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The Last Good Season: Brooklyn, the Dodgers and Their Final Pennant Race Together Hardcover – March 18, 2003

4.8 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The caveat about this book is that it is as much about political personalities and the social changes that post-WWII America confronted as it is about the '56 Dodgers. Still, this is one terrific read. The Brooklyn Dodgers won their only world championship in 1955; in '56 they lost the series to the Yankees; two years later, the team was in Los Angeles. "The move" is the thing that haunts the 1956 season. New Yorker writer Shapiro (The Shadow in the Sun; Solomon's Sword) dissects Walter O'Malley absorbingly, in a meticulously dead-on portrait of a man still virulently hated in the borough of churches. There are the stories of O'Malley's soft adolescence, how he became a lawyer and how he came to own the Dodgers. Shapiro tells of O'Malley's plan for a domed stadium (designed by Buckminster Fuller) and of his battles with another hated New Yorker, Robert Moses, who would not condemn land, a first for Moses; hence O'Malley could not come up with property on the cheap. There are wonderful vignettes of the Dodgers: Pee Wee Reese, the captain and the glue that held the Dodgers together season after season; the still intense Jackie Robinson and his dislike for the easygoing Roy Campanella; the sulking Duke Snider; the good-guy Carl Erskine; the enemy from the Polo Grounds who came to pitch, Sal "The Barber" Maglie; and how the team rallied to win the pennant. In a surprise, Shapiro contends that the real villain of the Dodgers move to Los Angeles was Moses because he blocked O'Malley's plan to build a stadium in downtown Brooklyn. With equal parts sport, history, politics and sociology, Shapiro's book is reminiscent of the works of Caro, Halberstam and Kahn, a volume that belongs right next to The Boys of Summer in every sports fan's library.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"There are many things I could say about Michael Shapiro's engrossing book. But here's all you need to know before you pick it up and decide for yourself: It's about baseball. It's about Brooklyn. And it's dedicated to two guys named Lenny Wexler and Barney Karpfinger. What else do you need to know?"
-Bob Costas, NBC and HBO Sports


“Michael Shapiro tells us the parallel tales of the Dodgers’ battle with the Braves for one last pennant and Walter O’Malley’s fight with Robert Moses for a new stadium in Brooklyn. In so doing, he proves once again that the Dodgers in the 1950s were just as compelling off the field as on. It’s a fascinating story well told by a real fan.”
-Ron Rapoport, Sports Columnist Chicago Sun-Times and sports commentator for NPR’s “Weekend Edition”


"I read Michael Shapiro’s The Last Good Season in one long fascinated sitting. He certainly did his homework, and I can honestly say that this book will satisfy those skeptical about the motives behind the Dodgers’s move west. Furthermore, his account of the 1956 season reads like a novel, with a new twist or turn in every chapter."
-Buzzie Bavasi, former general manager of the Dodgers


"Michael Shapiro has written a wonderful book--it's about much more than the last season of a team of icons. Rather, it’s about nothing less than the passing of an age in America."
- David Halberstam


"Thanks for the opportunity to read The Last Good Season. Michael Shapiro certainly writes wonderfully about the 1956 Dodgers, and I enjoyed every chapter. He has given the Brooklyn fans a much better insight into what Walter O'Malley was trying to do at that time--that he was truly trying to keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn. He also gives the reader the opportunity to understand what that great team itself was all about."
- Clem Labine, former Brooklyn Dodger
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (March 18, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385501528
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385501521
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,168,874 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By H. F. Miglino on June 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Even though I was only five years old when the Dodgers left Brooklyn, I always had a fond spot in my heart for the team. I collected Brookyn Dodger yearbooks over the years. This book, by Michael Shapiro, brought out many interesting facts which I did not know, such as it was only at the end of the season did the Dodgers actually sell out any games. Even though Ebbets Field only held 32,000 I assumed there were several sell outs during the season. Yes,the Dodgers were profitable but O'Malley was a business man and saw (like the Braves) he could make significantly more money. Knowing that area of Brooklyn, that if the stadium was built in 1957 and the teams which would have included Koufax and Drysdale they would have succeeded greatly. Also, the book points out the relationship between Robinson, Campenella and Newcombe. I was not aware of the relationship between the three. I could not believe Newcombe left Ebbets Field, after getting knocked out of the 7th game of the World Series. Yanks start Johnny Knucks against the leagues MVP and Cy Young winner and Newcombe gets knocked out and leaves the Field. I found it incredible that the day after the World Series the team leaves for Japan. I wonder how todays players would react. I wonder why Rachel Robinson declined to be interviewed by the author, I believe she could have added greatly to experiences at Ebbets Field and Brooklyn in the 1950's. I enjoyed the part when Sal Maglie first came to the Dodgers and his reception in the clubhouse. The best part was describing Brookyn in the 1940's and how it was transforming in the 1950's. I read the Boys of Summer many years ago, but this book by Michael Shapiro is clearly superior. I would recommend this book to any baseball fan from that era, especially Brooklyn Dodger fans. Both O'Malley and especially Robert Moses are the real villians here.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Books relating to specific years have been popular over the past several years with mixed results. Author Michael Shapiro has provided us with an outstanding portrait of an aging Brooklyn Dodgers' team going down to the wire in the 1956 season to eek out a pennant over the Milwaukee Braves during the final days of the season. The book is really two separate stories. One involving a lot of politics between Dodgers' owner Walter O'Malley and Robert Moses, an appointed New York official, over the location of a new playing site for the Dodgers. Moses wanted a site located on the present site of Shea Stadium while O'Malley wanted one nearer to Ebbets Field. Shapiro labels Moses as the villain in the move of the Dodgers while O'Malley needed help in acquiring a new stadium, but was not going to get it. Los Angeles promised him more than New York would even consider, so Walter made the move. The one thing O'Malley and Moses shared in common, according to Shapiro, was an ignorance between the team and its fans. Sometimes I felt overwhelmed with the politics involved between both sides in trying to get the deal each wanted, but Shapiro is very thorough in his research. The book's chapters are divided into each month of the baseball season and what took place during each month. A separate chapter is provided for the last week of the season and the World Series. Interesting stories about players such as Robinson, Campanella, Erskine, Reese, Furillo, Newcombe, Labine, and an early season pickup of Sal "The Barber" Maglie from the Cleveland Indians make for very interesting reading even if you are familiar with the Dodgers of this era from other books.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Michael Shapiro has done a fabulous job of bringing the 1956 National League pennant race to life. Reading this book makes that season as vivid as if it were this year's season. His telling of the machinations of Walter O'Malley and Robert Moses gives a great look at New York in the Fifties. Although long time Brooklyn residents may disagree, Shapiro points to Moses as the real villain behind the Dodgers' exit from New York. His reasoning is sound and he does a great job of showing O'Malley to be the conniving businessman he was.
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A good look at the 1956 seaon and the O'Malley - Moses battle.

Michael Shapiro’s The Last Good Season looks at 1956: the year after the Brooklyn Dodgers won their only World Series. With the same cast of characters, the Dodgers spent most of the season chasing the Milwaukee Braves, edging them for the pennant by just one game. Ted Kluszewski’s Cincinnati Reds finished only two games back.

Facing (naturally) the Yankees once again in the Fall Classic, they ran into Don Larsen’s unlikely perfect game and saw league MVP and Cy Young Award winner, Don Newcombe, hammered in the game seven loss.

This book interweaves three stories: First, the actual on-field play of the boys of summer.

It’s also the story of the changes in Brooklyn, as the ethnic makeup was undergoing a transformation. And that change played a part in the third story: that of Walter O’Malley’s attempt to get a new stadium, leading to the move to Los Angeles.

Though getting a bit long in the tooth (Jackie Robinson would be sold, then retire after the Series), the offense dominated National League pitching, while Don Newcombe and Clem Labine started and finished wins. Perhaps because so much has been written about these fifties Brooklyn Dodgers, the actual baseball part doesn’t make up quite as much of the book as expected. There’s still plenty there, but it’s not as big a part of the whole as the title leads one to believe.

There are long passages looking at the experiences of Brooklynites and the changes going on in the borough. I found these to be the least interesting parts of the book.
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