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Bums: An Oral History of the Brooklyn Dodgers

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Before the team headed to Los Angeles in 1957, the Brooklyn Dodgers had already become part of baseball history, thanks to players such as Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, and Roy Campanella. Bums narrates the colorful history of this beloved team with recollections from the players, the writers who covered them, and fans.

480 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1984

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About the author

Peter Golenbock

61 books20 followers
Golenbock grew up in Stamford, Connecticut, and in 1963 graduated St. Luke's School in New Canaan, Connecticut. His heroes were Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford. One day in the local library he discovered the book, The New York Yankees: An Informal History by Frank Graham ( G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1943) and it made a strong impression on him.''

Golenbock graduated from Dartmouth College in 1967 and the New York University School of Law in 1970.

He was a radio sports talk show host in 1980 on station WOR in New York City. He was the color broadcaster for the St. Petersburg Pelicans of the Senior Professional Baseball League in 1989-90 and has been a frequent guest on many of the top television and radio talk shows including "Biography on A&E," the "Fifty Greatest Athletes and the Dynasties on ESPN," "Good Morning America," "Larry King Live," "ESPN Classic," and the YES network.

Golenbock lives in St. Petersburg, Florida with his two basset hounds, Doris and Fred.

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5 stars
182 (47%)
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143 (37%)
3 stars
47 (12%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 32 reviews
Profile Image for noisy penguin.
287 reviews45 followers
May 25, 2007
This book was awesome for a Dodger loving baseball history nut like myself. Not just about the team itself, but about Brooklyn, the fans, the regulars that roamed the stands at home games...Golenbock paints a really clear picture. I can imagine sitting in the stands and hearing Hilda Chester roaming the stands, beating on her frying pan with her ladle.
Profile Image for Larry.
20 reviews
January 14, 2012
Bums takes you back to a time when baseball was as much a part of your life as church and community. Baseball was the fans and the players. For the fans it was a game that was a very real part of you. Players played the game for the love of the game and won as a team not as individuals. When owners like O’Malley took it away and made it a business the fans lost something special; a feeling that can’t be duplicated in any other sport. Players lost too. Some of the real colorful players were lost to the owners imposed conformity.

I highly recommend this book. Take the time to just sit and enjoy reading it while you visit Brooklyn in the early days. When you arrived first thing in the morning in front of the local store to await the morning newspaper so you would be first to hear how the Dodgers did. Play stickball in the streets pretending to be your favorite player, and gathering up bottles to get enough money to get into Ebbets Field. You can never go back, but through this wonderfully written book we can all go for a visit.
April 1, 2010
This was a nice history of the Dodgers before they went to LA. Definitely some language, but a lot of neat history about Jackie Robinson, Carl Furillo, Pee Wee Reese, and all the rest of the players. I loved how much people lived for baseball back then. I think almost everyone in Brooklyn was heartbroken when Walter O'Malley moved them to LA. This book just reminded me of simpler times. Great read.
Profile Image for Stephen.
131 reviews9 followers
October 10, 2009
Bring this book back into print! This is one of the best baseball books I've ever read - over 600+ pages of oral history showing what a whacked out sport baseball used to be. The crazies, drunks, kooks and goofs straight from the horses' mouths.
Profile Image for Bill Christman.
127 reviews1 follower
March 3, 2018
It is tough for me to feel neutral about the Brooklyn Dodgers. I have a love/hate relationship with them and their history but it is probably similar to the Red Sox lore. The team itself is something I respect and can into, but those that surround the team, their extremely literary fans who overly romantisize the team can be grating. In the Oral History of the Brooklyn Dodgers that Peter Golenbock has written here it is the players I enjoy listening too. It is the fans and Golenboch himself who drive me a insane with their hero worship and romance with a bygone era and team.

A first problem I have with the book is one that probably had no reveal of earlier times. In the oral history one can only go back so far and some great stories of bad teams that the Dodgers had are lost. I know they once had three runners end up on third base, but these bad teams Golenboch moves quickly past. The focus begins on the great team that begins to arise with their National League pennant in 1941. The team’s common link is shortstop Pee Wee Reese. The focus is on this era, when the Dodgers were a top team in the National League, and one of the best in baseball.

The era, mainly after the Second World War, were teams that Branch Rickey built. This team had all-star caliber players at every position except left field. This team was an excellent hitting ball club and their consistent failure in the World Series was due to the Yankees supremacy in pitching. It became a yearly tragedy for Brooklyn.

The other factor is this group of ball players were a close team and probably came about due to the intergration of the game with Jackie Robinson’s debut in 1947. The Robinson story is a great story and Golenboch follows it accordingly, as everyone else who covers the team during this era, and as many whop have written about it since. It is still a great and interesting story, but it is repeated every year and there is nothing new here. The other players on the Dodgers have been interviewed on this countless times. What is interesting is the profile of Jackie Robinson that Golenboch brings to light is one of a ballplayer who needed constant praise, and perhaps tried to control more of the team than he was due. It was nice that he wasn’t deified in this book, which I like because it made him more human, and that makes me respect his accomplishments more.

The other familiar story is that of Branch Ricky v Walter O’Malley for control of the Dodgers. Both men were born salesman who were touched by the blarney stone. Both were cheap, a bit greedy and it is perhaps because of these similiarites that caused them to hate each other so. Rickey seemed perfectly willing to make money from the market he was in and to maximize its potential. Sell unneeded good players for profit along with having a good team made any club profitable in Rickey’s eyes. O’Malley, to use a Dodger fan belief, perhaps possessed more imaginative greedy schemes. The hatred of O’Malley for taking the club to Los Angeles, as expressed by the Dodger fans in the book, shows the emotional attachment that many had to the club. It is also an expression of the romantic notions they had for what the club meant to Brooklyn. The hatred spewed at O’Malley is aimed at the man who took away the symbol of the community that was separate from New York.

As much as I think it would have been cool if the Dodger stayed, I do not fault O’Malley. I do find fault with all the fans that were glad to hear that O’Malley was dead. That overblown emotion towards O’Malley is stupid because how many others would have decided to do the same thing when negotiations were going nowhere with the city of New York. O’Malley gave everyone plenty of warning, no one listened. Then when he leaves, the politicians, who blew it in the first place, spin the hate onto O’Malley because he actually did something. In New York the market was divided by three, when the Giants and Dodgers moved they were staking a claim to an entire new city and the baseball market out in California. In a way they were helping baseball by spreading out the wealth. It was no different than the Braves giving Boston to the Red sox and taking Milwaukee or the Browns giving St. Louis to the Cardinals and staking out Baltimore. We do not hear about those teams leaving, and they left in the years preceding the Dodgers move to LA, but we hear about the New York teams because as a media capital, a literary center, the teams leaving was able to be better expressed as the end of a world. They were also consistently winning teams which the Braves or Browns were not.

The world changed and the Dodgers were just a very good baseball team that left, but the world did move on. And the past went into the illusion of a better, purer, much more romantic time.
Profile Image for Stan.
401 reviews5 followers
January 1, 2019
For die-hard baseball fans, for older Brooklynites, and for sports buffs, this is a terrific read. Aside from the full story of the Brooklyn Dodgers, it really elicits the feeling of Brooklyn (the place) and Brooklynites in the 40's and 50's. Those Brooklynites were Italian, Irish, Jewish, Black, Puerto Rican and a few others, and though we knew who was what, it wasn't a judgment, it was just a characteristic, like blue eyes or curly hair. Up to the age of 12, when I moved from Brooklyn, I had never heard a racial epithet.
In this book, specifically, nobody really comes out a "hero", but you have to stand in awe of the courage and determination of the players, with Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese in the forefront. The portraits of some of the real characters, like Branch Rickey, Lee McPhail, Leo Durocher and Charles Dressen are treasures. Sometimes in spite of themselves, they advanced baseball, and, whatever RIckey's motives, erasing the color line in baseball was an event that transcended sport and was a way for the average person to understand the importance of civil rights for all.
The author doesn't take any political positions: he just assembles the oral histories he collected and weaves them into the book, but this is a case where the evidence speaks for itself.
It wasn't until the mid-50's that I became conscious of who was who, but the names were always there in my mind: Hodges, Robinson, Reese, Gilliam, Amoros, Snider, Furillo, Campanella (for pure playing ability, perhaps the greatest Dodger of all times), Erskine, Podres, Labine, Newcombe etc etc etc. It made me think, if I could, "hey, let's play two!!!!"
Profile Image for Dave.
131 reviews
December 1, 2021
This book is almost 40 years old, and it is a LONG read. Since I read it in snippets, it took me quite a while to finish it.

Times were quite different in 1981, when Mr. Golenbock started writing this, and if you read this in the context of 2021, you may be in for a shock. The attitudes of the people he quotes are what you might expect of someone who would presently be 90-100 years old. Racial and ethnic stereotypes abound, but the book is centered on the city of Brooklyn, and the sport of baseball, pre-1958. Things were very different back then.

The one thing I took from this book (and as a baseball history buff, I was aware of) was how much of a horrible, scheming person team president Walter O’Malley was in the 1950s. The quote below from the book was one I’ve heard for years, and perfectly encapsulates Brooklyn’s disdain for him:

“JACK NEWFIELD: “Once Pete Hamill and I were having dinner, and we began to joke about collaborating on an article called, ‘The Ten Worst Human Beings Who Ever lived.’ And I said to Pete, ‘Let’s try an experiment. You write on your napkin the names of the three worst human beings who ever lived, and I will write the three worst, and we’ll compare. “Each of us wrote down the same three names and in the same order: Hitler, Stalin, Walter O’Malley.””

As for the book, it is long on minutiae and extended quotes from fans and players alike, and I found numerous typographical errors. The research needed for a book of this magnitude was extensive, and it shows. Die-hard fans of baseball history would enjoy this book,even though it drags at times.
Profile Image for Reid Mccormick.
375 reviews4 followers
July 26, 2018
What’s the difference between sporting events and reality television? Nothing. Both add nothing to society, but I enjoy baseball nonetheless.

I’m a big Dodger fan. That is probably one of the first things you would know about me if you met me. I love going to Dodger Stadium, purchasing an overpriced hot dog, and watching twenty five grown men wearing crisp white uniforms with blue hats compete playing a sport that is meant for kids.

In addition to watching games, I love the history of the Dodgers. From their days in Brooklyn to the Guggenheim Era.

Bums is an extensive work on the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers. You get wonderful stories from everyone: players, coaches, wives, batboys, owners, etc. It is a quite impressive work on the storied Brooklyn Dodgers.

The book is, however, a little bit too long in my opinion. My frustration with oral histories is the lack of editing. I do not want to hear five sides to the same story, I want someone to edit these narratives and find me a polished story.

I think you will enjoy this book if you love baseball history. If you lean more to a casual fan, then I think this book is a pass.
404 reviews
December 12, 2020
A very enjoyable look back at a team, a city, and a very different way of life. I've been a Giants fan since 1958 when they came west. However, my earliest baseball memories were watching Dodgers and Yankee games on our old black and white with Dizzy Dean and Buddy Blattner. Now I HATE the LA Dodgers but I have good memories of the BROOKLYN Dodgers and that's why I chose to read this one. Wouldn't waste a dime on anything about LA Dodgers!
Lots of great stories. Learned a lot, especially about what a BASTARD Walter O'Malley not just to the fans of the Dodgers but the ways he treated the players, the support staff, everybody who had the temerity to try to earn some money by doing their jobs for him. Buzzy Bavasi and Walter Alston were also targets of the players' animosity for a variety of reasons.
My only complaint is that since the book is an oral history some of the stories are repeated several different times-all with slightly different viewpoints but nonetheless still the same story. A little judicial editing could have helped.
Profile Image for Steve Leshin.
Author 7 books6 followers
January 31, 2021
Golenbock, who also penned a book about the New York Yankees and their dynasty, gathered a great cast of former Brooklyn Dodger players, coaches, and fans who followed "da bums" especially during the period when the team began integrating with Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and others that complemented Pee wee Reese, Duke Snider and Gil Hodges. The rise of Sandy Koufax as a young wild thrower of fast balls who learned to pitch after the Dodgers left Brooklyn, is also told through interviews with coaches and players. Additionally there is a segment on Larry King, who passed recently, who was also a fan. A fun read for any baseball fan.
Profile Image for Don Heiman.
819 reviews3 followers
October 15, 2020
“Bums: Oral History of the Brooklyn Dodgers” by Peter Golenbock was published by G.P. Putman’s Sons in 1984. In 2001 Audio Books released the audio narration by Todd Raymond. I enjoyed listening to the audio book during my daily walks and I used the print copy for notes and references. Golenbock’s book uses narratives from many Dodger’s players, coaches, baseball executives, journalists, and fans. His book covers the period from 1902 to 1957. The story lines are fascinating and his candor is tailored to baseball junkies. Reading and listening to his book is a wonderful experience. (L/P)
Profile Image for Mike Walters.
61 reviews3 followers
January 16, 2018
As a lifelong fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and baseball in general, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. This is the kind of insight and information I am looking for when I read a history book. Unfortunately, many historical sports books don't deliver on this. Bums: An Oral History of the Brooklyn Dodgers is NOT one of those books.
Profile Image for Kevin.
1 review2 followers
March 26, 2019
There are some hilarious stories in this oral history. It has everything. But as the book reached its conclusion and the bums won the World Series, finally vanquishing those rotten Yankees, I cried; and as O'Malley moved them to California and the fans described the effect on the neighborhood as well as their own lives, I cried again. The tales and the characters in this book... wow.
Profile Image for Wes Bartlett.
179 reviews4 followers
May 9, 2017
This book was very interesting and brought back many memories of my years growing up when I used to listen to and watch Dodger games. I remembered many of the players mentioned in the book. I think I like the images of the players I had growing up as opposed to the images the author presented.
Profile Image for James Biser.
2,916 reviews16 followers
August 20, 2020
This is an excellent history of the early Brooklyn Dodgers. The stories of the neighborhood team are fantastic, and the strange stories of how things truly got started are amazing. The stories of Jackie Robinson are awe-inspiring. He is a true American hero.
Profile Image for Robert A.
225 reviews
August 22, 2022
It was a bit long but I enjoyed the behind the scenes look about the personalities and people of the “Bums”. Every year so close, but not close enough to win it all.

But they and the people were gritty and loyal

Although, I’ve never been a big fan of Leo the lip
9 reviews
November 6, 2018
I thought the book was really good. I liked reading about how the club got started and how it moved and all the different baseball players that played for the Dodgers.
Profile Image for Susan.
420 reviews5 followers
January 3, 2019
Closer to 3.75. The Brooklyn Dodgers is a subject that has been beaten to death but this gives one a fresh perspective (even if you've already read Boys Of Summer) to it.
Profile Image for Wayne Hastings.
49 reviews7 followers
September 20, 2019
An excellent book covering the Brooklyn history of my favorite sports team. The many personal interviews make the book seem more like a personal history than narrated.
15 reviews
April 25, 2020
Now I understand why my father never enjoyed major league baseball when I was a kid. His heart was ripped it when O'Malley moved the Dodgers to Los Angeles.
40 reviews
June 3, 2021
Great book about a storied franchise & all the variety of characters that were a part of the history of the Dodgers !
Profile Image for Drtaxsacto.
539 reviews44 followers
October 15, 2015
I became hooked on the Bums in the early 1950s. If you were good in grade school when I was there the teacher would allow you to listen to the World Series. In 1952,53,55 and 56 the Dodgers were in the Series. I learned a little about them then - they were the first team in a world series to have a grand slam scored against them and to have a triple play done against them(both well before I started to know them). But in those first years that I was listening they had a series of mishaps until 1955. Then on October 4, they beat the Yankees at Yankee stadium in the seventh game. They won again in 1959 after they had moved to the left coast.

I had a brother who was a Braves fan so even some of the years after that when the Dodgers were a bit old - I could tolerate it. When they moved the team to LA, I listened to Vin Scully broadcast games on a crystal radio.

This book is a series of extended interviews with a good range of players and fans for the time the team was in Brooklyn. Goldenbock did a brilliant job in telling their story both from the perspective of the team and the neighborhood. He tells the story of Sandy Amoros amazing catch in the sixth inning of 1955 (after replacing Junior Gilliam who had moved over in the outfield); of Hildy Chester (the loud mouthed fan who became a Dodger fixture and a host of players I had forgotten about. He spends too little time on Red Barber, who coined a plethora of baseball phrases. To hear Barber broadcast a game was to hear understatement. Scully has many of the same qualities but not the literary and country references. He underplays the Giant's signal stealing trick but he makes up with that fault with tons of other stories that give you a good idea about how baseball actually works.

He keeps coming back to Jackie Robinson - both because he was such a compelling figure both on and off the field but also because he got the support of most all of his team-mates. The PeeWee Reese story told in 42 - actually did happen. He retells the story of Ben Chapman - actually Robinson was a bit more gracious with the jerk than the movie portrays. But the picture of Robinson is of a compelling player, regardless of his race. He spends a bit of time on Dan Bankhead who was the second African American to come up with the Dodgers, who did not fare as well as Robinson.

His last couple of chapters come down on Walter O'Malley, who in my humble opinion, created modern baseball. Goldenbock sees O'Malley as a greedy destroyer of a borough of NYC; I think there is another story. But then of course I am a Californian. If you liked the Boys of Summer or or Wait Until Next Year - you will love this.
Profile Image for Tom Gase.
861 reviews5 followers
April 14, 2014
What a great book. It seems as if I had read a dozen books on the Brooklyn Dodgers, but this had a lot of new material. Kind of a journey of a book, it takes you from the building of Ebbets Field but quickly goes into the early 1940s and takes you into the years where the Dodgers, called the Bums, had Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campenella, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Pete Reiser, Eddie Stanky, Junior Gilliam, Carl Furillo, Don Newcombe, Carl Erskine, Ralph Branca, Leo Durocher, Charlie Dressen, Walt Alston, Sandy Amaros and many, many, many more including owners Branch Rickey and Walter O Malley. Book has some of the finest writing I've ever seen and very good reporting. Told by writer Peter Golenbock but uses a ton of help through quotes from the players mentioned above and many many more. Kind of like Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn, but although I love that book, may have liked this one a little more. It seems Golenbock keeps himself out of the story a little more in this one and lets the players do the talking. Other famous people like Larry King and Pete Hammill are quoted often in this book. An absolute must, a requirement for all Dodger fans and a should be a must read for all baseball fans. An instant top 25 book of all time for me, was said to see the story end but I look forward to reading more books by this author.
Profile Image for Gary Grimes.
75 reviews2 followers
January 22, 2014
This book is so much more than a history of the Brooklyn Dodgers it is a book that brings you back to a time of innocence an innocence that has been lost by the transformation of the game of baseball into the business of baseball. Read about the players like Robinson and Erskine, Furillo and Campenella and so many others. If you love baseball you will love this book. It is an oral history told from the point of view of players, fans, managers, coaches, announcers, and management. I now better understand the free agent mentality of players that has corrupted the sport but understand that the likes of owners like O'Malley. A very entertaining read.
Profile Image for Mike.
1,237 reviews18 followers
June 26, 2016
This is a book I've been wanting to read for the past 20 years and which I finally broke down and bought for myself on my last birthday. What an in-depth and singular treat Bums is, filled with earthy, behind the scenes stories! If you are not hooked by page 17 or so, when Leo Durocher is dispensing his 7 pm dating advice to a reporter, then this is probably not the book for you, but if you want an entirely human lens through which to view the deeply loved, deeply missed Dodgers of Brooklyn, then this is most definitely your book. It's riveting reading in a way that also fills the soul and makes you laugh.
Profile Image for Steve Shilstone.
Author 14 books24 followers
February 17, 2013
Takes you there and reveals the ferocious competition and not so pretty underbelly of baseball, presenting real people in their own words.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 32 reviews

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