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In memoriam book review: October 1964
2007-04-23 20:37
by Bob Timmermann

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.

P.S. Feel free to turn this into a festschrift.


2007-04-23 21:55:51
1.   Ken Arneson
I have "October 1964" sitting on my bookshelf, but I haven't read it yet. Perhaps I should take it with me this summer when I spend a night or two this summer in a hospital in Oakland, getting ready to bring a new life into the world. I'll need something to do while I fail to fall asleep on those uncomfortable half-chair-half-sofa things they always have for fathers in the recovery rooms.
2007-04-23 22:10:15
2.   Bob Timmermann
I'm willing to come by your home and get locked out to speed along the process.
2007-04-23 22:28:46
3.   Ken Arneson
Our second child was a week late, so I may have to take you up on that.
2007-04-23 22:47:19
4.   Philip Michaels
1 You will find October 1964 a good read. I liked it better than Summer of 49, which is more or less the same book with different teams. That may just be because I find some of the key players on the '64 Cardinals -- Flood, Gibson, White -- more compelling than the '49 Yanks or Sox.

Also Ken, apparently the sound of my voice drives women into labor; several of our friends have rushed off to the maternity ward within hours of hearing my dulcet tones. So you have that tool at your disposal as well.

2007-04-23 22:58:23
5.   Ken Arneson
1 OK, that's good to know, but it also means you have to keep away from my wife until June. We don't want the little one coming out too early, you know.
2007-04-23 23:00:07
6.   Ken Arneson
And when I said 1 in 5 I meant of course 4.
2007-04-24 05:26:23
7.   Johnny Nucleo
The book brought alive some figures that people from a younger generation sadly missed, like Bob Gibson. Best quote from the book IMO was from Gibson in the clubhouse, after pitching a complete game shutout to win 1-0... "nice game my a**, score some @#%&! runs!"
2007-04-24 12:43:16
8.   Bill Crain
Not to rain on the festschrift or anything, cause I've enjoyed Halberstam's work, too. But if you've read Bill James' review of Summer of 49 you got to question the guy's research. Or was it only baseball where he didn't bother to check his facts?

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