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What a wonderful book, beautifully written, detailed, and informative novel about an era in America where the game of baseball was America’s National Pastime. The book centers around the 1949 baseball season that eventually lead to a one game playoff between the NY Yankees and the Boston Red Sox for the American League Pennant. The rivalry between both teams was legendary for way over eighty years.

Mr. Halberstam takes us through the entire season, with background from previous seasons and commentary on the future of the game after the 49 season. He gives us insights into many of the most famous baseball icons of all time: Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Allie Reynolds, Tommy Henrich, Ted Williams, Dom DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky, and Bobby Doerr.

He gives us an unbiased look at the management and owners of each team, how television changed the fans’ perspectives, and how the switch from traveling by train to airplanes changed the comradeship between players that existed on the long train rides compared to the one hour flight from one destination to another. He talks about the abrupt transformations that announcers had to go through to adapt from the medium of radio to TV.

In one telling and sad story, he tells how both the Yankees and Red Sox had been scouting this amazing, young talented black player by the name of Willie Mays. And even though, they had no doubt that one day he would be great they both passed on him because he was black and they didn’t think their fans were ready to accept a black player.

Both the Yankees and Red Sox were among the last teams to recruit black players, and many other American league teams weren’t that willing either. This would lead to the disparity between the National League and the American League in the 60’s and 70’s and nearly two decades of National League dominance. Mays, Jackie Robinson, Gibson, Hank Aaron to name just a few.

I highly recommend this book, especially for baseball fans and readers interested in how one sport was for the longest time a reflection of American society.

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