Monday, April 23, 2007

So It Goes

In a period of less than 2 weeks, two of my all-time favorite writers have died. The first being Kurt Vonnegut, who's most famously remembered for Slaughterhouse Five. And now tonight, more shockingly, David Halberstam has died in a car crash at the age of 73.

Nobody wrote sports books like Halberstam. His stuff was so in-depth and thought provoking that many of his books took on the feel of sweeping novels. Understand, Halberstam wrote many non-sports related books (perhaps the most famous being The Best and the Brightest. Here are some of Halberstam's better works you should go to the links at Amazon (highlighted below) and buy right away:
  1. October 1964: My favorite sports book of his, chronicling in-depth both the 1964 St. Louis Cardinals and 1964 New York Yankees. Great look at Mickey Mantle as his career was winding down (including a great story about the Mick up to his old tricks on a bus trip), and how Bob Gibson, Curt Flood and others helped integrate the Cardinals clubhouse (Tim McCarver telling Gibson that a guy was "colored", only to have Gibson stare his catcher down and say, "Really? What COLOR is he?"). And of course, it all starts with the Cubs trading Lou Brock to their rival Red Birds. So many subplots involved in the season (including the Phillies historic collapse, which I still can't believe happened). And the World Series itself was one of the greatest ever played. Go out and get it immediately.
  2. Playing For Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made: The best piece of work ever done on MJ, even though he himself had very little to do with it. But Halberstam does get what he needs from the likes of Dean Smith (who wouldn't let Jordan appear on cover of Sports Illustrated as a Freshman because "he hadn't earned it"), Roy Williams, and Phil Jackson. We learn why Jordan was the fierce competitor he was at everything he did, how he learned to become a businessman through his agent and Nike, and really why he took those 18 months off to play Minor League Baseball. My favorite line: After the Bulls win their first of 3 straight titles, Jordan, tired of hearing all the Phoenix writers writing about "Thunder" Dan Majerle, turns to be media table and screams, "Thunder Dan Majerle? My Fucking Ass!"
  3. The Teammates: A Portrait of Friendship: As Ted Williams fights with death, Halberstam profiles four old friends from the 1940's Red Sox teams: Ted Williams, Dominic DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky and Bobby Doerr. The four remained friends for "over 60 years" as Williams says, and this fast read takes us on Pesky, Doerr and DiaMaggio's final ever visit with Teddy Ballgame. Before his head became frozen.
  4. Summer of '49: Yes, aside from October, 1964, Halberstam was like a lot of writers in that he used the Red SAWKS as his subject often. But this was a season that had to be documented in order to believe. Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams battling out a regular season that meant everything. Again, it's Halberstam's rich attention to detail that brings everything to life.
  5. Changing NBA Game, Greatness Passes Ewing: The article which made Mackenzie put a pox on Halberstam, and call today with joy of Halberstam's passing (Seriously, he called during the Yankee game and said that he and Patrick Ewing were going to have a beer together). Even though Mac loved the Jordan book as much as anyone, this article which Mac took a LITTLE too personal because it lambasted the Big Fella, made Halberstam persona non grata in Mackenzie's world.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For another perspective on Halbersham: