26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
The 1946 World Series match-up between Boston and the St. Louis Cardinals went to seven games before Boston finally lost the championship, and Halberstam makes this seventh game come alive in all its frustrating excitement. The book is unique, however, not because of its rehash of old ball games, but because it brings back an era, more than a half-century ago, when close and supportive friendships developed between players who spent their whole careers on the same team. Telling the story of the sixty-year friendship of baseball greats Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio, and Johnny Pesky of the Boston Red Sox, Halberstam shows the kind of friendship which was possible in an era in which players were people, not commodities.
Warm and nostalgic, the book opens in October, 2001, as Dom DiMaggio, accompanied by Boston writer Dick Flavin and Johnny Pesky, makes a melancholy car trip from Boston to Florida to pay a last visit to Ted Williams, who is dying. As the men drive from Boston to Florida, they reminisce about their playing days more than fifty years in the past, recalling anecdotes about their friendship and talking about their lives, post-baseball.
Halberstam uses these memories as the framework of this book, describing the men from their teenage years. All were from the West Coast, all were about the same age, all arrived in Boston to begin their careers within the same two-year period, and all shared similar values. Ted Williams, "the undisputed champion of contentiousness," was the most dominant of the group. Bobby Doerr was Williams's closest friend and roommate, "a kind of ambassador from Ted to the rest of the world," Doerr himself being "very simply among the nicest and most balanced men." Bespectacled Dom DiMaggio, the brother of Vince and Joe, was the consummate worker, a smart player who had been "forced to study everything carefully when he was young in order to maximize his chances and athletic abilities." Johnny Pesky, combative and small, was also "kind, caring, almost innocent."
Stories and anecdotes, sometimes told by the players themselves, make the men individually come alive and show the depth and value of their friendship. The four characters remain engaging even when, in the case of Williams, they may be frustratingly disagreeable. There's a bittersweet reality when Halberstam brings the lives of Williams, Doerr, DiMaggio, and Pesky, all now in their eighties, up to the present--these icons are, of course, as human as the rest of us, subject to the same physical deterioration and illnesses. In Halberstam's sensitive rendering of their abiding relationship, however, we see them as men who have always recognized and preserved the most important of human values, and in that respect they continue to serve as heroes and exemplars to baseball fans throughout the country. Mary Whipple
43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2003
Just in time for the great Red Sox season of '03, the one in which they definitely will win the World Series, comes this rich portrait of four former Sox teammates: Bobby Doerr, Dominic DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky and the immortal Ted Williams. David Halberstrom's book could almost be an addendum to Tom Brokaw's Greatest Generation, this chronicle of four Depression-era scrappers from California sandlots and their lives both between the lines and, just as interesting, outside them.
In just under 200 pages, we travel with DiMaggio, Pesky, and friend Dick Flavin from Massachusetts to Florida to pay one last visit to their beloved teammate before his death. We learn about the remarkably similar paths each player took to the big league Red Sox, and what a different world baseball was before free agency. We get a peek at the closeness between these men - a bond stronger than family ties.
It's remarkable, for instance, to learn that Joe DiMaggio, the great icon who hit in 56 straight games, led the Yankees through all those glory years, and married Marilyn Monroe, actually felt that his brother Dominic had bettered him in life. Dominic a successful, always hardworking businessman, retired wealthy after running a manufacturing company and had a tighter relationship with Ted Williams than with Joe. He was there for Ted, visiting and calling every day right up to Ted's death. It's remarkable that each of Ted's teammates Doerr, Pesky and DiMaggio seemed to have had more successful lives outside baseball than Ted ever could. Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio...American legends, yet they never had much success with families or work...precisely what Ted's teammates were great at. Doerr, Pesky and DiMaggio all had long-lasting marriages, nobly battled illnesses and infirmities of old age with great dignity, and led happy, productive lives. We learn that Ted, never really got past a very bad childhood, and perhaps, never grew up at all. He simply wanted to be the best hitter that ever was. And he was.
There are many good baseball stories involving players of all generations: Ty Cobb sends a letter of hitting instruction to Ted Williams; Willie Mays was almost a centerfielder for the Sox; Johnny Pesky wasn't really the goat of the '46 World Series; Bobby Doerr's wife Monica was oblivious to the devastating playoff loss of the `48 Sox to the Yanks...she welcomed an earlier vacation to the Catskills. Even the stories told in the car headed south are vintage dugout banter: While Pesky snoozes in the back, DiMaggio and Flavin argue about how to shave a mile or two off a cross-country car trip by shifting lanes through the turns.
Dan Shaughnessey, the great Boston Globe sports scribe who covers the Sox, wrote today in his column that this book is required reading for members of Red Sox nation. I echo that and suggest that anyone with a love of the game and its history will cherish this keepsake of an earlier time in baseball history.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 2003
Ted Williams always said that David Halberstam was his favorite writer - the "BEST writer" - and as usual Ted was right. Halberstam is a literary craftsman with few equals, especially when he turns his pen to matters "baseballic," as Ted might put it. This is the story of four outstanding ballplayers, each more than worthy of having their own life history recounted. But more importantly this is a book about the enduring nature of friendship. These red Sox icons were not millionaire ballplayers who went their separate ways when the game was over. These are friends who cared about one another and stuck by one another through thick and thin. These are men of great character, making this an inspirational book. The fact that it is written by one of the great writers of our time eliminates any elements of schmaltz, while revealing a memorable epic about mutual respect and caring. If you want to know about the kind of devotion generated by Theodore Samuel Williams, read this book. This and Bill Lee's revisonist Red Sox history in which these men - Pesky, Doerr, DiMaggio and Ted - finally get their just rewards (THE LITTLE RED SOX BOOK) represent baseball at its best. Two great summer reads.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2004
David Halberstam's tribute to four teammates from the Red Sox of his youth is a baseball story that goes beyond baseball to something much deeper. Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio, and Ted Williams (two Hall-of-Famers and two should-be Hall-of-Famers) played together in the late 30's, the 40's, and the early 50's for one of the great baseball teams of the 20th century. While the four were teammates, they were much more, they were friends. While baseball provides the backdrop, the friendship and love that these men have for each other is the theme of the book.
Pulitzer Prize winner Halberstam writes admiringly, often inserting his own personal remarks. He is not just an observer, he is a fan. Halberstam carries the men through their playing careers up to a final road trip that Pesky and DiMaggio make to Florida to visit with their dying friend Ted Williams. Everyone should be so lucky to be part of a group of friends like these--but, sadly, few do.
This is an easy read, but not one for younger baseball fans. Halberstam quotes Ted Williams accurately (and Williams freely uses profanity). This does not damage the book, in fact, it reflects reality, but it does make it the written equivalent of a PG-13 movie.
When Halberstam writes, it is well worth reading. This is no exception.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Ted Williams referred to his former Red Sox teammates, Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky, and Dom DiMaggio, as "My Guys." They remained friends for over sixty years. There's lots of baseball talk in TEAMMATES (Halberstam explains why the 1946 team that beat the Yankees by seventeen games never became the dynasty it seemed primed to be), but the main emphasis is on how these primarily blue-collar men provided emotional and professional support throughout the years.
The structure of the book revolves around a trip Pesky and DiMaggio made to Florida to see Ted just before he died (Doerr had to be with his wife, Monica, who had suffered two strokes). They spend two days with him during which time they talk baseball and DiMaggio sings to Ted "I Love Her but I Don't Know How to Tell Her" and "Me and My Shadow." DiMaggio asks Ted if he's getting the baseball scores, and when Ted tells him, "Nobody tells me anything," DiMaggio calls him every morning for the rest of Ted's life.
Although Halberstam provides a detailed account of Doerr's, Pesky's, and DiMaggio's family and professional life before and after baseball, he glosses over Williams's three failed marriages. He does try to explain Ted's seeming emotional instability by delving into his upbringing. Ted's father was an alcoholic and his mother was a religious zealot who cared more about the Salvation Army than her two sons. If not for baseball, Ted could have turned out like his brother, Danny, who was in and out of trouble with the law.
This is a sad book. Williams was a lonely man when he died and this was compounded by his son's efforts to profit on his father's fame, but there is some solace in his former teammates' loyalty.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 2003
Many years ago, before baseball's free agency transformed rooting for teams into rooting for individuals, fans could count on having a corps of familiar faces around for years. On the athletes' side, although conventional wisdom warned against it, strong friendships developed (the conventional wisdom warned that today's pal could be tomorrow's enemy).
Pulitzer Prize-winner David Halberstam chronicles more than a half-century of such friendships between four star ballplayers in THE TEAMMATES. Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky and Dom DiMaggio shared their youth and glory as members of the Boston Red Sox. They "grew up" together, evolving from the relative immaturity inherent in a lifestyle that allows you to play games for a living, to the pangs of old age that sets in when your professional life ends before you're out of your thirties.
They were all products of the West Coast, playing with and against each other in the minor leagues before reuniting on the East Coast with the Red Sox. As members of the World War II generation, they all lost time from their careers in the service of their country. Williams, a decorated fighter pilot in the War, was called upon again to serve in the Korean conflict, a fate that he accepted as a matter of duty, although no one could tell him he had to like it.
In sports, friendships often end when players go their separate ways, through trades to other teams or retirement. Such was not the case with this quartet.
Halberstam, whose previous books on baseball include SUMMER OF '49 (about the Yankees-Red Sox battle for the pennant) and OCTOBER 1964 (regarding the final year of the Yanks' pre-Steinbrenner dynasty), recreates the feeling of the game in a long-forgotten era, when conditions and lack of today's distractions enabled closer ties between players.
Although the career of each man is given adequate homage in this slim volume, THE TEAMMATES, for the most part, revolves around Williams. He was a grand pal, but that didn't keep him from being a pain at times. Halberstam depicts a fishing trip Doerr made with Williams in which nothing went right. Ted had a well-earned reputation as a perfectionist. In addition to his Hall of Fame career, he was an expert fisherman and had little patience for those who didn't live up to his demanding expectations, no matter how good a friend he was dealing with. But rather than being angry, Doerr, perhaps his closest buddy of the group, felt he had let Williams down with his unlucky day in the boat.
THE TEAMMATES is an undeniably sad tale. It opens with Pesky, DiMaggio and a third party getting ready to make a cross-country drive to see a dying Williams. Doerr, whose wife was in poor health, was unable to join his old friends. "It had come down to this one, final visit," writes Halberstam in the book's final chapter. "They had once felt immortal, so immune to the vagaries of age." But fate had not been kind to Williams in recent years. Once the picture of robust middle-age health, he was now confined to a wheelchair, having suffered from stroke and heart disease, his 6'3" frame withered to 130 pounds.
After driving for three days (in the wake of September 11, none of the men felt comfortable enough to fly), Pesky and DiMaggio --- who might have been an even better fielder than his brother Joe --- arrived in Florida and were shocked and saddened by Williams's condition. They spent another three days visiting, reminiscing about the wonderful times they had together and discussing the problems with the current game. After their farewells, DiMaggio called every day to keep Williams abreast of the Red Sox's doings. Sometimes the man who had been known as the Splendid Splinter would fall asleep in the middle of their conversation. One day, he never woke up.
Williams's life was complex. On the one hand, he had the fame and fortune confirmed upon those with superior talent. On the other, and as is so often the case, his personal life was less than ideal, both as the product of an unhappy home life as a youth and through his failed marriages and difficulties with his own children. But through it all, through good times and bad, he could always count on THE TEAMMATES.
--- Reviewed by Ron Kaplan
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2007
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Halberstam tells a beautiful story about the four great Red Sox teammates of the 1940's and their friendships with each other that have lasted over 50 years. This book will primarily appeal to people at least 50 years old. Halberstam tells us the story of these four outstanding men and does provide information regarding their sports career's that I didn't know. But, the primary appeal of the book is the love and friendship that exists among these four guys. Do not buy this book if you are wanting to read a sports book. But do buy this book if you enjoy stories about heroes who are good people too.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
"Marty Nolan, the former editorial page editor of the 'Boston Globe', once famously described the pain that came with being a Red Sox fan, "They killed my father, now they're coming after me". Johnny Pesky
Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio, and Johnny Pesky were all members of the famed 1940's Boston Red Sox. Their careers led the Red Sox to a pennant championship and ensured the men a place in sports history.
David Halberstam, had followed the members of the 1949 championship Boston Red Sox team for years, especially Williams, Doerr, DiMaggio, and Pesky. He met up with the fellas and learned about their friendship and their trip. He knew he wanted to write about it. David Halberstam gives us an inside look at how these four teammates became friends, and how that friendship thrived for more than 60 years.
The book opens with Johnny Pesky, Dom DiMaggio and , Dick Flavin a friend, on a 1300-mile car trip travelling to see the ailing Ted Williams in Florida. It's the last time they will see him. The journey is filled with nostalgia and memories, but seeing Ted is a shock. The most physically dominating of the four friends, Ted now weighs only 130 pounds and is hunched over in a wheelchair. Dom, without even thinking about it, starts to sing opera and old songs like "Me and My Shadow" to his friend.They had a short memorable time with Ted,and it was worth it. Every morning until the day Ted Williams died, Dom would call him with an update of the Sox.
"This book is filled with stories of their wonderful days with the Boston Red Sox, memories of plays and players, and the reaction of the remaining three to Ted Williams' death. The Teammates offers us a glimpse into the lives of these Red Sox men. and great insight into the nature of loyalty and friendship. The book tries not to dwell on the imposing power, problems, and slugging achievements of Ted Williams or reveal new sensational material or revelations. Halberstam focuses on the teammates' shared attributes: their desire to compete and succeed in baseball, their willingness to learn how to use physical/mental talents, how to provide for post-depression families yet display genuine appreciation and gratitude for each other's contributions and careers." David Johnson
For any Red Sox fan, baseball fan and David Halberstam fan this book is a must. A book of love of fellow man and baseball. It is a rare book that fills the reader with hope for the future of baseball.
Highly Recommended. prisrob 5-09-07
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Teammates is a story of true friendship. The book centers around three greats from the Boston Red Sox, Ted Williams, Dom Dimaggio, John Pesky, and Bobby Doerr. Their final meeting is used as a backdrop for several stories from their playing days.
The story starts in the final months of the life of Ted Williams. Dimaggio and Pesky are inspired to reunite with their friend before his inevitable death. Bobby Doerr is unable to make the trip because of the health of his wife.
The book is formatted in the same way things were probably discussed in the car that day. The stories build up as each one of the four joins the team with the final addition being Pesky. The book continues as it goes through the teams years as a American League powerhouse. Unfortunately, World War II and the Korean War would be the main factor in preventing these baseball icons for playing in more than one World Series. The Red Sox lost that one World Series to the Cardinals. The play that allegedly turned that series is discussed in detail. The misfortune for which Pesky was blamed is a travesty. Even his teammates try to take the blame from Pesky. Being the stand-up guy that he is, Pesky continues to unjustly accept the blame. The book ends with each playing leaving the team until Williams returns from the Korean War to find all of his friends are gone. This drains much of the fun of the game for Williams. As a consequence he also leaves baseball.
Halberstam really does not write a book as buy as he retells stories from a car ride. This book is certain to become a favorite of those who enjoy baseball or the friendships developed in team sports. It should also be required reading for Red Sox fans.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This is a very warm and refreshing book about four ball players from the greatest period in Red Sox history, Ted Williams, Bobby Doer, Dom DiMaggio and Johnny Pesky. This book Is not only about the undying friendship of four ball players, two of which are in the hall of fame and the other two should be, but also about baseball when teammates stayed on the same team virtually for their entire career. They not only shared the diamond but a cab after a game and enjoyed each other's company even after the season. Pesky and DiMaggio with friend Flavin drive down to visit a dying Williams for there last meeting. During their trip, they relive their careers with the Red Sox, but also the Red Sox franchise at its peak. The author also serves this as an opportunity to provide a biography of each player. The perfectionist and gifted Williams, the scrappy and undying baseball man Pesky, the nice guy and steady star player Doer and the fascinating and extremely intelligent DiMaggio who was just as successful after he left baseball as he was when he played. Great breakdown of what happened in that fatal World Series game in 1946 that was set up actually by DiMaggio's clutch hit and then pulled hamstring. Interesting that Williams was such a perfectionist not only in baseball and fishing but anything in life such as cutting a grapefruit. Very heart-warming story that flows so easy you can read the book in a long lazy afternoon.