Saturday, October 22, 2022

Very Brief Book Review - The Boys of Summer


Roger Kahn's classic 1972 book

I read "The Boys of Summer" many years ago but recently found it on the shelf and had the urge to give it another look.  You see, I have an exam that I must study for and under these circumstances, other aspects of life suddenly gain a vibrancy that they otherwise don't generally have.  Even the most obscure items, ideas, or experiences take on an a heightened air of importance!

There are endless numbers of great baseball books out there. A great place to start that covers the last several decades is the annual Casey Award winner, found at the Spitball Magazine website.  You can browse it to see the last 37 winners but also quite a few nominees from each year -

Spitball Magazine itself is also worth a look - it's a literary baseball magazine that includes anything from poetry to interviews to short stories.  A good starter is the old compilation "The Best of Spitball".  Now, on to the main extremely short synopsis of "The Boys of Summer"...I'm tired so I can already tell I'll be mailing this part in and it'll be short!

The book mainly covers four distinct stories.  It first delves into Kahn's childhood in Brooklyn, including his relationship with his parents, a titillating encounter with his nanny, and some detail about the city and baseball at that time.

As he gets older, he starts to get into journalism and I found the parts of the book that discussed the inner workings of the newspaper and sports writing business to be very illuminating - few of us even get a physical newspaper anymore and folks who write about sports are in a completely different world that the old-timers were.  We should start a JITH newspaper that covers the Jays but issue it ONLY in physical form!

As things move along Kahn finally gets assigned to the Dodgers beat and covers the team for a couple of seasons.  There is some coverage of the games, particularly playoffs, but a lot of the action takes place in the locker room or elsewhere, as this was back in the day where the reporters had good access to the club and players, travelled directly with them, and often drank and played cards with them on a regular basis.  Some effort is also put into detailing the relationships Kahn and the players had with the front office (i.e. the owners).

Likely my favourite part of the book is when Kahn decides to visit the main players in 1970 to catch up on what everyone is doing. Unlike today, the players were poorly paid so most retired without vast wealth and ended up working as executives, business owners, or pitchmen.  Things ended up well for many but there also seemed to be a lot of regrets and even tragedy.

As promised, I am cutting this short!  I refuse to proofread it so you'll have to live with any mistakes.  The Boys of Summer is viewed as one of the all-time classic baseball books.  I would suggest that there are now many newer books that have surpassed it but it's an entertaining read and can be found cheaply at second hand shops.  Good Day!