reads like a night spent in the dugout with a veteran manager during a lopsided game. Roger Kahn sits beside you occasionally narrating the events of each inning as it unfolds while frequently digressing into anecdotes from his lifetime as a baseball writer. The digressions--everything from Yankees's VP Al Rosen's connections to the Las Vegas boxing scene to a brief history of the 1903 New York Highlanders (the "Pleistocene Yankees")--are all interesting, but one frequently loses track of the main reason for being there.
In this case, the main story is the tumultuous 1978 Yankees's season. What makes this particular season an interesting subject for a book is that it is not the story of a group of young heroes who rallied together to make a team that was somehow larger than its parts. Rather, the 1978 Yankees was a team patched together with aging stars (Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage, Catfish Hunter) from other teams, held fast by George Steinbrenner's money, and piloted by the tempestuous Billy Martin. This was a team expected to win a world championship. The story Kahn tries to tell is how this boatload of talent nearly ran aground because of bickering, paranoia, and racism.
Kahn's breadth of knowledge is impressive, and the many insider tales he relates are entertaining; but October Men does not flow effortlessly as a narrative of the 1978 team. If one can excuse the digressions and occasional disjointed transitions, though, there is much pleasure to be had from this prime spectator's seat. --Patrick O'Kelley
From Publishers Weekly
When it comes to writing about baseball, especially New York City baseball, Kahn is king of the hill. In the tradition of his seminal The Boys of Summer, this work is a spirited portrait of a team whose unbelievable comeback and tumultuous clubhouse exemplified New York City and the whatever-goes decade of the 1970s. Relying on a relationship between the press and the team that will never be seen again, Kahn illuminates the diverse characters who were the 1978 Yankees, and their tenuous and often violent relationships with one another. He unsentimentally yet compassionately presents the team's issues of alcoholism, broken homes, racism and greed as a mirror of American society, using firsthand accounts, historical analysis, social history and personal insight. The portraits of manager Billy Martin, a violent drunk with a great baseball mind, and Reggie Jackson, an eloquent but brash slugger, present a compelling clash of old and new America that defined the country and baseball at the time. When Kahn comes to the game itself, whether describing a player or a game with one of his literary, historical or baseball references, his keen eye and a knack for describing the lyrical action between the white lines demonstrates a love and knowledge that few writers are able to convey. Transcending the mere action of the game while celebrating the joy and power of the sport, this book is a marvelous achievement for a writer who has already achieved so much. Photos not seen by PW.
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