Things we should be teaching our kids.

So we follow Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella and the rest through many seasons of tragedy. (As if a fan from Chicago needs any help, there.) Then they finally win one, and two years later, Jackie Robinson retires and the Dodgers move to L.A.

Mixed in are the inevitable stories of bomb shelters and Joe McCarthy. Goodwin blends them in pretty well. At the end of the day, this is just a coming-of-age story. Written with a historian's sense of perspective. Good read.

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