I picked up a copy of David Halberstam's October 1964 in the Oakland Airport back in 1994 soon after it came out. I had just flown up to visit my friends who lived in Oakland and it was an eventful trip. My friends Beth and Phil were about to have a baby. As it turned out, that "about to" ended up being the weekend I visited. So while they were off at the hospital getting ready to bring a new life into the world, I was sitting outside on their lawn. That was because I accidentally locked myself out of their house.
Anyway, through the help of a friendly neighbor, I was able to get to the hospital, get keys to the house, get my stuff, and get back on a flight back home.
What does this have to do with October 1964? Well nothing really, but that's what came to mind first when I saw the book.
Is October 1964 a great baseball book? To be honest, no. It is a good one. Halberstam paints the 1964 season as a contest between the predominantly black Cardinals and the predominantly white Yankees. A battle between the future of baseball and its past.
I don't know if 1964 fits into that category. It was the end of the Yankee dynasty, but was that because of great sociological changes in baseball or because the franchise was no longer able to have the good fortune to find more Mickey Mantles? And did the Cardinals win the NL pennant in 1964 because somehow Bing Devine and Johnny Keane had a team that was revolutionary in its makeup or was it just lucky because Gene Mauch and the Phillies cracked under pressure?
Nevertheless, I found the book an interesting read. The examination of some of the key events of the 1964 season, such as the Brock-Broglio trade, are quite interesting. As are the examinations of all the backroom machinations of the Cardinals and Yankees, who managed to win their leagues despite having one team fire its GM (Bing Devine) and another team make its manager a lame duck (Yogi Berra).
Halberstam doesn't skimp on the Cardinals at the expense of the Yankees as many authors would. And it's not all just interviews with Bob Broeg. Instead, there are good interviews with Cardinal players like Curt Simmons, Bob Gibson, and the unsung Barney Schultz.
I wish the book had footnotes and a longer bibliography, but the book is still a good read. 1964 was an important year in baseball. Perhaps not as big as Halberstam made it out to be, but you won't feel cheated if you read the book yourself and make your own judgment.