Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Book of Baseball, A Book of Life

The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn is a book about a man’s passion for his favorite baseball team and his will to never allow them to fade into obscurity. The story is split into two halves. The first leads us through the streets of Brooklyn as we watch the baseball loving Kahn grow from a boy trying to sneak into the Polo Grounds, to a well respected journalist. Kahn gradually works his way into his dream job as a beat writer for The New York Herald Tribune , tasked with following his beloved Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1940s and 50s. He provides great insight into a time when the game of baseball was king and his first hand experiences with the team allow us to see how large these players stood in the public eye.

Next he takes us around the country in his search to find his Brooklyn Dodgers as they fade into the baseball landscape. It’s Kahn’s version of “where are they now” which provides the reader great anticipation of who he will find in the next chapter. It is almost saddening at first to find these once great warriors of the diamond in a retired lifestyle. One player is a quadriplegic, another cares for his mentally disabled son, a third tends bar at a VFW in the middle of nowhere. Yet in the end, these accounts remind us that these players are simply human.

Kahn proves to us that the game is simply a game. The greatest thing about this novel is that it is not so much about the baseball, but about how a game can seamlessly weave itself into the fabric of our being. Through Kahn’s accounts we gain a greater sense of nostalgia, family and life itself. The Boys of Summer stands alongside The Sweet Science by A.J. Liebling and Ball Four by Jim Bouton as one of the greatest sports books of all time.

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