Tung's Reviews > October 1964

October 1964 by David Halberstam
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Jan 09, 2008

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bookshelves: non-fiction
Read in January, 2007

While the title may lead you to believe that this book focuses on the World Series played in 1964 between the St. Louis Cardinals and the NY Yankees, as all Halberstam books go, it focuses on a much larger span of time, and on much larger issues. The Yankees of 1964 were a fading dynasty – its best players were old (see: Mantle, Micky), and its farm system was empty. The Cardinals of 1964 were coming into themselves as a team, much having to do with their successful integration of a number of black players (Bob Gibson, Curt Flood, Lou Brock). Halberstam uses this series to examine the surge of black players into the Major Leagues, and how race played into the success or failure of teams. I had several problems with the book, however. First, out of a 370-page book, the first 300 pages are all backdrop. Halberstam spends each chapter focusing on one player and giving the player’s whole history up to 1964. While I understand that the actual World Series between the two teams is not the focus of the book, I still feel like the actual series was shortchanged. You have this buildup until the big event, but then each game in the series is given only like 4 or 5 pages. Secondly, those 300 pages of player history and background do not weave together well; it felt disjointed at times, especially in areas where Halberstam would repeat something stated earlier – as if he’d written each chapter as a stand-alone chapter and if thoughts overlapped and repeated themselves, he didn’t care. Lastly, I understand that Halberstam is using baseball’s struggle with racism to mirror the larger society’s same struggle. But he doesn’t draw out those parallels enough. It was almost too focused on baseball. A good read, but flawed as far as Halberstam books go.
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