51 of 56 people found the following review helpful
In the ESPN.com vernacular of the present day, "October 1964" has recently been debunked (but lovingly) by columnist/author Rob Neyer. While the two giants who square off in David Halberstam's tale of an evolving America in 1964 are the suffocating white Establishment (the Yankees) and the young minority upstarts (the Cardinals), Neyer's contention is that this watershed really occurred one year earlier. That was, after all, the year the Yankees were memorably swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.
However, Halberstam's take on the demise of the Establishment Yankees is the more accurate one. The '63 World Series was won single-handedly by a couple of white guys, Koufax and Drysdale. Yes, the Dodgers did have five black regulars in the starting lineup, but apart from the second inning of the opening game, they just didn't hit, or make history the way Koufax did.
The 1964 World Series was won by the heroics of men that the Yankees didn't understand, by men who couldn't play for the Yankees, by virtue of who they were. The Yankees could accept being struck out 15 times by Sandy Koufax, but when they struck out 13 times against Bob Gibson -- on whom their sole scouting report was woefully inaccurate -- it was an outrage. Gibson wasn't supposed to have courage, or determination! Lou Brock wasn't supposed to get more hits in the Series than Mickey Mantle!
And yet, the '64 Yankees didn't go quietly in the Series, and in fact they scored more runs than St. Louis. Mantle had an incredible seven games. The Yanks had more walks and homers than the Cardinals, and their pitching (behind white youngers Jim Bouton and Mel Stottlemyre) basically matched St. Louis out for out. At least on paper. The Series turning point came when the Yanks' lone black pitcher, Al Downing, gave up a grand slam homer to a Southern good-ol'-boy, Ken Boyer.
This is why "October 1964" is a great book. It's no mystery as to who the heroes are -- the book frontpiece is a team photograph, and that team isn't the Yankees. However, the bad guys gave it a mighty effort. 40 years later, it's hard to remember how much the Yankees represented a world that simply had to end. As someone born well after '64, I didn't even know at first that spring training in Florida was segregated that late. The struggles of Gibson and Brock and Flood and Bill White were relatively new stories when Halberstam first told them. Since Halberstam's skill is in creating whole lives in three or four pages, these mini-biographies are the heart of the book, and not the more desultory game descriptions that reduce the World Series to a sequence of monochrome postcards.
The best anecdote in the book has little to do with the World Series. Yankee pitcher Ralph Terry, then a rookie, brashly introduces himself to a few old men watching a baseball game. "Well, Ralph," one of the men says. "my name is Cy Young. And these fellas over here next to me are Zack Wheat and Ty Cobb."
If you subscribe to the theory of baseball as social history, "October 1964" is a book you'd do well to have on your shelf, and one worth reading every few years.
33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
I recently reread David Halberstam's "October 1964," about the World Series between the New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals. As other reviewers of this book on Amazon.com have noted, it is social history of a high order. Halberstam uses the World Series of 1964 as a foil to discuss race relations in the decade, both inside baseball and out, for the Yankees represented an approach to society reflective of a status quo that had much more to do with police brutality against civil rights workers in Selma than the Yankees would care to admit. Meantime, the Cardinals expressed much more of the changing climate in America.
As Halberstam points out, it looked as if all the ingredients of a great team were coming together for the Cardinals in the early 1960s. The team had all of the attributes of its successful teams of the past, excellent pitching, great defense, and speed. But there was something more that was critical to the Cardinals success in 1964, as Halberstam emphasizes, how the team bridged the racial divide in the United States to create a cohesive unit. Everyone who visited the Cardinals locker room recognized that something was different from other teams. The African American, White, and Latino players seemed to have an easier relationship than elsewhere. No question, many of the premier players for the Cardinals were African Americans in 1964--Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Curt Flood, and Bill White--and they certainly helped set the tenor of the clubhouse. But southerners like Ken Boyer and Tim McCarver were also committed to the successful integration of American life and brought that perspective to the team as well. This relative racial harmony was significant for the Cardinals and stood in striking contrast to the problems present with the Yankees and other major league teams.
One anecdote about the Cardinals offered in "October 1964" elucidates this issue. Curt Flood recounted a story in "October 1964" of going to Cardinals spring training camp in Florida in the latter 1950s and finding himself sent to an African American boarding house in another town, instead of staying in the same hotel where his white teammates were housed. A sensitive and thoughtful man, Flood was both hurt and angered by this situation and when the opportunity presented he said something. When the Cardinals owner, August A. Busch Jr., saw him at the training camp and struck up a conversation Flood let slip that the situation of the black players was not the best. Busch was genuinely surprised that Flood and the other black players were not staying at the main hotel with the "rest of the guys" and promised to do something about it. He went out and purchased a hotel in St. Petersburg where all the Cardinals could stay together with their families during spring training.
In later years, players from other teams recalled visiting that hotel to see members of the Cards and finding cookouts taking place with entire families, black and white, together. The fact that they lived together for several weeks during spring training may have broken down the barriers of prejudice more than any other action the Cardinals could have taken. The team was, without question, more successful in integrating its players than many other major league clubs. This contributed to the success of the team on the field and the attraction of the team off it.
Halberstam emphasizes that the match between the Cardinals and Yankees in 1964 had symbolic value far beyond the match-up on the field. The Cardinals were a well-integrated team with excellent African American players. The Yankees had failed to integrate until the mid-1950s and then only modestly so. Indeed, their first African American player was St. Louis native Elston Howard and he only came up to the Yankees in 1955. A superb player, the Yankees ballyhooed Howard's breaking of the color line on the team by saying that he was a true "gentleman," and thereby appropriate to wear Yankee pinstripes. One wit observed that this was so much nonsense, after all since when did baseball players have to be "gentlemen?" The Yanks in 1964 were also a franchise on the verge of collapse, with aging superstars and not much down on the farm to call up to the majors. Their best player, Mickey Mantle, was nearing the end of his Hall of Fame career, and his replacement in the outfield would be Bobby Mercer, a decent journeyman player but not someone who would carry on the tradition of Ruth-DiMaggio-Mantle.
The Cardinals victory in the World Series in 1964 symbolized for Halberstam the death of the old manner of baseball, and thereafter every championship team would have African American stars as a critical element to success. It is an excellent discussion of the subject, well-written and thought-provoking.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2004
"OCTOBER 1964" by David Halberstam (1995)
Sometimes the best sports books are not really sports books, as is the case with David Halberstam's brilliant "October 1964", which tells the story of a changing America through the microcosm of two very different baseball teams.
Halberstam, one of the great living American writers, concentrates on events that occurred during tumultuous times. Halberstam examines the loser of the 1964 World Series, the New York Yankees, who represent the old America, and the winners, the St. Louis Cardinals, who represent the new.
The Yankees were the Republican Party, conservative, white, country club elite, old money, Wall Street, the status quo, featuring Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Whitey Ford. Their style of play was to not take chances, and they only had a couple black players.
The Cardinals mirrored Berkeley rabble rousers, and they played "National League baseball"--aggressive, stealing bases, stretching singles into doubles. Bob Gibson-black, college-educated, a man's man with something to prove, was their undisputed leader. Curt Flood was another thoughtful black athlete who harbored quiet resentment over his treatment by rednecks in Southern minor league towns. Tim McCarver came from a well-to-do white family in Memphis that employed black servants, his only frame of reference, until Gibson asked to take a sip from his coke. McCarver hesitatingly handed Gibby the can, Gibby took a big old honkin' Samuel L. Jackson sip, flashed the kid a giant smile, and handed the can back. McCarver's lesson: Sharing with black's is just like sharing with whites.
Halberstam details the metaphor of these two clubs, in which the Yankees would fall from their lofty perch, only to rise once they changed their ways in accordance with the world around them, mirroring the Reagan Revolution. The Cardinals would win three pennants in the `60s, Gibson ascending to Hall of Fame status, while McCarver grew up to be the modicum of tolerance. Flood became the symbol of the union movement with a fall-on-his-sword lawsuit challenging the reserve clause, opening the door to freedom and riches for numerous players.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 7, 1997
It is rare indeed when a reader comes across a book that delivers more than what
is expected. David Halberstam's October 1964 is a very fine example of this. The story
that Halberstam weaves is, on the surface, a tale of men playing professional baseball in
the mid sixties. The drama that takes place throughout the summer of 1964, culminating
with that year's fall classic in October is, in itself, great reading for any baseball fan. The
legends of Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Mickey Mantle, and Roger Maris seem to grow
before the readers very eyes. But this is much more than a story of men playing baseball.
The year 1964 was a volatile time in the history of our country, and the ballplayers
playing for the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinal that year reflected much of the
country's turmoil. Lou Brock and Curt Flood's incredible drive and determination to show
white America that they were badly mistaken about the ability of black ballplayers, and
Bob Gibson's incredible anger about what was occurring, are excellent examples of the
changing race relations evident in the United States at this time. The New York Yankees
slow process of integrating the organization illustrates that progress in this endevor was
plodding at best. However, race relations were not the only changing forces at work in
baseball at this time.
The modern media was just beginning to emerge during the early 1960's and
Halberstam's treatment of how this new media clashed with the midwestern populist views
of Roger Maris and was embraced(at times) by the gregarious Mickey Mantle is
fascinating. Most of the players, if not all, during this time period did not yet understand
that how they performed on the field was now only part of the story. Again, the study of
Maris during his quest for 61 homers in 1961 is a great example of the coming storm of the
celebrity driven media.
Being a history and education major in college myself, I find one of the best
examples that the book has to offer of changing America was the clashing ideologies of the
newer players and the older players and managers. Players such as Ray Sadecki, Phil
Linz, and Joe Pepitone, were indeed alien to the old guard. Even an item such as Joe
Pepitone's bringing a hairdryer in to the clubhouse seemed stunning to the older players.
It was a changing world, and as has been quoted in the past, baseball reflected America.
In summation, Halberstam's book is a history book, a psychology book, a
sociology book, and, of course, a baseball book. For people who actually remember what
was going on in 1964 it is especially poignant, baseball fan or not. But for myself I now
have a better understanding of why, as a boy, I once gazed upon the ball cards of Mantle
and Boyer and Brock and Ford and held them in awe. They were men who were larger
than life at a time when only the tough survived. After reading Halberstam's account of a
long ago October my feeling of awe, admiration, and hero worship have increased tenfold
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2006
I enjoyed this book but not as much as Halberstam's great "Summer of '49." As that book did with the Yankees and Red Sox, "October 1964" takes you through the Yankees' and Cardinals' respective seasons, with regular focuses on individual players, scouts, managers and owners. The title, then, is a bit misleading, as you don't get to October and the World Series until near the end of the book. That's fine, except that whereas "Summer of '49" was about two teams fighting each other all season long for the AL pennant, "October 1964" follows two teams in two different leagues, who didn't face each other until the Series. Halberstam's evident intent is to present the two teams in contrast: the rigidly conservative, declining Yankees opposed to the young, hustling, racially integrated Cardinals. It almost works, but in the end it's like reading two separate books - a chapter or two about the Cardinals, then back to the Yankees, Cardinals, Yankees, etc., until the end, when they finally take the same playing field. That gives the book a bit of a disjointed feel and robs it of some of the intensity of "Summer of '49." Still, the portraits of the personalities involved are engaging, and the reader gets a good feel for the state of professional baseball circa 1964, making this a must-read for any lover of baseball history.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The book's title - 'October 1964' - is in a way misleading, as it is more about how the teams *got* to the '64 World Series as opposed to the Series itself. In fact, Halberstam doesn't begin his coverage of the Series until page 316, and then it's seven quick chapters (one per game) and a fine epilogue to the completion at page 373.
Regardless, '64' is an outstanding piece of work. Written in Halberstam's inimitable style, the book hops back and forth between the Yankees season and the Cardinals season. For true Yankee and Cardinal fans, the amazingly detailed & finely researched chapters on Mickey Mantle (Chapter 7, get it?) and Bob Gibson are the absolute high points of the many richly detailed portraits that form the core of the book.
On Mantle in 1964: "That spring training was more an ordeal than ever for Mantle. He was only 32, a relatively young age for outfielders, but his body was an old 32. Convinced by his family history that Mantle men died before they were 40, he had never taken care of himself. He had played hard and caroused hard during the season, and he had both caroused and loafed when each season was finished, letting his body slip out of condition by not doing even minimal exercise."
On Gibson in 1964: "Later, in the seasons that followed, as he watched Gibson intimidate opposing hitters, Tom Tresh thought the Yankees had been relatively lucky in this series in the sense that they were new to Gibson. They were battling only his skills, no small thing in itself, instead of having to battle both that and his reputation, as teams would have to in the future. For after this World Series he would not be just Bob Gibson, he would be the great Bob Gibson, and his myth would loom bigger, and because of that, in the minds of hitters, his fastball would be faster, the slider would break sharper and wider, and the word about how he shaved hitters with a fastball would be more ominous."
Great stuff or what? And plenty more where that comes from. The portrait of Gibson alone - all of it incredibly strirring material about his hard work and perserverance in making it to the Cardinals - stretches to 24 pages.
This book is an absolute must-read for any true fan of baseball and its rich history.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
My cousin, Barb, recommended this book to me and this fall seemed like the right time to read it. The Yankees and the Cardinals seemed on the way to a World Series rematch and newspaper accounts of the 40th anniversary of the 1964 Series made a return to the days of yesteryear seem attractive. The Yankees missed the rematch but "October 1964" did not disappoint. This review is in the nature of a favor passed on.
This book can best be described as character studies of two baseball organizations. The `64 Yankees are portrayed as the last gasp of a dying dynasty, a dinosaur that had not adapted the changing baseball world. As black players deepened the talent pool, the Yankees catered to their middle class fan pass. As the Yankee pinstripes began to mean less than signing bonuses, the output of their once rich farm system became as parsimonious as their management. Patching together aging bodies and strained muscles, the Yankees managed to come from behind to win the pennant, but Whitey Ford's sore arm, Mickey Mantle's aching legs and Tony Kubek's back sapped the energy from the Yankee spirit.
The Cardinals, by contrast, were a collection of veterans and rising stars trying to find the winning combination, while management worked at cross purposes. Spurred by announcer Harry Carey, the impatient Gussie Busch, who knew even less about baseball than he did about failure, began the dismantling of a management on the threshold of victory. Branch Rickey, a fossilized fifth wheel, crowded out general manager Bing Devine shortly after the completion of perhaps the greatest trade in baseball history, that of Ernie Broglio for Lou Brock.
On the field, the collection of southern whites and rising blacks felt their way with trepidation under the gentle guidance of Johnny Keane. As a young fan, I reveled in Cardinal success. As a reader, I learned about my heroes. I knew Ken Boyer as the team leader whose signature graced my glove, but I had forgotten the derision heaped upon him by Harry Carey and the fans. I knew Dick Groat as a steady veteran in the All Star infield. I read that he was a disruption in the club house.
I had forgotten how new Mike Shannon was in 1964. I always liked the way the stadium announcer intoned "Curt Simmons" and the story of how he had pitched so well for the Phillies in 1950 before his induction into the army took him out of the World Series. His 1964 World Series appearance had seemed to be long overdue. This book reminded me about his steady performance which helped get the Cardinals into the Series. I had known Tim McCarver as the enthusiastic catcher. David Halberstam introduced me to the son of a Memphis policeman whose friendship with Bob Gibson was part of the glue which put this winner together.
Bob Gibson was incomparable on the mound, although Halberstam reminds the reader that the Gibson of 1964 was not the dominating machine of later in the decade. Bill White was the power hitting first baseman and Curt Flood the fast defensive star in center field. I remember how Lou Brock caught fire and sparked a moribund team. I had always regarded them as just other stars. I had no idea of all that these black men had gone through in the southern minor leagues and their own uncertainties as to their places in the game.
Although the story of the World Series comprises only about 10% of the book it, along with the stories of the pennant races clarify the memories which had grown hazy with time.
The epilogue is a combination of triumph and tragedy which reminds us that baseball is only a game from which even its gods must move on into a real world which is not always so kind. Yogi Berra would be fired and replaced by Johnny Keane, whose tenure in New York would be unsuccessful. Yogi would manage the Mets before returning to the Yankees. Ken Boyer would be traded and wind down his career with other teams before returning to manage the Cardinals. Roger Maris would escape New York to find happiness as a Cardinal before he and Boyer succumbed to cancer in their early 50s. Mickey Mantle's career and health would decline as a life of abuse took its toll. Curt Flood's career would end with his legal challenge to the reserve clause.
Tim McCarver and Mike Shannon would find places in the broadcast booths. Bobbie Richardson found a home as a college baseball coach while Dal Maxville became general manager of the Cardinals. Bob Gibson would variously coach pitching in the majors and operate a restaurant. Bill White would rise to president of the National League. When his legs gave out, Lou Brock would continue as a public figure in St. Louis. Jim Bouton and Bob Uecker would achieve fame by poking fun at the game they lived for.
Early in the story, Halberstam refers to the unsettled social environment of the 60s. He then subtly weaves the social background into his baseball story.
By now it should be clear that I like this book. My next e-mail will thank Barb for the recommendation.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 21, 2006
I just finished this book today, and it was AWESOME. In my opinion, this book was NOT biased or pro-St. Louis. It simply showed one team that wanted to remain mostly old-school and segregated, and another where youth played a big role and integration was welcomed and thrived. It showed in great detail the lives of all the major players involved in the Series, from the pitchers to the catchers to the managers. It gave a very detailed setting, and made me feel like I was there with the players. A FANTASTIC read for the avid baseball fan. If you want to read the ultimate story of head-to-head all-star competition (Mantle vs. Brock, Maris vs. White), this is it. From Bob Gibson to Lou Brock, Mickey Mantle to Elston Howard, this book covers all the stars of the '64 Yankees & Cardinals teams and chronicles their amazing season. Definitely an A+ on this book!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 1997
America's national pastime, the glorious game of baseball, has lost its lustre in these recent troubled years. But harken back to the 1960s -- when baseball was indisputably the king of sport. ---- Halberstam takes readers back to that time, specifically back to the riveting season of 1964.
Recapture the aura of the "invincible" Yankee dynasty with the likes of Mantle, Maris, and Ford. Thrill to the Cardinal's late season surge fueled by energy from players like Flood, Brock, and Gibson. --- Yes this is a great baseball book, because it goes beyond mere descriptive verse and creates a feel for the unique personalities of the players. It gets even better, though, as Halberstam shows how these two Series-bound teams remarkably reflected the wider social transitions taking place in 1964. It is truly amazing how the clash between the status quo, predominantly white Yankees, and the upstart racially integrated (on and off the field) Cardinals provided a near-perfect mirror for the conflicts of the times. ---- Even for readers knowing the outcome of that Series, Halberstam builds a sense of momentousness which culminates with a thrilling game-by-game description of the fateful match-up. This book is as much about race relations, labor organization, and America toying with new definitions of personal freedom as it is about Gibson's wicked slider and Mantle's crunching homers. If today's baseball has left you feeling a mite disenchanted, here's a lively read to recapture the glory, and understand a distinct year in American history to boot! A home run hit deep, deep into the fabric of our nation!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 1, 2001
As an author with my first novel in its initial release, I am often fascinated with nonfiction works that read as if they are great novels. David Halberstam's OCTOBER 1964 is one such book. I loved this book despite the fact that my taste in baseball teams swings most often to the likes of the Red Sox, the Cubs, and the Angels. While my personal teams figure out new ways every season not to bring home a World Series crown, the Yankees and the Cardinals of 1964 represent two of the great championship teams in baseball history. Each, also, repesents much more than merely a team or a city. In Mr. Halberstam's book, the Yankees represent the Establishment. They are used to winning. They are securely implanted in America's moneyed and white power structure. It is expected that they will win because they have won so often in the past. The Cardinals represent change. The stars of the Cards are black--Gibson, Brock, and Flood. They are the rebels. Later in his life, Curt Flood became the man who challenged the baseball's reserve clause in court. Flood lost his case and his career, but he revolutionized the game. David Halberstam, one of journalism's best and brightest, brilliantly weaves the history of these two very different sports teams into the time period in which they faced off against each other in the battle for the championship of the world. OCTOBER 1964 is a great book. We know in 1964 that the establishment was still hanging on securely in power but that the rebels were gaining strength fast. Yet we do know which team won the World Series. You can look it up.